The Logic of Lyric with a Poem by Edward Thomas


This almost anonymous poem by Edward Thomas illustrates the logic of lyric. It opens with an observable fact, then gradually qualifies it (gives it specificity and equivocity) in the ‘mind.’

The poem hovers there, noting aspects discovered by dialectical expansion — ‘with their sweethearts.’ The imagery is now teetering on mystery. How bring the dead and living together?

The poem achieves this with subjunctive grammar, and suddenly the observed facts that prompted the poem are reconfigured into a counter-factual unity, but a unity nonetheless.

This final step in the logic is the metaxical. Metaxu referring in Plato’s Greek to the ‘space’ between the immanent and the transcendent. In Desmond’s version of the myth of the metaxy it engages, after exhausting the objective, equivocal, and dialectical senses of understanding, the agapeic. This poem’s engagement of the agapeic awareness beyond the concrete mental whole is complex, focusing on a state between ‘should’ and ‘will not ever.’

So the logic of lyric as embodied in this epigrammatic lyric brings the reader to a state of mindfulness that can be identified with poetry itself as a dynamic pattern in human culture.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

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