My favorite poem. What 's yours?

Joseph Campbell formulated what became his most quoted dictum, "Follow your bliss" in the decade before his death. Join this conversation to explore this idea and share stories.

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Post by SCBecker » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

This is my favorite poem. After I read it in 3rd grade, I have never forgotten it. This is the one poem I share with all of my friends.

Richard Corey:

WHENEVER Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him;
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked,
But still he fluttered pulses when he said
"Good morning"--and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich--yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fact, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

-Edwin Arlington Robinson

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Post by noman » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Welcome SCBecker,

That’s not a very heart-warming poem. But I admit, it’s a very popular one. Simon and Garfunkel introduced most of us to this poem through a bastardization of it:
They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town,
With political connections to spread his wealth around.
Born into society, a bankers only child,
He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life Im living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show.
And the rumor of his parties and the orgies on his yacht!
Oh, he surely must be happy with everything hes got.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch,
And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much,
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read:
Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.

But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.
I remember being touched by these lyrics at a very young age. I think, it’s the realization that life, is in some way, extremely equitable. The trials of life are as painful to rich and poor. Another of Paul Simon’s lyrics:
No matter if you’re born to play the king or pawn
For the line is thinly drawn ‘tween joy and sorrow

-Paul Simon
For some reason, it makes us feel good to hear about the troubles of successful folk. As I speak, former astronaut Lisa Nowak is being charged with murder, Ryan O’Neil is arrested for assaulting his son, and Anna Nicole Smith, for all her fame, will never see her 40th birthday.

It makes us feel better about who we are to know that, for successful people, life is not all that great. The mighty hath fallen. You see it in Oedipus Rex, in Hamlet, and on CNN.

But Joseph Campbell would say that life is a crucifixion. That you must say yes to the crucifixion to fully experience its bliss.

aum shanti

- NoMan
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Post by SCBecker » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Well, I loved the poem because I was able to relate to it. I am an Asian American and in my culture I was taught not to follow my bliss. Like most Ansian Americans, we are pressured to either become doctors or lawyers. And when I first read it, it struck me. That money was maya.
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Post by CarmelaBear » Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:07 am

Some say this is the world's most popular poem.

It is certainly one of the most comforting poems I've ever read.
Part of the reason I like it is that it was written by a king who had been a shepherd.

The 23rd Psalm

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for ever.
Once in a while a door opens, and let's in the future. --- Graham Greene
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Post by Vissi » Sun Sep 02, 2007 8:15 am

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world’s eyes
As though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there’s more enterprise
In walking naked.

“A Coat”
William Butler Yeats
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Post by cadfael » Tue Sep 04, 2007 11:54 pm

Helen thy beauty is to me,
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently o'er the perfumed sea,
The weary way-worn wanderer bore,
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy naiad airs have brought me home,
To the glory that was Greece,
And the granduer that was Rome.

Lo in yon brilliant window niche,
How statue like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand,
Ah, Psyche, from the region which is holy land.

-Edgar A. Poe

What prayer should be in Secular-Humanism.

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Post by boringguy » Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:47 am

I have a thousand brilliant lies
for the question, "How are you?"

I have a thousand brilliant lies
for the question, " What is God"

If you think Truth can be known from words
someone should start laughing.......
someone should start laughing....... now!


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Post by cadfael » Thu Sep 06, 2007 6:20 pm

Words are like looking into a "Glass darkly". Words cannot begin to express what was in the past, nor can they give someone else the full experience of how we may think or feel at the moment. However, words such as "I love you" are beautiful in that they give a glimpes into the others persons heart. All of these things are expressed in Poe's words. The word God is not understood by a greater part of the masses. The word God means human-All humans. The word God should be removed from our conscience thought, so that humans will place full value on humans. However, those who speak of God as being so are not decieving no one intentionally. They do not understand what God is.

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Post by boringguy » Tue Sep 11, 2007 6:51 pm


Certainly Hafiz would have understood the necessity of words, as well as their inability. They were after all, his tools as well. Understanding his wisdom in relation to the nature of his two questions however, leaves one with no defense to his statement, and indeed with simply a response to humor.

LOL :)

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Post by jufa » Thu Sep 13, 2007 3:52 am

Have You Felt My Lips?

No sun came out that day. There were no stars shining through the black pin cushion upon the mount of heaven. A vision of the past the moon appeared with only memories of its brightness of light flickering from a stairway of dimness. I sat upon the bank of here, between nowhere and there, wondering how my feet came to rest in this spot when there are so many places to go; things to do with hope to find whatever it is, I wonder, that men are born to seek and die having found it not.

A train echoed in the distance. Oh, the mystery which bellows the sound. Where did it come from? I ask myself. How can it start from nothing to a loudness and pitch which shatters glass and eardrums?

The fingers of the wind touch my body, and it's arms caress my breath, and I sigh. The words come from nowhere. My God! how beautiful is your life of awareness; to see a comet dash across the sky, or falling stars streak the blackness of heaven. Did you feel my lips my Lord?

Out of the thundering silence the Father told me to "kiss the Son lest he be angry." Did you feel my lips my Lord as I threw a kiss into the universe?

The grass wiggles before me. It appears as it has legs to move. The wind bends each blade and release them as a wave holds the water coming to shore and moving back into the sea; bubbling and laughing as it only can.

Look! Oh, Look! A fish has popped out of the water only to be recaptured again. It is as I, a slave to everything, yet free of all.

How beautiful is the night. Did you feel my lips my Lord as I blew a kiss into the universe?

Never give power to anything a person believe is their source of strength - jufa
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Post by Scarlett » Mon Oct 01, 2007 9:48 pm

Happy Belated Birthday Rumi (September 30th, 1207)!!!
Water from your Spring

translated by Coleman Barks
This is just one of my favorites from Rumi. His poetry touches on the levels of my chakras so well!

Joseph Campbell wrote in his book , Thou Art That,
"The fundamental, simple, and great mystical realization is that by which you identify yourself with consciousness, rather than with the vehicle of consciousness. Your body is a vehicle of consciousness.” (p.20)
When reading Rumi’s poetry, I am often guided into small meditations – reflecting and feeling the “consciousness” that Joseph Campbell speaks and writes about so eloquently.

It appears that Rumi treasured the consciousness that dwells in life’s many forms. The spiritual connections he made play out so beautifully in his poetry. It seems as if life for Rumi was an expression of that deep source of consciousness.
Excerpt from the Poem:

A Basket of Fresh Bread (1)

…..The mystery of spiritual emptiness
may be living in a pilgrim’s heart,
but the knowing of it might not yet be his.

Wait for the illuminating openness,
as though your chest were filling with light.

Do not look for it outside yourself.
There is a milk fountain inside of you.
Do not walk around with an empty bucket….

-- Rumi (Translated by Coleman Barks)
It is a blessing to be alive, joyfully participating as a “pilgrim” or “vehicle” of consciousness!

This whole Poem can be found in the book: A Year With Rumi: Daily Readings -- translated by Coleman Barks. In my humble opinion, it is a great book to own if Rumi’s poems speak to you. ... 317&sr=8-1

Another Rumi favorite (in honor of the last day of National Poetry Month):
Excerpt from the Poem:

Unfold Your Own Myth

...But don't be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.

Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,

--Rumi (from The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks)[/b]
This is another poem worth seeking out and reading. I think the "unfolding" of our own myths is part of being alive. For me, one way of "unfolding" my myth -- laced with personal and cultural images, is to reflect on my inner and outer worlds.

As Campbell fans, this is a poem that speaks to the heart. However, the tricky part is "walking toward" what we love (our bliss) with steps that are healing and loving to those around us. Hopefully, we learn to fly without selfishness -- we should allow our souls to be steered with understanding and compassion -- as we are "feeling the wings" of our spirit take flight in the world, moving ever forward to higher levels of experience. This opening of the spirit, to me is God's Grace -- the mysterious unknown -- manifesting in the myths of our lives.

Have a great day!

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Post by noman » Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:51 am

In the second essay of the book Myths, Dreams, and Religion, (1970) edited by Joseph Campbell, David L. Miller offers one of my favorite essays on the subject. It’s titled Orestes: Myth and Dream as Catharsis.
He offers a unique interpretation of this children’s poem:

Winken Blinken and Nod

Winken, Blinken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe --
Sailed off on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in the beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!"
Said Winken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in the beautiful sea --
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish --
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fisherman three:
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam --
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe
Bringing the fisherman home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea --
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
And Nod.

Winken and Blinken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoes that sailed the skies
Is the wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fisherman three:
And Nod.

-Eugene Field
* * * * * * * *
“… some folks thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed/ Of sailing that beautiful sea.” But I shall name you, not three fishermen (religion, drama, and psychology fishing for human meaning), or two little eyes (partial intellectualistic perspectives), but catharsis, that single beautiful sea that “one night” may be “a river of crystal light.”

Whatever man knows thus shall be called Orestes. We are that man.

- Orestes, Myth and Dream as Catharsis, David L. Miller, (1970)
It was really an eye-opener for me - the idea that religion, art, and psychology could possibly have a common thread of catharsis. But you’ll have to read the essay to understand it.

- NoMan

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Larry Ferlinghetti's latest poem

Post by rabar » Fri Jan 04, 2008 9:55 pm

"I want to get this out!" - Larry Ferlinghetti

(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars,
whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation--oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
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Post by Scarlett » Sun Jan 27, 2008 6:42 pm


by Sylvia Plath

Layers of meaning and symbolism can be pulled from this poem. However, I often think of the chapter in Joseph Campbell’s Myths to Live By: Schizophrenia – the inward journey, when reading this poem or thinking about Sylvia in general as a poet.

Joseph Campbell in Myths to Live By:
The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning. Can he be saved? If a line is thrown to him, will he grab it? (p. 209)
I am experiencing Plath’s poems much differently in this particular moment of my life – perhaps being a mother myself and of similar age to Sylvia (at the time she wrote this poem). I am enjoying or should I say “experiencing” her poems on a different level. Plath’s poem, Mystic made me wonder about the “unguided” souls who are experiencing spiritual transformation--- humans who are “seized up” and trying to find a “remedy” after or during such an experience. I like the concepts of “spiritual emergence” and “spiritual emergency” that Christina Grof and Stanslav Grof write about in their book: The Stormy Search for the Self – The methods or approaches discussed in the book are very enlightening because they discuss experiences of personal transformation. Stanslav Grof also likes to bridge science with his work...very interesting stuff.

Joseph Campbell in Myths to Live By:
In sum, then: The inward journeys of the mythological hero, the shaman, the mystic, and the schizophrenic are in principle the same; and when the return or remission occurs, it is experienced as a rebirth: the birth, that is to say, of a “twice-born” ego, no longer bound in by its daylight-world horizon. It is now known to be but the reflex of a larger self, its proper function being to carry the energies of an archetypal instinct system into fruitful play in a contemporary space-time daylight situation. One is now no longer afraid of nature, nor of nature’s child, society – which is monstrous too, and in fact cannot be otherwise; it would otherwise not survive. The new ego is in accord with all this, in harmony, at peace, and, as those who have returned from the journey tell, life is then richer, stronger, and more joyous. (p230)”
The drive for harmony or a “remedy” as Plath speaks of -- perhaps is a desire of all humans – even as our callings and the intensity of our experiences in time and space are different. Sylvia Plath wrote Mystic near the end of her life. I often wonder if a different ending (other than suicide) would have been possible for Sylvia had she learned to “swim” and not “drown” in her mystic waters. But of course I’m only speculating for I only know my own heart and not Sylvia’s – but I do wonder. If anything the poem – or the exploration of the poem – has certainly taught me to value life.
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Post by davidh » Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:54 am

Lots of great poetry - may I contribute this beauty.

The Long Meadow

Near the end of one of the old poems, the son of righteousness,
the source of virtue and civility,
on whose back the kingdom is carried
as on the back of the tortoise the earth is carried,
passes into the next world.
The wood is dark. The wood is dark,
and on the other side of the wood the sea is shallow, warm, endless.
In and around it, there is no threat of life—
so little is the atmosphere charged with possibility that
he might as well be wading through a flooded basement.
He wades for what seems like forever,
and never stops to rest in the shade of the metal rain trees
springing out of the water at fixed intervals.
Time, though endless, is also short,
so he wades on, until he walks out of the sea and into the mountains,
where he burns on the windward slopes and freezes in the valleys.
After unendurable struggles,
he finally arrives at the celestial realm.
The god waits there for him. The god invites him to enter.
But, looking through the glowing portal,
he sees on that happy plain not those he thinks wait eagerly for him—
his beloved, his brothers, his companions in war and exile,
all long since dead and gone—
but, sitting pretty and enjoying the gorgeous sunset,
his cousin and bitter enemy, the cause of that war, that exile,
whose arrogance and viscious indolence
plunged the world into grief.
The god informs him that, yes, those he loved have been carried down
the river of fire. Their thirst for justice
offended the cosmic powers, who are jealous of justice.
in their place in the celestial realm, called Alaukika in the ancient texts,
the breaker of faith is now glorified.
He, at least, acted in keeping with his nature.
Who has not felt a little of the despair the son of righteousness now feels,
staring wildly around him?
The god watches, not without compassion and a certain wonder.
This is the final illusion,
the one to which all the others lead.
He has to pierce through it himself, without divine assistance.
He will take a long time about it,
with only his dog to keep him company,
the mongrel dog, celebrated down the millennia,
who has waded with him,
shivered and burned with him,
and never abandoned him to his loneliness.
That dog bears a slight resemblance to my dog,
a skinny, restless, needy, overprotective mutt,
who was rescued from a crack house by Suzanne.
On weekends, and when I can shake free during the week,
I take her to the Long Meadow, in Prospect Park, where dogs
are allowed off the leash in the early morning.
She’s gray-muzzled and old now, but you can’t tell that by the way she runs.

Copyright 2004 by Vijay Seshadri. All rights reserved.

That one, for me, touches the irreducible core. From all my reading of Campbell, I think it touches the hub of his message also.