What is a Poet?

What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. His fate is like that of the unfortunate victims whom the tyrant Phalaris imprisoned in a brazen bull and slowly tortured over a steady fire; their cries could not reach the tyrant’s ears so as to strike terror into his heart; when they reached his ears they sounded like sweet music. And men crowd about the poet and say to him: “Sing for us soon again”; that is as much as to say: “may new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; for the cries would only frighten us, but the music is delicious.” And the critics come, too, and say: “quite correct, and so it ought to be according to the rules of aesthetics.” Now it is understood that a critic resembles a poet to a hair; he only lacks the suffering in his heart and the music upon his lips. Lo, therefore, I would rather be a swineherd from Amager, and be understood by the swine, then be a poet and be misunderstood by men.

Kierkegaard

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