Welcome to the pub, poets! Tonight we are going to explore the majestic, and since I can’t in all honesty give the title of “majestic” (without succumbing to cheapened marketing ploys) to any other drink besides plain and glorious water, we’ll start with a round of that and see where it takes us.
Majestic – having or showing impressive beauty or scale, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, was actually first used in adjective form by William Shakespeare. “This is a most majestic vision” – spoken by Ferdinand in The Tempest. The word derived from ‘majesty’, from the Latin maiestas, meaning greatness.
I recently saw the above photograph that, upon gazing, forced an audible gasp and the literal declaration, “Majestic.” [See benstraussphotography.com] It’s surprisingly rare for that to happen, because in this age of digital information overload (not to mention the myriad filters and photoshop-type enhancements and embellishments) there are so many talented photographers and an infinite number of beautiful or intriguing subjects to record in our era’s time capsule. But this snapshot of this one moment in time/space soared above the rest and led me to wonder about the word that had come out of my mouth, and how we can ‘meet’ it in poetry.
Which poem evokes the majestic for you? I think of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, Hymn before Sun-rise, in the Vale of Chamouni
Hast thou a charm to stay the morning-star
In his steep course? So long he seems to pause
On thy bald awful head, O sovran BLANC,
The Arve and Arveiron at thy base
Rave ceaselessly; but thou, most awful Form!
Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines,
How silently! Around thee and above
Deep is the air and dark, substantial, black,
An ebon mass: methinks thou piercest it,
As with a wedge! But when I look again,
It is thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine,
Thy habitation from eternity!
O dread and silent Mount! I gazed upon thee,
Till thou, still present to the bodily sense,
Didst vanish from my thought: entranced in prayer
I worshipped the Invisible alone.
Yet, like some sweet beguiling melody,
So sweet, we know not we are listening to it,
Thou, the meanwhile, wast blending with my Thought,
Yea, with my Life and Life’s own secret joy:
Till the dilating Soul, enrapt, transfused,
Into the mighty vision passing—there
As in her natural form, swelled vast to Heaven!
Awake, my soul! not only passive praise
Thou owest! not alone these swelling tears,
Mute thanks and secret ecstasy! Awake,
Voice of sweet song! Awake, my heart, awake!
Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my Hymn. . .
[To read the full poem, follow this link to https://www.bartleby.com/41/419.html]
Coleridge once said, “My mind had been habituated to the Vast—& I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions not by my sight—even at that [young] age.” And also that, romances and fairy tales instilled in him a feeling of “the Great” and “the Whole.” [Source: poetryfoundation.org] I know this disposition toward the Romantic and the Transcendent may not be a popular way of perceiving the world, ever since the naturalists taught us to exalt our senses and post-modernists to heighten the baneful side of existence; movements in art that leave me especially wondering what you all find fits the majestic bill in your contemporary lives.
Write a poem in whichever form you see fit to do justice to your version of “majestic.” On the surface you might be tempted to go toward royalty or lofty mountains or supernovae in outer space, which is fine if your poetry takes you there. But meditate for a moment longer on “impressive beauty or scale,” or simply on “greatness,” and see if you can get to the essence of the word and make us all gasp.
•When you’ve written your poem, post it to your blog and link it up below.
•Read and comment on all the entries.
•If you have a poem, or any piece of art, in mind that fits this prompt (does NOT have to be Coleridgean/Wordsworthian in style) I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
•Drink more water!
“The human face is the organic seat of beauty. It is the register of value in development, a record of Experience, whose legitimate office is to perfect the life, a legible language to those who will study it, of the majestic mistress, the soul.”