Louis MacNeice

His father gave him a box of truisms
Shaped like a coffin, then his father died;
The truisms remained on the mantelpiece
As wooden as the playbox they had been packed in
Or that other his father skulked inside.

Then he left home, left the truisms behind him
Still on the mantelpiece, met love, met war,
Sordor, disappointment, defeat, betrayal,
Till through disbeliefs he arrived at a house
He could not remember seeing before,

And he walked straight in; it was where he had come from
And something told him the way to behave.
He raised his hand and blessed his home;
The truisms flew and perched on his shoulders
And a tall tree sprouted from his father’s grave.

Found as an epigraph to a book on medieval poetics.
The form used is distinctly a poem, with ABCDB (?) – I wonder if there is a syllable count or smth this is built on (prosody?), but the primary driver is narrative, e.g. it’s strictly a story told very directly and descriptively, more like a metric rhymed prose; toeing the line with satirical or topical verse… OTOH it is not a “real” story, but as an extended metaphor which is definitely a poetic device /altho usually they are shorter/. As a comparison, I was just reading some Dylan Thomas – And death shall have no dominion, The force that through the green fuse drives a flower – and these are the opposite: many metaphors and images but the overall arch of the story is much more opaque, they hang together more through the structure (altho the structure is more semantic, as in the construction of the sentence, and by recurring images/metaphors, rather than metric/rhyming structure).
Noticeable is the box of truisms, where both truisms and box are like his father’s coffin – does that imply they are not alive? they flew and perched, suggesting something alive /also a tall tree sprouted from grave, e.g. vitality defeating death/, but they stay in a coffin-like box. “Met love, met war” also implies something animate. “Arrived through disbeliefs?” not sure about that. Possibly this means truisms are dead to someone naive but alive for an experienced person??
Also notable that for a poem about truisms, he chose a traditional structure, rather than something modernistic.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

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