You suit me well, for you can make me laugh,
nor are you blinded by the chaff
that every wind sends spinning from the rick.
You know to think, and what you think you speak
with much of Samson’s pride and bleak
finality, and none dare bid you stop.
Pride sits you well, so strut, colossal bird.
No barnyard makes you look absurd;
your brazen claws are staunch against defeat.
By Marianne Moore
Before reading what I have to say, I would ask that you first read this poem and think of whom it reminds you of. See, Moore wrote this for a specific person (or at least about a specific person), but words and poetry are limited. A poem, no matter how long, can never capture the fullness of a character. So when a poem is written as an ode to a person, we can usually substitute the subject for someone in our own minds or lives.
For me, that substitute is Stephen Fry. From what I have seen, Stephen Fry is a man adored by his contemporaries as well as his fans (though I fear he would abhor the notion of having a fanbase). He is quick to wit whilst maintaining a level of groundedness, seemingly never giving way to toxic concepts of self importance, realising truth is more important than any single person. He cares about people, so makes them laugh. He cares for the universe and everything in it, so speaks in truths.
The second stanza of this poem is what hit me immediately. I often hear of people (or just hear people) who speak what they think with no filter between mind and mouth. But Moore’s first line – “You know to think, and what you think you speak” – is such a wonderful idea. Moore’s subject treats thinking as an active process it seems, and Fry does the same in my mind. When thinking is purely passive, one says very little profound; when active, it is much easier to speak wisdom and truth.
Granted, Fry, seemingly like Moore’s subject, speaks certainly on certain topics at times, yet topics of the faith variety that are neither provable nor disprovable. It is my sole grudge with this man I adore, though it would be hypocritical of me to say that his surety is anything intrinsically wrong. Moreover, pride does sit him well, and it is magnificent to see him strut his intellect. So it’s a grudge I relinquish freely. Stephen Fry is truly my prize bird.
However, what the hell does this have to do with Marianne Moore? Well, Moore’s subject for this poem is the Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw. Frankly, I know nothing of Shaw except his name and his reputation. But that’s the point of poetry to me; what the poet writes and what the reader sees are not the same. The onus is on the reader to discover what any poem means to them. Any further understanding of the poet’s intent, even with education, is purely speculative.