Why do some poems play it cool and simple while others are all timpany and cacaphony?

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 21 2009 6:44 AM

The Calm and the Restless

The plainness of Edward Thomas' "The Owl" vs. the struggle of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Carrion Comfort."

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...............................................—Edward Thomas

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Robert Pinsky read "The Owl." You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

"Carrion Comfort"

Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist—slack they may be—these last strands of man I
n me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-world right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruisèd bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, chéer.
Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, fóot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

......................................... .....—Gerard Manley Hopkins

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Robert Pinsky read "Carrion Comfort." You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Slate Poetry Editor Robert Pinsky will be participating in the Poems "Fray" this week. Post your questions and comments on "The Owl" and "Carrion Comfort," and he'll respond and participate. (In the interest of keeping the discussion as rich as possible, please read existing commentsbefore posting your own.) You can also browse "Fray" discussions of previous classic poems or follow Pinsky's National Poetry Month posts on the Poems Out Loud blog.

Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky is Slate's poetry editor. His Selected Poems is now available.