The Moralists

By Yvor Winters 1900–1968 Yvor Winters
You would extend the mind beyond the act,   
Furious, bending, suffering in thin
And unpoetic dicta; you have been
Forced by hypothesis to fiercer fact.
As metal singing hard, with firmness racked,   
You formulate our passion; and behind   
In some harsh moment nowise of the mind
Lie the old meanings your advance has packed.

No man can hold existence in the head.   
I, too, have known the anguish of the right   
Amid this net of mathematic dearth,
And the brain throbbing like a ship at night:   
Have faced with old unmitigated dread   
The hard familiar wrinkles of the earth.

Yvor Winters, “The Moralists” from The Selected Poems of Yvor Winters, edited by R. L. Barth. Used by permission of Ohio University Press, Athens, Ohio.

Source: The Collected Poems of Yvor Winters (1960)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Yvor Winters 1900–1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Social Commentaries, Living, The Mind

Poetic Terms Sonnet

 Yvor  Winters

Biography

When Yvor Winters’s publisher and friend Alan Swallow hailed him in 1940 as the “sage of Palo Alto,” he accurately touched on the paradox of Winters’s career: the isolation in which he became admired as a poet, a teacher, and critic of poetry. For Winters, who adopted California early in his career as his permanent home, participated in the major poetic and critical movements of the 20th century—imagism, the expatriate . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Social Commentaries, Living, The Mind

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Sonnet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.