May 17, 2009

What is it to be a poet?

What is it to be a poet? It is to have one's own personal life, one's actuality, in categories completely different from those of one's poetical production, to be related to the ideal only in imagination, so that one's personal life is more or less a satire on the poetry and on oneself. In this sense all modern thinkers, even the outstanding ones (I mean the Germans, for there simply are no Danish thinkers), are poets. And on the whole this is the maximum to be seen in life. Most men live utterly destitute of ideas; some few relate poetically to the ideal but deny it in their personal lives. Pastors likewise are poets, and since they are pastors they are "deceivers," as Socrates once called poets, in a much deeper way than poets are.

But here as everywhere demoralization has come about through the disappearance of position no. 1 and the assumption of position no. 1 by no. 2. Relating oneself to the ideal in one's personal life is never seen. Such a life is the life of the witness to the truth. This rubric disappeared long ago, and preachers, philosophy professors, and poets have taken over the place of servants to the truth, whereby they no doubt are served very well — but they do not serve the truth.

— Kierkegaard, 1849

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