Poetry can be many things, but nothing greater than imagination painted in words that amplify something beautiful inside the reader. It is not merely the poet's words, nor even his own experiences, that makes a poem great. But these things along with the reader's experience combine to create an ethereal life among the words themselves. To me this is a wonderfully thoughtful and beautifully, iconical childish view of Heaven's beauty. So wonderfully written and imagined. The obvious Christian overtones are but a mere coincidence of having lived in the 19th century, a time when church came before country - or anything else.
I've never read a poem of Joyce Kilmer's except 'Trees' as far as I can remember. I had to memorize it in the 4th or 5th grade (not a pleasant memory!) . Of course, it rose to fame - or infamy - as a result of Brooks and Warren's scathing analysis in 'Understanding Poetry.' So why would I ever want to read another one? I almost didn't. But, in a way, I'm glad I did. This one is so much better than 'Trees.' I actually think the four metaphoric images are in themselves tenable, especially the last two. (Granted Stanza #2 is pretty bad, nearly awful.) The last one might better reflect an authentic human voice if it were rewritten thus:
Christ's troops, Mary's guard, God's armed men,
Draw your swords and strike at Hell, and strike, and strike again.
Every steel-born spark that flies from where God's armies war
Flashes past the face of God, and becomes a star.
Nothing's gained by being totally negative about anyone's poem, I think. Unless one can find one redeeming trait, it's better to let silence speak its piece. But, even with my willingness to appreciate promising effort, I do have to ask: why, why, why choose such a poem as this (and others not much better) when there are so very many genuinely delightful poems among the classics: serious ones, gentle ones, traditional forms, blank verse and free. There's enough Emily Dickinson to fill almost two years,150 of Shakespeare's sonnets, the Cavalier poets, Milton, the Romantics, Browning, Gerard Manley Hopkins, ole Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Eliot, Wm Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Marianne Moore - one can go on and on - not to mention light verse, even e e cummings, Dorothy Parker, Ogden Nash, and TS Eliot's 'Cats.' Why Joyce Kilmer? ? ? Let him rest in peace. Whoever chooses these poems - c'mon, you can do better than that. I'm offering you my help.
I'm not religious, but this is not why I don't like this poem. It's just very childish. For children this would be a good poem but for adults serious about poetry this fails. The positives: I like how it tells a story (like an ancient mythology) about what the stars are: I guess they are lady Mary's hair, the eyes of baby angels, iron spikes, every steel-born spark that flies where God's battles are (what are they make up your mind) . But some of the rhymes seem a little forced, and some of it is just childish like earth- what a funny place I would expect a more poetic description of earth than a funny place thrown in just to rhyme with his merry face
Some of the images seem a little trite, like the winged child turns his merry face and the world being a funny place. The poem is also very inconsistent in tone, starting with a lighter one and then ending with a call to religious war.
What a nonsense poem. This is someone who has never grown up in his religion. It is the kind of poem only the babes and sucklings appreciate. Apart from the nonsense theology, how can a star be like hair? And you do not slit clouds, you part them. And what has the last verse to do with gentle Jesus - it sounds like a call to a real crusade.
That's fine, but you at least might appreciate the words as they are, no? It seems kind of silly to be completely distracted from the merit of the poem by it's dealings with God. What are you accomplishing saying what you did?
Anyway, I think the poem's pretty but not much beyond that. The metaphors are cool, but not particularly effective, in my opinion.