Creed vs. The Great Poets: What Do Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman Have that Scott Stapp Doesn't?
Yes, Creed is back. You got a problem with that, snobby aesthetes and holier-than-though dismissers? Finally returning to argue for their continued relevance after a decade of being shit upon by the critics and Elites who don't know anything about Faith, Power, or the Mission of the Warrior, the Tallahassee four-piece has come back from the dead to stake its claim as the country's most humungous rock band -- as well as its most misunderstood and under-appreciated rock poets.
We said it. Scott Stapp is a poet.
Poetry. Music. Lyrics. Music. Poetry. One in the same. Words. Poetry. Music. Poetry. Music. Words. See how they line up next to each other like that? That's what Scott Stapp does when he writes. Let's take this theory further: Scott Stapp. William Shakespeare. Robert Browning. Gertrude Stein, Scott Stapp, Walt Whitman. Scott Stapp. Emily Dickinson. Scott Stapp. Alfred Lord Tennyson. William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, Scott Stapp, Anne Sexton. See how easy it is to write dissertations? Toss in a few references to Sylvia Plath and bingo, you've proven your point. It's all in the way you string the words together. Let everyone else fill in all the smart stuff.
What we're trying to say is that universal truths sometimes hide in the strangest, most painfully obvious platitudinal planes, and that Creed, in returning, is maybe doing so because the message they are delivering is TIMELESS. Their themes reach back through the yellowed scrolls of history to deliver messages that never seem to dissipate.
Anthony Scott Flippen, Truth, and Ultimate Redemption in Creed's "Freedom Fighter"
So many thoughts to share!
All this energy to give
Unlike those who hide the truth
I tell it like it is
If the truth will set you free
I feel sorry for your soul!
Creed, "Freedom Fighter"
in the above lyrical excerpt, Stapp (born Anthony Scott Flippen, Orlando, FL, USA in 1973) talks of his mind overflowing with ideas -- strong, a force of nature, ready to "tell it like it is." But then He turns accusatory, flips the words like Nature Boy Rick Flair flipped Harley Race. "If the truth will set you free," he sings, "I feel sorry for your soul." Why? Because you are not free because you are a LIAR. You live in a cage of your own making. Note how in the above passage Stapp not only talks of telling the truth, but tells the truth by calling you out, therefore freeing himself from his prison while simultaneously shoving you into it.
Stapp surely would have shoved homosexual poet Walt Whitman into a cage. Read this:
O Me, man of slack faith so long!
Standing aloof -- denying portions so long;
Only aware to-day of compact, all-diffused truth;
Discovering to-day there is no lie, or form of lie, and can be none, but grows as inevitably upon itself as the truth does upon itself,
Or as any law of the earth, or any natural production of the earth does.
- Walt Whitman
Whitman is less declarative in his need to tell the truth. He of "slack faith" stands aloof, not strong and proud. Whitman acknowledges he has been a denier, and sees things all complicated-like, like some sort of truth fog. Lies on top of lies will continue to grow, as will truths atop truths and laws upon laws, and we will remain confused. Unlike Stapp, who cuts through the gibberish like a laser beam through mayonnaise.
Faceless Man and the Power of Metaphoric Reflection
Again I stand, Lord I stand, against the faceless man
Now I saw a face on the water
It looked humble but willing to fight
I saw the will of a warrior
His yoke is easy and his burden is light
He looked me right in the eyes
Direct and concise to remind me
To always do what's right
- "Faceless Man"
In Stapp's "Faceless Man," the narrator travels to nature and sits by a pond or a toilet bowl or some surface of water and sees his reflection. This face was "humble," but had "the will of a warrior," an apparent contradiction. Curiously, this warrior looking into the toilet is wearing a yoke (one of those wooden punishment harnesses from the olden times). But a yoke is not that big of a deal for a man with the will of the warrior. He wears it as though it's not torture device stretching his arms and locking his head, but a Hawaiian puka shell necklace.
Now imagine that a lonely woman, like maybe Emily Dickinson, were to walk up to brave warrior Stapp while he is staring at the refection in his bowl of soup. She sees a tan man pondering ... morality. The lady poet's response?
To fight aloud is very brave,
But gallanter, I know,
Who charge within the bosom,
The cavalry of woe.
What's weird about it is that that's exactly what Stapp is thinking as he's sitting there by the toilet.
Who win, and nations do not see,
Who fall, and none observe,
Whose dying eyes no country
Regards with patriot love.
It's hard for a warrior is what she's saying, because the true battles -- the ones that matter -- occur not while he's on the battlefield, but while he's sitting on the floor by the toilet trying to understand Life. Only when you're straight with yourself can you be fully prepared to do battle and wade off into the winter.
We trust, in plumed procession,
For such the angels go,
Rank after rank, with even feet
And uniforms of snow.
There is Trouble in the Forest: Trees, Roots and History in "Are You Ready"
Scott Stapp doesn't pull any punches below,in his ode, "Are You Ready." Like French romantic Victor Hugo, for whom "love is like a tree, it grows of its own accord, it puts down deep roots into our whole being," Stapp feels a certain importance in remembering from whence you came, storing it in the memory, regardless of whether you are sitting in your own prison or dancing like a child.
Remember your roots, my friend
They're right down below
'cause heroes come and heroes go
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one
Count down to the change in life that's soon to come
Your life has just begun
- "Are You Ready"
Walt Whitman had a way way gayer way of saying it, and never fully understood the power of a mid-verse numerical countdown as rhyme vehicle to get to the word "come." Quoth Whitman:
FOR him I sing,
(As some perennial tree, out of its roots, the present on the past:)
With time and space I him dilate--and fuse the immortal laws,
To make himself, by them, the law unto himself.
"Never Die," Mortality and Primal Scream: Raging Against the Dying of the Light
Like many established poets before him, Scott Stapp wrestles with notions of mortality and the struggles of getting old. Unlike Oscar Wilde, who once threatened to "stab my youth with desperate knives," Creed's lyricist in "Never Die" seeks to strip away maturity altogether and get back to that primal, wondrous time when stepping outside into a spring downpour was not a hassle but a joy, when a fountain wasn't someplace you stumble into during a Percodan and cocaine bender, but a place to frolic in while straight and clean. The tedium of life is nothing but a prison of your own making, basically. If you live like you're young, you will "never die."
In searching for substance
We're clouded by struggle's haze
Remember the meaning
Of playing out in the rain
We swim in the fountain
Of youth's timeless maze
If you drink the water
Your youth will never fade
So let the children play
Inside your heart always
And death you will defy
'Cause your youth will never die
- "Never Die"
Spoken like a true twenty-something dude with a platinum record and an awesome tan. William Shakespeare has a response:
CRABBED age and youth cannot live together:
Youth is full of pleasure, age is full of care;
Youth like summer morn, age like winter weather;
Youth like summer brave, age like winter bare.
Youth is full of sport, age's breath is short;
Youth is nimble, age is lame;
Youth is hot and bold, age is weak and cold;
Youth is wild, and age is tame.
Age, I do abhor thee, youth, I do adore thee;
O! my love, my love is young:
Age, I do defy thee: O! sweet shepherd, hie thee,
For methinks thou stay'st too long.
Or we can return to Emily Dickinson, who, while yearning for the naivete of Stapp's position vis a vis youth and longing, understands that his desire is unrealistic, and fleeting. You can see it as kids are released from school:
FROM all the jails the boys and girls
Beloved, only afternoon
That prison doesn't keep.
They storm the earth and stun the air,
A mob of solid bliss.
Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
For such a foe as this!
Breakout at Midnight: Scott Stapp, Prison and Redemption
The walls are cold and pale the cage made of steel
Screams fill the room alone I drop and kneel
Silence now the sound my breath the only motion around
Demons cluttering around my face showing no emotion
Shackled by my sentence expecting no return
Here there is no penance my skin begins to burn
- "My Own Prison"
Edna St. Vincent Millay had some hard times, too; it's almost like the pair were sharing the same cell in jail:
A thousand screams the heavens smote:
And every scream tore through my throat.
No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.
Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the Weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.
Creed, Greed, Need and Seed: Blindness as a Sprout That Grows into a Beanstalk
Can you take me higher?
To the place where blind men see
Can you take me higher?
To the place with golden streets
William Wordsworth below seems to agree with absolutely everything Scott Stapp is saying, except that Wordsworth dilly-dallys around and gets all poetic on us when what we need is someone who tells it like it is, i.e. Scott Stapp. Says Wordsworth:
'WEAK is the will of Man, his judgment blind;
'Remembrance persecutes, and Hope betrays;
'Heavy is woe;--and joy, for human-kind,
'A mournful thing, so transient is the blaze!'
Thus might 'he' paint our lot of mortal days
Who wants the glorious faculty assigned
To elevate the more-than-reasoning Mind,
And colour life's dark cloud with orient rays.
Imagination is that sacred power,
Imagination lofty and refined;
'Tis hers to pluck the amaranthine flower
Of Faith, and round the Sufferer's temples bind
Wreaths that endure affliction's heaviest shower,
And do not shrink from sorrow's keenest wind.
Discuss. Essays in response due Friday, May 8.