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contrary it gives much innocent delight. It is fancy, not falsification. Moreover, the poet's fancy, even while it creates fictions, may be presenting under this guise essential spiritual truth. The hell and purgatory and paradise which Dante describes in such concrete terms in his Divina Commedia cannot possibly exist just as he imagined them, but they are no less essentially true in their portrayal of states of sin, suffering, and happiness in the human soul. In such a case the imagery of the poem may be regarded as fiction if we please, but the poem is none the less truth in the highest sense-truth that is not to be tested by the low and imperfect test of mere physical actuality. In fact we get the highest poetry only when there is a fusion of both fact and fancy in the embodiment of some lofty imaginative truth.
Along with the question of truth arises the question of beauty. Poetry, as one of the fine arts, should work through a medium of beauty and to beautiful ends. In any art we may at times find material which is in itself unlovely, but such material must be so presented as to give no offense, or the art ceases to be art. The actual suffering of Laocoon and his sons in the coils of the serpents would have been an intolerable thing to witness, but the symbolic
representation of it in marble, with the signs of physical pain softened and subordinated to the spiritual expression, is contemplated with admiration; the observer is almost made to wish, says Winckelmann, that he could bear misery like that great man. Perhaps poetry ventures farther than the plastic arts in depicting physical or moral deformity and pain, but it does so only to heighten some contrasted beauty, or to body forth some truth the deep significance of which is in itself a beauty. If it stops short with the presentation of deformity, it is not poetry. The wrath of Achilles is redeemed by his friendship for Patroclus and his compassion on Priam. The villainy of Iago, as portrayed by Shakspere, ultimately heightens our admiration of moral worth. So, also, the barest philosophical truth, having in itself neither beauty nor ugliness, may be presented in so engaging a form as to take at once the name of poetry. To be convinced of this, it is only necessary to recall the finished couplets of an artist like Pope.
But whether poetry present to us truth or fiction, beauty or ugliness, it is absolutely essential that it be the product of feeling and that it arouse feeling. It might almost be said that the beginning and end of poetry is delight-delight, that is, in no narrow sense of mere amusement,
but in a sense which includes the whole range of emotional satisfaction. This view of it is not universal. The traditional Greek view made delight incidental, or a means only, regarding as the end of poetry the teaching of action and character. But poetry in which this end is deliberately sought is invariably characterized as philosophic or didactic; and the terms imply an inferior degree of poetic quality. The highest poetry will no doubt teach, but that poetry which teaches directly is never the highest, while that which does nothing but teach is not, properly speaking, poetry at all. The direct aim of great poetry is to stir the nobler emotions, leaving them to work out their own purposes in the moral world; the ends of morality may be served, but they are served best only when nothing lessens the purity of the imparted delight. The cry of "art for art's sake" becomes thus "art for art's sake because that is also art for morality's sake."
So much for the general nature and function of poetry. Let us now pass to a consideration of certain incidental attributes which further distinguish it from prose-the ordinary prose of science, of record, and communication. Here our first guide shall be Milton, who, in differentiating poetry from logic, declared it to be
"less subtle and fine but more simple, sensuous, and passionate."
"Simple, Sensuous, and Passionate.". -The direct way to the heart is not through the reason, but through the senses and emotions and the language of the senses and emotions. Matterof-fact exposition, long-drawn argument, refinements of logic, are manifestly out of place in poetry. It must keep mainly to the things with which all men are familiar, and it must put those things in the language of experience. Love and death, for instance, are themes of this kind, and while it is true that few things could be made the subjects of subtler logic or profounder speculation, when poetry approaches them it prefers to do so in the attitude of the simplest human being who enjoys and suffers. In Wordsworth's poem, "She dwelt among the untrodden ways," there is not a thought or an image that cannot be grasped immediately by the most untutored reader. Nor does it seem that any elaboration of thought or expression could convey more vividly the sorrow of bereavement than the simple concluding lines,
"But she is in her grave, and oh
The difference to me!"
The prevailing sensuousness of poetry is well shown by the fact that the poet draws a large
proportion of his images from the world of sense -of eye and ear, of taste and smell and feeling. So true is this of early epic poetry that in all the Iliad there is but a single figure drawn from the operations of the mind.* Note how Keats's Eve of St. Agnes, one of the most widely known and admired of modern poems, abounds in pictures and images of sense. Mark in the more ethereal To a Skylark of Shelley the same concreteness of imagery-"Like a cloud of fire,"
'Like a star of heaven," "Like a rose embowered," "Like a high-born maiden in a palace tower." Could winter be more vividly portrayed than in Shakspere's lines:
"When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And milk comes frozen home in pail?"
Moreover, in poetry abstract conceptions are constantly put into concrete form. When we are conscious that time is rapidly passing, the poetic faculty within us leaps at once to an image and says, "Time flies;" and Scott, in his stiring Hunting Song, exclaims:
"Time, stern huntsman! who can baulk,
Staunch as hound and fleet as hawk!"
*Iliad, XV., 80.