Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Making of Poetry, 1912

I'm browsing through very old books today, which I like to do. Here's a little bit from one that seems fun, recontextualized from the start of one century to the start of the next . . .

From The Making of Poetry, 1912, p. 168.

All the standards which any one makes use of . . . are but reflections of his own potential self; they are a part of himself. A standard of feeling, of thought, or of action which any one holds, is something to which he regards himself as at least potentially capable of rising; it is, in the truest sense, a reflection of himself. . . . It is this ideal self that each reader or spectator becomes. So long as he remains in an aesthetic attitude, so long as the flash of pleasure and delight lasts, he actually becomes his ideal and potential self; he is that self which he ideally conceives. The ideal of himself, so vainly and ineffectually pursued in the world of dust and action, suddenly becomes, in imagination, both real and present. The experience may last but for a moment; in any case it must be very short; but for that sweet moment he has held himself at the high level where “. . . the most difficult of tasks to keep / Heights which the soul is competent to gain.”

And there the pleasure lies. Not in what the poet gives us but in what he enables us to do for ourselves do we find delight. . . . The child does not play with the rag doll; she plays with her imagination; the doll is simply a concrete starting point.


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