chapter  35
15 Pages

Poetry and Beliefs

The emotions and attitudes resulting from a statement used emotively need not be directed towards anything to which the statement refers. This is clearly evident in dramatic poetry, but much more poetry than is usually supposed is dramatic in struc­ ture. As a rule a statement in poetry arouses attitudes much more wide and general in direction than the references o f the statement. Neglect of this fact makes most verbal analysis of poetry irrelevant. And the same is true of those critical but emo­ tive utterances about poetry which gave rise to this discussion. N o one, it is plain, can read poetry successfully without, con­ sciously or unconsciously, observing the distinction between the two uses of words. That does not need to be insisted upon. But further no one can understand such utterances about poetry as

[274] that quoted from D r Mackail in our third chapter, or D r Brad­ ley’s cry that ‘Poetry is a spirit’, or Shelley’s that ‘A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth’, or the passages quoted above from Coleridge, without distinguishing the making of a statement from the incitement or expression of an attitude. But too much inferior poetry has been poured out as criticism, too much sack and too little bread; confusion between the two activities, on the part of writers and readers alike, is what is primarily responsible for the backwardness of critical studies. What other stultifications of human endeavour it is also respon­ sible for we need not linger here to point out. The separation of prose from poetry, if we may so paraphrase the distinction, is no mere academic activity. There is hardly a problem outside mathematics which is not complicated by its neglect, and hardly

any emotional response which is not crippled by irrelevant {217} intrusions. N o revolution in human affairs would be greater than that which a widespread observance of this distinction would bring about.