chapter  VII
Flux and irony
Pages 3

There is no sharp distinction to be drawn between imagery of dis­ solution and imagery of flux in the poetry of the Romantics, and the former no less than the latter is a token of their preoccupation with process or becoming, and of their assumption that experience is an un­ broken flow. The lover or the visionary soul fades, fuses, lapses, dissolves, melts without effort, imperceptibly perhaps, from one state of being to another (‘the affections gently lead us on’) so that a given phase of con­ sciousness cannot be abruptly distinguished from the phase from which it emerged. There is scope here for self-deception on the poet’s part, as well as for subtlety and richness. (The passage quoted above from Endymion is a case in point; indeed the entire tradition of spiritualized eroticism that leads from Keats and Shelley, through Rossetti, to the early Yeats is relevant.) And also there is scope for irony, whether availed of or not. For (by implication) Romantic poetry is constantly revealing, or half-revealing, the essential inward similarity of experiences that are nevertheless and in crucial ways dis-similar.