Classic Writings on Poetry by William Harmon

By William Harmon

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents good looks. he's a sovereign, and stands at the centre. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, from "The Poet""[The poet] is a seer.... he's individual... he's whole in himself.... the others are nearly as good as he, merely he sees it and so they don't. he's not one of many refrain. " -- Walt Whitman, from the preface to Leaves of GrassPoetry has consistently given upward thrust to interpretation, judgment, and controversy. certainly, the background of poetry feedback is as wealthy and sundry a trip because the heritage of poetry itself. yet vintage writings similar to Emerson's essay "The Poet" and Whitman's preface to Leaves of Grass function greater than a serious "call and response": the works are outstanding examples of ways the best poets themselves have written on poetics and the works in their friends and predecessors -- revealing, within the method, a lot in regards to the idea and fervour in the back of their very own works. Spanning millions of years and together with thirty-three of the main influential severe essays ever written, vintage Writings on Poetry is the 1st significant anthology of feedback dedicated solely to poetry. starting with a survey of the background of poetics and supplying an creation and short biography for every analyzing, esteemed poet and critic William Harmon takes readers from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Poetics to the Norse mythology of Snorri Sturluson's Skáldskaparmál. John Dryden's An Essay of Dramatic Poesy and Shelley's A Defence of Poetry are incorporated, as is an excerpt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's verse novel Aurora Leigh, arriving, eventually, on the modernist sensibility of "Poetic truth and important Unreality," by way of Laura (Riding) Jackson. For a person attracted to the paintings and artifice of poetry, vintage Writings on Poetry is a trip worth taking.

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As, in the serious style, Homer is pre-eminent among poets, for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too first laid down the main lines of comedy, by dramatizing the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. His “Margites” bears the same relation to comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to tragedy. But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the drama was a larger and higher form of art.

Nay, very much the reverse. And still he will go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good or bad, and may be expected therefore to imitate only that which appears to be good to the ignorant multitude? Just so. Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or sport, The Republic 23 and the tragic poets, whether they write in iambic or in Heroic verse, are imitators in the highest degree?

I cannot deny it. Therefore, Glaucon, I said, whenever you meet with any of the eulogists of Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hellas, and that he is profitable for education and for the ordering of human things, and that you should take him up again and again and get to know him and regulate your whole life according to him, we may love and honor those who say these things—they are excellent people, as far as their lights extend; and we are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State.

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