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THE MUSE IN COUNCIL

THEORIES

There is a feeling that it is dangerous to examine too nicely into the way poetry works ... I think, on the contrary, that the closer you look into poetry, the more you have to discover, and to enjoy.

LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE

THE MUSE IN COUNCIL

THE POET AND COMMUNICATION 1

The immediate trouble about all æsthetic theories is that when they are first propounded nobody understands them. By far the most interesting critics of poetry have always been the poets themselves, although it may be said, in passing, that some poets are quite extraordinarily bad critics. But it is strange to find how often a poet, who is at his own creative work all lucidity, can become in his theory full of difficulty. It is beside the point to say that anybody interested in poetry can understand clearly enough the creeds professed by Dryden and Wordsworth and Shelley and Matthew Arnold. Certainly we can understand these to-day, but then we have been learning how to do so for anything from two hundred down to sixty years; we are apt to forget that when we read a book two hundred years old we are profiting in our understanding of it by all the understanding that has been brought to it by the generations before us. It is when we come to the critical theory of our contemporaries that the difficulty is manifest. There have

1 Conway Memorial Lecture. 1923.

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