259. (John Dryden)

It seems necessary that, if poetry is not to effect synthesis by way of the elaborate similes and coaxed metaphors of the Metaphysical, and by way of self-referential formalisms of the Romantics (their enactment of poetry as creative receptivity of the world and self); and if poetry is to maintain distinctions and strive for order, then it nonetheless effect a novelty relation to experience and … Continue reading 259. (John Dryden)

258. (John Dryden)

For John Dryden, the world tends towards fusion and confusion and it is for the poet to establish distinctions and order. That does not mean Dryden is insensitive to the Romantic or Metaphysical power of a synthesizing imagination; it means that he feels it compounds, rather than relieves, the state of things. Much, then, needs to be given up to approach Dryden’s poetry; some assumptions … Continue reading 258. (John Dryden)

257. (T.S. Eliot)

Since the age of 16 or 17, when I discovered the criticism of T.S. Eliot for myself, I’ve met with respected voices discouraging me from its allurements as well respected voices encouraging me to see it’s greatness. Among the critics and readers who have mattered most to me, Empson, Davie, Ricks, and Hill, there is a common belief in Eliot’s greatness as a critic, his … Continue reading 257. (T.S. Eliot)

256. (Samuel Beckett)

Beckett said Samuel Johnson was always with him; yet reading the trilogy, Molloy etc, one feels also (Kenner remarked on it in his 1968 study) that Wordsworth was often with him too. Parts of it seem to have come from an experiment: what if Wordsworth’s solitaries, the leech-gatherer above all, attempted to write their own Recherche du Temps Perdu? How Johnson in this? An answer … Continue reading 256. (Samuel Beckett)

255. (Geoffrey Hill)

Poetry as persuasive harmony; it rises from the conditions of its making, and justifies itself against the discord of that condition; a false poem, like any false work of art, cheats or lies by failing to acknowledge that discord or by celebrating its resolution prematurely. Such a thought is not a prerequisite for appreciating the late poetry of Geoffrey Hill; instead, it arises with an … Continue reading 255. (Geoffrey Hill)

254. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Thackeray’s Vanity Fair doubles that charge: the novel is braced by a simultaneous awareness of Regency and Victorian foibles, of Regency and Victorian hypocrisy, and Regency and Victorian euphemism (I shorten early-mid Victorian to “Victorian” throughout; I refer to the Regency and also the rein of George IV as “Regency”). In that double-ness lies its singularity: a sense for the history of satirical judgment itself, … Continue reading 254. (William Makepeace Thackeray)