205. (William Empson)

That great literature balances great forces judiciously, that it calms a turbulence of mind, and that it communicates truths that otherwise could not be communicated is never left in doubt by Empson’s criticism, but he is distinguished by never panting after the proof, by not worrying over ranking or finding the right terms of praise. The puzzle for him is in working out what his … Continue reading 205. (William Empson)

204. (John Donne)

An exemplary poem by Donne, “The Expiration”: So, so breake off this last lamenting kisse,      Which sucks two soules, and vapours Both away,  Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,      And let our selves benight our happiest day,  We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe      Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;  Goe; and if … Continue reading 204. (John Donne)

203. (Aristotle)

Aristotle begins his Art of Rhetoric How do we reason in general about what is possible, probable, not necessary; he approaches rhetoric not as a determinate science, not as a particular domain of knowledge and judgment, but as a domain of knowledge and judgment that, determined by any number of situations, is nonetheless not determined by a set of knowledge claims (though it may often … Continue reading 203. (Aristotle)

202. (William Wordsworth)

Unlike Samson, whose strength returns with his hair and whose blindness, though indignity and infirmity, is not absolute impotence, Wordsworth’s lack of visionary powers seems to the poet in the Intimations Ode to be a total loss. It takes little effort to read Wordsworth’s “Ode” as his response to Milton’s Samson Agonistes, as much in its premises as in its verbal texture: Samson, whose capacity for … Continue reading 202. (William Wordsworth)

201. (Sarah Kirsch)

The 2014 Ice Roses: Selected Poems of the German poet Sarah Kirsch, published a year after her death (Kirsch was born in 1935), and translated into superb English poems by Anne Stokes, opens with “By the white daisies”: . By the white daisies In the park I stand Underneath the willow as he instructed me Unkempt ld woman without leaves See she says he isn’t … Continue reading 201. (Sarah Kirsch)

200. (Wallace Stevens)

Stevens’ poetry is the culmination of romantic idealism, and in comprehending its method and ambitions, the words of philosopher Sebastian Rödl (from his most recent work, Self-Consciousness and Objectivity) are apposite: This explains what may appear a curious character of the present essay: it propounds no theses, advances no hypotheses, does not recommend a view or position; it does not give arguments that are to support a … Continue reading 200. (Wallace Stevens)

199. (William Shakespeare)

As You Like It perplexes for many reasons, not least of which is a disproportionate structure, whose warps and excrescences are exemplified by the sudden interruption of Touchstone into the final scene: TOUCHSTONE Faith, we met, and found the quarrel was upon the seventh cause. JAQUES How seventh cause? Good my lord, like this fellow. DUKE SENIOR I like him very well. TOUCHSTONE God ‘ild … Continue reading 199. (William Shakespeare)