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)

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)

242. (W.H. Auden)

The conundrum of Auden’s poetry—the conundrum of how to compare its aims and achievements to those of his contemporaries and to earlier poets—consists of several parts and is best sustained by a comparison to Yeats and also to French verse. The parts in brief: 1) Auden’s sense of history is flat: the past is not absorbed into his poems as a foreign element, as alien … Continue reading 242. (W.H. Auden)

234. (William Empson)

William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity is an acknowledged classic of literary criticism, but it is also among the most difficult to approach and appreciate as a whole, as a coherent statement of intellectual intent, and not just as a bundle of brilliant analyses. The seven types of ambiguity, Empson tells us, are as follows: first, when words can have several possible meanings contributing to … Continue reading 234. (William Empson)

233. (Samuel Menashe)

  The poetry of Samuel Menashe is illuminated by the thought that, even the smallest lyric poem, when successful, will be like the focal point on an hour glass, through which so much experience and time passes, an entire future and entire past opening out on either side of it. It will also be a reminder that history might not come to a reader direct, … Continue reading 233. (Samuel Menashe)