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)

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)

246. (William Wordsworth)

“His Muse (it cannot be denied, and without this we cannot explain its character at all) is a levelling one. It proceeds on a principle of equality and strives to reduce all things to the same standard.” William Hazlitt’s insight into Wordsworth’s poetry has endured and been frequently repeated. But readers and critics of Wordsworth have been far from leveling in their appraisal of and … Continue reading 246. (William Wordsworth)

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)

238. (Matthew Arnold)i

One of Matthew Arnold’s most famous, or infamous, phrases as a critic comes in “The Study of Poetry” where he mysteriously describes poetry as consisting in “the application of ideas to life.” Because of the frequency of “ideas” in our daily conversation, it is easy to overlook the peculiarity of that word, along with the word “application.” It is also easy to take “idea” to … Continue reading 238. (Matthew Arnold)i

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)