Benedetto Croce's Poetry and Literature: An Introduction to Its Criticism and History

By Benedetto Croce; Giovanni Gullace | Go to book overview
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IV

The Formation of the Poet and the Precepts

1. Spontaneity and Discipline
If the feeling of the poet encloses within itself his
tory and if in that feeling lives, together with
thought, the poetry of centuries which is fused and
transfigured in the new expression, then one under
stands why the poet is impelled by the impulse to
create originally and, at the same time, by the neces
sity to be attuned to the voice of the poetry which
resounded before his own and to respond to it as in aPoetry and the new way of poetising. This very beau
chorus. Tacitly, before listening to the exhortations bytifiul epigram by Goethe, who recalls one of his visits
others, he seems to say to himself. "Be thyself!" "Folto Mantua, may well express how ancient poetry in
low thine own nature!" "Imitate the great models!"volves the new poet and attracts him to its sphere and
frees his heart for singing:
Kaum an dem blaueren Himmel erblickt'ich die glänzende
Sonne,
Reich, vom Felsen herab, Epheu zu Kränzen geschmäckt,
These exhortations may seem contradictory, butSah den emsingen Winzer die Rebe der Pappel verbin
they are, on the contrary, concurrent and convergent,den,
leading up to the single act which is altogether one ofUeber die Wiege Virgil's kam mir ein laulicher Wind;
freedom and necessity, spontaneity and discipline, twoDa gesellten die Musen sich gleich zum Freunde; wir
terms so indivisible that by eliminating one the otherpflogen
would vanish completely. What does "imitation of naAbgerissnes Gespräch, wie es den Wanderer freut.
ture" by itself mean? Perhaps those "copies" or dupli(As soon as I had looked at the fulgent sun in the blue
cates of facts and natural objects which do not belongsky and the ivy which was hanging ever-richer from the
either to art or to knowledge and are made for triflingcliffs, interwoven in crowns, and had perceived the in
either to art or to knowledge and are made for triflingdustrious vine grower tying the vine twig to the poplar,
with or for displaying virtuosity? What does "imitaa tepid breeze came to me in Virgil's cradle; and then
tion of a poem" mean? Perhaps the repetition of theimmediately the Muses rejoined their friend, and we re
poem, the multiplication of the scripts and printingssumed an interrupted discourse, such as the wayfarer de
containing it, or perhaps the plagiarism which islights to hear.)

-175-

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