Foreword

Poetry attempts to seize thoughts and emotions from the flow of time and shape them into something more lasting and beautiful than they were in the ordinary course of human experience. Observation and memory play equal parts in the selection of the thought and emotion, while the imagination, working at fiery intensity, selects one element to be expressed and burns away all irrelevant material that clings to it. At the same time, the poet is starting to frame the theme in words, heightening and condensing them, and setting them to a recurrent rhythm, a repetition of emphasis, such as we find at the basis of all natural things, the rotation of the planets, the ebb and flow of the sea, the turning of the seasons, the beat of our own hearts. The Universe has a vast rhythm of its own, to which the poet's ear is like a shell echoing the waves of the sea.

The feeling that man has lost his bright destiny in the confusion of the material world is the inspiring disappointment that spurs on creative temperaments to recapture at least the semblance of perfection. Epic or lyric, love sonnet or folk song, ballad or satire, all poetry seeks to establish the importance of each moment in the experience and growth of mankind. When we speak of the literature of an age or a country we instinctively mean its poetry; comparatively little prose survives beyond its generation. Poetry is the essence; prose the accident.

The ideal reader of poetry would be familiar with the poetry of the past as well as the present, and he would know something about the technique of the art. He cannot hope to develop taste from a few selections or from many works from a single period, especially his own. He should also know something of the technique of verse, which is as delicate and elaborate as orchestration. Music, to which

-vii-

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In Pursuit of Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents *
  • Part I - The Magic of Words 1
  • Part II - The Elements of Verse 31
  • Part III - A Brief Survey of The Background of Poetry in English 119
  • Part IV - Poetry in the Twentieth Century 172
  • Some Recommended Reading 219
  • Index 223
  • About the Author *
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