The difficulty of poetry (and modern poetry is supposed to be difficult) may be due to one of several reasons. First, there may be personal causes which make it impossible for a poet to express himself in any way but an obscure way; while this may be regrettable, we should be glad, I think, that the man has been able to express himself at all. Or difficulty may be due just to novelty: we know the ridicule accorded in turn to Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats, Tennyson and Browning--but must remark that Browning was the first to be called difficult; hostile critics of the earlier poets found them difficult, but called them silly. Or difficulty may be caused by the reader's having been told, or having suggested to himself, that the poem is going to prove difficult. The ordinary reader, when warned against the obscurity of a poem, is apt to be thrown into a state of consternation very unfavourable to poetic receptivity. Instead of beginning, as he should, in a state of sensitivity, he obfuscates his senses by the desire to be clever and to look very hard for something he doesn't know what--or else by the desire not to be taken in. There is such a thing as stage fright, but
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Points of View. Contributors: T. S. Eliot - Author. Publisher: Faber and Faber. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1941. Page number: 50.