Romantic or Classic?
THE CLASSICAL Revival--to give it for the moment a text-book title--which took place at the beginning of the present century, and which can most conveniently be associated with Paul Valéry in France and with T. E. Hulme, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot in England, arose directly out of the Romantic absorption in the nature of the creative process. Classicism is always associated with form, with careful craftsmanship, and with an interest in techniques for their own sake, and paradoxically it was precisely these things to which Romantic solipsism and self-consciousness began to tend. A preoccupation with the techniques of knowing and imagining easily evoked its converse--a preoccupation with the techniques of expression. But whereas for Virginia Woolf and Pater the problems of expression and of the writer's subject seemed one and the same, and their solution what Baudelaire called 'that suggestive magic including the world outside the artist and the artist himself', for the new adherents of the Classic ideal the resources of the mind and its particular gift of expression are seen as largely separated from each other. For Valéry, thought is one thing, poetry is another, and the latter is seen as a formal quirk of the thinker's mind, indulged in rather as a mathematician might amuse himself with chess problems. Valéry can envisage a time, he says, when poetry will be as extinct as heraldry or