Ghost or Machine?
CRITICAL ATTITUDES towards poetry today have been much influenced by two events: the rediscovery of the Metaphysicals, and the development in the universities of a School of English Literature. There is a connection between the two. As we have seen, Hulme, Pound, and Eliot all emphasised in their various ways what might be called the scholarship of poetry. The poet must be precise and he must be learned; 'poetry', says Pound, 'should be as well written as prose', and the implication of tile remark (though it turns out to be less arresting than it sounds) is that poetry should be both complex and homely, cerebral, conscientious, and rich in references to a general body of scholarship and idea: that it should, in fact, be possible to get a great deal out of it. These requirements were most obviously met by Dryden and the Metaphysical poets, and they are also the kind of qualities which a student of poetry--irrespective of his natural taste and acumen--could most readily perceive, or be induced to perceive. To get a great deal out of a poem is the justification for academic study of it, and an English School tends to set up, in self-defence, professional and mental disciplines which will compare with those required in other subjects. If poetry is to be read as part of an academic course, moreover, the pleasure of reading it becomes alto