The True Voice of Feeling: Studies in English Romantic Poetry

By Herbert Read | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
Conclusion

The poetic reform which Wordsworth and Coleridge began has taken a century and a half to expend its force--a long time for a literary movement to last. But this particular movement has for much of its course run underground, and was never, until our own time, wholly conscious of its direction.

It seems to me that the new feeling for organic form which possessed such typical figures as Goethe and Schelling 'in Germany, Coleridge and Wordsworth in England, marked a new extension of the general range of human consciousness. It is significant, that in the period we are concerned with, man also became more aware of his own evolutionary process, and of his place in the evolution of the cosmos. Common to the whole of this modern development--in physics, biology, genetics and aesthetics--is a growing awareness of the significance of form, and the search for some basic laws of form. An innate 'tendency to form' is now discerned in the very organs of human perception and thought, and art is conceived as the means by which the mind succeeds in passing from one fixed form to another fixed form--a process of transformation. In the biological world form is related to function-to the process of growth. In art the function of form is symbolical: form is a perceptible symbol for a particular state of mind. Why the mind should need symbolic modes of representation is a question that need not worry us now, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a civilization, and life itself, cannot exist without those symbolic

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