The Idea of Great Poetry

The Idea of Great Poetry

The Idea of Great Poetry

The Idea of Great Poetry

Excerpt

These lectures are meant to form a kind of sequel to two previous publications--" An Essay towards a Theory of Art" and "The Theory of Poetry." The methods and principles stated generally in the first book, and used to theorize the facts of a particular art in the second, are here carried a stage further, and made the argument of a specific line of criticism. Anything like a critical survey of the topic was, however, no part of my intention; I merely wished to show how criticism, which assesses the merits of individual works, may derive authority from theory, which judges the nature and function of works of art as a class; a purpose which would be facilitated by attending to one particular kind of merit--and the merit of "greatness" seemed to offer favourable scope for the continuation of theory into criticism. The argument, then, was my main concern; the criticism--obviously incomplete as a survey, even of the most cursory sort--being brought in merely to substantiate it.

When the Master of Trinity honoured me with an invitation to be Clark Lecturer in 1923, this was the topic I chose. The argument I then set out, along with a good deal of its critical illustration, is here reproduced; but in a somewhat castigated form, as may be judged by the reduction of a dozen lectures to five. A short book is better than a long one. I gladly took an opportunity, offered in the following year by an invitation from Bangor, to recast my argument into closer connexion, and to condense the matter of its criticism. The Ballard Matthews Lectures which I was privileged to give last winter in the University College of North Wales are here printed almost as they were delivered.

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