The Anatomy of Nonsense

The Anatomy of Nonsense

The Anatomy of Nonsense

The Anatomy of Nonsense

Excerpt

Is it possible to say that Poem A (one of Donne Holy Sonnets , or one of the poems of Jonson or of Shakespeare) is better than Poem B (Collins' Ode to Evening ) or vice versa?

If not, is it possible to say that either of these is better than Poem C ( The Cremation of Sam Magee , or something comparable)?

If the answer is no in both cases, then any poem is as good as any other. If this is true, then all poetry is worthless; but this obviously is not true, for it is contrary to all our experience.

If the answer is yes in both cases, then there follows the question of whether the answer implies merely that one poem is better than another for the speaker, or whether it means that one poem is intrinsically better than another. If the former, then we are impressionists, which is to say relativists; and are either mystics of the type of Emerson, or hedonists of . . .

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