The Writer's Dilemma: Essays First Published in the Times Literary Supplement under the Heading "Limits of Control"

The Writer's Dilemma: Essays First Published in the Times Literary Supplement under the Heading "Limits of Control"

The Writer's Dilemma: Essays First Published in the Times Literary Supplement under the Heading "Limits of Control"

The Writer's Dilemma: Essays First Published in the Times Literary Supplement under the Heading "Limits of Control"

Excerpt

The poet is in love with the idea of time that remains faithful to poetry. He cares about a past which is the model of that Convivio he would wish to exist in the present: and when he thinks of a future it is of a heaven where he joins Dante and Shakespeare in some scene resembling Raphael's painting of the School of Athens. The past of art is to him the model for the present, the future the immortality of the past.

The present, to remain faithful to that past and future of art, should have, as far as possible, continuity. Its nature, physical appearances, beliefs, behaviour, should remain constant to the art which transforms them into symbols, values, character. Too much change in the world of appearances undermines the figures in the mirror of art.

Shakespeare is ungrateful to the physical world when he writes:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rime.

Today when the marble and monuments are under notice to be pulverized, we are able to reflect that these once palpable objects are the wings which bear up the 'rime'. If there were no marble and no monuments, or if, in a world of plastics and cellophane, they were of purely museum interest, or to be found only in reference books, then they would be 'dead' images in a dead language.

The poet can refuse to be anxious about the disturbed state of affairs that is the changing times, and yet remain . . .

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