Essays in Appreciation

Essays in Appreciation

Essays in Appreciation

Essays in Appreciation


In Essays in Appreciation, Christopher Ricks continues the work of his highly-praised The Force of Poetry, with lively and provoking essays on poets and poetry. In addition, Ricks puts his appreciative pen in the service of other literary figures and genres, including drama, the novel, history and philosophy, and a discussion of Victorian biographies. Ricks wraps up the collection with a series of critical questions on literature and theory; plus two notes--on the canon, and on Empson and political criticism. W.H. Auden once wrote of Christopher Ricks that "he is exactly the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding;" with this latest volume every scholar as well as serious reader will join the poet in finding much to appreciate.


Donne's poem, whether or not they are personal memories, record a dislike of having come. Post-coital sadness and revulsion are grimly seized, but what is more grim is that the poems are so often driven to bend this animus upon their own previous act of creative love. The old criticism of Donne was that he did not create whole poems; for me, this takes shape in the recurrent phenomenon of how unhealthily the poems end. Of the half-dozen essential instances, 'Farewell to Love' may be the starting-point, an extremity.


Whilst yet to prove,
I thought there was some deity in love
So did I reverence, and gave
Worship; as atheists at their dying hour
Call, what they cannot name, an unknown power,
As ignorantly did I crave:
Thus when
Things not yet known are coveted by men,
Our desires give them fashion, and so
As they wax lesser, fall, as they size, grow.

But, from late fair
His highness sitting in a golden chair,
Is not less cared for after three days
By children, than the thing which lovers so
Blindly admire, and with such worship woo;
Being had, enjoying it decays:
And thence,
What before pleased them all, takes but one sense,
And that so lamely, as it leaves behind
A kind of sorrowing dullness to the mind.

Ah cannot we,
As well as cocks and lions jocund be,
After such pleasures? Unless wise
Nature decreed (since each such act, they say,
Diminisheth the length of life a day)
This; as she would man should despise
The sport . . .

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