THE lectures I have given during the last five years have all dealt in one way or another, and in one or another of its many complex aspects, with the progress of poetry; and I may now be allowed to recapitulate.
Poetry is a function of life; and life being the continuous operation of a force or a complex system of forces, poetry must like all other vital functions share this quality of movement, of existing in and manifesting itself through movement. Poetry is an interpretation of life; and the interpretation must, like the thing interpreted, be organic and in continual progress, taking form from point to point, from moment to moment.
But poetry is also a pattern of life; in a phrase which I have already more than once quoted, and to which I would once more return, it condenses out of the flying vapours of the world an image of human perfection. In all its shapes, in the hands of all the poets, it has for a moment caught some such image of perfection. And it has not only caught the image, but fixed it. This is its quality as art. For that is the function which art alone can perform: not only to apprehend a pattern which subsists behind life, out of which life is created and towards which life moves; but also to make that apprehended pattern permanently visible, to fix and record the momentary image as it flashes and disappears.