CHAPTER I POETRY AND MYSTICISM

BEFORE discussing the relationship between poetry and mysticism we must first be clear as to what we mean by poetry. At first sight this might seem unnecessary. Surely we all know poetry when we see it? Verse yes, but not therefore poetry. For verse is by no means the same as poetry.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour

Let dogs delight to bark and bite
For God hath made them so.1

Or

Thirty days hath September
April, June and dull November.

These are verse. For anything is verse which is written in a recurrent metre, that is with a recurrent pattern of sound, whether of accent, as in English verse, or quantity, as in Greek and Latin verse. But they are not poetry. What then is poetry?

Poetry is a branch of art. Art is the expression of aesthetic perception, intuition I would call it. This aesthetic perception is the perception of beautiful form. Beautiful form is significant form.

These definitions of course need explaining. And we must begin with form. By form I mean the nature of anything, what it is, not indeed its entire form, all it is, but its nature in some aspect of it. If it is the form of a physical object it may be its shape, its size, its colour, its scent, its taste, the sound it emits. Or the form in question may be what is common to an entire class of objects, for example the distinctive characters that belong to a species of plant or animal. Or it may be a spiritual form, a virtue, for example, or a mental quality, the attribute of a created spirit,

____________________
1
Watts, however, could write genuine poetry on occasion (see below, p. 302).

-1-

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