ALFRED EDWARD HOUSMAN

I

SWINBURNE. believed that the worth of poems lies in their manner. His belief in 'pure' poetry has been well put to-day by A. E. Housman. It is worth our while to study it as Housman puts it in his one essay, The Name and Nature of Poetry.

We shall best understand how Housman is putting it if we begin with a sentence from the middle of his essay.

When I hear anyone say, with defiant emphasis, that Pope was a poet, I suspect him of calling in ambiguity of language to promote confusion of thought.

This clears the air. We know what we are not talking about. We are not talking about poetry in the meaning in which the Oxford Book of English Verse is a book of poetry. We are talking only about some poems chosen for some one grace; and we are putting aside all the poems which have long been judged to be good which are without this grace. So Housman puts aside the poems of the Metaphysicals and of the Augustans. They are not poetry. Then what is poetry?

'But no man may deliver his brother, nor make agreement unto God for him', that is to me poetry so moving that I can hardly keep my voice steady in reading it. And that this is the effect of language I can ascertain by experiment: the same thought in the bible version,

-209-

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The Poet's Defence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword 1
  • Sidney & Shelley 17
  • Philip Sidney 19
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley 57
  • John Dryden 87
  • Wordsworth & Coleridge 127
  • William Wordsworth 129
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge 155
  • Swinburne and His Heirs 185
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne 187
  • Alfred Edward Housman 209
  • William Butler Yeats 229
  • List of Quotations And Index 253
  • Index 257
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