In our previous chapters we have seen that a mark of true aesthetic enjoyment is the absorption of the looker in the picture he is looking at, or of the listener in the music he is listening to; and that ideas and thoughts suggested by the object attended to are apt to be interferences with full aesthetic enjoyment, however valuable such reflections may be in and for their own sakes. This particular aspect of the subject is specially prominent in the reading of poetry because of course we are there engaged as a rule in absorbing ideas as well as sounds, except of course when we may be listening to, and even enjoying, poems beautifully read in a foreign language which we do not understand, of which experience we shall see examples later.
Another new fact in connexion with poetry as compared at least with music is the smaller percentage of people who enjoy poetry sufficiently to read it often, as compared with the large number who listen at least to some kind of music. It is difficult to get precise evidence of the proportion who do, even when grown up, read poetry occasionally; but a consideration of the frequency of the borrowing of poetry from public libraries, as well as individual questions put to groups of workers and students, suggest that Wordsworth's own estimate of its being an "awful truth" that there is no genuine enjoyment of poetry among nineteen out of twenty people, is not very far wrong.
Reports both from university students, workers, school pupils and very young people recently left school, suggest that all of them had found some increase in the interest in poetry during the period of adolescence.1 On the other hand there is some evidence that even____________________