The Whole Internal Universe: Imitation and the New Defense of Poetry in British Criticism, 1660-1830

By John L. Mahoney | Go to book overview

7
Hazlitt:
Imitation and the Quest
for a Romantic Objectivity

Poetry then is an imitation of nature, but the imagination and the passions are a part of man's nature. We shape things according to our wishes and fancies, without poetry; but poetry is the most emphatical language that can be found for those creations of the mind 'which ecstasy is very cunning in.' Neither a mere description of natural objects, nor a mere delineation of natural feelings, however distinct or forcible, constitutes the ultimate end and aim of poetry, without the heightenings of the imagination.The light of poetry is not only a direct but also a reflected light, that while it shews us the object, throws a sparkling radiance on all around it: the flame of the passions, communicated to the imagination, reveals to us, as with a flash of lightning, the utmost recesses of thought, and penetrates our whole being. Poetry represents forms chiefly as they suggest other forms; feelings, as they suggest forms or other feelings. Poetry puts a spirit of life and motion into the universe. It describes the flowing, not the fixed. It does not define the limits of sense, or analyze the distinctions of the understanding, but signifies the excess of the imagination beyond the actual or ordinary impression of any object or feeling.

"On Poetry in General"

IT Is ONLY DURING the past thirty years, and largely due to the pioneering essay of W. J. Bate, that William Hazlitt has emerged as a major figure in English romanticism, an aesthetician and practical critic whose ideals of gusto, sympathy, and imagination and whose judgments on Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and his own

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