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Showing posts with label Literary Criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literary Criticism. Show all posts

Monday, December 9, 2013

Aristotle's Definition of Epic in Poetics and his Consideration of Tragedy as Superior to an Epic


To Aristotle, an Epic is a narrative poem written in heroic hexa-metre. It has four constituent parts namely plot , character, thought, & diction. Aristotle defines every point in much detail & finally, having compared between tragedy & epic, comes to the conclusion that a tragedy is superior to an epic.


According to Aristotle, the plots of epics should be dramatically constructed like those of tragedies. They should centre upon a single action whole & complete & having a beginning, middle & an end. Nor should epics be constructed like the common run of histories. The aim of history is to focus on a single period, while the task of an epic is to focus on a single action that is required. In this respect, Aristotle appreciates the greatness of Homer beyond all other poets. Though the Trojan War had a beginning & a war, Homer didn't attempt to put the whole of it to 'The Iliad'. As whole would have been too vast a theme to be easily embraced by a single view. Homer has selected one part of the story & has introduced mant incidents from other parts as episodes in order to give the poem a touch of variety. Other epic like the authors of 'Cypria' & 'The Little Iliad' have used many separate incident in their works. 

Thus, while only one tragedy could be made out of the 'Iliad' & the ‘Odyssey’. Several might be made out of the 'Cypria' & more than eight out of the 'Little Iliad’. Again epic poetry must divide into the same type as tragedy; it must me simple or complex or ethical or pathetic, & its thoughts & diction should be as artistic as they are in tragedy. The best models,again,supplied by Homer. His 'Iliad' is at once simple & pathetic & ‘Odyssey’, complex & ethical. Moreover,in diction & thought, they surpass all other poems. The epic, like tragedy, requires reversals of the situation, recognition & scenes of suffering.


Epic can be greater in length than tragedy. Unlike tragedy, an epic action should have no limit in time. It is the special advantage of epic that it may be of considerable length. In tragedy, it isn't possible to represent several parts of the story as taking palce simultaneously. Epic poetry, on the contrary, is able to represent several incidents that are taking place simultaneously. And if these incidents are relevant, they increase the gravity of the poems & also relieve the poems of monotony & dullness.


Epic represents the life of an entire period & relates an action concerning the fortunes or destiny of a nation.



The marvellous has a function in epic . The irrational on which the wonderful depends for its chief effects,has a wider scope in epic poetry because there the persons' acting ain't visible. The pursuit of Hector by Achilles in Homer's 'The Ilaid' before the Greeks, standing still & watching the scene with passive interest, would be simply laughable on the stage, whereas in the epic the absurdity passes unnoticed.


In the final chapter of poetics Aristotle raises the question whether the epic or the tragic drama is the higher form of imitation. According to him , the better form of art is less vulgar & the less vulgar is always that which is designed to appeal to the better type of audience . Now it's obvious that the form that appeals everyone is extremely vulgar. Thus epic is said to appeal to cultivated readers who don't need the help of visible forms, while tragedy appeals to meaner minds. If ,then, it is a vulgar art, it is obviously inferior to epic.


But this accusation can be defended by saying that the tragic drama can achieve its end without the help of action. Like epics, the quality of a tragic drama can be staged, while tragic drama can be staged as well as recited. Moreover, the disadvantage that tragic drama appeals to meaner minds can be compensated by the other respects in which tragedy is definitely superior.


The second accusation inherent to tragedy is that when the performers act on the stage ,they sometimes do a great deal of unnecessary movements. The performers can't act the parts of respectable women.

The flute players can't do their job properly. And the older actors always criticize the younger.But this kind of arguing is a criticism of acting, not of poetry , for it is also possible for a bard to exaggerate his gestures while reciting, & for a singer too.


The tragic drama is also superior because it has all the epic elements, while epic doesn't have all the elements of tragedy. Tragic drama may even employ the epic metre ,& it has the additional attraction of music & spectacular effects which are the sources of distinct feeling of pleasure. Then the effect is as vivid when a play is need as when it is acted.


Aristotle is a teleologian, the upholder of the theory that everything has a purpose to fulfill. The purpose of a poetic imitation is to give pleasure. In this respect, tragic drama achieves its ends in shorter compass, and what is more compact gives more pleasure than what is extended over a long period . For example, if the play 'Oedipus Rex' by Sophocles was cast in a form as long as the epic ''The Iliad' , the effect of the play would greatly be diminished. An epic has less unity than a tragedy. An epic can furnish subject for several tragedies & this shows that , then, is less unity in an epic poem.


Concluding his discussion Aristotle says that if tragedy is superior to epic in all these respects , it fulfills its artistic function in achieving its end better than epic. It must be the better form of art & also fulfilling its artistic function then, obviously, in achieving its ends better than epic; it must be the better form.


Aristotle's Theory of Purgation or Cahersis and the Functions of a Tragedy as Given in Poetics

Aristotle believes in teleology, a metaphysical position according to which everything has a  function or end to fulfill. Every kind of poetic imitation has its own assigned function, says Aristotle. The function of a tragedy is to succeed through the representation of an action that is serious, complete and of certain magnitude, in arousing pity and fear in such a way as to accomplish a purgation or Catharsis of such emotions. So tragedy works in a two folds ways   1, first exciting the emotions of fear and pity and  2, then abating them, thereby effecting an emotional cure.


So, Catharsis or purgation, the most debate arousing word in entire Poetics, depends on the emotions coming from the combination of pity and fear. By pity Aristotle means the sympathy we feel for the undeserving sufferer. We pity one who is suffering and to pity we must participate to some extent in his suffering. But we feel pity for one who suffers more than he should. We feel pity for Oedipus, when we see him suffering from undeserved misfortune. We feel pity for Agamemnon hearing his death-cry.    

Agamemnon is not wholly responsible for such kind of suffering. Another essential part of   suffering is fear  which we feel for someone just like ourselves. It is closely connected with pity. We pity others, while we fear for ourselves, if we are placed in these circumstances. We have a sympathetic emotion of fear for one who is similar to us. When we see Oedipus on the stage is suffering from untold sufferings.  We realize our kinship or identity with him. And the effect of tragedy depends on this inward similarity between the hero and the spectator. The hero is as much a human being as any of us. Imaginatively, we feel that we too may meet such a fate, and we recoil. 


According to Aristotle there are two ways in which fear and pity can be aroused in the audience. Fear and pity may be excited in the audience by means spectacle. But they can also take their rise from very structure of the action and this is the bitter way and indicates the superior art. In fact, the plot should be so constructed that even without the use of his eyes, the listener, who hears the late, will be thrill with horror and melt to pity at what happens in the story. This is the impression we should receive from listening to the story of Oedipus. But to produce this effect by means of stage-spectacle is less artistic and those who employ spectacle to produce an effect, not of fear, but of something merely monstrous, are ignorant of the purpose of tragedy. The purpose of tragedy is to give pleasure which comes from pity and fear through imitation.


Fear and pity can also take their rise from the very structure of the plot. And in order to produce such situations the dramatists should choose those horror-deeds that take place between persons who are near and dear to each other. A brother killing or intending to kill a brother, for example- Polyneices killing of Eteodes in Antigone, son killing his father, as Oedipus did, a mother killing her son as Medea did or son killing his mother or any other deeds of same kinds the tragic dramatist must choose. We see that the most of the situations suitable to tragedy are supplied by a number of well- known legends of these well-known families, such as that of Clytemnestra having been killed by Orestes or Eriphyle by Alemaeon.


But the duty of a dramatist is to use these elements effectively. He should use his inventive faculty. Aristotle has suggested four possible ways in which these horror-deeds can be committed.


1) The deed may be done by characters acting consciously and in full knowledge of the facts for example Euripides made Medea kill her children.


2) Or they may do it without realizing the horror of the deeds until later, when they discover the truth, this is what Sophocles did with Oedipus.


3) A third alternative is for someone who is about to do a terrible deed in ignorance of the relationship and to discover the truth before he does it.


4) There is still another way which is least acceptable. In this situation someone in possession of the facts is on the point of acting but fails to do so. Such a situation is shocking without being tragic, because no disaster occurs. Hence nobody is allowed to behave like this, as when Haemon fails to kill Creon in the Antigone.


It is better that the character should act in ignorance and only learn the truth afterwards for there is nothing in this to outrage. Our feelings and the revelation comes as a surprise. However, the best method is one in which the character is about to do an act of ignorance but discovers the truth before he does, when for example in the Cresphontes Merope intends to kill her son, but recognizes him and does not do so, or when the same thing happens with brother and sister in Iphigena in Tauris or when in the Helle, the son recognizes his mother when he is just about to betray her. 


There is a controversy over the fact that which way is the best, the first one or the second one. If we keep in mind the arguments put forward by Aristotle, then it seems to us that the situation in which character does a thing in complete ignorance and later discovers the truth is the best way. But the contradiction arises from the very language Aristotle has used.

Friday, August 16, 2013

What is ‘Objective correlative'?



A term introduced by T.S Eliot in his essay “Hamlet and His Problems” (1919). Eliot observes that there is something in Hamlet which Shakespeare cannot “drag into the light, contemplate, or manipulate into art” , at least not in the same way that he can with Othello's jealousy, or Coriolanus' pride. He goes on to deduce that “the only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative'; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula for that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in a sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.”

To simplify his words, if writers or poets or playwrights want to create an emotional reaction in the audience, they must find a combination of images, objects, or description evoking the appropriate emotion. The source of the emotional reaction isn't in one particular object, one particular image, or one particular word. Instead, the emotion originates in the combination of these phenomena when they appear together.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

What Shortcomings does Arnold find in Chaucer and Burns as Poetical Classics?

Arnold’s “The study of Poetry” can be taken as a kind of legislative criticism where he puts up his belief as a literary critic. He proclaims that Chaucer and Burn are not the great classics. Now, the question comes why does Arnold put Chaucer and Burn outside the domain of classic writers? To solve this riddle, we should first know his idea of a classic.

According to Arnold, poetry is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. Great poetry alone posses the power to sustain, console, delight and to interpret life to us. He thus sets high standard for great poetry. In order to be a classic the poet must be able to fill us with such strength and joy that will guide us in our life. He suggests a practical method for finding a true classic. It is his famous “Touchstone Method.” One has to take specimen of poetry of the high quality and apply them to the poetry under judgment. When we judge a contemporary piece of poetry by such touchstone we can determine whether it can be justifiably turned as the product of a genuine classic.

Accordingly the best poetry is characterized by truth and seriousness. As regards the manner and style, the best poetry is characterized by superiority of diction and of movement. Thus according to Arnold, a poet is to be regarded as a classic if he fulfils the conditions stated above.

Arnold is of the opinion that many writers are considered to be classics but actually they are false classics because their poetry does not live upto the high standard of poetic art attained by such great masters as Homer, Milton and Shakespeare.

Arnold at first applies his Touchstone Method on Chaucer. He quotes a few line from Chaucer and then compares them with a line from Dante and comes to the conclusion that the poetry of Chaucer does not have the account of the classics. At first Arnold praises on Chaucer’s poetical performance and poetical achievement. But he denies to Chaucer the status of poetical classic. In his opinion, Chaucer does not possess high poetic seriousness.

Arnold has high praise for Chaucer’s poetical performance. The poetry of Chaucer is far superior to the French romance poetry of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Chaucer’s power of fascination is enduring.The substance of Chaucer’s poetry, his view of things and his riticism of life has largeness, freedom, shrewdness and kindliness. His poetry is criticism of life and it has truth of substance or matter. Chaucer is a perpetual source of good sense. Yet he does not have that high seriousness which Homer had, which his successor like Shakespeare, Milton etc had.

Chaucer does not pose himself as stern moralist, as social reformer. Chaucer has a genial humor devoid of spite and cynicism. Chaucer endeavored to picture life truthfully without either exalting unduly or demeaning unnecessarily any of his characters.

In the poetry of Burns too, Arnold does not find the accent of high seriousness. The poetry of Burns has truth of matter and truth of manner but not the accent of the poetic virtue of the highest master. Arnold concludes the essay by pointing out the case of Burns, how a personal estimate of a poet can mislead us and how we can correct such an estimate by using the poetry of the great classics as a sort of touchstone, just as we would correct the historic estimate of a poet by the same means.

By such means we can derive the benefit of being able clearly to feel and deeply to enjoy the best, the truly classic in poetry.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

T . S . Eliot's Theory of Depersonalization

The theory of depersonalization or impersonality is T.S.Eliot’s remarkable gift in criticism. He holds that the poet and the poem are two separate things. Eliot explains his theory in two phases; “the relation of the poet to the past,” and “the relation of the poem to its author.’

As for the first phase, he says that the past is never dead; it lives in the present. And if we approach a poet with an open mind, “We shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously.” Again if he is a great poet, he alters his work in no small scale. So what is a sort of flowing out and in. But while in giving he asserts his individuality, in taking he has to repress it. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” According to him it is the duty of the poet to discard the touch of personality in his work: and as a result a new form will come out from the fusion of the past and the present.

This brings the second aspect of his theory of depersonalization in which Eliot shows that a poet’s greatness does’ lie in putting his personality into his work. A poet may have personal liking, disliking or may fell interested in anything, but he should not put it into his poetry. Rather a poet should have varied feelings which are at liberty and therefore will enter into new combinations.

It is not necessary that these feelings will be his own rather those of others will also do. For his mind is just like a catalyst that combines them into a new shape ad remains unaffected at a time. Of course, it may partly use of the poet’s on experience. “but the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers. There may be impressions and experiences that are grave concern for a man, but they should not take any place in the poetry.

So, what comes is that “Poetry is not a turning case of emotion, but an escape from emotion. It is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” So the poem, not the poet, is the focal point of “honest criticism and sensitive appreciation.’

Wordsworth's Theory of Poetic Sensibility

Wordsworth used the phrase "organic sensibility" to refer to natural mental capacities. Wordsworth writes, "an accurate taste in poetry, and in all other arts...is an acquired taste, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition." So he seems to say that, while writing poetry might come naturally, reading and understanding it doesn't. He also is implying that most good poetry is beyond the comprehension of those without a background in how to read it, and that people of less discriminating taste can't be sensible of which poetry is good and which is bad.

He's describing something profound, and in using the word sense, he seems to invoke many of sensibility's meanings: perception, emotional consciousness, sensitiveness. But this use also seems to broaden the definition of "emotional connection to works of literature, music and art" to include nature.

What Does Wordsworth Mean by "Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful feelings"

By “Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”, Wordsworth opines that poetry is a matter of mood and inspiration. Poetry evolves from the feelings of the poet. Poetry’s source is the feeling in the heart, not the ideas of the intellect. A poet cannot write under pressure. In this regard, poetry flows out of his heart in a natural and fluent manner. Deep emotion is the basic condition of poetry; powerful feelings and emotions are fundamental. Without them great poetry can not be written. But T. S. Eliot in his Tradition and the Individual Talent rejects Wordsworth's definition of poetry and holds the idea that a writer should be impersonal and his writings should be devoid of personal emotion and feelings.

Emotion Recollected in Tranquility

To begin with Wordsworth’s words, “I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” At first glance, these two statements seem contradictory but Wordsworth’s theory of poetry involved the fusion of the two statements. In a sense powerful feelings and profound thought make poetry perfect. Wordsworth told that the poet can’t rely on sensibility alone. He has to be a person who has also thought long and deeply. After that, a calm mind is equally necessary to furnish the past/ previous thoughts/ feelings.

At first, the poet observes some object, character or situation. It sets up powerful emotions in his mind. The poet doesn’t react immediately. He allows it to sink into his mind along with the feelings which it has excited. Then comes the recollection of the emotion, at a later moment. The emotion is recollected in tranquility. There might be a time lapse of several years. Thus poetry originates in emotion recollected in tranquility and so ultimately the product of the original free flow of that emotion.

Wordsworth's Views on Poetic Truth

Aristotle was the fist who declared poetic truth to be superior to historical truth. He called poetry the most philosophic of all writings. Wordsworth agrees with Aristotle in this matter. Poetry is given an exalted position by Wordsworth in such a way that it treats the particular as well as the universal. Its aim is universal truth. Poetry is true to nature. Wordsworth declares poetry to be the “image” or “man and nature”. A poet has to keep in mind that his end (objective) is to impart pleasure. He declares poetry will adjust itself to the new discoveries and inventions of science. It will create a new idiom for the communication of new thoughts. But the poet’s truth is such that sees into heart of things and enables others to see the same. Poetic truth ties all mankind with love and a sense of oneness.

Samuel Johnson's Views of Shakespeare's use of Quibbles

Samuel Johnson in his “Preface to Shakespeare” talks of quibble to refer the reader to a particular (defect/attitude of Shakespeare) Shakespearean attitude in writing. A quibble is a sort of pun or a verbal trick that, to Johnson, holds some “malignant power” over one’s mind as it was o Shakespeare. Johnson says that Shakespeare did not spare a single quibble that would come to his way and he would even forget to pursue his own course of action in his drama no matter how profound and grave it is, if he found a quibble. In Johnson’s wording, “A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapors are to the traveler” and consequently it misleads the follower. It is the irresistible fascination of quibble that does not let Shakespeare’s attention be on his expected excellence and so the work grows dull or loses the usual ripeness. Comparing the force of quibble to the myth of golden apple and so the work grows dull or loses the usual ripeness. Comparing the force of quibble to the myth of golden apple and again to the beauty of “the fatal Cleopetra”. Johnson basically tried to anticipate the would be glory of Shakespeare that he lost only by picking up the quibble/ giving the quibble sufficient room I his writing.

William Wordsworth's Coparative Study of Science and Poetry in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads

William Wordsworth, as a Romantic poet, in his Preface to lyrical Ballads, considers poetry to be superior to science. He shows that the scientist studies only the appearance of things while the poet investigates the inner reality of human soul. The realization of the unity of nature and man gives absolute pleasure to the poet. A scientist is devoid of this pleasure; he enjoys pleasure in solitude whereas poetic truth can be shared by all. The poet’s appeal, says Wordsworth, is to the intellect as well as to the heart of man, unlike the appeal of the scientist’s truth, which is to the intellect alone.

Wordsworth thinks that the time may come when science will change and alter the very material conditions of life. When that happens, the poet will give feeling and emotional coloring to the factual achievement of science and present it in a vivid form to the reader. The dry and dull skeleton of science will be given life and vividness, flesh and blood through the art of poetry.

The Victorian poet Mathew Arnold in his critical writing The Study of Poetry, echoes Wordsworth’s view that science would remain incomplete without poetry and quotes Wordsworth: poetry is “the breath and finer spirit of knowledge”. In a fact the atmosphere of sensation only matters and he takes his surroundings for his subject. Even the ‘objects of the science” are put to poetic sensation and the discoveries of the chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist will also be the objects of the poet’s art. Not only that the poet will aid the science to ring it before all in a decisive form in the coming days with its “divine spirit”. Thus Wordsworth elevates the position of poet over the man of science and so says, “it is as immortal as the heart of man.”

William Wordsworth's Comparative Study of Science and Poetry in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads

William Wordsworth, as a Romantic poet, in his Preface to lyrical Ballads, considers poetry to be superior to science. He shows that the scientist studies only the appearance of things while the poet investigates the inner reality of human soul. The realization of the unity of nature and man gives absolute pleasure to the poet. A scientist is devoid of this pleasure; he enjoys pleasure in solitude whereas poetic truth can be shared by all. The poet’s appeal, says Wordsworth, is to the intellect as well as to the heart of man, unlike the appeal of the scientist’s truth, which is to the intellect alone.

Wordsworth thinks that the time may come when science will change and alter the very material conditions of life. When that happens, the poet will give feeling and emotional coloring to the factual achievement of science and present it in a vivid form to the reader. The dry and dull skeleton of science will be given life and vividness, flesh and blood through the art of poetry.

The Victorian poet Mathew Arnold in his critical writing The Study of Poetry, echoes Wordsworth’s view that science would remain incomplete without poetry and quotes Wordsworth: poetry is “the breath and finer spirit of knowledge”. In a fact the atmosphere of sensation only matters and he takes his surroundings for his subject. Even the ‘objects of the science” are put to poetic sensation and the discoveries of the chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist will also be the objects of the poet’s art. Not only that the poet will aid the science to ring it before all in a decisive form in the coming days with its “divine spirit”. Thus Wordsworth elevates the position of poet over the man of science and so says, “it is as immortal as the heart of man.”

Johnson's comments on the Violation of Shakespeare's Three Unities in his Dramas

The neo-classical critics raised the question of unites concerning the free dramatic expression of the Elizabethans, particularly Shakespeare. Since the critics of the age showed allegiance to the rules of the classical writers and critics like Sophocles, Euripides, Aristotle and Horace, they put their late writers in the classical mould of (of standard) writing. Whoever fitted nice, passed for valid and if otherwise invalid. Shakespeare with all his natural capabilities was brought to the scale of judgment. Here Johnson in his “Preface to Shakespeare” comes to defend him and shows the inanity of observing the unites of place and time but action.

Among the unites, Johnson found only the unity of action justified by reason since it is needed to present the plot as an inseparable whole. But he founds the grounds for the unites of time and place to be wholly misleading.

He first echoes the objection raiser, “The necessity of observing the unites of time and place arises from the supposed necessity of making the drama credible. The unities hold it impossible, that an action of months and years can be possibly believed to pass in three hours. Fiction loses its force when it departs from the resemblance of reality. From the narrow limitation of time necessarily arises the contraction of place. The spectator who knows that he saw the first act at Alexandra, can not suppose that he sees the next at Rome, at a distance to which not the dragons of Medea could, in so short a time, have transported him. He knows with certainty that he has not changed his place, and he knows hat place cannot change itself.”

To this Johnson answers very tactfully. Johnson says there should not be any consideration for the clock while the mind is “Wandering in ecstasy “ and an hour can happily be allowed to pervade a century. And the unities of time and place come to notice when the spectator enter with sense not imagination. And Johnson rightly says, “Time is of all modes of existence, most obsequious to the imagination.”

As for Shakespeare’s free style writing, Johnson comments that it is not possible to decide and useless to inquire, if he rejected it by design or deviated from them by happy ignorance. What he said of Shakespeare is conjectural and Shakespeare’s ignorance of the two unites: place and time was by chance but later he deliberately practiced it. He was probably indifferent to counsels and admonitions of scholars and critics. But Shakespeare to Johnson was very much strict to the unity of action and other two had either been unknown by him or not observed. “Such violations” according to Johnson “of rules merely positive, become the comprehensive genius of Shakespeare.”

Arnold’s Concept of Poetry as a Criticism of Life

Mathew Arnold’s importance in the history of English literary criticism is acknowledged by one and all. His greatness lies in the fact that he had a definite aim in writing poetry. He clearly stated this aim and tied to conform to his aim. It was “a criticism of life”. By “criticism of life” he meant “noble and profound application of ideas to life.” It means that poetry is not for affording pleasure and creating beauty. It must have a high deal. This ideal is to present life in such a way that it may illumine us and inspire us. In other words Arnold wanted to use poetry for making man good. The ideas he wanted to apply were moral ideas.

Arnold had a very high conception of poetry. The best poetry, he said, is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. The author of any literary piece is expected to be man of high personal experience with all his mental and intellectual faculties highly developed by means of his vast reading and deep thinking.

The phrase “criticism of life” is elaborated by Arnold with the phrase “application of ideas to life.” Poetry is an “application of ideas to life.” The more powerful the application of ideas, the greater will be the poetry. We understand what Arnold means by the phrase. He means that poetry is an interpretational life as the poet experiences it and knows it bringing into play his intellect and mind matured by experience and reading. According to Arnold, poetry is not however, merely as intellectual exercise, it is subject to the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty.

As if poetry is a criticism of life, the laws, fixed by the poetic the poetic truth and poetic beauty, insist on one condition. This condition of the quality of “high seriousness” when comes out of the deepest sincerity with which the poet feels for the subject. And this quality of “high seriousness” is obviously found in the poetry of Dante, Homer and Milton and this is the quality which Arnold says gives their poetry its power. From Milton he quotes the famous line:-

Nor live thy life nor hate; but what thou livest
Live well; how ling or short, permit to heaven

He says poetry however deals with ideas and not facts, and without poetry science will remain incomplete. Much of religion and philosophy may be replaced by poetry. Arnold believes that the highest type of poetry should deal with moral ideas not so much in its didactic character. The moral is used in its widest sense. The very question, how to live, is according to Arnold a moral idea. Arnold declares that, moral, should not be interpreted in a narrow sense. It means a code of behavior or a system of thought. Finally, Arnold holds the view that a “poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference towards moral idea is a poetry of indifference towards life.

Criticism also means how a creative artist reacts to his experiences and gives expression to his ideal attitude to those experiences. Arnold is of the opinion that the qualities of high type of poetry can be found in its matter and substance and in its manner and style.

However Arnold’s concept of poetry is really too high and serious and in this lies its limitations. From the very first Arnold is against art for art’s sake. Many English critics have disagreed with Arnold’s statement. T.S.Eliot himself a good poet says that Arnold’s view is “frigid to any one who has felt the full surprise and elevation of a new experience of poetry.”
However in the last word we can say that poetry is a criticism of life. The critics’ duty is to examine poetry and life at the same time. As we understand Mathew Arnold had a broad conception of criticism including religion, culture and education as well as poetry. In this wider perspective the aim of criticism is “in all branches of knowledge theology, philosophy, history, art science to see the object as in itself it really is.”

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