Eliot Metaphysical Poets Essay

Yet his poetry, be it openly discursive as in Eliot’s stance on theory is actually very ambivalent.In the last of the lectures delivered at Harvard he acknowledges, or pretends to acknowledge, his own limits as far as theory is concerned: “The extreme of theorising about the nature of poetry, the essence of poetry if there is any, belongs to the study of aesthetics and is no concern of the poet or of a critic with my limited qualifications.” (Eliot, 1950 149-50) In his essay on […] the critic with a mind which is naturally of the creative order, but which through some weakness in creative power exercises itself in criticism instead.“Talk” appears as a supplement to poetry, as a provisional outlet when the poet’s ability to “sing” fails him or when the explanation forced upon him by a reader in need of clarification leads him to resort to discourse.

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(Eliot, 1951 141) Such provocative debunking of great authors is part of Eliot’s game and should not be taken at face-value; it may not be more than the falsely naïve way and fairly innocuous tool of the zealous grown-up schoolboy Eliot sometimes impersonates in his essays.

This remark leads us to think that the only kind of valid criticism a text can produce is its own manifestation as text; the critic himself is only supposed to reveal such a manifestation.

These minds often find in Hamlet a vicarious existence for their own artistic realization.

Such a mind had Goethe, who made of Hamlet a Werther; and such had Coleridge, who made of Hamlet a Coleridge.

(Eliot, 1951 14) No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.

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His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists.

“If, as James Thomson observed, ‘lips only sing when they cannot kiss,’ it may also be that poets only talk when they cannot sing.” This is the conclusion of Eliot’s series of lectures delivered at Harvard University during the winter of 1932-33 and published as (Eliot, 1950 156).

In many of his essays, Eliot tried to define his poetics and to set his aesthetic standards.

The question of the relation between thought and feeling in Eliot’s poetics is too complex to be thoroughly analysed in this article.

This concern can be traced back to Eliot’s early training in philosophy and his rejection of F. Bradley’s concept of “immediate experience,” the postulate of the immediately given which allows him to elaborate his theory of knowledge.


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