Works of Sri Aurobindo » English » CWSA » The Future Poetry » The Course of English Poetry ­ 1

Chaucer and the Poetry of External Life THE SPIRIT and temper that have stood behind the creative force and come to the front in a literature are the one essential thing that we must discern, for it is these that predestine the course the poetry of a people will take and the turn it gives to its forms. For if the field which poetry covers is common ground and its large general lines the same everywhere, yet each nation has its own characteristic spirit and creative quality which determine the province in which it will best succeed, the turn or angle of its vision and the shape of its work. The genius of English poetry was evidently predestined by the complexity of its spirit and its union of opposite powers to an adventurous consecutive seeking over the whole field, and this is in fact the first character of it that strikes the eye, a series of bold and powerful creative adventures, each quite different in spirit from its predecessor. But in its first natural potentiality certain pronounced limitations point to a facile and vigorous success in a forcefully accurate or imaginative presentation of life and a more difficult and incomplete success in the intellectual or spiritual interpretation of life; most difficult for it would be a direct presentation of the things beyond, a concrete image of mystic realities, a poetic approach to the higher truths of the spirit. Yet on the other hand if this difficulty could once be overcome, then because of the profounder intensity of the power of poetical speech which this literature has developed, the very highest and most penetrating expression of these profoundest things would be possible. A nearer significant imaging of them would be close to the hand here than could easily be achieved without much new fashioning of language in the Latin tongues whose speech has been cast in the mould of a clear or high intellectuality rather than into the native utterance of imaginative vision adventuring beyond the normal bounds of a high poetic intelligence. We see in modern French creation a constant struggle with this limitation: even we find a poet like Mallarme driven to break the mould of French speech in his desperate effort to force it to utter what is to its natural clear lucidity almost unutterable. No such difficulty presents itself in English poetry; the depths, the vistas of suggestion, the power to open the doors of the infinite are already there, ready to hand for the mind rightly gifted to evoke them, waiting and almost asking to be used for the highest purposes. Much less naturally fitted for fine prose utterance, this language has developed all the close lights and shades, the heights and depths, the recesses of fathomless sense needed by the poet...cont

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