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Friday, 10 June 2011

Limnal to Shelley's A Defense of Poetry

(In writing this blog I've noticed how often I've referenced Shelley's brilliant essay from almost 200 years ago. To refresh my personal enjoyment of this great work, I've excerpted the following pieces and titled this homage a "limnal".)

In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful ...  

Every original language near to its source is in itself  the chaos of a cyclic poem;

Not that I assert poets to be prophets in the gross sense of the word, or that they can foretell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of events: such is the pretense of superstition, which would make poetry an attribute of prophecy, rather than prophecy as attribute of poetry. A poet participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one;

A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.

Hence epitomes have been called the moths of just history; they eat the poetry out of it.

But poetry acts in another and diviner manner. It awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, ...

A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.

Poetry strengthens that faculty which is the organ of the moral nature of man, in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.

The cultivation of those sciences which have enlarged the limits of the empire of man over the external world has, for want of the poetical faculty, proportionally circumscribed those of the internal world; and man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave.

Poetry is indeed something divine. It is at once the center and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred.

... ascend to bring light and fire from those eternal regions where the owl-winged faculty of calculation dare not ever soar

... for the mind in creation is as a fading coal, ...

Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.

... they (poets) can colour all that they combine with the evanescent hues of this ethereal world ...

It creates anew the universe,

The most unfailing herald, companion, and follower of the awakening of a great people to work a beneficial change in opinion or institution is poetry.

Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. POETS ARE THE UNACKNOWLEDGED LEGISLATORS OF THE WORLD.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

In 1981 bill bissett kindly published a collection of my poetry titled "unacknowledged legislator"
with his blewointmentpress
isbn 0 88971 044 9

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