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A TEXT-BOOK

FOR THE

STUDY OF POETRY

BY

F. M. CONNELL, S.J.

PROFESSOR OF POETRY, ST. ANDREW-ON-HUDSON

ALLYN AND BACON

Boston

New York

Chicago

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PREFACE

THE purpose of this book is not to furnish instruction in the art of verse-making, but rather to set forth the fundamental principles of criticism by which to form some estimate of acknowledged poetry. It has been truly said that in order to judge a poem, it is first necessary to enjoy it. This susceptibility to poetry, so far as it is communicable at all, must come from contact with the living teacher, and neither this nor any other book is calculated to awaken it. But once awakened the taste may be educated, as it may be vitiated; it may be developed, controlled, directed into right channels; and this may be done efficaciously, by principles and precepts, provided that they are not learned as abstractions, but tested and realized in the student's own reading.

The low esteem in which poetry is often held in our day seems, at least in part, to proceed from a misconception of its office. It is regarded merely as a pastime for dilettanti, or a solace for the leisure hours of the sentimental, and this conception is fostered by such criticism as lays undue stress on mere form or style, as if the appeal of poetry resided in the fascination of musical verse or felicitous diction. But poetry surely contains more for us than the allurement of words. More than any other form of literature, it creates our ideals, enriches our emotions, ennobles our reflections. More than any other form of literature, it puts us in communion with intense personalities, and so enlarges our horizon and liberates the soul from the narrow limits of

its own personal experiences. This it does in a direct way, but also indirectly, when the subject matter is not man, but nature. For to conceive loftily even of the "earth and sky and plain" exalts the soul and leaves us broader and better men. It is such a view of poetry that this book seeks to inculcate, by insisting, as of paramount importance, on what the poet says, his thought and his message, its truth and its worthiness.

We have remarked that our purpose was not to offer instruction in verse-making. However, though not an end in itself, as an aid to the appreciation of poetic expression, verse-making possesses no little value and should hold its time-honored place in the study of poetry. As some help to this, a chapter of practical detail on poetic diction with abundant illustration has been added by way of appendix.

In regard to the use of this book in the classroom the following suggestions may be offered. The two chapters on Versification and the added chapter on Poetic Diction should be studied before all others, and early in the year. The poetry read during the preparation of these sections will serve the purpose of awakening that first appreciation of poetic appeal spoken of above, and will also' put the student in the way of trying his own hand at verse. Tennyson's poems and selections from Keats are recommended as the best subjects of study at this period. This part of the work should be done leisurely and at length; for the first chapters on the theory of poetry will be meaningless unless some idea of poetic effect be conceived before they are begun. The length of time devoted to the Definition of Poetry will depend entirely upon the capacity of the class to interest itself in an abstract discussion, and the subject may without detriment be briefly despatched. During the study of the second chapter, on the emotions, Shelley and Gray are recommended for reading, as being interesting contrasts in

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the exhibition of emotion. Also for the sake of contrast, Milton (Paradise Lost), Spenser, and perhaps Coleridge may be studied for imagination, though for the dramatic imagination, Shakespeare is of course paramount. Shakespeare's Sonnets and Wordsworth may be suggested to accompany the reading of the chapter on Thought in Poetry. The chapter on Expression, as will be observed, is abstract, and presumes some familiarity with the poets. Shakespeare and Milton are the supreme masters here; Pope, Keats, and Swinburne may be used to offset these in two different directions.

Finally, if the work seems oftentimes to dogmatize in dealing with subjects that are not in the least dogmas, it must be remembered in extenuation that this was the only possible course in a book of moderate dimensions. And if Ruskin's definition of poetry, which has been adopted for its serviceableness, should seem to some far from adequate, it may be remarked that to the author also it seems inadequate as does every other definition of poetry; and if it should prove less practically useful to others than it has proved to him, it is after all not indispensable to the principles which follow it in this book.

For the convenience of classes working together, the exercises, as far as possible, have been drawn from Palgrave's Golden Treasury (revised edition) and from the poems of Tennyson.

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