Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 457

and has no meaning, we shall consider that we have been deluded
-this was no poem, it was merely an imitation of instrumental
as we are aware, only a part of the meaning can be
conveyed by paraphrase, that is because the poet is occupied with
frontiers of consciousness beyond which words fail, though mean–
ings still exist. A poem may appear to
to different readers, and all of these meanmgs may be different
from what the author thought he meant. For instance, the author
may have been writing some peculiar personal experience, which
he saw quite unrelated to anything outside; yet for the reader the
poem may become the expression of a general situation, as well
as of some private experience of his own. The reader's interpre–
tation may differ from the author's and be equally valid-it may
even be better. There may be much more in a poem than the
author was aware of. The different interpretations may all be
partial formulations of one thing; the ambiguities may be due to
the fact that the poem means more, not less, than ordinary speech
can communicate.
So, while poetry attempts to convey something beyond what
can be conveyed in prose rhythms, it remains, all the same, one
person talking to another; and this is just as true if you sing it,
for singing is another way of talking. The immediacy of poetry
to conversation is not a matter on which we can lay down exact
laws. Every revolution in poetry is apt to be, and sometimes to
announce itself as, a return to common speech. That is the revo–
lution which Wordsworth announced in his prefaces, and he was
right: but the same revolution had been carried out a century
before by Oldham, Waller, Denham and Dryden; and the same
revolution was due again something over a century later. The
followers of a revolution develop the new poetic idiom in one
direction or another; they polish or perfect it; meanwhile the
spoken language goes on changing, and the poetic idiom goes out
of date. Perhaps we do not realise how natural the speech of
Dryden must have sounded to the most sensitive of his contem–
poraries. No poetry, of course, is ever exactly the same speech
that the poet talks and hears: but it has to be in such a relation
to the speech of his time that the listener or reader can say 'that
is how I should talk if I could talk poetry.' This is the reason
why the best contemporary can give us a feeling of excitement
448,449,450,451,452,453,454,455,456 458,459,460,461,462,463,464,465,466,467,...544
Powered by FlippingBook