Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 464

hope that it will set. In a perfect sonnet, what you admire is not
so much the author's skill in adapting himself to the pattern as
the skill and power with which he makes the pattern comply with
what he has to say. Without this fitness, which is contingent upon
period as well as individual genius, the rest is at best virtuosity:
and where the musical element is the only element, that also
vanishes. Elaborate forms return: but there have to be periods
during which they are laid aside.
As for 'free verse,' I expressed my view twenty-five years ago
by saying that no verse is free for the man who wants to do a good
job. No one has better cause to know than I, that a great deal of
bad prose has been written under the name of free verse: though
whether its authors wrote bad prose or bad verse, or bad verse in
one style or in another, seems to me a matter of indifference. But
only a bad poet could welcome free verse as a liberation from
form. It was a revolt against dead form, and a preparation for
new form or for renewal of the old; it was an insistence upon
the inner unity which is unique to every poem, against the outer
unity which is typical. The poem comes before the form, in the
sense that a form grows out of the attempt of somebody to say
something; just as a system of prosody is only a formulation of
the identities in the rhythms of a succession of poets influenced
by each other.
Forms have to be broken and remade: but I believe that any
language, so long as it remains the same language, imposes its
laws and restrictions and permits its own license, dictates its own
speech rhythms and sound patterns. And a language is always
changing; its developments in vocabulary, in syntax, pronouncia·
tion and intonation-even, in the long run, its deterioration–
must be ·accepted by the poet and made the best of. He in turn
has the privilege of contributing to the development and main·
quallty; the
of the language to express a wide
range, and subtle gradation, of feeling and emotion; his task is
to respond to change and. make it conscious, and to battle
against degradation below the standards which he has learnt from
the past. The liberties that he may take are for the sake of order.
At what stage contemporary verse now finds itself, I must
leave you tt> judge for ytlurselves. I suppose that it will be agreed
the work of the last twenty years is worthy of being classi·
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