Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 452

modern verse could take him back to Iceland or Provence, or the
rhythm of a popular Spanish ballad could evoke half a dozen
modern comparisons. I recently read again the posthumous vol·
ume of lectures collected under the title of
Poetry-mostly lecture notes, but Ker always wrote, and must
have spoken, well. It is a book from which the poet, as much as
the scholar and the general reader, can profit. I think it is worth
while, before proceeding to conjectures of my own as to what
we mean, or ought to mean, or can mean, when we say that a
poem is musical or unmusical, to emphasize the difference he·
tween the approach of the scholar and that of the writer of verse.
The poet, when he talks or writes about poetry, has peculiar
qualifications and peculiar limitations: if we allow for the l_atter
we can better appreciate the former-.-a caution which I recom·
mend to poets themselves as well as to the readers of what they
say about poetry. I can .never re-read any of my own prose writ·
ings without acute embarrassment: I shirk the task, and conse·
quently may not take account of all the assertions to.which I have
at one time or another committed myself; I may often repeat what
I have said before, and I may equally well contradict myself.
But I believe that the critical writings of poets, of which in the
past there have been some very distinguished examples, owe a
great deal of their interest to the fact that at the back of the poet's
mind, if not as his ostensible purpose, he .is always trying to de·
fend the kind of poetry he is writing, or to formulate the
that he wants to write. Especially when he is young, and actively
engaged in battling for the kind of poetry which he practises, he
sees the poetry of the past in relation to his own: and his gratitude
to those dead poets from whom he has learned, as well as his
indifference to those whose aims have been alien to his own, may
be exaggerated. He is not so much a judge as an advocate. His
knowledge even is likely to be partial: for his studies will have
led him to
on certain authors to the neglect of others.
When he theorizes about poetic creation, he is likely to be gen–
eralizing one type of experience; when he ventures into aesthetics,
he is likely to be less, rather than more competent than the philo–
sopher; and he may do best merely to report, for the information
of the philosopher, the data of his own introspection. What he
writes about poetry, in short, must be assessed in relation to the
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