Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 456

moved by the music without noticing it. Take an apparently ex·
treme example--the nonsense verse of Edward Lear. His non·
sense is not vacuity of sense: it is a parody of sense, and that is
the sense of it.
The ]umblies
is a poem of adventure, and of
nostalgia for the romance of foreign voyage and exploration;
The Dong with a Luminous Nose
are poems
of unrequited passion-'blues' in fact. We enjoy the music, which
is of a high order, and we enjoy the feeling of irresponsibility
towards the sense. Or take a poem of another type, the
Blue Closet
of William Morris. It is a delightful poem, though I cannot
explain what it means and I doubt whether the author could have
explained it. It has an effect somewhat like that of a rune or
charm, but runes and charms are very practical formulae designed
to produce definite results, such as getting a cow out of a bog. But
its obvious intention (and I think the author succeeds) is to pro–
duce the effect of a dream. It is not necessary, in order to enjoy
the poem, to know what the dream means; but human beings have
an unshakable belief that dreams mean something: they used to
believe--and many still believe--that dreams disclose the secrets
of the future; the orthodox modern faith is that they reveal the
secrets-or at least the more horrid ones-of the past. It is a
commonfJlace to observe that the meaning of a poem may wholly
escape paraphrase.
is not quite so commonplace to observe that
the meaning of a poem may be something larger than its author's
conscious purpose, and something remote from its origins. One
of the most obscure of modern poets was the French writer
Stephane Mallarme, of whom the French sometimes say that his
language is so peculiar that it can be understood only by for–
eigners. The late Roger Fry, and his friend Charles Mauron,
published an English translation with notes to unriddle the mean·
ings: when I learn that a difficult sonnet was inspired by seeing
a painting on the ceiling reflected on the polished top of a table,
or by seeing the light reflected from the foam on a glass of beer,
I can only say that this may be a correct embryology, .but it is
not the meaning.
we are moved by a poem, it has meant some–
thing, perhaps something important, to us; if we are not moved,
then it is, as poetry, meaningless. We can be deeply stirred by
hearing the recitation of a poem in a language of which we under·
stand no word; but if we are then told that the poem is gibberish
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