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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 105 | volume  | January, 2016



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                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 105January, 2016
Essays

What is Poetry? -excerpt

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p. 1
John Stuart Mill

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What is Poetry?  (excerpt)

    It has often been asked, What is Poetry? And many and various are the answers which have been returned. The vulgarest of all---one with which no person possessed of the faculties to which poetry addresses itself can ever have been satisfied---is that which confounds poetry with metrical composition; yet to this wretched mockery of a definition many have been led back by the failure of all their attempts to find any other that would distinguish what they have been accustomed to call poetry from much which they have known only under other names.
    That, however, the word ``poetry'' imports something quite peculiar in its nature; something which may exist in what is called prose as well as in verse; something which does not even require the instrument of words, but can speak through the other audible symbols called musical sounds, and even through the visible ones which are the language of sculpture, painting, and architecture,---all this, we believe, is and must be felt, though perhaps indistinctly, by all upon whom poetry in any of its shapes produces any impression beyond that of tickling the ear. The distinction between poetry and what is not poetry, whether explained or not, is felt to be fundamental; and, where every one feels a difference, a difference there must be. All other appearances may be fallacious; but the appearance of a difference is a real difference. Appearances too, like other things, must have a cause; and that which can cause any thing, even an illusion, must be a reality. And hence, while a half-philosophy disdains the classifications and distinctions indicated by popular language, philosophy carried to its highest point frames new ones, but rarely sets aside the old, content with correcting and regularizing them. It cuts fresh channels for thought, but does not fill up such as it finds ready-made: it traces, on the contrary, more deeply, broadly, and distinctly, those into which the current has spontaneously flowed.
    Let us then attempt, in the way of modest inquiry, not to coerce and confine Nature within the bounds of an arbitrary definition, but rather to find the boundaries which she herself has set, and erect a barrier round them; not calling mankind to account for having misapplied the word ``poetry'', but attempting to clear up the conception which they already attach to it, and to bring forward as a distinct principle






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