Coming about its own business. The fox enters the lair of the head as it would enter its own lair, bringing with it the hot, sensual, animal reek of its body and all the excitement and power of the achieved vision. The fox is no longer a formless stirring somewhere in the dark depths of the bodily imagination; it has been coaxed out of the darkness and into full consciousness. It is no longer nervous and vulnerable, but at home in the lair of the head, safe from extinction, perfectly created, its being caught for ever on the page.
And all this has been done purely by the imagination. But this magic has little to do with party-conjurors who pull rabbits out of top-hats. It is more like the sublime and awesome magic which is contained in the myth of creation, where God creates living beings out of nothingness by the mere fiat of his imagination. It cannot even die in its own mortal, animal way.
It will live for ever, it will never suffer from hunger or hounds. I have it with me wherever I go. And I made it. This feeling of uneasiness is heightened by the last stanza of the poem. If, at the end of the poem, there is one sense in which the fox is vividly and immediately alive, it is only because it has been pinned so artfully upon the page. The very accuracy of the evocation of the fox seems at times almost fussily obsessive.
Lawrence, who was also an intellectual in rebellion against his own rationalism, a puritan who never ceased to quarrel with his own puritanism. Lawrence has a much greater respect for the integrity and independence of the animals he writes about.
Thoughts on Poetry and its Varieties
And at the end of the poem he is able, as it were, retrospectively to allow his dark sexual, sensual, animal alter ego to crawl off into the bowels of the earth, there to reign alone and supreme in a kingdom where Lawrence recognises he can have no part. And so he pins the fox upon the page with the cruel purity of artistic form and locates its lair inside his own head. For in the mind of the orthodox rationalist the fox is dead even as an idea. So it is doubly dead and the orthodox rationalist, who is always a secret puritan, is more than happy about this.
This difference may appear absolute. The orthodox rationalist, it might be said, inflicts the violence of reason on animal sensuality in an obsessive attempt to eliminate it entirely. On the one hand there is in his work an extraordinary sensuous and sensual generosity which coexists with a sense of abundance and a capacity for expressing tenderness which are unusual in contemporary poetry.
On the other hand his poetry — and above all his poetry in Crow — is notorious for the raging intensity of its violence, a violence which, by some critics at least, has been seen as destructive of all artistic and human values. But, as I have tried to show, the conflict may still be discerned. The fox itself does not flinch or deviate from its course.
It is on these conditions alone, perhaps, that its sensuality can be accepted by the poet without anxiety. Now is the globe shrunk tight.
Weasel and crow, as if moulded in brass, Move through an outer darkness Not in their right minds,. With the other deaths. She, too, pursues her ends, Brutal as the stars of this month, Her pale head heavy as metal.
A thought will introduce a thought by first introducing a feeling which is allied with it. At the centre of each ground of thoughts or images will be found a feeling; and the thoughts or images will be there, only because the feeling was there. The combinations which the mind puts together, the pictures which it paints, the wholes which Imagination constructs out of the materials supplied by Fancy, will be indebted to some dominant feeling , not, as in other natures, to a dominant thought , for their unity and consistency of character, for what distinguishes them from incoherences.
The difference, then, between the poetry of a poet, and the poetry of a cultivated but not naturally poetic mind, is, that in the latter, with however bright a halo of feeling the thought may be surrounded and glorified, the thought itself is always the conspicuous object; while the poetry of a poet is Feeling itself, employing Thought only as the medium of its expression.
In the one, feeling waits upon thought; in the other, thought upon feeling. The one writer has a distinct aim, common to him with any other didactic author: he desires to convey the thought, and he conveys it clothed in the feelings which it excites in himself, or which he deems most appropriate to it. The other merely pours forth the overflowing of his feelings; and all the thoughts which those feelings suggest are floated promiscuously along the stream.
It may assist in rendering our meaning intelligible if we illustrate it by a parallel between the two English authors of our own day who have produced the greatest quantity of true and enduring poetry,Wordsworth and Shelley. Apter instances could not be wished for: the one might be cited as the type, the exemplar , of what the poetry of culture may accomplish; the other, as perhaps the most striking example ever known of the poetic temperament. How different, accordingly, is the poetry of these two great writers!
In Wordsworth, the poetry is almost always the mere setting of a thought. The thought may be more valuable than the setting, or it may be less valuable; but there can be no question as to which was first in his mind. What he is impressed with, and what he is anxious to impress, is some proposition more or less distinctly conceived; some truth, or something which he deems such. He lets the thought dwell in his mind, till it excites, as is the nature of thought, other thoughts, and also such feelings as the measure of his sensibility is adequate to supply.
Among these thoughts and feelings, had he chosen a different walk of authorship and there are many in which he might equally have excelled , he would probably have made a different selection of media for enforcing the parent thought: his habits, however, being those of poetic composition, he selects in preference the strongest feelings, and the thoughts into which most of feeling is naturally or habitually connected. His poetry, therefore, may be defined to be his thoughts, coloured by, and impressing themselves by means of, emotions. Such poetry, Wordsworth has occupied a long life in producing; and well and wisely has he so done.
Criticisms, no doubt, may be made occasionally both upon the thoughts themselves, and upon the skill he has demonstrated in the choice of his media; for an affair of skill and study, in the most rigorous sense, it evidently was. But he has not authored in vain: he has exercised, and continues to exercise, a powerful, and mostly a highly beneficial influence over the formation and growth of not a few of the most cultivated and vigorous of the youthful minds of our time, over whose heads poetry of the opposite description would have flown, for want of an original organization, physical or mental, in sympathy with it.
On the other hand, Wordsworth's poetry is never bounding, never ebullient; has little even of the appearance of spontaneousness: the well is never so full that it overflows. There is an air of calm deliberateness about all he writes, which is not characteristic of the poetic temperament. His poetry seems one thing, himself, another.
He seems to be poetical because he wills to be so, not because he cannot help it. Did he will to dismiss poetry, he need never again, it might almost seem, have a poetical thought.
Poetry as a mode of thought: the Protean encounter
He never seems possessed by any feeling: no emotion seems ever so strong as to have entire sway, for the time being, over the current of his thoughts. He never, even for the space of a few stanzas, appears entirely given up to exultation, or grief, or pity, or love, or admiration, or devotion, or even animal spirits. He now and then, though seldom, attempts to write as if he were; and never, we think, without leaving an impression of poverty: as the brook, when on nearly level ground, quite fills its banks, appears but a thread when running rapidly down a precipitous declivity.
It is for this reason, doubtless, that the genius of Wordsworth is essentially unlyrical. Lyric poetry, as it was the earliest kind, is also, if the view we are now taking of poetry be correct, more eminently and peculiarly poetry than any other: it is the poetry most natural to a really poetic temperament, and least capable of being successfully imitated by one not so endowed by nature. Shelley is the very reverse of all this. Where Wordsworth is strong, he is weak: where Wordsworth is weak, be is strong. Culture, that culture by which Wordsworth has reared from his own inward nature the richest harvest ever brought forth by a soil of so little depth, is precisely what was wanting to Shelley; or let us rather say, he had not, at the period of his deplorably early death, reached sufficiently far in that intellectual progression of which he was capable, and which, if it had done so much for greatly inferior natures, might have made of him the most perfect, as he was already the most gifted, of our poets.
For him, voluntary mental discipline had done little: the vividness of his emotions and of his sensations had done all. He seldom follows up an idea: it starts into life, summons from the fairy-land of his inexhaustible fancy some three or four bold images, then vanishes, and straight he is off on the wings of some casual association into quite another sphere.
He had scarcely yet acquired the consecutiveness of thought necessary for a long poem. His more ambitious compositions too often resemble the scattered fragments of a mirror,colors brilliant as life, single images without end, but no picture. There are, absolutely, other ways to think about a line. An argument can be made for the absolute opposite of everything that's said here, with unqualified historical backing. But the point is, every argument invariably suggests thinking about the line , not simply using it to make the writing "look like a poem," or simply to tell a story without regard for what a poem as a form might have to offer.
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Academy of American Poets. National Poetry Month. American Poets Magazine. The best line in a poem better be the line I'm reading. A line is a moment, and a moment is intrinsically non-narrative.
That is, a moment does not move forward, not readily, not right away. A moment stops, and stopping is the friendly nemesis of narrative. A line is a moment that has value right then, and which deserves some of our time. To go past a moment is to lose something. In our lives, fi nally, it is the moments we savor and it is the moments we savor in our reading as well. It breaks the line that otherwise would read: I went to the store and bought some bread.
Which is more sincere? Is there anything to be gained by the break?