is poetry? is so nearly the same question with what
is a poet? that the answer to the one is involved in the solution of
the other. For it is a distinction resulting from the poetic genius
itself, which sustains and modifies the images, thoughts and emotions
of the poet's own mind. The poet, described in ideal
perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity,
with the subordination of its faculties to each other according to their
relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of
unity that blends and fuses by that synthetic and magical power, the
imagination. This power put into action by the will and understanding...reveals
itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities:
of sameness, with difference; of the general, with the concrete; the
idea, with the image; the individual, with the old and familiar objects;
a more than usual state of emotion with more than usual order; judgement
ever awake and steady self-possession, with enthusiasm and feeling profound
or vehement; and while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the
artificial, still subordinates art to nature; the manner to the matter;
and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the poetry.
as Sir John Davies observes of the soul (and his words may with slight
alteration be applied, and even more appropriately to the poetic IMAGINATION.)
this could not be, but that she turns
Bodies to spirit by sublimation
As fire converts to fire the things it burns,
As we our food into our nature change.
their gross matter she abstracts their forms,
And draws a kind of quintessence from things;
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear them light on her celestial wings.
does she, when from individual states
She doth abstract the universal kinds;
Which then re-clothed in divers names and fates
Steal access through our senses to our minds.