Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Weather of Feeling

Poets are often intelligent men and they are entitled to their thoughts; but intellectual pioneering and the construction of new thought systems are not their special function. Aeschylus's Oresteia was not a contribution to Athenian legal theory; Dante's Comedia gave us no new theology; and Shakespeare's history plays added no fresh concepts to the political thought of his time.

What poetry does with ideas is to redeem them from abstraction and submerge them in sensibility; it embodies them in persons and things and surrounds them with a weather of feeling; it thereby tests the ability of any ideas to consort with human nature in its contemporary condition. Is it possible, for example, to speak intelligibly of angels in the modern world? Will the psyche of the modern reader consent to be called a soul?

Richard Wilbur from the essay On my own work