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—and the unexpected should not be immediately and totally announced (in other words, expository and imaginative writing should have suspense), for, if the whole is immediately known, why should the writer or reader proceed farther?
Particular manners of presentation are particular artistic problems, and particular artistic gifts are needed to solve these problems, and, if not, who are those who are both great novelists and great dramatists?
And, more particular still, who among dramatists wrote both great comedies and great tragedies, although tragedy is only drama that moves certain emotions in us?
What is here taken as ultimate in poetry is what is true of all good poems: they give a high order of distinctive pleasures, and it may be said summarily of high and distinctive pleasures that no man seems in danger of exceeding his allotment.
In a way a poet is untroubled about all this—about writing or writing poetry, for these are abstractions that cannot be engaged in, and he is trying to find the first or next word, and after “thick rotundity” he listens to “of” and is troubled, and then hears “o’ ” and so moves on to other troubles, leaving behind him “the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.” In a way, then, even in a long life a poet never writes poetry—just a few poems; and in this sense a poet’s problems do not begin until he closes in upon a piece of paper with something less abstract in mind than writing or writing poetry.
Furthermore, since the madness of Lear is almost entirely Shakespeare’s invention , it brings us face to face with both the tragic art and the tragic artist.
Now, to speak of a consummate poetic accomplishment is to imply that the kind of criticism which views all a writer’s problems as unique has overlooked a part of the whole of truth.Every art has ways of making a thing seem bigger or smaller than the space it occupies, as Cordelia is more wonderful by far than the number of lines she utters and is even tragically present when she is tragically absent, and as Lear becomes more gigantic when he can utter only a few lines or broken lines or none at all.We have come close to the special realm of imaginative or poetic writing, with its special obligations, two of which we shall refer to as .In certain ultimate senses the world that is each poem is bound together so that it binds the hearts of those who look upon it, of whom the poet is one.To look upon a poem, then, as distinct from looking upon much of the succession of life, is to be moved, and moved by emotions that, on the whole, attract us to it and are psychologically compatible.What may happen in a poem must be compatible with the general conditions of “existence” as postulated by the poem; and what actually does happen and the order in which it happens must appear as adequately caused by the constitution of the individual characters and by the circumstances in which they are placed.The same legendary figure may enter two worlds and in the early Elizabethan play may spell his name “Leir” and survive his misfortunes, but, having ventured upon the thick rotundity of Shakespeare’s world, he cannot be saved, and certainly not by the alteration of any neoclassical poet.He may wish, as many lyric poets have wished, to write a drama or a novel, but the story is so distinct from the lyric that few poets, despite a tendency of poets to be expansive in their ambitions, have been eminent in both poetic arts.Shelley and Keats had a maximum of aspiration but hardly a minimum of gift for plot and character, and even Browning, with his surpassing delineation of men and women in dramatic monologue, could not make anything happen in a drama.All of us, therefore, seem to be asking for less than we expect when we ask that poems have ; but this is so commonly the language of the request that we shall assume it means what we expect it does—that the emotions aroused by any good poem should be psychologically compatible and also of a kind out of which attachments are formed.We may ask for many other things from poems—biographical information, or political or theological wisdom—but, in making any of these further requests, we should recognize that we are asking for what only certain good poems give, and then generally not so well as something else.