Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind
200 Pages

Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind


200 Pages


Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind focuses upon the two intertwined themes of Reason and Beauty as they are expressed poetically in English literature. It begins with a chapter on the unique characteristics of poetic creation, "The Ostentation of Verse," and then unfolds in an alternating pattern, analyzing the distinctive appearances of these two concepts in writers as various as William Wordsworth (Reason), Christopher Marlowe (Beauty), Alexander Pope (Reason), John Keats (Beauty), and John Milton (Reason). In the climactic penultimate chapter, there is a meditation on William Shakespeare's depiction of what the author calls "the actual schism in Reason." There follows a brief coda that moves beyond the confines of poetry to a contemplation of the wider religious dimensions that the literary investigation has opened up.



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Published 01 March 2008
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EAN13 9781725220140
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Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind By Williams, Charles Copyright©1933 Estate of Charles Williams c/o Watkins Loomis Agency acting in association with David Higham Associates ISBN 13: 978-1-55635-554-7 Publication date 6/14/2007 Previously published by Oxford University Press, 1933 Published in association with Watkins/ Loomis Agency, Inc. and David Higham Associates, Inc. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Charles Williams.
Foreword oReason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind
  C W’ wriings, is lierary criicism as O been e mos negleced. houg read wi considerable iner-es a e ime of is publicaion, i is ardly known oday.Poetry at Present, a collecion of sixeen essays on conemporary poes, was e firs of ree volumes o be publised by e Oxford Universiy Press and wen quickly ino a second impression a year ater is appear-ance in 1930. However, iry-eig years passed before an American publiser reissued i; in 1969 Freepor of New York includedPoetry at Presentin is Books for Libraries series. houg no wiou in-eres, i is e leas impressive of Williams’s ree books on poery and e one a e auor imself was o dismiss as “e paeic effor of my immauriy” (Alice Mary Hadfield,Carles Williams: An Exploration of His Life and Work,Oxford: 1983, 80). his could no be said of e wo books a followed:he Englis Poetic Mind(1932) andReason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind(1933).he Englis Poetic Mindwas reissued in 1963, again in an American ediion, by Russell & Russell, New York. Two years earlier, four exracs ad been prin-ed inCarles Williams: Selected Writings,edied by Williams’s close friend and disinguised inerpreer, Anne Ridler, and publised by e Oxford Universiy Press. Bu e ird book,Reason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind—a coninuaion and developmen of emes se ou inhe Englis Poetic Mindand arguably Williams’s mos original conribuion o e genre of poeic inerpreaion—as never been reprined since is original publicaion. he reprining of ese wo significan volumes by Wipf and Sock as, erefore, been eagerly awaied by ose readers already familiar wi e originals and fills a serious gap in our undersanding of eir auor; ey will enable
vi Foreword us o reappraise, or peraps encouner for e firs ime, e disinc-ive qualiies of Carles Williams’s approac o e ar a was a e cenre of is own creaive life, poery. ha all ree books were originally publised under e im-prin of e Clarendon Press seems o sugges, o ose wo know someing of e isory and organizaion of e Oxford Universiy Press, a ey mig ave been inended for an academic audience. Ye ey belong o no recognizable criical scool and in eir syle and conen are markedly, even flagranly, differen from anying a was being produced in e academies of is day—or, indeed, in any of e insiuions of iger educaion since is ime. In eir very idiosyncraic way ey can be seen as quinessenial expressions of e unique sensibiliy of eir auor and despie eir fauls are among is fines acievemens, conaining some of is mos pro-found ougs on e creaive process. And i was e creaive pro-cess iself a was a e cenre of is inerpreaive ineres. He was as capable of a “close reading” of a ex as e was of reconsrucing e life of is creaor bu, as e makes clear in is inroducion o he Englis Poetic Mind, is criicism as a differen purpose. His firs ineres was e wole poeic radiion: idenifying paerns in e developmen of e radiion; uncovering idden connecions beween e poes wo ad creaed i; and en, more precisely (and unusually), considering e ac of poeic creaion iself. he ques-ions e asks are ese: “How does a poem come ino being?” and “Wa is e source of is creaive impulse?” He was no primarily concerned wi e individual raumaic experiences of e poes as persons; oug ese could no be ignored, is deeper ineres was in e way e naure of e ac of poeic creaion could be grasped from e reading of e poems emselves and e means by wic e ariss reaced ino and spoke from e idden places of eir imaginaive power. here is also, in bo books, e furer inen-ion of observing e similariies and differences in ese generaing
Foreword vii forces beween e poes from differen periods in e isory of e radiion. Publised only a year aterhe Englis Poetic Mind, Carles Williams’s ird book of lierary criicism,Reason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind(1933), akes up some of e emes already adum-braed in e earlier volume and submis em o a more inense scruiny in a new conex—e examinaion of e way in wic e wo conceps, and experiences, of Reason and Beauy ave been represened in e works of some of e grea poes of e Englis language. his is a more diffuse book anhe Englis Poetic Mind, is emes less persuasively inegraed, and one is aware of e effor in e auor o aain some kind of ariculaion of e ineffable. he wo conceps, Reason and Beauy, are no an obvious pairing, and Williams is aware of possible incongruiy, bu e pairing is no en-irely arbirary; ey are, ater all, universal uman experiences and ey are no unrelaed, as e is able o demonsrae. He offers em as examples of e way in wic e myserious ac of poeic creaion can be examined and appreciaed.“he book,” e assers modesly in e preface,“is erefore bu an exploraion of e conen of cerain places of poery, in an order suggesed by e relaive ricness of a conen” (v). In fac, e book urns ou o be far from modes in is acievemen. he ree grea poes ofhe Englis Poetic MindSakespeare, Milon, and Wordswor—are sill cenral o is ener-prise bu e ranges more widely in is volume, making connecions beween figures as disparae as Jon Milon and Covenry Pamore, Crisoper Marlowe and Jon Keas. As inhe Englis Poetic Mind, Williams opensReason and Beauty in te Poetic Mindwi a caper on poery iself. Bu were-as in e earlier book e focus was primarily on e way poery is eard and received—a is o say, wa i does—ere e angle widens o include an invesigaion of e peculiar naure of poeic dicion iself—a is o say, ow i does wa i does. he caper is
viii Foreword called “he Osenaion of Verse,” indicaive of Williams’s inenion o examine e naure of poeic “display,” and is brillian analysis of e essenial difference beween poery and prose, and is un-dersanding of e significance of is difference, makes is caper alone an imporan conribuion o e lierary criicism of e pas undred years. his quesion of wa poery is and ow i acieves is unique mode of exisence are e underlying preoccupaions of e wole work. Weer e is discussing e way Beauy is porrayed in Marlowe and Keas or Reason as i appears in Milon and Pope, e urgen searc is for ways o undersand and express wa e poery is doing and ow e poery is doing i. Even wen e reurns o one of e principal emes ofhe Englis Poetic Mind—e experience of “conradicion”—and offers e reader an exended commen on Hamle’s dilemma—wa e calls “e acual scism in reason”—is prime concern is Sakespeare’s poeic means of resolving a ines-capable uman experience of inernal division, e self agains e self: “he reconciliaion of discordan elemens is one of e cief asks wic poery ses before iself in muaions kindred o ose wic e mere business of life imposes, more or less, effecively, on us” (17). Aloug an academic press publised e ree volumes of Carles Williams’s lierary criicism, i is quie clear from everying e said and did a e never regarded poery, or lieraure of any kind, as a specialized, academic discipline isolaed from e lives of ordinary men and women. Nor was i merely a pleasan way of pass-ing e ime, a kind relaxaion from e pressure of quoidian affairs. Quie e reverse. For im poerymattered—as muc as anying else in life. “We canno say a poery is rue excep in e sense a we say a love or religion or any pilosopy is rue. Bu we can say a in is fullness ere is no migier experience—and few as migy—known o man” (Reason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind, 10). Furermore, i did no exis in a comparmen of life a was
Foreword ix reserved for aeseic experience; i was inerwoven wi everying uman beings oug, fel, believed in, and did. His lierary criicism canno, erefore, be read in isolaion from e res of is work. He was an exraordinarily prolific and uncommonly various auor, bu e more one reads e aricles, e plays, e novels, e biograpies, e isories, e more one is aware of a unified sensibiliy displaying iself in is immensely wide variey of genres. Hisorical knowledge, psycological observaion, eological undersanding, and criical judgmen consanly inform one anoer and frequenly enric one anoer in unexpeced ways. Someimes e connecions are obvious, someimes idden. In 1938 e publised He Came Down From Heaven. I is a work of eology bu is genesis is in lieraure. his grea sudy of e docrine of e Incarnaion flows direcly ou of ideas a were being explored in quie differen ways in e wo volumes of lierary criicismhe Englis Poetic Mind andReason and Beauty in te Poetic Mind. Wa Williams ideni-fied as e experience of “conradicion” in e poes, i.e., knowing someing in is opposing mode, became e principle for is eo-logical analysis of e Fall. Adam and Eve are seen as undergoing e experience, discussed a leng in bo books of lierary criicism, of Sakespeare’s caracers Troilus and Hamle, e experience of “e acual scism in reason.” Had Williams arrived a is undersand-ing before e wroe is criical sudies? I is, peraps, impossible o say; wa i is possible o say is a e found lieraure and life o be inseparable, a wa was figured for in e genius of Sakespeare or Milon was rue of e very facs of exisence—and i was from a genius, as well as from e Bible and e eacings of e Curc, a we learn ose very facs.
—Brian Horne London, 2007