Essay on the Appeal of Poetry

Outline:

  • The difference between poetry and prose
  • Poetry’s appeal to the imagination
  • Difference between poetry and science
  • Poetry and Reality
  • Use of words in poetry
  • Music in poetry
  • Poetry, a refuge from dullness and an aid to correct living

Poetry appeals to our sense of beauty and thus gives us pleasure. Poetry reaches intelligence through the heart or feelings. Its emotional appeal chiefly distinguishes it from prose. Prose is the language of reason, fear, pity, anger, jealousy, revenge, charity such are the emotions that poetry stirs in varying degrees. The intenser the emotion, the greater the appeal of poetry. The poetry of Shelley, Keats, Swinburne, and Tennyson is highly charged with emotion. Accordingly, their poetry is more interesting and enjoyable than the poetry of Pope and Dryden whose works do not possess enough emotion. But the poetry of Pope and Dryden has its own appeal, which based not on intense emotion but certain other qualities.

Poetry also appeals to our imagination. The poet has a very active and fertile imagination. The poet’s imagination travels far and near and gathers beautiful images and fancies for us in poetry. Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Walter De La Mare are examples of poets who possessed a rich imagination, which lends to their poetry a unique interest. “Kublai Khan’ by Coleridge is a poem of sheer magic created by the writer’s imagination. Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind and The Cloud”, Keat’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “Ode on Melancholy”, and “Walter De La Mare’s”. The Listeners are excellent examples of the poetic use of imagination.

This imaginative and emotional appeal of poetry distinguishes it from science. Science teaches us knowledge through our heads. The poet appeals to our hearts. The scientist describing the rainbow will analyse it into its seven colours and will give us the reason for its formation. A poet will call it the “million-colored” rainbow. The scientist uses theory, observation and experiments to arrive at his conclusions. The poet uses his feelings, his emotions and imagination. The emotional and imaginative appeal of poetry is best seen in lyrics. Lyrical poetry is most enjoyable because of its intense emotional and richly imaginative appeal. Some of the Jacobean writers (Robert Herrick, Edmund Waller, Richard Lovelace, Andrew Marvell, and John Suckling) have written extremely entertaining and pleasurable lyrics. Other famous lyrical poets are Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson and Robert Bridges.

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There are people who believe in art for art’s sake. In other words, they believe that poetry can be divorced from real life and that the poet can live in an ivory tower, weaving beautiful dreams for his readers. It is true that there is a good deal of poetry which is “escapist” in character; that is, it provides an escape from the realities of life by taking the reader into the ” world of pure imagination. But the world’s great poets have always recognized that poetry is made out of life, belongs to life, and exists that the greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life, and that a poet applies his mind and imagination to the question: “How to live?” Poetry thus represents, portrays, depicts, describes (directly or indirectly) the actual experiences of mankind their joys, sorrows, misfortunes, jealousies, loves, hatreds, etc. Poetry thus deepens our understanding of human life and human nature. It enlarges our vision of life. It deals with philosophical and metaphysical problems. It increases our awareness of life and its many-sidedness. It makes us sensitive to pain and suffering of life with courage. Poetry also provides us with guidance about how to live our lives. Poetry not only delights us, but it also instructs us. All the great poets of the World – Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Goethe, Tennyson, and Browning – were essentially teachers. Shelley went so far as to say that poets are the “Unacknowledged legislators” of the world.

An important quality of poetry is that it uses words in such a way as to make them look fresh and new. Not only that, poetry may coin new words. Poetry may enrich the value of words by putting them in new combinations or by giving them new associations. In short, poetry is constantly recreating language. This verbal appeal serves to increase the value of poetry and to multiply its interest. Spenser, Shakespeare and Keats are among poets who displayed an amazing richness and originality in the use of words.

Nor must we forget the music, which is one of the greatest charms of poetry. The use of rhythm, rhyme and other technical devices make poetry sweet and pleasurable. Shelley was one of the greatest singers in English poetry. Others whose poetry is distinguished by verbal melody and sweetness were Tennyson, Swinburne and Robert Bridges.

Thus poetry has a many-sided appeal. The reading of poetry is a source of both pleasure and instruction. He who can not appreciate poetry is deficient in the sense of beauty or the artistic sense. Only a dull-minded, cold-hearted, unimaginative person is indifferent to poetry. For a responsive individual, the reading of poetry is a rich delicious, and at the same time profitable experience. It can serve both as a refuge from dullness and oppressive influences of life and as an aid of correct living.

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