Literature is as Universal as Life Itself Essay

Outline:

  • Literature has two fold bearing on life
  • Literature is the mirror
  • Realism and Idealism in literature
  • The universal appeal of literature
  • Realism as a result of French Revolution
  • Wordsworth Romanticism in Realism
  • Tennyson’s scientific Realism
  • The imaginary of literature
  • Different movements of expression in poetry
  • A real poetry has a universal appeal
  • Function of poetry

Introduction

Literature, like all great and enduring arts, has always a two-fold bearing on life; it is both a mirror and a means of escape. Like the Lady of Shallot, we sit before the mirror; we see of shadows; we turn our eyes from the shadows to that which cast them; the mirror splits; the phantom views and values, outlook and attitudes, drop and fade away one by one; truth sees herself in the fairy mirror before it cracks; the spell breaks and the heart discovers its unfathomed strength. Unhesitating and undistracted, free and unashamed we sail beyond the farther horizon until we enter into realms where the usual token of custom and caution have lost currency. Arms and Rises await our arrival in these ‘habitations of eternity’. At last, we have achieved out Camelot. Such indeed is the fable and fact of poetry.

A great literature is a mirror, upon which the realities of life are reflected, blended with the sparks of truth and interpretation of human quest for the perfection of soul as well as knowledge, “Literature” say Swinburne, “is not only a criticism of life, it is very dynamo of man, knowledge about the Absolute Truth!” According to Robert Owen, “great literature is the dynamo of our greatest, scientific and aesthetic knowledge, the arsenal of statesmanship and the inexhaustible treasure of man’s highest inspiration.” It is the super most, truth that man can ever conceive; the sublimest boon of Almighty conferred upon man; nay, it is the very essence of human endeavor to seek the spiritual harmony with God.”_Carlyle

If idealism is the beauty of a great literature, realism is its strength; if idealism attempts to adorn and beautify literature with its sweet blossoms of imagination and fancy realism vitalizes it with its analytical criticism on man’s activities of life.

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Says Anicimor, the famous Russian critic and poet; “Literature should not live in an ‘Ivory Tower’. It should participate in the people’s movements, and play its creative constructive and reformative role.” The very note of this realism is optimist and determinism. “It is not the realism of the older writer like Dickens and Blazac, where there was more pessimism and defeatism than optimism and hope”. The new realism, which has given a fresh vigour and new hope of mankind, is born of people’s movements, their struggles and sacrifices; and the hero of this literature, is the hero of the masses and their aspirations. The greatest function of this new realism, in Literature especially in modern poetic and dramatic art – is to oppose and declare unceasing wars in the narrow Bourgeois’s Wise of all ages.

Realism, as a matter of fact, is not a new discovery. It has been in every literature and at every age. The greatest realism about literature is that it represents every age; its appeal is universal and for all ages. “Literature must rediscover its stream and not lose itself in backwaters. Every new poet, every dramatist, every novelist, does give out something to his age but it is not his discovery – he rediscovers what had been discovered by the first poet, the first dramatist, the first novelist, who took up his pen to paint a picture of man’s imagination.”

French Revolution, as a matter of truth, gives Realism, its truest sense, to English literature. It made English Poetry, in particular, a poetry concerning the lives of the common men and women, who had been miserably ignored by the earlier poets. It also gave a spirit of realism in the theme of English poetry. It taught the poets to shun the poetry of rigid intellectualism and sordidly artificial affection and formalism. The poets made ‘Liberty’ and ‘Equality’ the main currents of their poetic thought. No longer were they fascinated by the so-called autocracy of art; now they took up the democratic view of life as the main theme of poetry.

Wordsworth, the forerunner of Romantic Movement, which was architected by the ‘French Revolution’, maintained the root of his romanticism in realism. He always drew, from life and its commonplace experience, the inspiration of his poetry. In appearance, Wordsworth’s poetry is summed up in an exalt faithfulness in the ‘Lyrical Ballads’; he throws up in a full light the meaner traits of suffering humanity. He shows man in the setting of Nature, in strict accordance with the daily observation and without a trace of exaggeration and embellishment. He approached the realistic phases of man’s life through the angel of Nature. He heard the “Still, and music of humanity” and suggested to man that all his miseries and misfortunes would vanish as soon as he (man) went to Nature and embraced her. But, at the same time, it must be remembered that Wordsworth guarded himself against stark Realism. To him, realism was poetic, so long as it was allied to Romanticism.

Tennyson gave a new kind of realism to English Poetry – Scientific realism. The scientific perception of Tennyson is clearly noticeable in Tennyson’s Nature – Poetry. A spirit of inquiry, criticism, skepticism, religious unrest and spiritual struggle marked the Victorian Age. The analytical and critical state of mind, fostered by the progress of Science, led to the development of realism in English poetry of Tennyson’s age. Further, the reform in the body of politics of England recognized the claim of the masses. This led to the germination of sympathy between man and man, in the light of realism. Modern poets maintain a queer realism, which has a rebellious tendency. They rebel against modern society, its conventions, the modern government and even modern religious institutions. A modern poet even goes to the extent of censuring God’s different treatment, given to the Rich and the Poor. He, through his poetic art, emphasizes on the necessity of establishing a democratic order, even in Heaven. Again, modern poetry is the Poetry of bread and bread alone. According to the modern poets the birds, in the morning, do not sing with joy; they cry with hunger. The entire world, according to modern poets, has one and only one problem before it – the solution of bread problem.

“A life moving to one measure,

Daily bread and daily bread;

Life of toil, life of sorrow,

Hand to mouth and nothing tomorrow.”

“What a beautiful world it is, oh Lord, that Thou hast created,” said the philosopher and his soul began to sing. Elsewhere a philosopher sang his defiance and his indifference, and thus, in the very heart of religion and philosophy, poetry was born.

Man saw his unity in the apparently discordant elements in life and found a joy in thạt unity, which nothing could surpass. He has discovered a weapon, which could be most effective in his fight against Fate – more effective than detachment – more effective than faith. It was the weapon of imagination.

Man now could create the whole Universe imaginatively. He could transform ‘Reality’ reduce ‘Fate’ to a mockery of the gods, and create for him and his fellow travelers, a new World – not a part, nor yet a copy of the Real World, but to the world itself, independent, complete, autonomous.
· Once we enter this World of Poet,’ life’s little problems cease to worry us. We are in a world, where everything happens, as it should happen, where there is order, form and completeness. What were the ugly in life has become beautiful here; what was evil has become an instrument of good. He, who can withdraw into the World of Ecstasy, will know what to think of circumstance. He, who goes daily into the World of aesthetic emotion, returns to the world of human affairs, equipped to face it courageously and even a little contemptuously.

According to Carlyle, “Man is only half himself, the other half is his expression.” And which expression attains a greater measure of finality than poetry? There are moments when, one is face to face with one’s Maker, and one yearns to open out to the skies and the winds to discover in Nature, a heart and a soul. There are other moments when in bliss and ecstasy, one lives in a region, where life is not life, and death is not death, where one dies into life,’ and has no self at all; where ‘the burden of the mystery’s lightened’ and truths are discovered, which wake ‘to perish never’. There are also other moments when life and its aspirations are symbolized in a fellow mortal; one love, which destroys the past and opens out a future, which will never be bleak. There are still other moments, when life seems to be slipping from under our grasp, we watch death and suffering and do not know how to face them. Destiny scowls and man stands stunned and stupefied. What shall a man do? What is life? What is death? What is love? What is good and what is evil? Who shall tell us all these, if not the poet? Where shall these moments find a perfect expression if not in poetry?

A real poetry has a universal appeal. It is for the entire world; it is the inner voice of entire mankind. During the Second World War, when the German bombers were dropping hell over England from the sky, the lovers of poetry in an under found protection in the city of London, were celebrating the birthday anniversary of the Great German Poet, Goethe. Poetry does not belong to a particular era, or to a particular nation. War can separate the political poets of two nations, but any living force cannot separate the poetic mind of the two nations.

Conclusion

The message of poetry is for all the ages. The voice of Homer was heard not only by the people of ancient Greece, it is heard today also by the modern lovers of poetry. The function of a great poetry is to make the life of man more full and real. It is to make him an independent hunter of the facts by which men live – the facts of the world and the facts of universe. It enables him to escape out of the make-believe existence of everyday and to explore reality, where gold, Love and Beauty and Life and Death are seen in truer proportions, and where the desire of the heart is at least brought with sight of a goal. There are critics, who hold that it is enough to say that art offers us an escape from life. Art, however, offers us not only an escape from life, but also an escape into life, and the first escape is of importance only if it leads to the second.

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