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The Autogenesis Of A Poet
by [?]

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There is a vast deal of nonsense written and uttered about poetry. In an age when verses are more noisily and fluently circulated than ever before, it might seem absurd to plead in the Muse’s defence. Yet poetry and the things poets love are pitifully weak to-day. In essence, poetry is the love of life–not mere brutish tenacity of sensation, but a passion for all the honesties that make life free and generous and clean. For two thousand years poets have mocked and taunted the cruelties and follies of men, but to what purpose? Wordsworth said: “In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time.” Sometimes it seems as though “things violently destroyed,” and the people who destroy them, are too strong for the poets. Where, now, do we see any cohesive binding together of humanity? Are we nearer these things than when Wordsworth and Coleridge walked and talked on the Quantock Hills or on that immortal road “between Porlock and Linton”? Hardy writes “The Dynasts,” Joseph Conrad writes his great preface to “The Nigger of the Narcissus,” but do the destroyers hear them? Have you read again, since the War, Gulliver’s “Voyage to the Houyhnhnms,” or Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”? These men wrote, whether in verse or prose, in the true spirit of poets; and Swift’s satire, which the text-book writers all tell you is so gross and savage as to suggest the author’s approaching madness, seems tender and suave by comparison with what we know to-day.

Poetry is the log of man’s fugitive castaway soul upon a doomed and derelict planet. The minds of all men plod the same rough roads of sense; and in spite of much knavery, all win at times “an ampler ether, a diviner air.” The great poets, our masters, speak out of that clean freshness of perception. We hear their voices–

I there before thee, in the country that well thou knowest,
Already arrived am inhaling the odorous air.

So it is not vain, perhaps, to try clumsily to tell how this delicious uneasiness first captured the spirit of one who, if not a poet, is at least a lover of poetry. Thus he first looked beyond the sunset; stood, if not on Parnassus, tiptoe upon a little hill. And overhead a great wind was blowing.