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TSE  January 2003

TSE January 2003

Subject:

Re: Something on reading poems

From:

Jacek Niecko <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 17 Jan 2003 13:28:38 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (52 lines)

It's "The Orators"--no that that matters very much, but still---


Jacek
----- Original Message -----
From: "Marcia Karp" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, January 17, 2003 1:22 PM
Subject: Something on reading poems


> I've just come across something I found of interest. I think others
> might find it to be so. The first part is William Empson, as quoted by
> Christopher Ricks, then Ricks' comment.
>
>         The following line from Auden’s Orators is quoted as ‘free
>         association’, therefore demonstrably bad or rather null. It
>         seems to me plain realism.
>         Well?
>         As a matter of fact the farm was in Pembrokeshire.
>         We are told that though the separate lines of the poem have
>         isolated prose meanings they are only connected by Auden’s
>         memory or subconsciousness, so cannot make poetry. But if you
>         get the general context, of a man making a shameful confession,
>         this creaking pretence of ease and nervous jerk into irrelevance
>         is no kind of breach with ‘meaning’, whether with poetry or not;
>         nor is it ‘obscure’. It is a piece of horrible photography, and
>         I remember shuddering as I first set eyes on it. But of course
>         if a critic goes on expecting Pembrokeshire to symbolize
>         something he is likely to get irritated. Often indeed when a
>         poem goes on living in your mind, demanding to be re-read, you
>         do not so much penetrate what at first seemed its obscurities as
>         forget them; they turn out to be irrelevant. The critic
>         therefore cannot come in and demonstrate that a poem is bad
>         because it has no meaning—obviously, in the first place, because
>         he may merely not know the meaning, but he can say it is too
>         hard to know; yet there may be an answer to this too—that he is
>         wrong to expect a meaning at the point he has chosen.
>         [Criterion, xv (1936), 519.]
>
>     What liberates Empson’s criticism here—and Auden’s line—is the
>     respect for story. So the hope is that to ask about the story in
>     Empson’s poems will help with their meaning, not only in making
>     clearer at some points what their meaning is, but also in making
>     clearer at others why it is not exactly meaning that we should be
>     expecting. [Christopher Ricks, The Force of Poetry, “William Empson:
>     The Images and the Story” 182-183]
>
>
>
> Marcia
>

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