Retrospect

  • Desmond King-Hele

Abstract

Poets draw on a limited stock of words familiar and unfamiliar — Shakespeare’s stock was about 15,000 words. If we could anatomize the poet’s memories, we might find these words stored in various guises, some singly, some linked in phrases subconsciously recorded from previous reading or listening, all awaiting a trigger from an external source to propel them into a poem. In one sense, poets are often ‘original’: a poem is often provoked by an event, and events are often original, so rich is human and natural life. In another sense, poets are nearly always doomed to be unoriginal, merely rearranging existing words to express ideas that are rarely new. Yet a truly creative rearrangement is possible and can generate a new world-view, or at least a fresh perspective.

Keywords

Europe Recent Century Hunt Defend Photography 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    For the origins of the quotations in this paragraph, see W. J. Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet (Chatto & Windus, 1971) p. 3;Google Scholar
  2. W. W. Beyer, The Enchanted Forest, p. viii; R. P. Knight, The Landscape (1795) p. x;Google Scholar
  3. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 1831 Preface;Google Scholar
  4. C. Day Lewis, The Poet’s Task (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1951) p. 12;Google Scholar
  5. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (Faber, 1932) pp. 14, 16.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    J. Beer, in Interpreting Blake, ed. M. Phillips (CUP 1978) pp. 197–8.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    S. T. Coleridge, Letters ii 738 (1801).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    C. Darwin, Life of Erasmus Darwin (Murray, 1879) p. 92.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    E.g. M. E. Novak, Eighteenth-Century English Literature (Macmillan, 1983).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 9.
    E.g. G. Saintsbury, A Short History of English Literature (Macmillan, 1907) p. 597.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    G. L. Craik, History of English Literature (4th edn, 1869) ii 383, 384, 387.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    S. T. Coleridge, Letters iii 469 (1814).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Desmond King-Hele 1986

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  • Desmond King-Hele

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