Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas,
atque metus omnes et inexorabile fatum
IN the essay on Dante, Macaulay reproached the English poets with the tendency then showing itself among them to consider the objects and phases of external nature fit material for the exercise of their art. The reproach arose in part out of the fancied antagonism between poetry and science, and it has been often echoed since that day by poets as well as critics.
The judgment is a shallow one. Poetry is, indeed, imaginative. Whatever else it may have or want, it ceases to be poetry when the glow of imagination fades out of it. Science, on the other hand, occupies itself with fact only, with things as they are observed to be, not as they are imagined to be. But imagination and observation are not at war with each other. Distinction is not opposition. And, besides, the poet's constructive imagination is helpless without the materials supplied by observation; and the scientist's observation is aimless and unfruitful without the stimulus and guidance of imagination.