Poetry Necessary to All

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Book News Monthly (June 1906) Vol. 24 No. 286 pp. 722-723.

Poetry Necessary to All

IN relation to the status of poetry we have the avowal of Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman that "the Muse sits neglected in the hemicycle of the arts;" and the declaration of Matthew Arnold that "the future of poetry is immense." These views may seem antagonistic, but they are not necessarily so. The barren dearth of winter does not distress us with the fear that there will be no returning spring; and the indifference of to-day is far from implying the indifference of to-morrow.

Goethe assures us that "there is no better deliverance from the world than through art." Of all the arts poetry is the most intimate and personal. The poet creates by the pure effort of his imagination, having no material to work with, such as paint, clay or marble: having no instructor, and in the present day no school. In his case it is peculiarly true that "the artist is conditioned on the man; that the source of the limitations of a man's art will be found, as a rule, in his character and life."

Despite the many different views as to what constitutes poetry, it is still true that poetry in some form is necessary to all—save, perhaps, to those who are content to live upon bread alone.

A story is told of Emerson's sitting in a company of friends who discussed coal, money, iron, and railroads. After a time the New England philosopher spoke very quietly: "Now let us talk for a little about real things." Poetry belongs to the real things—to the realm of the ideal which is "the only real."

In education poetry is invaluable; the study of it cultivates the memory, the imagination, and the heart. To the old—even more than to the young—poetry is a source of perpetual interest, solace, refreshment and delight. I know a man eighty years of age who is never lonely, or dull, or depressed, because in his cultivated mind there is stored much of the great poetry of the world. A year ago, in consequence of an accident, he was carried to a hospital where he lay in bed for three months. When at last he was about to leave one of the young assistant surgeons remarked: "I never could bear to pass his room without going in; he always had something so delightful to say." Then, with a wistful look he added: "He has certainly been a light in this place." A light in this place! What an exquisite tribute. This man had brought to the mechanical, monotonous, practical, sorrowful routine of hospital life the light of imagination; helping those about him to live "from a greater depth of being."

Florence Earle Coates

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1927.

The author died in 1927, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.