English Critic, Writer and Poet
T. E. Hulme, fully Thomas Ernest Hulme
English Critic, Writer and Poet
Old houses were scaffolding once
One of the main reasons for the existence of philosophy is not that it enables you to find truth (it can never do that) but that it does provide you a refuge for definitions.
Poetry is no more, no less than a mosaic of words, so great exactness is required for each one.
Put shortly, these are the two views, then. One, that man is intrinsically good, spoilt by circumstance; and the other that he is intrinsically limited, but disciplined by order and tradition to something fairly decent. To the one party man's nature is like a well, to the other like a bucket. The view which regards man as a well, a reservoir full of possibilities, I call the romantic; the one which regards him as a very finite and fixed creature, I call the classical. One may note here that the Church has always taken the classical view since the defeat of the Pelagian heresy and the adoption of the sane classical dogma of original sin.
The Embankment - (The fantasia of a fallen gentleman on a cold, bitter night.) Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy, in the flash of gold heels on the hard pavement. Now see. That warmth's the very stuff of poesy. Oh, God, make small the old star-eaten blanket of the sky, that I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.
There were certain impressions I wanted to fix. I read verse models but none seemed to suitably express that kind of impression... until I came to read French vers libre which seemed to eactly fitr the case.
You don?t believe in God, so you begin to believe that man is a god. You don?t believe in Heaven, so you begin to believe in a heaven on earth. In other words, you get romanticism.
A frolic of crimson is the spreading glory of the sky, heaven?s jocund maid flaunting a trailed red robe along the fretted city roofs about the time of homeward going crowds ? a vain maid, lingering, loth to go?
A romantic movement must have an end of the very nature of the thing. It may be deplored, but it can't be helped ? wonder must cease to be wonder. I guard myself here from all the consequences of the analogy, but it expresses at any rate the inevitableness of the process. A literature of wonder must have an end as inevitably as a strange land loses its strangeness when one lives in it. Think of the lost ecstasy of the Elizabethans. "Oh my America, my new found land," think of what it meant to them and of what it means to us. Wonder can only be the attitude of a man passing from one stage to another, it can never be a permanently fixed thing.
All emotions are the ore from which poetry may be sifted.
Here is the root of all romanticism: that man, the individual, is an infinite reservoir of possibilities; and if you can so rearrange society by the destruction of oppressive order than these possibilities will have a chance and you will get Progress. One can define the classical quite clearly as the exact opposite to this. Man is an extraordinarily fixed and limited animal whose nature is absolutely constant. It is only by tradition and organization that anything decent can be got out of him.
If literature (realistic) did really resemble life, it would be interminable, dreary, commonplace eating and dressing, buttoning, with here and there a patch of vividness. Life is composed of exquisite moments and the rest is shadows of them.
In the light of absolute values (religious or ethical) man himself is judged to be limited or imperfect, while he can occasionally accomplish acts which partake of perfection, he, himself can never be perfect.
It is a delicate & difficult art fitting rhythm to an idea...communicating momentary phases in a poet's mind.
It would be a mistake to identify the classical view with that of materialism. On the contrary it is absolutely identical with the normal religious attitude. I should put it in this way: That part of the fixed nature of man is the belief in the Deity. This should be as fixed and true for every man as belief in the existence of matter and in the objective world. It is parallel to appetite, the instinct of sex, and all the other fixed qualities. Now at certain times, by the use of either force or rhetoric, these instincts have been suppressed - in Florence under Savonarola, in Geneva under Calvin, and here under the Roundheads. The inevitable result of such a process is that the repressed instinct bursts out in some abnormal direction. So with religion. By the perverted rhetoric of Rationalism, your natural instincts are suppressed and you are converted into an agnostic. Just as in the case of the other instincts, Nature has her revenge. The instincts that find their right and proper outlet in religion must come out in some other way. You don't believe in a God, so you begin to believe that man is a god. You don't believe in Heaven, so you begin to believe in a heaven on earth. In other words, you get romanticism. The concepts that are right and proper in their own sphere are spread over, and so mess up, falsify and blur the clear outlines of human experience. It is like pouring a pot of treacle over the dinner table. Romanticism then, and this is the best definition I can give of it, is spilt religion.
My objection to metre is that it enables people to write verse with no poetic inspiration.
An illusion is the false appreciation of real sensation.
A poem is good if it contains a new analogy and startles the reader out of the habit of treating words as counters.
Language is by its very nature a communal thing; that is, it expresses never the exact thing but a compromise – that which is common to you, me, and everybody.
Life is composed of exquisite moments and the rest is shadows of them
Literature, like memory, selects only the vivid patches.
Old houses were scaffolding once and workmen whistling.
Similarly our Liberal friends may be reminded that the lines now making a map of Europe are the result in every instance of local circumstances governable by men; and as they were determined by men they can be changed by men. Europe, in short, is a creation, not a blind evolutionary product; and nothing connected with its mental features is any more fixed than the present relations, as expressed in the trench-lines, between the Allies and the enemy. Another prevalent Liberal assumption, hostile to a proper appreciation of the significance of the war, is that progress is both inevitable and of necessity in one direction. That change, like the girl in the play, may of itself or by the intention of those who bring it about, take the wrong turning seems never to enter the heads of some of our most popular doctrinaires. All that is not Liberal in Europe or elsewhere is in their opinion not even fundamentally anti-Liberal or other-than-Liberal,—it is merely an arrested development of an evolution which in any case must needs be Liberal in the end, or a reaction against, but still upon the line of Liberalism. This, I need not say after stating it, is not only an error, but a particularly insular error. In the first place, evolution in our sense of the word—that is, evolution towards democracy—is not only not inevitable, but it is the most precarious, difficult and exigent task political man has ever conceived. And, in the second place, far from it being the predestined path of every nation and race, only one or two nations have attempted to pursue it, while the rest deliberately and even, we might say, intelligently, pursue another path altogether as if that were progress, and are thus sincerely hostile to our own.
The “classical” point of view I take to be this. Man is by his very nature essentially limited and incapable of anything extraordinary. He is incapable of attaining any kind of perfection, because, either by nature, as the result of original sin, or the result of evolution, he encloses within him certain antinomies. There is a war of instincts inside him, and it is part of his permanent characteristics that this must always be so.
The artist tries to see what there is to be interested in...He has not created something, he has seen something.