The Complete Poetical Works of Edgar Allan Poe Including Essays on Poetry

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 96

would, I grant, make a false critique, and his self-love would
infallibly bias his little judgment in his favor; but a poet, who is
indeed a poet, could not, I think, fail of making a just critique;
whatever should be deducted on the score of self-love might be replaced
on account of his intimate acquaintance with the subject; in short, we
have more instances of false criticism than of just where one's own
writings are the test, simply because we have more bad poets than good.
There are, of course, many objections to what I say: Milton is a great
example of the contrary; but his opinion with respect to the 'Paradise
Regained' is by no means fairly ascertained. By what trivial
circumstances men are often led to assert what they do not really
believe! Perhaps an inadvertent word has descended to posterity. But, in
fact, the 'Paradise Regained' is little, if at all, inferior to the
'Paradise Lost,' and is only supposed so to be because men do not like
epics, whatever they may say to the contrary, and reading those of
Milton in their natural order, are too much wearied with the first to
derive any pleasure from the second.

"I dare say Milton preferred 'Comus' to either--if so--justly.

"As I am speaking of poetry, it will not be amiss to touch slightly upon
the most singular heresy in its modern history--the heresy of what is
called, very foolishly, the Lake School. Some years ago I might have
been induced, by an occasion like the present, to attempt a formal
refutation of their doctrine; at present it would be a work of
supererogation. The wise must bow to the wisdom of such men as Coleridge
and Southey, but being wise, have laughed at poetical theories so
prosaically exemplified.

"Aristotle, with singular assurance, has declared poetry the most
philosophical of all writings--but it required a Wordsworth to pronounce
it the most metaphysical. He seems to think that the end of poetry is,
or should be, instruction; yet it is a truism that the end of our
existence is happiness; if so, the end of every separate part of our
existence, everything connected with our existence, should be still
happiness. Therefore the end of instruction should be happiness; and
happiness is another name for pleasure;--therefore the end of
instruction should be pleasure: yet we see the above-mentioned opinion
implies precisely the reverse.

"To proceed: _ceteris paribus_, he who pleases is of more importance to
his fellow-men than he who instructs, since utility is happiness, and
pleasure is the end already obtained which instruction is merely the
means of obtaining.


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Klipstein's Anglo-Saxon Course of Study.
Page 92
with Illustrations.
Page 94
1 vol.
Page 102
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