Sunday 25 December 2011


The Defense of Poetry

P. B. Shelley, a great Romantic poet and critic, defends poetry by claiming that the poet creates human values and imagines the forms that shape the social and cultural order.

For Shelley, each poetic mind, recreates its own private universe and poets, thus are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.For Shelley, Poetry is the vehicle to reach to the ideal world or platonic world. He argues that all forms of arts and science depend up on nature but poetry improves the nature and creates better than it. Here, his views share similarities with Aristotle, who said that a poet is not only an imitator but also a creator.

Reason and imagination are the two faculties of mind. Reason breaks the things in to parts and analyses it. Thus the reason is the principle of analysis. On the other hand, imagination synthesizes the components. Since imagination is the principle of synthesis that can false contradictory forces.

Imagination has soothing power that pacifies the mind and the people become moral. It creates the best mind and the happiest moment so, peaceful mind is required to produce the poetry.For Shelley the best mind and the happiest moment, produced by imagination are the ways to get the essence but Coleridge’s imagination does not soothe the mind, instead it is just a creative force.

Shelley believes that poetry strengthens the moral faculty and gives pleasure so he treats imagination both as creative and pragmatic aspects.The poet is a moral teacher who gives idea and pleasure to the society by teaching indirectly. Poet is a prophet and legislator who create social norms rules and moral lessons with the help of poetry.A poet to him is not only the author of language of music of the dance, and of architecture but is also the legislator of laws the founder of civil society. Thus, poetry, unlike to Peacock has its social and moral functions along with its aesthetic pleasure.

In this way, Shelley defends poetry from, the idea that romantic use of language brings cultural decadence and reinforces that poetry creates novelty where we can see the seed of revolution.

This extract from one of the finest essays in the Englsh language should be studied again by those of the current fashion in reducing Poetry to the level of thoughtless prose.

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