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Robert Browning belongs to the Victorian age of English literature. As a poet he had some distinctive qualities which set him apart in his age. These qualities consist in his unique view on life and a new poetic style. He dealt with a variety of subjects. But it is his inspiring outlook on life that has made his poetry interesting.

In the poem "Andrea del Sarto" we find that a famous Italian painter of the 15th century speaks of his own career as an artist. He is known to be the faultless painter because of the technical excellence of his paintings. Though none can equal Andrea in his technical skill others have an ideal which make their art superior to the art of Andrea. But Andrea is not frustrated. He has a firm belief that even after death God may give him a chance to make up his earthly shortcomings. As he is conscious of the high ideal he may find an opportunity after death to create paintings with a divine inspiration. So his aspiration to be a true artist may remain unfulfilled on earth but may be fulfilled in his life after death. Here again we notice that Browning's main concern is with aspiration and achievement. His message is that a man need not worry if he fails to achieve what he aspired. If his aspiration is noble he weill be judged properly by God. He need not care what people on earth say about his achievements. What is important is the endeavour, not its result. Endeavour should be great. Andrea is guided by the ideal that "a man's reach should exceed his grasp". He says,

          "At the end God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.It's safer for me, if the award be strict".

The rejected lover in " The Last Ride Together " acts as the mouthpiece of Browning. He has failed to win his ladylove, but he does not mind his failure as if it is something better than success. He shares Browning's optimism and says that it is no use regretting for a life which has been ruined: "What need to strive with a life away?" When his beloved finally accedes to his request after a lot of hesitation and careful thought, the lover is overjoyed because his "last thought was at least not vain". The thought of spending one day more in the company of his beloved, breathing and riding together, makes him feel 'deified'. The narrator even entertains the hope that ' the would may end  tonight' in which case his happiness will become eternal as he will forever be with his beloved.

Another example of Browning's optimistic view is " Fra Lippo Lippi". Though the poem starts with the tone of complexity of life, it ends with a happy tone. In the conclusion of the poem is that the world is good because God made it. So, it right to enjoy this world, for God has given it to us.

Browning believed that real human nature manifests itself in strifes and struggles against evil and various odds. The hard facts of life and manifold obstacles to face may weaken a man's spirit. Browning tried to save men from these disheartening facts emboldening men by his optimism.

Browning as a poet of optimism

Green Land | April 13, 2021 | 0 comments

Robert Browning belongs to the Victorian age of English literature. As a poet he had some distinctive qualities which set him apart in his age. These qualities consist in his unique view on life and a new poetic style. He dealt with a variety of subjects. But it is his inspiring outlook on life that has made his poetry interesting.

In the poem "Andrea del Sarto" we find that a famous Italian painter of the 15th century speaks of his own career as an artist. He is known to be the faultless painter because of the technical excellence of his paintings. Though none can equal Andrea in his technical skill others have an ideal which make their art superior to the art of Andrea. But Andrea is not frustrated. He has a firm belief that even after death God may give him a chance to make up his earthly shortcomings. As he is conscious of the high ideal he may find an opportunity after death to create paintings with a divine inspiration. So his aspiration to be a true artist may remain unfulfilled on earth but may be fulfilled in his life after death. Here again we notice that Browning's main concern is with aspiration and achievement. His message is that a man need not worry if he fails to achieve what he aspired. If his aspiration is noble he weill be judged properly by God. He need not care what people on earth say about his achievements. What is important is the endeavour, not its result. Endeavour should be great. Andrea is guided by the ideal that "a man's reach should exceed his grasp". He says,

          "At the end God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.It's safer for me, if the award be strict".

The rejected lover in " The Last Ride Together " acts as the mouthpiece of Browning. He has failed to win his ladylove, but he does not mind his failure as if it is something better than success. He shares Browning's optimism and says that it is no use regretting for a life which has been ruined: "What need to strive with a life away?" When his beloved finally accedes to his request after a lot of hesitation and careful thought, the lover is overjoyed because his "last thought was at least not vain". The thought of spending one day more in the company of his beloved, breathing and riding together, makes him feel 'deified'. The narrator even entertains the hope that ' the would may end  tonight' in which case his happiness will become eternal as he will forever be with his beloved.

Another example of Browning's optimistic view is " Fra Lippo Lippi". Though the poem starts with the tone of complexity of life, it ends with a happy tone. In the conclusion of the poem is that the world is good because God made it. So, it right to enjoy this world, for God has given it to us.

Browning believed that real human nature manifests itself in strifes and struggles against evil and various odds. The hard facts of life and manifold obstacles to face may weaken a man's spirit. Browning tried to save men from these disheartening facts emboldening men by his optimism.

readmore

Robert Browning in his dramatic monologues is particularly interested in the study of the psychological conflicts of men and women. In many of his poems, he has dealt with the Italian Renaissance artists who evaluated their lives in terms of success and failure. In Browning's treatment artists are presented as the conscience of an age. To him, artists symbolize the voice of humanity, expressing their inner thoughts in their works as well as reflecting their souls. Browning also deals with the problem of art itself. The most famous poems in which he deals with art and artist or the life of the artists are "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Andrea Dr Sarto".

Fra Lippo Lippi is one of Browning's happiest expressions of his belief in art and the joy of living. Fra Lippo was an artist who had to work in a monastery to paint the faces of  the Saints and Angles. He tells the watchman who captivates him that the function of the artist is not to ignore the body and concentrate on souls, but to give equal importance that it deserves. He believes that an artist should paint all of god's works and consider it a crime to allow any truth escapes him. This world is not meant to be despised and ignored as shameful and meaningless. So Fra Lippo says: 

       " This world is no blot for us Nor blank-it means intensity it means good."

It is a gist of Browning's philosophy. According to him, it is right to enjoy this world, for God has given it to us. But the religious father of the monastery ordered him to paint only the soul of man and not the body. They advised Lippo to discard the world. But Fra Lippo believes that this world is meant to be scorned as a disgrace and meaningless.

"Andrea del Sarto" also deals with art and artist's life. The poem presents a study of the mind of an artist who is dragged by the sense of failure and frustration. Andrea has been a faultless painter, but he failed so far as the spirituality of art was concerned. The main reason for his failure is his ill-fated marriage, marriage with a loveless woman named Lucrezia. From the technical point of view he is perfect but his paintings are not spiritually developed. Andrea claims that the paintings of Michael Angleo, Rafael and Lorenzo are technically imperfect but their art is life-like. Andrea lacks the elevation of mind, which gives animation to an artist's work:

      "And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt Out of the grange whose four walls make his world."

At the end of the poem Andrea comforts himself with the thought that god will judge his intentions and give him reward for his artistic endeavour.

Browning believes that poetry or any from of art is closely related to life and its problems. He has no faith in the theory of 'Art for Art's sake'. For him art is for life's sake and his poems on art, philosophy and religion indicate his stand that poetry and art should be intimately in touch with reality and life.

Write a note on Browning's attitude to art and life?

Green Land | April 13, 2021 | 0 comments

Robert Browning in his dramatic monologues is particularly interested in the study of the psychological conflicts of men and women. In many of his poems, he has dealt with the Italian Renaissance artists who evaluated their lives in terms of success and failure. In Browning's treatment artists are presented as the conscience of an age. To him, artists symbolize the voice of humanity, expressing their inner thoughts in their works as well as reflecting their souls. Browning also deals with the problem of art itself. The most famous poems in which he deals with art and artist or the life of the artists are "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Andrea Dr Sarto".

Fra Lippo Lippi is one of Browning's happiest expressions of his belief in art and the joy of living. Fra Lippo was an artist who had to work in a monastery to paint the faces of  the Saints and Angles. He tells the watchman who captivates him that the function of the artist is not to ignore the body and concentrate on souls, but to give equal importance that it deserves. He believes that an artist should paint all of god's works and consider it a crime to allow any truth escapes him. This world is not meant to be despised and ignored as shameful and meaningless. So Fra Lippo says: 

       " This world is no blot for us Nor blank-it means intensity it means good."

It is a gist of Browning's philosophy. According to him, it is right to enjoy this world, for God has given it to us. But the religious father of the monastery ordered him to paint only the soul of man and not the body. They advised Lippo to discard the world. But Fra Lippo believes that this world is meant to be scorned as a disgrace and meaningless.

"Andrea del Sarto" also deals with art and artist's life. The poem presents a study of the mind of an artist who is dragged by the sense of failure and frustration. Andrea has been a faultless painter, but he failed so far as the spirituality of art was concerned. The main reason for his failure is his ill-fated marriage, marriage with a loveless woman named Lucrezia. From the technical point of view he is perfect but his paintings are not spiritually developed. Andrea claims that the paintings of Michael Angleo, Rafael and Lorenzo are technically imperfect but their art is life-like. Andrea lacks the elevation of mind, which gives animation to an artist's work:

      "And I'm the weak-eyed bat no sun should tempt Out of the grange whose four walls make his world."

At the end of the poem Andrea comforts himself with the thought that god will judge his intentions and give him reward for his artistic endeavour.

Browning believes that poetry or any from of art is closely related to life and its problems. He has no faith in the theory of 'Art for Art's sake'. For him art is for life's sake and his poems on art, philosophy and religion indicate his stand that poetry and art should be intimately in touch with reality and life.

readmore

" The Scholar Gipsy" is one of the famous poems of Matthew Arnold. The poem is based on an incident narrated in The Vanity of Dogmatizing by a seventeenth country poet Joseph Glanvill (1600-1661). It is one of Arnold representative poems. Arnold begins the poem in a pastoral mode but his criticism of the Victorian life becomes predominant towards the end of the poem. The poet infuses a note of sadness and an elegiac tone into this poem. 

Like Shelley's "Adonais", the poem has a pastoral setting. Arnold speaks of the reaper working in the field and the flocks bleating from a distant. There is also the description of the corn, " the scarlet poppies" and the "pale blue convolvulus". Arnold's classicism finds an expression when he asks the Shepherd to respond the call of the hill. The poet himself wishes that " Shepherd I will be". Lying in the lap of nature, the poet reads Glanvill's book. 

Arnold is fascinated by the story of the Scholar Gipsy. According to the story, an Oxford student abandoned the conventional path of material progress and went to live with the gypsies who wandered in the lap of nature. These Gypsies did not depend on the second hand knowledge of books; rather they had the direct contact with divine power. The Scholar Gipsy desired to know the secret knowledge of the gypsies. However, he had to wait for a particular moment to know this mystic art:

          And I" said " the secret of their art when fully learn'd, will to the world impart:  

But it needs heaven-sent moments for this skill."In order to learn his special knowledge, the Scholar Gipsy walked here and there in the countryside. He loves natural objects so much that he has formed a harmonious link with them. Thus the blackbird is not afraid to see him, "nor stops his meal". Arnold is here of the opinion that the Scholar Gipsy lived almost two hundred years ago. That age was peaceful, calm and quite. People were not torn by doubt and uncertainty regarding religion. The Scholar Gipsy had " one aim, one business, one desire". He did not see the maladies of the present time. In contrast to the secure age of the Scholar Gipsy, Arnold's Victorian age has no definite values. This is the age when, as Arnold writes:

     ...each strives, nor knows for what he strives,  And each half lives a hundred different lives;

Victorian people have no definite aim. They shift from one ideal to another and, in that sense, they live a thousand different lives. Thus Arnold's expresses his sadness at the present condition of his society.

Arnold is so disgusted with the present society that he urges the Scholar Gipsy to fly from this age like the legendary Dido.

In "The Scholar Gipsy", Arnold introduces his own view of the present society. The society with its artificial and mechanical life is like a spiritual wasteland. Arnold's intellectual insight and prophetic vision combine to give this message to contemporary people. Arnold is successful too in use of language.

Write a critical appreciation of Matthew Arnold's poem "The Scholar Gipsy"

Green Land | April 11, 2021 | 0 comments

" The Scholar Gipsy" is one of the famous poems of Matthew Arnold. The poem is based on an incident narrated in The Vanity of Dogmatizing by a seventeenth country poet Joseph Glanvill (1600-1661). It is one of Arnold representative poems. Arnold begins the poem in a pastoral mode but his criticism of the Victorian life becomes predominant towards the end of the poem. The poet infuses a note of sadness and an elegiac tone into this poem. 

Like Shelley's "Adonais", the poem has a pastoral setting. Arnold speaks of the reaper working in the field and the flocks bleating from a distant. There is also the description of the corn, " the scarlet poppies" and the "pale blue convolvulus". Arnold's classicism finds an expression when he asks the Shepherd to respond the call of the hill. The poet himself wishes that " Shepherd I will be". Lying in the lap of nature, the poet reads Glanvill's book. 

Arnold is fascinated by the story of the Scholar Gipsy. According to the story, an Oxford student abandoned the conventional path of material progress and went to live with the gypsies who wandered in the lap of nature. These Gypsies did not depend on the second hand knowledge of books; rather they had the direct contact with divine power. The Scholar Gipsy desired to know the secret knowledge of the gypsies. However, he had to wait for a particular moment to know this mystic art:

          And I" said " the secret of their art when fully learn'd, will to the world impart:  

But it needs heaven-sent moments for this skill."In order to learn his special knowledge, the Scholar Gipsy walked here and there in the countryside. He loves natural objects so much that he has formed a harmonious link with them. Thus the blackbird is not afraid to see him, "nor stops his meal". Arnold is here of the opinion that the Scholar Gipsy lived almost two hundred years ago. That age was peaceful, calm and quite. People were not torn by doubt and uncertainty regarding religion. The Scholar Gipsy had " one aim, one business, one desire". He did not see the maladies of the present time. In contrast to the secure age of the Scholar Gipsy, Arnold's Victorian age has no definite values. This is the age when, as Arnold writes:

     ...each strives, nor knows for what he strives,  And each half lives a hundred different lives;

Victorian people have no definite aim. They shift from one ideal to another and, in that sense, they live a thousand different lives. Thus Arnold's expresses his sadness at the present condition of his society.

Arnold is so disgusted with the present society that he urges the Scholar Gipsy to fly from this age like the legendary Dido.

In "The Scholar Gipsy", Arnold introduces his own view of the present society. The society with its artificial and mechanical life is like a spiritual wasteland. Arnold's intellectual insight and prophetic vision combine to give this message to contemporary people. Arnold is successful too in use of language.

readmore

Robert Browning was a poet. Though his genius and interest lay in drama, it is on the dramatic monologues that Browning's greatness rest. He is remembered mainly as a writer of such dramatic monologues as "My Last Duchess", " Andrea del Sarto","Fra Lippo Lippi " and "the Last Ride Together".

Dramatic monologue is a type of poem in which there is a speaker and a listener or listeners. The speaker of the poem is not the poet. The listener remains silent all though the poem but we infer his presence from what the speaker says. The speaker's utterance is a response to an occasion or event of crucial importance in his life.

In many poems by Browning, there is a single speaker. For instance, in " My Last Duchess" the speaker is a Duke of Ferrara who speak to the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. As well as, In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea is the speaker while his wife is the listener. Again "Fra Lippo Lippi",  Friar Lippo speaks to several watchmen. In all these poems, we find a single speaker who speaks in a dramatic situation. These speakers are not to be identified as Browning himself.

In all these poems, there are some signposts by which we understand the presence of the listener or listeners. In " my Last Duchess" the silent listener is the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea directly addresses his wife and seeks a compromise. "Fra Lippo Lippi", on the other hand, directly threatens a watchman saying that he will be hanged for his rude behaviour.

Browning's dramatic monologue provides an understanding of the speaker's character. For instance," in "Andrea del Sarto" we find an anxious husband, whose love for his wife destroys his career as an artist. And in "My Last Duchess" though his own words it reveals that the Duke is cruel, jealous, proud and arrogant. Similarly, in "Fra Lippo  Lippi", we find a monk who is morally loose.

In Browning's poems, the speaker is placed in a critical situation of his life. Fra Lippo Lippi is caught by the watchmen in a street visited by loose women. Andrea del Sarto reaches a point in his life when he reviews his past, present and future. In " My Last Duchess" the Duke went to marry again and so to describe the portrait of his last wife deals with a dilemma.

Browning composes "The Last Ride Together" as a dramatic one. Here the speaker does not speak directly but makes an imaginary character speak. The character in the poem is a rejected lover and he speaker in the form of a monologue.

One interesting fact about Browning's dramatic monologues is that in these poems Browning portray a wide variety of characters. There are the virtuous as well as the vicious, the brave as well as well as the coward. The subjects Browning deals with are also varied. They are love, art, philosophy, religion and crime. But they are not treated from any particular point of view. They are presented from every conceivable point of view. What makes Browning's dramatic monologues more interesting is the view of life that emerges from them. Browning was a lover of humanity. He valued earthly life with all its aspects. In this respect his approach to life is realistic.

From the above discussion we find that Browning is very successful in handling the from of dramatic monologues in his poems. Almost all the elements of a successful dramatic monologue are present in his poems. When we read them we can mark his mastery. Both in from and matter they have uniqueness. Technically and thematically there is hardly any poet with whom we can compare him.

Justify Browning as a writer or a dramatic monologue?

Green Land | April 10, 2021 | 0 comments

Robert Browning was a poet. Though his genius and interest lay in drama, it is on the dramatic monologues that Browning's greatness rest. He is remembered mainly as a writer of such dramatic monologues as "My Last Duchess", " Andrea del Sarto","Fra Lippo Lippi " and "the Last Ride Together".

Dramatic monologue is a type of poem in which there is a speaker and a listener or listeners. The speaker of the poem is not the poet. The listener remains silent all though the poem but we infer his presence from what the speaker says. The speaker's utterance is a response to an occasion or event of crucial importance in his life.

In many poems by Browning, there is a single speaker. For instance, in " My Last Duchess" the speaker is a Duke of Ferrara who speak to the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. As well as, In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea is the speaker while his wife is the listener. Again "Fra Lippo Lippi",  Friar Lippo speaks to several watchmen. In all these poems, we find a single speaker who speaks in a dramatic situation. These speakers are not to be identified as Browning himself.

In all these poems, there are some signposts by which we understand the presence of the listener or listeners. In " my Last Duchess" the silent listener is the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea directly addresses his wife and seeks a compromise. "Fra Lippo Lippi", on the other hand, directly threatens a watchman saying that he will be hanged for his rude behaviour.

Browning's dramatic monologue provides an understanding of the speaker's character. For instance," in "Andrea del Sarto" we find an anxious husband, whose love for his wife destroys his career as an artist. And in "My Last Duchess" though his own words it reveals that the Duke is cruel, jealous, proud and arrogant. Similarly, in "Fra Lippo  Lippi", we find a monk who is morally loose.

In Browning's poems, the speaker is placed in a critical situation of his life. Fra Lippo Lippi is caught by the watchmen in a street visited by loose women. Andrea del Sarto reaches a point in his life when he reviews his past, present and future. In " My Last Duchess" the Duke went to marry again and so to describe the portrait of his last wife deals with a dilemma.

Browning composes "The Last Ride Together" as a dramatic one. Here the speaker does not speak directly but makes an imaginary character speak. The character in the poem is a rejected lover and he speaker in the form of a monologue.

One interesting fact about Browning's dramatic monologues is that in these poems Browning portray a wide variety of characters. There are the virtuous as well as the vicious, the brave as well as well as the coward. The subjects Browning deals with are also varied. They are love, art, philosophy, religion and crime. But they are not treated from any particular point of view. They are presented from every conceivable point of view. What makes Browning's dramatic monologues more interesting is the view of life that emerges from them. Browning was a lover of humanity. He valued earthly life with all its aspects. In this respect his approach to life is realistic.

From the above discussion we find that Browning is very successful in handling the from of dramatic monologues in his poems. Almost all the elements of a successful dramatic monologue are present in his poems. When we read them we can mark his mastery. Both in from and matter they have uniqueness. Technically and thematically there is hardly any poet with whom we can compare him.

readmore

Love has been a major theme in poetry. Robert Browning is one of the greatest love poets in English literature. But he is a love poet with a specialty of his own. His love poetry has a range and realism which are different from those of his great predecessors. His love poems do not deal with love of truth or love of mankind or of one's motherland. Browning's love is a passion that draws a man to a woman or a woman to a man. For him love unites not only a man and a woman, it unites God and man. It is the supreme principal both of morality and religion. In his love poems Browning describes the passion and treats it from intellectual point of view. He places his lovers in various situations and examines their psychological implications. A study of his major love poems will reveal the nature and quality of his art as a poet of love.

In some of his poems, Browning treats love dramatically. Thus his poem "Andrea del Sarto" begins with the following words:

             But do not let us quarrel any more,No, my Lucrezia, bear with me for once:

The poem starts in a dramatic fashion. Again, in "Fra Lippo Lippi", Friar Lippo is a monk who once rejected worldly pleasure. Yet,he feels the urge of mixing with girls. In all these poems, Browning treats love dramatically.

In " Browning shows that physical love is one of the basic human instincts. If society attempts to deny it there will be perversion. Fra Lippo Lippi was made a monk at the age of eight. A monk is supposed to renounce worldly pleasure including sensuous love. But as he confesses to the watchmen:

       You should not take a fellow of eight years old,And make him swear to never kiss the girls.

Although Browning strongly believes in God and life after death, he does not advocate strict asceticism. Rather he suggests that man can attain fulfilment by accepting the pleasure and pain of this physical world.

In "Andrea del Sarto", Browning shows how love is debased to the level of sensuous slavery. Although Andrea and Lucrezia are married, there is no normal love relation between them. Lucrezia is interested only in Andrea's money. She does not understand the true worth of an artist. She cannot inspire Andrea to be a great artist like Raphael or Michael Angelo. Again, Andrea's fondness for his wife blinds him of his social and professional duties. He exploits the money of the king of France to make a house for Lucrezia. He even neglects his parents. Thus his irrational love brings about his ruin.

Thus, we see now Browning's love poems deal with countless phases and varieties of love in all classes of people. They show how deep his search of the human mind was. We are astonished to realize his power to watch and store up human motives and reproduce them in poetry. His strong faith in the ennobling power of love and the multiplicity and variety of its treatment entitle him a place of distinction among the love poets.

Browning as a love poet

Green Land | April 07, 2021 | 0 comments

Love has been a major theme in poetry. Robert Browning is one of the greatest love poets in English literature. But he is a love poet with a specialty of his own. His love poetry has a range and realism which are different from those of his great predecessors. His love poems do not deal with love of truth or love of mankind or of one's motherland. Browning's love is a passion that draws a man to a woman or a woman to a man. For him love unites not only a man and a woman, it unites God and man. It is the supreme principal both of morality and religion. In his love poems Browning describes the passion and treats it from intellectual point of view. He places his lovers in various situations and examines their psychological implications. A study of his major love poems will reveal the nature and quality of his art as a poet of love.

In some of his poems, Browning treats love dramatically. Thus his poem "Andrea del Sarto" begins with the following words:

             But do not let us quarrel any more,No, my Lucrezia, bear with me for once:

The poem starts in a dramatic fashion. Again, in "Fra Lippo Lippi", Friar Lippo is a monk who once rejected worldly pleasure. Yet,he feels the urge of mixing with girls. In all these poems, Browning treats love dramatically.

In " Browning shows that physical love is one of the basic human instincts. If society attempts to deny it there will be perversion. Fra Lippo Lippi was made a monk at the age of eight. A monk is supposed to renounce worldly pleasure including sensuous love. But as he confesses to the watchmen:

       You should not take a fellow of eight years old,And make him swear to never kiss the girls.

Although Browning strongly believes in God and life after death, he does not advocate strict asceticism. Rather he suggests that man can attain fulfilment by accepting the pleasure and pain of this physical world.

In "Andrea del Sarto", Browning shows how love is debased to the level of sensuous slavery. Although Andrea and Lucrezia are married, there is no normal love relation between them. Lucrezia is interested only in Andrea's money. She does not understand the true worth of an artist. She cannot inspire Andrea to be a great artist like Raphael or Michael Angelo. Again, Andrea's fondness for his wife blinds him of his social and professional duties. He exploits the money of the king of France to make a house for Lucrezia. He even neglects his parents. Thus his irrational love brings about his ruin.

Thus, we see now Browning's love poems deal with countless phases and varieties of love in all classes of people. They show how deep his search of the human mind was. We are astonished to realize his power to watch and store up human motives and reproduce them in poetry. His strong faith in the ennobling power of love and the multiplicity and variety of its treatment entitle him a place of distinction among the love poets.

readmore

The term "Pastoral" is derived from the Latin "pastor" which means a shepherd. Pastoral poetry, therefore deals with loves and lives of shepherds and shepherdesses, and other such country folk. The setting of such poem is in the countryside which is idealized with the natural beauty. It is simple and the poetic expression uses a set of conventions that has varied little over the centuries. Sometimes it is used symbolically. However, the poems "The Scholar Gipsy" and "Thyrsis" by Matthew Arnold are two examples of pastoral poetry.

Arnold creates a pastoral or rural setting in "The Scholar Gipsy". The poem is set in the Oxford countryside which is vividly brought home to us, and it is made more beautiful and enchanting by the modifying colours of imagination. It has laid a spell upon an English landscape and made it an enchanted country. Green muffled Cumner hills and sloping pastures bright with sunshine and flowers, stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hithe, with pleasure boats, Wychwood bowers bright with flowers, the Fyfield elm where maidens dance in May, flooded fields, the causeway and the wooden bridge, Bagley Wood where gipsies pitch their tents, sparking Thames and Godstow Bridge, abandoned lasher where rustics bathe, constitute a real landscape around Oxford, made lovely with the magic touch, of poet's imagination. It forms an ideal setting for the spiritual presence of the Scholar Gipsy.

 " Thyris" is set in the countryside. In the poem the speaker longs to linger around in the Hinkeseys, by the path beside Childworth Farm, on the western hill where the elm tree stands, the meadows of Sytham flats. And he supposes him self and his friends to be shepherds. The shepherds, the field, the pipe and all other paraphernalia are creations of the poet's fancy. They are often symbolic, standing for some else or something else. The pasture is the university countryside, the shepherds Arnold and Clough, the flock their common pursuits, and the Shepherd pipes their poetic gifts. He also revels in the description of the evening, of the mellow afternoon, of the moonlit night and the perfumed gardens. He mentions the names of flowers with loving tenderness. The cowslips, the daffodils, the white and purple fritillaries, the primroses, the orchises and jasmines exude the sweetest smell for the poet as well as for the readers. 

Actually pastoral is in form and elegiac in tone. The poems, "Thysris" and "The Scholar Gipsy" are abidingly charming on account of their glittering veil of sadness, the vividness and beauty of their pictures of Nature and the magic spell cast by their haunting lines over Oxford and its neighbouring hills and fields.

Give an account of the pastoral elements in Arnold's poetry.

Green Land | April 07, 2021 | 0 comments

The term "Pastoral" is derived from the Latin "pastor" which means a shepherd. Pastoral poetry, therefore deals with loves and lives of shepherds and shepherdesses, and other such country folk. The setting of such poem is in the countryside which is idealized with the natural beauty. It is simple and the poetic expression uses a set of conventions that has varied little over the centuries. Sometimes it is used symbolically. However, the poems "The Scholar Gipsy" and "Thyrsis" by Matthew Arnold are two examples of pastoral poetry.

Arnold creates a pastoral or rural setting in "The Scholar Gipsy". The poem is set in the Oxford countryside which is vividly brought home to us, and it is made more beautiful and enchanting by the modifying colours of imagination. It has laid a spell upon an English landscape and made it an enchanted country. Green muffled Cumner hills and sloping pastures bright with sunshine and flowers, stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hithe, with pleasure boats, Wychwood bowers bright with flowers, the Fyfield elm where maidens dance in May, flooded fields, the causeway and the wooden bridge, Bagley Wood where gipsies pitch their tents, sparking Thames and Godstow Bridge, abandoned lasher where rustics bathe, constitute a real landscape around Oxford, made lovely with the magic touch, of poet's imagination. It forms an ideal setting for the spiritual presence of the Scholar Gipsy.

 " Thyris" is set in the countryside. In the poem the speaker longs to linger around in the Hinkeseys, by the path beside Childworth Farm, on the western hill where the elm tree stands, the meadows of Sytham flats. And he supposes him self and his friends to be shepherds. The shepherds, the field, the pipe and all other paraphernalia are creations of the poet's fancy. They are often symbolic, standing for some else or something else. The pasture is the university countryside, the shepherds Arnold and Clough, the flock their common pursuits, and the Shepherd pipes their poetic gifts. He also revels in the description of the evening, of the mellow afternoon, of the moonlit night and the perfumed gardens. He mentions the names of flowers with loving tenderness. The cowslips, the daffodils, the white and purple fritillaries, the primroses, the orchises and jasmines exude the sweetest smell for the poet as well as for the readers. 

Actually pastoral is in form and elegiac in tone. The poems, "Thysris" and "The Scholar Gipsy" are abidingly charming on account of their glittering veil of sadness, the vividness and beauty of their pictures of Nature and the magic spell cast by their haunting lines over Oxford and its neighbouring hills and fields.

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T.S.Eliot, a classicist in literature, was constantly preoccupied with the theme of tradition, and it is very important both to his criticism and to his creative work. In fact Eliot was basically opposed to the Romantic theory which regarded poetry as the expression of the personality of the poet. The Romantic theory, which had been debased first into ninetyism and then into Georgian bucolics, did not attach any significance to tradition. On the contrary, freedom all from tradition was considered to be very necessary for artistic creation. 

Believing in the natural and fundamental goodness of man, the Romantics, from Rousseau onwards, blamed the social, political, and religious institutions for hampering man's freedom, and thus turning everything good into a source of misery and evil. Rousseau said that "man was by nature good, that it was only bad laws and customs that had suppressed him." According to the Romantic view man was "an infinite reservoir of possibilities" and not as in the classical view a creature "intrinsically limited, but disciplined by order and tradition to something fairly decent." Following the idealistic view of the world as an expression of the Immanent Spirit which pervaded all living things and all objects of all thoughts the Romantics strove to find the expression of the one in their own selves.

In his anti-romantic attitude Eliot was deeply influenced by Ezra pound, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, and T.E. Hulme. Eliot believes that the human nature is essentially " impure" and finite. He is more influenced by Hulme who rejected the view of man's essential goodness, and asserted that for really great creative work a belief in the Original Sin was indispensable. In his essay on Baudelaire, Eliot quotes with approval the words of Hulme: "In the light of those absolute values man himself is judged to be essentially limited and imperfect. He is endowed with Original Sin. While occasionally he can accomplish acts which partake of perfection, he can never himself be perfect". Hulme, therefore, thinks that poetry must recognise its limitations and that it can in way be a substitute for religion as Arnold and pater tried to prove. Hulme, like Eliot, found the classical view to be " identical with the normal religious attitude ", and both, therefore, wanted to return to orthodox doctrine.

In the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says that the Englishmen have a tendency to insist, when they praise a poet upon those aspects of his work in which he least resemble any one else. In these aspects of his e they try to find out what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of that man. They try to find out the difference of that poet with his contemporaries and predecessors. But if we study the poet without bias or prejudice, we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality forcefully and vigorously. We find the dead poets in the present poets not in their impressionable period of adolescence, but in period of their full maturity. Thus, according to Eliot, tradition and individual talent go together.

Eliot's Concept of culture 

It will be here to have some idea of Eliot's theory of culture which will greatly help us in understanding properly his theory of tradition. In Notes towards the Definition of Culture Eliot essays that there are three ways of regarding culture; as that of the individual, of a group or class, and of a whole society. These three are , no doubt, interdependent, but the truest and fullest idea of culture is to be found in the third one of them (i. e. the culture of a whole society), because other cultures derive from it. Eliot defines it as the way of life of the whole society. The culture of a whole society comprises of urbanity or civility, learning in all branches, philosophy, and the arts. Culture is something alive and its effects are seen in the whole society. As Eliot describes it as a way of life of the whole society, it is quite clear that it cannot be found complete in any individual or group within that society. For a proper understanding of the culture of any particular society we have to study the culture of that society as a whole, and not of any one particular individual or group within that society. It is for this reason that Eliot does not approve of any attempt by an artist to form himself upon some particular period of the past tradition, or upon some particular favorite authors.

"The theme of the cultural unity of Europe," says Sean Lucy, "runs like a thread through all his (Eliot's) writings. He looks at the culture of Europe as a whole. European culture is a living growth and a unity of the cultures of Greece, Rome, and Christianity. It is still alive and has a profound influence on the present. Eliot's ideas on culture can also be applied to his theory of tradition. In After Strange Gods Eliot defines tradition in the following manner: " Tradition is not solely or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these belief have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs from the most significant religious rites to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of "the same people living in the same place". It is also " a way of feeling and acting which characterise a group throughout generations, and it must largely be unconscious. " Tradition he says, is "the meanest by which the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present.

"What is Tradition?

In all his work Eliot is mainly concerned with the problem of order as it arises in various ways. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he takes up this problem of order by enquiring whether the works of literature coming down to us through the entire Western tradition from a recognisable and definable order and the existence of which is to effect the creative work of the present. Eliot emphasises the presentness of the past order and strives to show that the needs of the present age can only be expressed in the perspective of past tradition. Again the present also has relevance of the past, because the traditional order is modified by the production of a truly great work of literature in the present. Eliot considers tradition as a part of the living culture of the past and working in the order of the present. Tradition is a dynamic force; it does not mean standing still.

              And do not call it fixity Where past and future          are gathered Neither movement from nor towards. Neither ascent nor decline

The Historical Sense 

In Tradition and the Individual Talent, Eliot says that tradition is not the handing down, or following the ways of the ancients blindly. It cannot be inherited. It can only be obtained with great labour. It involves a historical sense which enables a poet to perceive not only the pastness of the past but also its presentness. A creative artist, though he lives in a particular milieu, does not work merely with his own generation in view. He does not take his own age, or the literature of that period only as a separate identity, but acts with the convention that in general the whole literature of Europe from the classical age of the Greeks onwards and in particular the literature of his own country, is to be taken as a harmonious whole. His own creative efforts are not apart from it but a part of it. And writer thus learns to value tradition by acquiring the historical sense, which enables his to feel vividly the times he belongs to, and at the same time, not to lose sight of that timelessness that belongs to the creative art as a whole. It is sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of timeless and of the temporal together. It is what makes a writer traditional. It also makes him most acutely conscious of his place in time: by a right evaluation of what is called tradition, he becomes conscious of his own contemporary. This unity of time is expressed by Eliot in Burnt Norton also:
           

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past.

Conformity between the old and the new 

Eliot says that no poet or artist of any kind has his full meaning and significance alone. His importance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his kinship with the poets and artists of the past generations. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the poets and writers of the past. This, Eliot says, is a principal of aesthetic, and not merely of historical criticism. The necessity for the individual talent to conform to tradition is not one sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. "The existing monuments from an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new work of art) among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the from of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past." (Tradition and the Individual Talent)

The relation of a poet's work to the great works of the past 

The poet who understands the presentness of the past, also understands his responsibilities and difficulties as an artist. Such an artist will fully realise that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past. In saying that an artist is finally to be judged by the standards of the past, Eliot does not imply that he is to be pronounced better or worse than the previous poets or that the standards prescribed by the previous critics are to be applied in  judging their works. This really implies that a contemporary work is to be compared with the great works of the past, and each is measured by the other. To conform merely would be for the new  work not really to conform at all. There would be nothing new in it, and it would not be a work of art at all. If a new work of art emerges as successful when compared with and measured by the old masterpieces, it is a clear indication of its value as a work of art. A work may be individual and appear to conform or a work which seems to be individual may conform. It will be a fallacy to classify the works of art into the categories of 'individual' and 'traditional'.
Literature as a continuity--the main current

Eliot points out a significant difference between the past and the present. The difference is that "the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past's awareness of itself cannot show." The poet cannot take the past as something remote from him, static and fixed, the past is not again merely such poets and writers of the previous generations which appeal to a poet on his personal estimates, though for a young poet such preferences  come naturally. The past also does not mean any particular preferred period of literature. To be traditional in Eliot's sense means to be conscious of the main current of art and poetry. Eliot says: "The poet must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the some. He must be aware that the mind of Europe, the mind of his own country a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind-- is a mind which changes and that this change is a development which abandon nothing- enroute, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsman" (artists of  late paleolithic period). In Dry Salvages Eliot defines the sense of tradition in the following manner:

         The past experience revived in the meaning Is not the experience of one life only But of many generations  Time the destroyer is the preserver

Criticism of Eliot's views

Eliot's idea of tradition and its relation to the individual talent has been criticised by Sean Lucy in a very balanced and cogent manner. He agrees with Eliot that tradition is necessary to art but he  doubts the validity of Eliot's remark that a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition by the individual creative artist is always necessary. Sean Lucy says Eliot has exaggerated the facts as they are, though he concedes that Eliot might have been impelled to adopt such an attitude "by the danger of literary anarchy which was present in the extreme individualism of the 'spirit of revolt' which infected so much of European art and thought during the 1920s and part of the 1930s". The earlier part of the twentieth century was rather an exceptional period in the history of European thought and culture. It was a period of great revolt against all the, aspects of European life, society and culture. Even the period of the Romantic Revolt was not so radical, because its leaders were opposed or hostile to a particular technique only, and not to everything found in the preceding age. But the early twentieth century was skeptical not only of any one particular system of standard but all the standards and values held good by preceding generation. This exceptional quality of the age made Eliot over emphasise the value of tradition and a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition by the individual writer. The secret of art is discipline and therefore at a time when all the bonds and restriction on artistic activity were being rejected, Eliot realised the imperative need of emphasising the great value of tradition for the individual writer Sean Lucy, therefore concludes that tradition is necessary to art no doubt, but a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition is not necessary for the individual writer in all epochs there may be an age when the "society is in a healthy state, developing with the minimum degree of friction, its culture is so much part of its life and growth, and its educational system so closely controlled by the needs of its culture, that the sense of the past is an integral part of all activity, including art. At such times the very fact that a person is an artist implies that he is a traditional artist. In English literature we may call the eighteenth century to be such an age. The writers of the eighteenth century thought that they had reached the pinnacle of civilisation, and wrote with the consciousness of the whole Latin tradition behind them. Therefore their work possesses a homogeneity of its own; and it is for this reason also that Eliot, a classicist bestows so high tributes to the work of Dryden, Pope, and Dr.Johnson.

Bring out clearly the defence of T. S. Eliot for 'Tradition?

Green Land | April 07, 2021 | 0 comments

T.S.Eliot, a classicist in literature, was constantly preoccupied with the theme of tradition, and it is very important both to his criticism and to his creative work. In fact Eliot was basically opposed to the Romantic theory which regarded poetry as the expression of the personality of the poet. The Romantic theory, which had been debased first into ninetyism and then into Georgian bucolics, did not attach any significance to tradition. On the contrary, freedom all from tradition was considered to be very necessary for artistic creation. 

Believing in the natural and fundamental goodness of man, the Romantics, from Rousseau onwards, blamed the social, political, and religious institutions for hampering man's freedom, and thus turning everything good into a source of misery and evil. Rousseau said that "man was by nature good, that it was only bad laws and customs that had suppressed him." According to the Romantic view man was "an infinite reservoir of possibilities" and not as in the classical view a creature "intrinsically limited, but disciplined by order and tradition to something fairly decent." Following the idealistic view of the world as an expression of the Immanent Spirit which pervaded all living things and all objects of all thoughts the Romantics strove to find the expression of the one in their own selves.

In his anti-romantic attitude Eliot was deeply influenced by Ezra pound, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, and T.E. Hulme. Eliot believes that the human nature is essentially " impure" and finite. He is more influenced by Hulme who rejected the view of man's essential goodness, and asserted that for really great creative work a belief in the Original Sin was indispensable. In his essay on Baudelaire, Eliot quotes with approval the words of Hulme: "In the light of those absolute values man himself is judged to be essentially limited and imperfect. He is endowed with Original Sin. While occasionally he can accomplish acts which partake of perfection, he can never himself be perfect". Hulme, therefore, thinks that poetry must recognise its limitations and that it can in way be a substitute for religion as Arnold and pater tried to prove. Hulme, like Eliot, found the classical view to be " identical with the normal religious attitude ", and both, therefore, wanted to return to orthodox doctrine.

In the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says that the Englishmen have a tendency to insist, when they praise a poet upon those aspects of his work in which he least resemble any one else. In these aspects of his e they try to find out what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of that man. They try to find out the difference of that poet with his contemporaries and predecessors. But if we study the poet without bias or prejudice, we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality forcefully and vigorously. We find the dead poets in the present poets not in their impressionable period of adolescence, but in period of their full maturity. Thus, according to Eliot, tradition and individual talent go together.

Eliot's Concept of culture 

It will be here to have some idea of Eliot's theory of culture which will greatly help us in understanding properly his theory of tradition. In Notes towards the Definition of Culture Eliot essays that there are three ways of regarding culture; as that of the individual, of a group or class, and of a whole society. These three are , no doubt, interdependent, but the truest and fullest idea of culture is to be found in the third one of them (i. e. the culture of a whole society), because other cultures derive from it. Eliot defines it as the way of life of the whole society. The culture of a whole society comprises of urbanity or civility, learning in all branches, philosophy, and the arts. Culture is something alive and its effects are seen in the whole society. As Eliot describes it as a way of life of the whole society, it is quite clear that it cannot be found complete in any individual or group within that society. For a proper understanding of the culture of any particular society we have to study the culture of that society as a whole, and not of any one particular individual or group within that society. It is for this reason that Eliot does not approve of any attempt by an artist to form himself upon some particular period of the past tradition, or upon some particular favorite authors.

"The theme of the cultural unity of Europe," says Sean Lucy, "runs like a thread through all his (Eliot's) writings. He looks at the culture of Europe as a whole. European culture is a living growth and a unity of the cultures of Greece, Rome, and Christianity. It is still alive and has a profound influence on the present. Eliot's ideas on culture can also be applied to his theory of tradition. In After Strange Gods Eliot defines tradition in the following manner: " Tradition is not solely or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these belief have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs from the most significant religious rites to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of "the same people living in the same place". It is also " a way of feeling and acting which characterise a group throughout generations, and it must largely be unconscious. " Tradition he says, is "the meanest by which the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present.

"What is Tradition?

In all his work Eliot is mainly concerned with the problem of order as it arises in various ways. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he takes up this problem of order by enquiring whether the works of literature coming down to us through the entire Western tradition from a recognisable and definable order and the existence of which is to effect the creative work of the present. Eliot emphasises the presentness of the past order and strives to show that the needs of the present age can only be expressed in the perspective of past tradition. Again the present also has relevance of the past, because the traditional order is modified by the production of a truly great work of literature in the present. Eliot considers tradition as a part of the living culture of the past and working in the order of the present. Tradition is a dynamic force; it does not mean standing still.

              And do not call it fixity Where past and future          are gathered Neither movement from nor towards. Neither ascent nor decline

The Historical Sense 

In Tradition and the Individual Talent, Eliot says that tradition is not the handing down, or following the ways of the ancients blindly. It cannot be inherited. It can only be obtained with great labour. It involves a historical sense which enables a poet to perceive not only the pastness of the past but also its presentness. A creative artist, though he lives in a particular milieu, does not work merely with his own generation in view. He does not take his own age, or the literature of that period only as a separate identity, but acts with the convention that in general the whole literature of Europe from the classical age of the Greeks onwards and in particular the literature of his own country, is to be taken as a harmonious whole. His own creative efforts are not apart from it but a part of it. And writer thus learns to value tradition by acquiring the historical sense, which enables his to feel vividly the times he belongs to, and at the same time, not to lose sight of that timelessness that belongs to the creative art as a whole. It is sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of timeless and of the temporal together. It is what makes a writer traditional. It also makes him most acutely conscious of his place in time: by a right evaluation of what is called tradition, he becomes conscious of his own contemporary. This unity of time is expressed by Eliot in Burnt Norton also:
           

Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past.

Conformity between the old and the new 

Eliot says that no poet or artist of any kind has his full meaning and significance alone. His importance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his kinship with the poets and artists of the past generations. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the poets and writers of the past. This, Eliot says, is a principal of aesthetic, and not merely of historical criticism. The necessity for the individual talent to conform to tradition is not one sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. "The existing monuments from an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new work of art) among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the from of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past." (Tradition and the Individual Talent)

The relation of a poet's work to the great works of the past 

The poet who understands the presentness of the past, also understands his responsibilities and difficulties as an artist. Such an artist will fully realise that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past. In saying that an artist is finally to be judged by the standards of the past, Eliot does not imply that he is to be pronounced better or worse than the previous poets or that the standards prescribed by the previous critics are to be applied in  judging their works. This really implies that a contemporary work is to be compared with the great works of the past, and each is measured by the other. To conform merely would be for the new  work not really to conform at all. There would be nothing new in it, and it would not be a work of art at all. If a new work of art emerges as successful when compared with and measured by the old masterpieces, it is a clear indication of its value as a work of art. A work may be individual and appear to conform or a work which seems to be individual may conform. It will be a fallacy to classify the works of art into the categories of 'individual' and 'traditional'.
Literature as a continuity--the main current

Eliot points out a significant difference between the past and the present. The difference is that "the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past's awareness of itself cannot show." The poet cannot take the past as something remote from him, static and fixed, the past is not again merely such poets and writers of the previous generations which appeal to a poet on his personal estimates, though for a young poet such preferences  come naturally. The past also does not mean any particular preferred period of literature. To be traditional in Eliot's sense means to be conscious of the main current of art and poetry. Eliot says: "The poet must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the some. He must be aware that the mind of Europe, the mind of his own country a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind-- is a mind which changes and that this change is a development which abandon nothing- enroute, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsman" (artists of  late paleolithic period). In Dry Salvages Eliot defines the sense of tradition in the following manner:

         The past experience revived in the meaning Is not the experience of one life only But of many generations  Time the destroyer is the preserver

Criticism of Eliot's views

Eliot's idea of tradition and its relation to the individual talent has been criticised by Sean Lucy in a very balanced and cogent manner. He agrees with Eliot that tradition is necessary to art but he  doubts the validity of Eliot's remark that a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition by the individual creative artist is always necessary. Sean Lucy says Eliot has exaggerated the facts as they are, though he concedes that Eliot might have been impelled to adopt such an attitude "by the danger of literary anarchy which was present in the extreme individualism of the 'spirit of revolt' which infected so much of European art and thought during the 1920s and part of the 1930s". The earlier part of the twentieth century was rather an exceptional period in the history of European thought and culture. It was a period of great revolt against all the, aspects of European life, society and culture. Even the period of the Romantic Revolt was not so radical, because its leaders were opposed or hostile to a particular technique only, and not to everything found in the preceding age. But the early twentieth century was skeptical not only of any one particular system of standard but all the standards and values held good by preceding generation. This exceptional quality of the age made Eliot over emphasise the value of tradition and a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition by the individual writer. The secret of art is discipline and therefore at a time when all the bonds and restriction on artistic activity were being rejected, Eliot realised the imperative need of emphasising the great value of tradition for the individual writer Sean Lucy, therefore concludes that tradition is necessary to art no doubt, but a conscious cultivation of the sense of tradition is not necessary for the individual writer in all epochs there may be an age when the "society is in a healthy state, developing with the minimum degree of friction, its culture is so much part of its life and growth, and its educational system so closely controlled by the needs of its culture, that the sense of the past is an integral part of all activity, including art. At such times the very fact that a person is an artist implies that he is a traditional artist. In English literature we may call the eighteenth century to be such an age. The writers of the eighteenth century thought that they had reached the pinnacle of civilisation, and wrote with the consciousness of the whole Latin tradition behind them. Therefore their work possesses a homogeneity of its own; and it is for this reason also that Eliot, a classicist bestows so high tributes to the work of Dryden, Pope, and Dr.Johnson.

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T.S. Eliot belongs to the tradition of Dryden, John, Coleridge, and Matthew Arnold in being the poet and the critic at the same time. He was greatly interested in literature and tried to bring criticism and creation in closer contact. He strongly believed that criticism and creation were complementary activities and therefore a good poet could only be a good critic. He exercised a very wide and deep influence on the literary criticism in the present century. He has rendered a great service to literature by reforming taste and by revitalising literature. The most distinguishing quality of Eliot's criticism is its sincerity and freedom from any preconceived standards of judgment. He places before the artist as well as the critic the goal of attaining nothing less than excellence and insists that the critic in order to see the object as it is must take unremitting pains and discipline his powers. He also points out that mature art is created only in a society which is prepared to receive and grasp fresh ideas. He knows that though perfection is rather unattainable, he would, in poetry and criticism, be content with nothing less than that. In literature he was a classicist and supported order and discipline, authority and tradition, and organization and pattern.

There was an anti-romantic tendency in the early parts of the twentieth century, which found its most definite pronouncement in the works of Eliot. He strongly supported the reaction against subjectivism and individualism. In this he was greatly influenced by Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. T.E. Hulme, who rejected the view of man's essential goodness, and asserted that for really great creative work a belief in the Original Sin was indispensable, also influenced Eliot in his critical views. Like other classicists, Eliot is of opinion that the writer must have faith in some system of writing and that a work of art must conform to the past tradition. But there is a significant difference between him and the neo-classical critics of the eighteenth century. The neo-classicists believed that the writer must follow rules of the ancients and that poetry must be didactic. Eliot's idea of "conformity to tradition" is totally different from this. A work of art must conform to tradition is such a way that it alters the tradition as much as it is directed by it. According to Eliot's conception tradition and the individual talent go together.

The theme of tradition is central both to Eliot's criticism and to his creative work. His instance on the value and importance of tradition for the individual talent is essentially anti-romantic. The romantic theory, which regarded poetry as the expression of the personality of the poet, laid emphasis on inspection and intuition. The romantics believed that the poet should follow his "inner voice" in writing poetry. But inspiration is fitful and unreliable; it is only a matter of chance and accident. In the hands of lesser poets the unrestrained and unlimited freedom is likely to degenerate into chaos and confusion. The romantic theory did not attach any significance to tradition. On the contrary, freedom from all tradition was considered to be very essential for artistic creation.

Eliot's views on the comparative importance of tradition and the individual talent in literature have been explicitly expressed in his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. At the very beginning of this essay Eliot deplores the fact that in English literary criticism 'tradition' is used as a phrase of censure. He says that the word 'tradition' has not been given correct interpretation and due weight and importance so far. In English literature and criticism we rarely come across passages which illustrate the right use and meaning of the term 'tradition'. From time to time the English critics have been applying the word in expressing their grief for its absence. They do not make a reference to "the tradition" or to "a tradition"; at most they use the adjective in saying that the poetry is so and so 'traditional' or even 'too traditional'. The word appears rarely and when it does appear, it is used as a phrase of censure. Rarely used in a commendatory sense, the term 'tradition' is at best applied by English critics for vaguely approving a work of art as traditional as preserving in it some antique, out-of date, literary curiosities of old times, which are yet pleasing to the present age. Thus in English criticism, according to Eliot there is a deplorable lack of that critical insight which views a particular literary work or writer in the context of a wider literary tradition. The English literary critic does not give due weight and importance to tradition in evaluating the writers of the past and in appreciating the poets of the present. He uses 'tradition' in a derogatory sense.

Eliot says that the Englishmen have a tendency to insist, when they praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles any one else. In these aspects of his work they try to find out what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of that man. They try to find out the difference of the poet with his contemporaries and predecessors especially with his immediate predecessors, they try to find out something that can be separated in order to be enjoyed. But if we study the poet without bias or prejudice, we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality forcefully and vigorously. We find the dead poets in the present poets not in their impressionable period of adolescence, but in the period of their full maturity. Thus, Eliot believes, tradition and the individual talent go together.

In After Strange Gods Eliot defines tradition in the following manner: "Tradition is not solely, or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these beliefs have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition." What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs, from the most significant religious rites to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of "the same people living in the same place". It is also " a way of feeling and acting which characterises a group throughout generations, and it must largely be unconscious ". Tradition he says, is " the means by which the vitality of past enriches the life of the present ".

In all his work Eliot is mainly concerned with the problem of order as it arises in various ways. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he takes up this problem of order by enquiring whether the works of literature coming down to us through the entire Western tradition from a recognisable and definable order; and the existence of which is to affect the creative work of the present. Eliot stresses the presentness of the past order, and strives to show that the needs of the present age can only be expressed in the perspective of the past tradition. The present also has relevance to the past, because the traditional order is modified by the production of a truly original work of literature in the present. Eliot considers tradition as a part of the living culture of the past and working in the order of the present. Tradition is a dynamic force; it does not mean standing still. As he says in Burnt Norton:

             And do not call it fixityWhere past and futureare gathered.Neither movement fromnor towards.Neither ascent nor decline.

Again, 

referring to the unity of time he says:Time present and time Past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past.(Burnt Norton)

Tradition does not mean the handing down, or following the ways of the ancients blindly. It cannot be inherited. It can only be obtained with great labour. It involves a historical sense which enables a poet to perceive not only the pastness of the past but also its presentness. A creative artist, though he lives in a particular milieu, does not work merely with his own generation in view. He does not take his own age, or the literature of that period only as a separate identity, but acts with a conviction that in general the whole literature of Europe from the classical age of the Greeks onwards, and in particular the literature of his own country, is to be taken as a harmonious whole. His own creative efforts are not apart from it but a part of it. Eliot firmly believes that no poet or artist has his full meaning and significance alone. His importance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his kinship with the poets and artists of the past generation. The necessity for the individual talent to conform to tradition is not one sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the work of art which preceded it. In Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says: "The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervision of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are re-adjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new". This means that " the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past".

The conscious or unconscious cultivation of the sense of tradition is very important both for the poet and the critic. The poet, according to Eliot, must consciously try to make his work form a part of a larger and more important unit than itself, namely the whole literature of Europe to which it belongs. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he says: "What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career". He believes that it is the awareness of tradition that sharpens the sensibility, which has a vital part to play in the process of poetic creation.

The other thing, which is to be discussed in this connection is Eliot's impersonal theory of poetry which has a strong bearing on his concept of tradition. Eliot firmly believes that poetry is not the expression of the personality of the poet. He elucidates his impersonal theory by examining, first " the relation of the poet to the past " and secondly "the relation of the poem to its author". The past, Eliot says, is never dead: it lives in the present. " No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value his alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead".Eliot insists on the importance of the relation of the poem to other poems by other authors and suggests the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written.

The artistic process, according to Eliot, is a process of depersonalization, the artist's continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. He must surrender himself totally to the creative work. "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality". He also points out the relation of the poem to its author; the poem, according to him, has no relation to the poet. The difference between the mind of a mature poet and that of an immature one is that the mind of a mature poet is " a more finely perfected medium in which special or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combination ".

It is in this depersonalisation that art may be said to approach to the condition of science. Eliot explains this process of depersonalisation and its relation to the sense of tradition by comparing it with the chemical process - the action which takes place when a bit of finely filiated platinum is introduced into a chamber containing oxygen and sulphur dioxide. The analogy is that of the catalyst. He says: " When the two gases previously mentioned (oxygen and sulphur dioxide) are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. The combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless, the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected: has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material ".

The elements of the experience of the poet are of two kinds-emotions and feelings. They are elements which, entering the presence of the poet's mind and acting as a catalyst, go to the making of a work of art. The poet's mind is a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together. Eliot believes that the greatness of a poem does not depend on the greatness or the intensity of the emotions but on the intensity of the artistic process; the pressure under which the fusion takes place. He strongly believes that "the difference between art and the event is always absolute. Eliot illustrates his view by a few examples, among which one is of Keats's Ode to a Nightingale, which contains a number of feelings which have nothing particular to do with the nightingale, but which the nightingale, partly perhaps because of its attractive name, and partly because of its reputation, served to bring together.

Eliot believes that the main concern of the poet is not the expression of personality. He says that " the poet  has, not a 'personality' to express, but a particular medium (the mind), which in only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways. Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which became important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality". Again, there is no need for the poet to try to express new human emotions in poetry. The business of the poet, Eliot says, is not to find new emotions, but use the ordinary ones and, in working them up in  poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as will as those familiar to him. The poetic process is a process of concentration, and not of recollection (as Wordsworth thought) of a very great number of experiences. Eliot's final definition of poetry is: "poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion: it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality".

In the last section of the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says that the poet's sense of tradition and the impersonality of poetry are complementary things. He tried to divert the interest from the poet to the poetry, for it would conduce to a juster estimation of actual poetry, good or bad. He says that " very few know when there is an expression of significant emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living ". Thus, Eliot concludes, a constant and continual awareness of tradition is very necessary for the poet. Tradition greatly helps the individual talent to produce good poetry. Both are inextricably inter linked and inter dependent.

Examine T.S Eliot's theory of 'Tradition' and "the Individual Talent' ?

Green Land | April 05, 2021 | 0 comments

T.S. Eliot belongs to the tradition of Dryden, John, Coleridge, and Matthew Arnold in being the poet and the critic at the same time. He was greatly interested in literature and tried to bring criticism and creation in closer contact. He strongly believed that criticism and creation were complementary activities and therefore a good poet could only be a good critic. He exercised a very wide and deep influence on the literary criticism in the present century. He has rendered a great service to literature by reforming taste and by revitalising literature. The most distinguishing quality of Eliot's criticism is its sincerity and freedom from any preconceived standards of judgment. He places before the artist as well as the critic the goal of attaining nothing less than excellence and insists that the critic in order to see the object as it is must take unremitting pains and discipline his powers. He also points out that mature art is created only in a society which is prepared to receive and grasp fresh ideas. He knows that though perfection is rather unattainable, he would, in poetry and criticism, be content with nothing less than that. In literature he was a classicist and supported order and discipline, authority and tradition, and organization and pattern.

There was an anti-romantic tendency in the early parts of the twentieth century, which found its most definite pronouncement in the works of Eliot. He strongly supported the reaction against subjectivism and individualism. In this he was greatly influenced by Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. T.E. Hulme, who rejected the view of man's essential goodness, and asserted that for really great creative work a belief in the Original Sin was indispensable, also influenced Eliot in his critical views. Like other classicists, Eliot is of opinion that the writer must have faith in some system of writing and that a work of art must conform to the past tradition. But there is a significant difference between him and the neo-classical critics of the eighteenth century. The neo-classicists believed that the writer must follow rules of the ancients and that poetry must be didactic. Eliot's idea of "conformity to tradition" is totally different from this. A work of art must conform to tradition is such a way that it alters the tradition as much as it is directed by it. According to Eliot's conception tradition and the individual talent go together.

The theme of tradition is central both to Eliot's criticism and to his creative work. His instance on the value and importance of tradition for the individual talent is essentially anti-romantic. The romantic theory, which regarded poetry as the expression of the personality of the poet, laid emphasis on inspection and intuition. The romantics believed that the poet should follow his "inner voice" in writing poetry. But inspiration is fitful and unreliable; it is only a matter of chance and accident. In the hands of lesser poets the unrestrained and unlimited freedom is likely to degenerate into chaos and confusion. The romantic theory did not attach any significance to tradition. On the contrary, freedom from all tradition was considered to be very essential for artistic creation.

Eliot's views on the comparative importance of tradition and the individual talent in literature have been explicitly expressed in his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent. At the very beginning of this essay Eliot deplores the fact that in English literary criticism 'tradition' is used as a phrase of censure. He says that the word 'tradition' has not been given correct interpretation and due weight and importance so far. In English literature and criticism we rarely come across passages which illustrate the right use and meaning of the term 'tradition'. From time to time the English critics have been applying the word in expressing their grief for its absence. They do not make a reference to "the tradition" or to "a tradition"; at most they use the adjective in saying that the poetry is so and so 'traditional' or even 'too traditional'. The word appears rarely and when it does appear, it is used as a phrase of censure. Rarely used in a commendatory sense, the term 'tradition' is at best applied by English critics for vaguely approving a work of art as traditional as preserving in it some antique, out-of date, literary curiosities of old times, which are yet pleasing to the present age. Thus in English criticism, according to Eliot there is a deplorable lack of that critical insight which views a particular literary work or writer in the context of a wider literary tradition. The English literary critic does not give due weight and importance to tradition in evaluating the writers of the past and in appreciating the poets of the present. He uses 'tradition' in a derogatory sense.

Eliot says that the Englishmen have a tendency to insist, when they praise a poet, upon those aspects of his work in which he least resembles any one else. In these aspects of his work they try to find out what is individual, what is the peculiar essence of that man. They try to find out the difference of the poet with his contemporaries and predecessors especially with his immediate predecessors, they try to find out something that can be separated in order to be enjoyed. But if we study the poet without bias or prejudice, we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality forcefully and vigorously. We find the dead poets in the present poets not in their impressionable period of adolescence, but in the period of their full maturity. Thus, Eliot believes, tradition and the individual talent go together.

In After Strange Gods Eliot defines tradition in the following manner: "Tradition is not solely, or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these beliefs have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition." What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits and customs, from the most significant religious rites to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of "the same people living in the same place". It is also " a way of feeling and acting which characterises a group throughout generations, and it must largely be unconscious ". Tradition he says, is " the means by which the vitality of past enriches the life of the present ".

In all his work Eliot is mainly concerned with the problem of order as it arises in various ways. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he takes up this problem of order by enquiring whether the works of literature coming down to us through the entire Western tradition from a recognisable and definable order; and the existence of which is to affect the creative work of the present. Eliot stresses the presentness of the past order, and strives to show that the needs of the present age can only be expressed in the perspective of the past tradition. The present also has relevance to the past, because the traditional order is modified by the production of a truly original work of literature in the present. Eliot considers tradition as a part of the living culture of the past and working in the order of the present. Tradition is a dynamic force; it does not mean standing still. As he says in Burnt Norton:

             And do not call it fixityWhere past and futureare gathered.Neither movement fromnor towards.Neither ascent nor decline.

Again, 

referring to the unity of time he says:Time present and time Past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past.(Burnt Norton)

Tradition does not mean the handing down, or following the ways of the ancients blindly. It cannot be inherited. It can only be obtained with great labour. It involves a historical sense which enables a poet to perceive not only the pastness of the past but also its presentness. A creative artist, though he lives in a particular milieu, does not work merely with his own generation in view. He does not take his own age, or the literature of that period only as a separate identity, but acts with a conviction that in general the whole literature of Europe from the classical age of the Greeks onwards, and in particular the literature of his own country, is to be taken as a harmonious whole. His own creative efforts are not apart from it but a part of it. Eliot firmly believes that no poet or artist has his full meaning and significance alone. His importance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his kinship with the poets and artists of the past generation. The necessity for the individual talent to conform to tradition is not one sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the work of art which preceded it. In Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says: "The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervision of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are re-adjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new". This means that " the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past".

The conscious or unconscious cultivation of the sense of tradition is very important both for the poet and the critic. The poet, according to Eliot, must consciously try to make his work form a part of a larger and more important unit than itself, namely the whole literature of Europe to which it belongs. In Tradition and the Individual Talent he says: "What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career". He believes that it is the awareness of tradition that sharpens the sensibility, which has a vital part to play in the process of poetic creation.

The other thing, which is to be discussed in this connection is Eliot's impersonal theory of poetry which has a strong bearing on his concept of tradition. Eliot firmly believes that poetry is not the expression of the personality of the poet. He elucidates his impersonal theory by examining, first " the relation of the poet to the past " and secondly "the relation of the poem to its author". The past, Eliot says, is never dead: it lives in the present. " No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value his alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead".Eliot insists on the importance of the relation of the poem to other poems by other authors and suggests the conception of poetry as a living whole of all the poetry that has ever been written.

The artistic process, according to Eliot, is a process of depersonalization, the artist's continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. He must surrender himself totally to the creative work. "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality". He also points out the relation of the poem to its author; the poem, according to him, has no relation to the poet. The difference between the mind of a mature poet and that of an immature one is that the mind of a mature poet is " a more finely perfected medium in which special or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combination ".

It is in this depersonalisation that art may be said to approach to the condition of science. Eliot explains this process of depersonalisation and its relation to the sense of tradition by comparing it with the chemical process - the action which takes place when a bit of finely filiated platinum is introduced into a chamber containing oxygen and sulphur dioxide. The analogy is that of the catalyst. He says: " When the two gases previously mentioned (oxygen and sulphur dioxide) are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. The combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless, the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected: has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material ".

The elements of the experience of the poet are of two kinds-emotions and feelings. They are elements which, entering the presence of the poet's mind and acting as a catalyst, go to the making of a work of art. The poet's mind is a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together. Eliot believes that the greatness of a poem does not depend on the greatness or the intensity of the emotions but on the intensity of the artistic process; the pressure under which the fusion takes place. He strongly believes that "the difference between art and the event is always absolute. Eliot illustrates his view by a few examples, among which one is of Keats's Ode to a Nightingale, which contains a number of feelings which have nothing particular to do with the nightingale, but which the nightingale, partly perhaps because of its attractive name, and partly because of its reputation, served to bring together.

Eliot believes that the main concern of the poet is not the expression of personality. He says that " the poet  has, not a 'personality' to express, but a particular medium (the mind), which in only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways. Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which became important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality". Again, there is no need for the poet to try to express new human emotions in poetry. The business of the poet, Eliot says, is not to find new emotions, but use the ordinary ones and, in working them up in  poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as will as those familiar to him. The poetic process is a process of concentration, and not of recollection (as Wordsworth thought) of a very great number of experiences. Eliot's final definition of poetry is: "poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion: it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality".

In the last section of the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent Eliot says that the poet's sense of tradition and the impersonality of poetry are complementary things. He tried to divert the interest from the poet to the poetry, for it would conduce to a juster estimation of actual poetry, good or bad. He says that " very few know when there is an expression of significant emotion which has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. And the poet cannot reach this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. And he is not likely to know what is to be done unless he lives in what is not merely the present, but the present moment of the past, unless he is conscious, not of what is dead, but of what is already living ". Thus, Eliot concludes, a constant and continual awareness of tradition is very necessary for the poet. Tradition greatly helps the individual talent to produce good poetry. Both are inextricably inter linked and inter dependent.

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