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Home » , » How does Eliot assimilate individual talent of a poet with tradition?
T.S. Eliot is one of the greatest critics of English literature. He is often compared with Aristotle. In his time, English criticism was in a chaotic situation. He wishes that English criticism should be ordered and disciplined. This is obvious in his famous critical essay, "Tradition and Individual Talent". In this critical essay, Eliot has given an epoch-making idea of tradition and individual talent. He has also shown the marvelous mixture of these two ideas. According to also shown the marvelous mixture of these two ideas. According to Eliot, without the sense of tradition, an artist can never be a good artist. The individual talent is the capability of a poet to retouch and recolour the pastness of the past.No artist or no poet of any art has his real value alone. If we want to evaluate him, we must set him among the dead poets. So here a point is quite clear that the artist must have historical sense. This historical sense is called the sense of tradition. The sense of tradition is not achieved so easily. It is achieved with a painstaking endeavour. A poet must be aware of the pastness of the past. But the blind following is not to be allowed. He should have an authority. He should be conformed to the external authority. Eliot has regarded the whole literature of Europe from Homer down to his own day as a single trend of literature. He declares that the poet should have conformity to the tradition.Eliot's impersonal theory has proved how he has reconciled the tradition with individual talent. In this theory, he has said that a poet's personality must not be reflected into his poetry. The poet should be aloof from his poetry. In this respect, he has given an analogy. In the reaction between sulphur di oxide and oxygen, the platinum fulminet works as a catalyst. After the reaction, sulphurus acid is produced but the catalyst remains unchanged. No trace of catalyst is found in the products. Eliot has compared the poet's mind with this catalyst. Now we may question how a poet's personality can be aloof from his poetry. Actually, the poet must expose the personality of others or readers in his poems. The personality of the poet should be that of the readers. In this respect, Eliot has said that the progress of an artist lies in his continual self-sacrifice Eliot like a classicist has said that unrestricted feelings can never produce ordered literature. Such feelings only produce chaotic literature. Eliot argues that a citizen has to give allegiance to the sovereign state. Similarly, a poet should give his allegiance to an external authority. This is the sense of tradition. He should be conscious of the pastness of the past and its presence. Both the past and the present are modified by each other. As the past is altered by the present, the present is also modified by the past. Thus both the past and the present are reciprocated. A poet must have the knowledge of the contemporary literary trend. Actually, a bad poet is unconscious where he ought to be conscious. He is conscious where he ought to be unconscious.Eliot believes that a good poet most not be scholarly. A good poet must have learned from the past. The conscious reading or acquaintance of the past can make a good poet. In this respect, Eliot has drawn an example. He says that Shakespeare learnt more only from Plutarch that most people could learn from the whole British museum.However, we can say that Eliot has proved his greatness as a literary critic in his essay, "Tradition and Individual Talent". He believes both in tradition and individual talent. Here he has assimilated individual talent of a poet with tradition. He explains artistically the reconcilement between tradition and individual talent. In other words, he reconciles the demands of tradition with those of individual talent. His conception of them makes us clear that tradition and individual talent are closely related to each other.
Tradition and Individual Talent


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