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Saturday, 3 November 2018

What, according to Coleridge, are the purposes of poetry?

"Biographia Literaria" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a great literary work. It has occupied a permanent position in the whole range of English literary criticism. In "Chapter XIV" of the book, Coleridge puts a number of questions regarding the nature and purposes of poetry. Than he ventures to answer them. He also proves the role and significance of metre as an essential part of poetry. But he does not give us his views about the purposes of poetry in a direct manner. He does not give any exact definition of poetry too.
Coleridge, are the purposes of poetry

According to Coleridge, the immediate purpose of poem is the communication of pleasure. But the immediate purpose of prose is the communication of truths. A poem must be an organic unity. It differs from a work of scientific prose in having its immediate object, pleasure, not truth. In this respect, Coleridge says -----

          "A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to the works of science by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth."

Metre, rhyme etc. are used in a poem. But they are not used in prose. If metre is used superficially, it can be. Poem. But a poem cannot please us if there is no organic unity. Coleridge thinks that the main sim of poetry is to give pleasure. According to Coleridge, difference of object and contents supplies an additional ground of distinction between poetry and prose. The immediate purpose of poetry is the communication of pleasure. But the immediate purpose of prose is the communication of truth, moral and intellectual. After all, the main purpose of poetry is to give pleasure. Coleridge does not regard metre as absolutely essential for poetry. He clearly says that poetry of highest kind may exist without metre. At the same time, he also believes metre to be useful and necessary for writing poetry. In fact, he is against the use of metre and rhyme in poetry. He refers to Plato, Jeremy and Burnet who wrote the best poetry without metre. He asserts that metre and rhyme have been imposed on poetry in order to make it easily memorised. In this respect, Coleridge says -----
            "Thirty days hath September April, June, and November."

Here the use of verse makes it easier for schoolboys and others to remember the number of days in the different months. Coleridge distinguishes a  poem from poetry in his "Biographia Literaria". He opines that poetry is a wider term than a poem. Poetry is an activity of poet's mind. But a poem is merely one of the forms of its expression. Poetic creativity is basically an activity of the imagination. Poetry is a kind of activity in which any creative artist, poets, painters or scientists work. It brings out the whole soul of man into activity through the magical power of imagination. Coleridge identifies imagination with the soul of poetry. It is a living power. This distinction between poetry and poem is not very clear. Instead of defining poetry, Coleridge proceeds to describe a poet. From the poet, he proceeds to enumerate the characteristics of the imagination. Coleridge considers poetry as the fragrance of all human knowledge and thoughts. It is the scent of human passions, emotions and language. He thinks that no man was ever a great poet without being a profound philosophy. A great poet should attempt and achieve a union between the high finish and the appropriateness. He should achieve a union between the mature reflection and the various images. He does not praise Wordsworth's view that characters of poetry should be chosen from low and rustic life. At the same time, Coleridge expects that the language of poetry should have a charm, a dignity and a flavour of its own. Denying Wordsworth's theory of rustic language, Coleridge says that a rustic man has very limited knowledge. He suggests that we may use the word, 'ordinary' for 'real' as a substitute. 

To sum up, we may say that Coleridge believes in a superficial difference between a poem and a prose composition. The immediate function of poetry is to give pleasure. He also distinguishes a poem from poetry. His general discussion of Wordsworth's poetic diction is also relevant to our purpose. His views on the function and purposes of poetry are entirely different from that of Wordsworth. He talks of immediate pleasure in poetry. Wordsworth also believes in the same purpose poetry in his "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads". In this regard, both the critics have similarity.

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