Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.  1904.
General Introduction
The Purpose of Poetry
Bliss Carman (1861–1929)
BEFORE considering any of the aims and purposes of poetry, or any of its essential characteristics, it will be helpful to consider it in its place, as one of the fine arts. If we then ask ourselves what the fine arts are to do for us, what place they are to hold in a civilized nation, we shall perhaps be able to look at poetry in a broader way than we otherwise could; we shall be able to think of it, not merely as a pleasant and amusing diversion, but as one of the potent factors in history.  1
  If we try to find a place for the fine arts among our various human activities, we might begin by making a rough classification of our subject in this way: the most primitive and necessary occupations we engage in, such as fishing and agriculture, trading, navigating, hunting, etc., we call industries. These marked the earliest stage of man’s career in civilization. Then he comes to other occupations, requiring more skill and ingenuity; he weaves fabrics, he makes himself houses, he fashions all sorts of implements for the household and the chase. He becomes a builder, a potter, a metal worker, an inventor. He has added thought to work and made the work easier. And these new occupations which he has discovered for himself differ from his earlier ones, chiefly in this, that they result in numerous objects of more or less permanence, cunningly contrived and aptly fitted to use. They are objects of useful or industrial art.  2
  We must note two things about this step forward which man has taken toward civilization: in the first place he had to have some leisure to do these things, and in the second place the objects he has made reveal his ingenuity and forethought. They are records of his life. And it will happen that, as his leisure increases, his implements will become more and more elaborate and ornate. Every workman will have his own way of fashioning them, using his own device and designs, so that they will become something more than rude relics of one historic age or another: they will tell us something of the artificer himself; they will embody some intentional expression of human life, and come to have an art value. In so far as they can do this, they contain the essential quality of the fine arts. And the more freely the workman can deal with his craft, the more perfectly he can make it characteristic of himself, the greater will its artistic quality become.  3
  The only purpose of the primitive industries was a utilitarian one. The prime object of the industrial arts is also a utilitarian one; but they have a secondary object as well, they aim at beauty too. They not only serve the practical end for which they were intended; they serve also as a means of expression for the workmen. Now just as we passed from the industries to the industrial arts, by the addition of this secondary interest, this human artistic expressional quality, so by making this quality paramount, we may pass from the industrial arts to the fine arts, where expression is all important and utility is almost lost sight of. It is the distinguishing mark of the fine arts that they give us a means of expressing ourselves in terms of intelligible beauty.  4
  I have made this distinction between the fine and the industrial merely for the sake of clarifying our ideas, and getting a notion of what is the essence of all art. But really the difference is not important and, having served its turn, may be forgotten. There is an element of art, of course, in everything that we do; the manner of the doing, that is the art. The quality of art which we should appreciate and respect may quite as truly be present in a Japanese tobacco box as in a Greek Tragedy. The Japanese, indeed, offer an instance of a people who have raised the handicrafts quite to the level of the fine arts. All those fascinating objects of beauty, which they contrive with so much skill, are often, one may guess, only as many excuses for the workman to exhibit his deftness and his taste. This black oak cabinet inlaid with pearl, or that lacquer bowl, may perhaps be counted useful objects; but I fancy that before all else they were just so many opportunities for the artist; and when he fashioned them he had in mind only the creation of something beautiful, and thought very little of the use to which they might be put. He was bent on giving play to his imagination, and you may be very sure he was glad in the work of his hands and wrought all those intricate effects with loving care. Surely the result is much more deserving of respect than a mediocre epic or a second-rate painting. It is not what we do that counts, but how well we do it. There is no saying one kind of work is art, and another kind is not art. Anything that is well done is art; anything that is badly done is rotten.  5
  I do not wish, either, to confine the word “useful,” in its application, to our material needs. Everything we do ought to be useful, and so it is, if it is done well. Tables and chairs are useful; but so are pictures and cathedrals and lyrics and the theatre. If we allow ourselves only what are called the necessities of life, we are only keeping alive one-third of being; the other two-thirds of our manhood may be starving to death. The mind and the soul have their necessities, as well as the body. And we are to seek these things, not only for our future salvation, but for our salvation here and now, that our lives may be helpful and sane and happy.  6
  It is often easy to see how a fine art may grow from some more necessary and commonplace undertaking. The fine art of painting, for instance, arose of course from the use of ornamental lines and figures, drawn on pottery, or on the walls of a skin tent, where it served only to enhance the value of the craftsman’s work, and please his fancy. Gradually, through stages of mural decoration, perhaps, where ever-increasing freedom of execution was given the artist, its first ornamental purpose was forgotten, and it came to serve only as a means of expressing the artist’s imaginative ideals. So too of sculpture and architecture, of dancing and acting. It is an easy transition from the light-hearted superfluous skip of a child as it runs, to the more formal dance-step, as the child keeps time to music and gives vent to its gayety of spirit. It is an easy transition from gesture and sign-language, employed as a useful means of communication, to their more elaborate use in the art of acting, where they serve merely to create an illusion. So, too, whenever a piece of information is conveyed by word of mouth, and the teller of the tale elaborates it with zest and interest, making it more memorable and vivid, the fine art of letters is born.  7
  We may notice again that the quality of art begins to appear in all our occupations, as the dire stress of existence is relieved and man’s spirit begins to have free play. Art is an indication of health and happy exuberance of life; it is as instinctive and spontaneous in its origin as child’s play. To produce it naturally the artist must be free, for the time being at least,—free from all doubt or hesitation about the truth, free from all material entanglements, free from all dejection and sadness of heart. So that the primitive industries mark the first grade in the human story, when we were barely escaping from the necessity for unremitting hand-to-hand physical struggle for life; and the second grade in our progress is marked by the appearance of the industrial arts; while we may look on the fine arts as an index of the highest development, as we pass from savagery and barbarism to civilization. And perhaps we shall not go very far astray, in our comparative estimate of nations, and their greatness on the earth, if we rank them in the order of their proficiency in the arts.  8
  The fine arts, having thus had their rise in the free play of the human spirit, as it went about its work in the world and busied itself with the concerns of life, became a natural vehicle for giving expression to all men’s aspirations and thoughts about life. Indeed it was this very simple elemental need for self-expression, as a trait in human character, which helped to determine what the fine arts should be. To communicate our feelings, to transmit knowledge, to amuse ourselves by creating a mimic world with imaginative shapes of beauty, these were fundamental cravings, lurking deep in the spirit of man, and demanding satisfaction, almost as imperiously as the desires of the body. If hunger and cold made us industrious humans, no less certainly love of companionship and need for self-expression moulded our breath into articulate speech.  9
  Since therefore the fine arts are so truly a creation of man, we may expect to find in them a trustworthy image of himself. Whatever is human will be there. All our thoughts, all our emotions, all our sensations and hopes and fears. They will reveal and embody in themselves all the traits of our complex nature. Art is that lovely corporeal body with which man endowers the spirit of goodness and the thought of truth. For there are in man these three great principles,—a capacity for finding out the truth and distinguishing it from error, a capacity for perceiving goodness and knowing it from evil, and a capacity for discriminating between what is ugly and what is fair. By virtue of the first of these powers, man has sought knowledge,—has become the philosopher and scientist; by virtue of the second, he has evolved religions and laws, and social order and advancement; while by virtue of the third he has become an artist. Yet we must be careful not to suppose that either one of these powers ever comes into play entirely alone; for man has not three separate natures, but one nature with three different phases. When therefore man finds expression for his complete personality in the fine arts, you may always expect to find there, not only creations of beauty, but monuments of wisdom and religion as well. Art can no more exist without having a moral bearing, than a body can exist without a soul. Its influence may be for good or for bad, but it is there and it is inevitable. In the same way no art can exist without an underlying philosophy, any more than man can exist without a mind. The philosophy may be trivial or profound, but it is always present.  10
  Art, therefore, is enlisted beyond escape, both in the service of science and in the service of religion. Great art appears wherever the heart of man has been able to manifest itself in a perfectly beautiful guise, informed by thoughts of radiant truth, and inspired by emotions of limitless goodness. Any piece of art which does not fulfill its obligations to truth and goodness, as well as to beauty, is necessarily faulty and incomplete.  11
  At first thought perhaps you might not be quite ready to admit such a canon of criticism as this; for truth is the object of all science, and goodness is the object of all morality, and some persons have been accustomed to say that art has nothing whatever to do with either morality or science, but exists for its own sake alone, for the increase and perpetuation of pleasure. But art cannot give us complete pleasure, if it appeals only to our senses, and leaves unsatisfied our natural curiosity and wonder,—our need for understanding, and our need for loving. That is to say, our reason and our emotion must always be appealed to, as well as our sense of beauty.  12
  For instance, I am to be entranced by the beautiful diction and cadence of the poem; at the same time, its conception of life and universe may be patently false and puerile, and from that point of view it would not please me at all; it would disgust me. Or it might show a just estimate of life, it might be true to philosophy and science, and yet celebrate some mean or base or ignoble or cruel incident in a way that would be revolting to my spirit. In other words, while it satisfied my sense of beauty, it might fail utterly to satisfy my sense of right or my desire for truth. To be wholly pleasing, the fine arts must satisfy the mind with its insatiable curiosity, and the soul with its love of justice, quite as thoroughly as they satisfy the needs of the senses.  13
  To my mind the great pre-eminence of Browning as a poet does not rest on any profound philosophy to be found in his work, nor in his superior craftsmanship, not yet in his generous uplifting impulse and the way with which he arouses our feelings, but rather on the fact that he possessed all these three requirements of a poet in an equally marked degree. The work of Poe or of William Morris, on the other hand, does not exhibit this fine balance of strength, intellectuality, and passion. On its sensuous side, it is wonderfully beautiful; and yet it is not wholly satisfying, since it fails to give us enough to think about. Its mentality is too slight. Neither of these poets, to judge from his poetry alone, had any large and firm grasp of the thought of the world, such as Browning possessed, and that is why the wizardry of Poe and the luring charm of Morris are not more effective. An artist must be also a thinker and a prophet, if his creations are to have the breath of life. And again, poetry may easily fail by being overladen with this same requisite of mentality. It may have more thought than it can carry. Browning himself, in several of his later books, like the “Inn Album,” quite loses the fine poise of his powers, and almost ceases to be a poet, in his desire to be a philosopher.  14
  All this is so fundamentally important, that we cannot have it too clearly in mind. It is the one great central truth, which must illumine all criticism, and help our understanding of life, as well as of art.  15
  When we say however that it is the business of art to give pleasure, in all three of these possible ways, of course we must not suppose that the arts do not differ one from another, in their ability to meet such demand. The art of music cannot satisfy my reason as completely as the art of poetry, for example; because it cannot transmit a logical statement of fact. It may appeal to my senses more charmingly than poetry can; it may arouse my emotions profoundly; but it cannot appeal to my mind in the way poetry does. On the other hand poetry itself is less strictly rational than prose literature; it does not attempt to satisfy our curiosity as completely as prose does, though it pleases our æsthetic sense more. There need be no question of one art being greater or less than another; we need only remember the way in which they vary, and how each has a different proportion of the three requirements which are necessary to them all.  16
  To speak quite simply, then, art is concerned first of all in the creation of beauty. At the same time it is closely related to science on one side and religion on the other. But how? I suppose we may say (to speak again quite roughly) that science is all we know about things, and religion is all we feel about them. Naturally therefore every artistic conception to which we give expression will betray something both of our philosophy and of our morality. It cannot be otherwise. In the case of literature the human spirit is finding expression for itself through the medium of human speech; and speech is the most exact means we have for conveying definite thought, and narrating facts. So that every literature contains a great body of work which is almost pure science. In De Quincey’s useful phrase, “There is a literature of knowledge and a literature of power.” Euclid’s Geometry, Newton’s “Principia,” Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” are works of science rather than of letters. They appeal solely to our reason, and do not attempt to please our sense of the beautiful by their literary structure and the arrangement of verbal sounds, nor to work upon our emotions in any way. Euclid does not care whether you like his XLVIII. proposition or not, so long as he can convince you that it is true. Neither does Darwin care whether his theory pleases you or not. He is only interested in getting at the truth. How that truth may affect our feeling is quite another matter. It is so too of the theological and philosophic writers, like Spinoza and Kant; they are primarily scientists, not artists. But when you pass from these austere reasoners to a work like Plato’s Dialogues, you perceive that two new elements have entered into the making of the book. Plato is not only interested in finding out the truth, and convincing you of its reasonableness; he wishes at the same time to make the truth seem pleasant and good; he tries to enlist your feelings on his side; and also to satisfy your sense of beauty with his form of words. He has added a religious value and an art value to the theme of pure philosophy. He has made his book a piece of literature.  17
  And as literature is related to science on one hand, it is related to religion on the other. A book of meditation or of hymns may be extremely devout in sentiment, without possessing any value as literature. Because, very often it takes a certain set of ideas for granted, without caring very much whether they are the largest and truest ideas or not; and also because it makes no effort to be fine and distinguished in its diction. It may be entirely worthy in the fervor of its sentiment, and yet be quite unworthy in an artistic way. With great religious books this is not so. Works like the Psalms or passages of Isaiah, or the poetry of Job, or Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar,” are first of all religious in their intention,—they are meant to play upon our emotional nature: but they do not stop there; they are cast in a form of words so perfect and fresh that it arrests us at once, and satisfies our love of beauty. At the same time they accord with the most profound and fundamental ideas about life and nature that humanity has been capable of. They satisfy our mind and our æsthetic sense, as well as our spiritual need. It is because of this three-fold completeness, that we class them as pieces of literature, and not merely as records of religious enthusiasm. Depth of religious feeling alone would not have been sufficient to make them literature, any more than clear thinking and accurate reason alone could have made Plato’s book a piece of literature.  18
  We must remember, too, how vapid the artistic quality is, when it exists by itself without adequate intelligence and underlying purpose. Think how much of modern art is characterized by nothing but form, how devoid it is of ideas, how lacking in anything like passionate enthusiasm. I believe this is to some extent due to our failure to realize that these components of which I have been speaking are absolutely requisite in all art. We forget that there is laid upon art any obligation except to be beautiful; we forget that it must embody the truest thought man has been able to reach, and enshrine the noblest impulses he has entertained. This is not so much a duty for art to undertake, as an inescapable destiny and natural function.  19
  It is a sad day for a people when their art becomes divorced from the current of their life, when it comes to be looked on as something precious but unimportant, having nothing at all to do with their social structure, their education, their political ideas, their faith or their daily vocations. But I fear that we ourselves are living in just such a time. Fine arts may be patronized even liberally, but you could not say they have any hold on us as a people; we have no wide feelings for them, no profound conviction of their importance.  20
  There may be many reasons for this, and it is a question with which we are not directly concerned here. One reason there is, however, it seems to me, which is too important not to be referred to. The fine arts, as I tried to show a few pages back, are an outgrowth and finer development of the industrial arts. One would expect them to flourish only in a nation where the industrial arts flourish; only in such a nation would the great body of the people be infused with the popular love of beauty, and a feeling for art, which could create a stimulating, artistic atmosphere, and out of which great artists could be born. So much will be readily admitted. But under modern industrial and commercial conditions, the industrial arts are dead; they have been killed by the exigencies of our business processes. The industrial artist has become the factory-hand. To produce anything worth while, either in the fine or in the industrial arts, it is necessary that the worker should not be hurried, and should have some freedom to do his work in his own way, according to his own delight and fancy. The modern workman, on the contrary, is a slave to his conditions; he can earn his bread only by working with a maximum of speed, and a minimum of conscientiousness. He can have neither pleasure nor pride in his work; and consequently that work can have no artistic value whatever. The result is, that not only have we almost no industrial arts, properly speaking, but the modern workman is losing all natural taste and love of beauty, through being denied all exercise of that faculty. If you allow me to learn the art of a book-binder, or a potter, or a rug-maker, and to follow it for myself as best I can, my perception and love of what is beautiful will grow with my growing skill. But if you put me to work in a modern factory, where such things, or rather where hideous imitations of those things, are produced, I should not be able to exercise my creative talent at all, and whatever love of beauty I may have had will perish for lack of use. Thus it happens that the average man today has so little appreciation of beauty, so little instinctive taste, and that art and letters occupy so small a place in our regard. Before we can reinstate them in that position of honor which they have hitherto held among civilized nations, we shall have to find some solution for our industrial difficulties.  21
  It may seem at a superficial glance that the arts are all very well as a pass-time, for the enjoyment of the few, but can have no imperative call for busy men and women in active modern life. And if we should be told that, as a nation, we have no widespread love of beauty, no popular taste in artistic matters, we would not take the accusation very much to heart. We should probably admit it, and turn with pride to point to our wonderful material success, our achievements in the realm of trade and commerce, our unmatched prosperity and wealth. But that answer will not do. You may lead me through the streets of our great cities, and fill my ears with stories of our uncounted millions of money, our unrivalled advance among the nations; but that will not divert my soul from horror at a state of society where municipal government is a venial farce, where there is little reverence for law, where Mammon is a real God, and where every week there are instances of mob violence, as revolting as any that ever stained the history of the Emperors of degenerate Rome. We may brag our loudest to ourselves, but the soul is not deceived. She sits at the centre of the being, judging severely our violence, our folly, and our crime. And when at last we come to our senses, and perceive to what a condition of shame we have fallen from our high estate as a freedom-loving people, we may be able to restore some of those ideals which we have lost,—ideals of common honesty, of civic liberty, of simple unostentatious life, of social order and law and security.  22
  All this of course goes almost without saying. But the point I wish to make is, that this decay in moral standards goes hand in hand with our loss of taste. Our sense of beauty and our sense of goodness are so closely related, that any injury to the one means an injury to the other. You cannot expect the nation which cares nothing at all for art to care very much for justice or righteousness. You cannot expect a man who does not care how hideous his surroundings are to care very much about his moral obligations. And we shall never reach that national position of true greatness, which many Americans have dreamed of; we shall lose entirely those personal traits of dignity, honor, and kindliness, which many old-fashioned Americans still retain, unless we recognize the vital need of moral standards, and æsthetic ideals, and set ourselves to secure them. The two must go hand in hand.  23
  If you ask me why America is producing for the most part only that which is mediocre in art and literature, I am forced to reply, that it is because the average man among us has so little respect for moral ideals. In a restless age we may resort to all kinds of reform, but no scheme of social betterment will take the place of personal obligation and integrity. It all comes back to the man at last. We don’t need socialism or imperialism, or free trade, or public ownership of monopolies, or state control of trusts, as much as we need honest men, men in public life and private enterprise who have some standard of conduct higher than insatiable self-interest.  24
  Such ideals of conduct, in the widest sense, it is the aim of art to supply, and education to inculcate. And education like art has its three-fold object. It has to set itself not only to train our minds, in a desire for the truth, but at the same time to train our spirits to love only what is good, and our bodies to take pleasure only in what is beautiful and wholesome; and the work of education in any one of these directions must always be intimately related with its work in the other two. Emerson’s wise phrase is profoundly true here—
 “All are needed by each one.
Nothing is fair or good alone.”
An education which does not quicken the conscience, and stimulate and refine all our senses, and instincts, along with the growing reason, must still remain a faulty education at best.
  I am sure we cannot lay too much stress on this philosophic conception of man, and the three aspects of his nature. I believe it will be found a helpful solvent of many difficulties in education, in art, in life, in social and political aims. I believe that without it, all our endeavors for advancement in civilization will be sadly hampered and retarded, if not frustrated altogether. For the simple reason that art and civilization and social order exist for man; and they must therefore be adapted to the three differing kinds of requirements in his make-up. His intellectual needs and capacities must be trained and provided for; his great emotional and spiritual needs and powers must be given exercise; his sensitive physical instincts must be guided and developed.  26
  With this notion in mind, we may turn for a few minutes to consider what tasks literature must set itself, and what it may be expected to do for a people. In the first place, it is the business of literature, as of all the arts, to create an illusion,—to project upon the imagination a mimic world, true to life, as we say, and at the same time more goodly and fair than the actual one we know. For, unless the world of art be in some way more delightful than the world of our every-day experience, why should we ever visit it? We turn in sympathy to art, to music or reading, or objects of lovely color and shape, for recreation and refreshment, for solace and inspiration. We ask to find in it, ready to hand, these helpful and pleasant qualities which are so hard to find in real life. And the art which does not give them to us is disappointing, however clever it may be. It is this necessity for finding the beautiful, this necessity for providing an immediate pleasure, that makes pure realism unsatisfying in art. Realism is necessary, but not sufficient.  27
  For instance, you bring me a photograph of a beautiful elm-shaded street in an old New England town. It fills my eye instantly with a delightful scene. But by and by something in it begins to offend me, and I see that the telegraph pole is too obtrusive, and spoils the composition and balance of the picture. The photograph loses its value, as a pleasure-giving piece of realism. Now a painter in reproducing the same scene would probably have left out the telegraph pole. That is the difference. And that is why photography, as usually practised, is not one of the fine arts. It is said by those who contend for realism, for the photographic in literature, that art must be true to nature: and so it must to a certain extent; but there are other things besides the physical fact, to which it must conform. Your photograph was true to nature, but it was not true to my memory of the scene. The painter’s reproduction was truer to that; he preserved for me the delightful impression I carried away on that wonderful June morning, when I visited the spot. For me his picture is more accurate than the photograph. When I was there, I probably did not see the telegraph pole at all. It is therefore right that literature and art should attempt something more than the exact reproduction of things as they are, and should give us a city more charming and a country more delectable to dwell in than any our feet have ever trod, and should people that world with characters, varied and fascinating as in real life, but more satisfying than any we have ever known.  28
  There is another reason why art must be more than photographic; as time goes by and the earth grows old, man himself develops, however slowly, in nobleness and understanding. His life becomes different from what it was. He gradually brings it into conformity with certain ideals and aspirations which have occurred to him. These new ideals and aspirations have always made their first appearance in art and literature, before they were realized in actual life. Imagination is our lamp upon the difficult path of progress. So that, even in its outward aspect, art must differ from nature. The world is by no means perfect, but it is always tending toward perfection, and it is our business to help that tendency. We must make our lives more and more beautiful, simply because by so doing we make ourselves more healthy and happy. To this end, art supplies us with standards, and keeps us constantly in mind of what perfection is. If we live much under the influence of good art, ugliness becomes impossible. As long as we are satisfied with the photograph we are content to have the telegraph pole. And we shall continue to be satisfied with them both until the artist comes and shows us the blemish. As soon as we perceive the fault, we begin to want the telegraph pole removed. This is what a clever writer meant when he said that art does not follow nature, but nature follows art.  29
  I lay so much stress on this point, because we have somewhat lost the conviction that literature and art must be more beautiful than life. We readily admit that they must be sincere servants of truth, and exemplars of noble sentiment, but there is an idea abroad that, in its form and substance, art need only copy nature. This, I believe, is what our grandfathers might have called a pestilent heresy.  30
  If art and literature are devoted to the service of beauty, no less are they dedicated to the service of truth and goodness. In the phrase which Arnold used to quote, it is their business to make reason and the will of God prevail. So that while literature must fulfill the obligations laid upon it to be delightful,—to charm and entertain us, with perennial pleasure,—quite as scrupulously must it meet our demands for knowledge, and satisfy our spiritual needs. To meet the first of these demands, of course it is not necessary for literature to treat of scientific subjects; it must however be enlightened by the soundest philosophy at its command, and informed with all the knowledge of its time. It may not deal directly with the thought of its age, but it must never be at variance with truth. There can be no quarrel between science and art, for art sooner or later makes use of all knowledge, all discoveries, all new ideas. It is the business of art to assimilate new knowledge, and make it a power; for knowledge is not power, so long as it remains mere knowledge, and does not pass from the mind into the domain of the will.  31
  In a scientific age like our own, when the limits of knowledge are being extended so rapidly, prose is a more acceptable medium of expression than poetry because it can keep much nearer to science than poetry can; though poetry in the long run has quite as much need of accurate wide information as prose has.  32
  It is only that they make different use of the same material. Prose serves to bring us definite reports of science, it appeals to our reason, our curiosity. But poetry has another motive as well; it wishes to emphasize its subject, so that we can not only know it more clearly, but feel about it more deeply. Of course prose has this aim in view also, though to a less extent; and it invades the dominion of poetry whenever this aim becomes paramount. So that in literature we must never too dogmatically try to separate prose from poetry.  33
  The attempt which literature makes to deepen our feeling about a subject, is the spiritual purpose of art. And this spiritual or moral influence is always present in all literature, whether apparent or not. Art has its religious value, not because it deals directly with religious themes, but because it plays upon our moral nature, and then enhances our emotions. How intrinsically incumbent it is upon art, therefore, to stimulate our generous and kindly feelings, rather than our cruel or violent or selfish impulses!  34
  It may often be necessary for art and literature to deal with human crime and depravity and moral obliquity, but it must never dwell upon them exclusively, nor make them seem to prevail. For evil does not rule the world; however powerful it may seem for the moment, in the long run it is overcome by the good. There is a tendency in modern letters to deal with repulsive themes, and depict for us the frailty and sorry short-comings of human nature, and to do this with an almost scientific accuracy. Some people praise this sort of thing, as being true to life; while others call it immoral, because it touches upon such subjects at all. A juster view of the matter may perhaps lead us to a different opinion. Since it is the prime duty of art to make us happy, to give us encouragement and joy, to urge and support our spirits, to ennoble and enrich our lives, surely the one way in which art can be most immoral, is to leave us depressed, and sad, and uncertain of the final issue between sorrow and gladness.  35
  I have not said much about the technic of poetry, because I wished to indicate, if I could, a scope and destiny for poetic art more significant than we are accustomed to grant it. If we assure ourselves of the vital importance of art to a nation, if we set ourselves resolutely to change the tenor of public sentiment in regard to it, if we turn from the absorbing and ridiculous worship of unnecessary possessions, and devote ourselves generously to the cause of beauty and kindliness, the specific development of poetry may be left to take care of itself.

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