most obvious of the qualities in poetry is the metre
or rhythm. The measure of verse has an influence on
us beyond our reckoning, potent and ever present, though
unrecognized. So that the simplest, most unexalted statement
of truth, commonplace though it be, if once thrown into
regular verse, comes to us with an added force. Perhaps
I should say with a new force. It may not make a statement
any plainer to our mind, to versify it; it may not make
it any stronger mentally; but it gives a power and influence
of a sort it did not possess before. This added power
is one of the things that distinguish poetry from prose-art
from science. Now the principle of recurrence is the
underlying principle of rhythm and metre and rhyme and
alliteration. And I wonder whether this constant reiteration,
this regular pulsing recurrence in poetry, does not
act as a mesmeric or hypnotic agent.
is quite true that good art is the expression not only
of the rational waking objective self, the self which
is clever and intentional and inductive, but of the
deeper unreasoning self-the soul- as well. It is also
true that good art impresses the deeper as well as the
shallower self. The outer objective self may be extremely
brilliant, may master technique and become skilled in
every lore of the craft, may, indeed, become as masterful
in execution as the masters themselves, and yet if it
have not the aid of a great strong inner subjective,
unconscious self, it can do nothing of permanent human
interest. You know how accurate a draughtsman may be,
and how learned an anatomist, and yet how dismal and
uninspired his paintings after all. You know what brilliant
execution as a pianist Miss B. may have, and yet how
cold her recitals leave you, how wooden she is. This
is the achievement of intentional mind unassisted by
the subconscious spirit. And necessary as it is, it
is not alone sufficient; it is talent without genius.
attain the best results in art we must have both the
personalities of the artist working at once. All the
skill which training and study can give must be at his
command, to serve as the alphabet or medium of his art,
and at the same time the submerged, unsleeping self
must be set free for active creation. Scientific formulŠ
are an admirable means of communication between mind
and mind, but art is a means of communication for the
whole being-mind, body and spirit.
being so, it is necessary-in doing any creative work,
in following any of the arts-it is necessary to cultivate
the power of submerging our useful, objective self far
enough to give free play to the greater subjective self,
the self beyond the threshold. This is exactly what
occurs in hypnosis, and I dare say the beat and rhythm
of poetry serves just such a purpose.
three months ago,
When the mesmerizer Snow
With his hand's first sweep
Put the earth to sleep--"
these lines of Browning's there resides, I am certain,
a power like that he describes. It resides in all poetry.
It is the magic we feel but cannot fathom, the harm
we must follow, discredit it as we may.
this test to any piece of good poetry of which you are
fond. Take Tennyson's "Crossing the Bar,"
for instance. That poem appeals to our mind with
a definite idea, a definite image, which you may easily
transpose into prose. The poem might be translated without
loss of the thought. But what of the magic charm of
though the flood may bear me beyond
the boundary of time,
I hope to see my good Pilot's face when I
shall have crost the bar."
have not altered the thought, but I have destroyed the
stanza. The spell has vanished with the metre. The reason
that Tennyson's verse is more pleasing than our mangled
version of it is this-simply that it speaks to us more
completely. It not only appeals to our intelligence,
it appeals to our sense and soul as well. The soul has
memories of regions and lives of which we have never
heard. The soul swells with us as tacitly as a silent
companion who should share our habitation for years,
yet never reveal the secrets of its earlier life. And
good poetry and good art have much to say to this work-a-day
understanding of ours; yet they have more to say to
the soul within us, which comprehends everything. The
difficulty is in obtaining access to the soul and securing
egress for it. The creative artist must subordinate
cunning to intuition, and he must embody his beautiful
creations in some form that will be able to elude the
too vigilant reason of his fellows and gain instant
access to their spirit.
I were a poet I should not merely wish to set down my
conclusions about life and the universe; I could accomplish
that better by being a trained philosopher. I should
not merely want to convey to you new and important facts
of nature; I could do that better by being a scientist.
I should not want to convince your mind only, for I
could do that better by logic and rhetoric. But I should
wish to do all these things and to win your sympathy
as well. I should not only which to make you believe
what I say, but to believe it passionately-with your
whole heart, as the phrase is. In order to do this I
should have to secure free communication of spirit,
as well as mind with mind. I should not only have to
satisfy reason, I should have to lull and charm it.
I should have to hypnotize that good warder of your
house before he would allow me to enter. Just as I had
to mesmerize myself with the cadence of my lines before
I could fully make them express my whole nature, so
you in your turn as reader would have to feel their
undefinable magic before you could appreciate and enjoy
my poems to the utmost capacity of your nature. I could
only secure this result through the senses, through
the monotonous music of my verse.
may seem to you nothing more than the wisdom of the
snake-charmer. Well that is all it is. But that is enough.