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σκαιούς δε λέγων κουδέν τι σοφούς
EUR., Med. 190.
(The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved.)
THE contents of this volume originally formed part of a course of lectures which were given some four years ago in connection with the Cambridge
University Extension,” and afterwards before an English audience at Dresden. The interest which the subject elicited on these occasions has made me venture to hope that a few readers may be found, no less sympathetic and indulgent than my former hearers. I have left almost everything as it was written, instead of attempting to recast the whole into what might be thought a form more suitable for publication, although I am aware that much which in a lecture may be allowable, and even attractive, is apt to appear crude, superficial, and incoherent in a book.
I trust that the didactic and familiar tone, which one naturally assumes a lecturer, will not be resented, though I feel that at times I have perhaps insisted rather too urgently and repeatedly on elementary truths in respect of which a reader prefers to be credited with at least as much discernment as the author.
My object was to state and illustrate in as simple and as interesting a manner as possible, and with special reference to poetry, what I believe to be the true nature and end of artistic creation. . But I feel too deeply the impossibility of stating any truth directly and completely, to wish that what I affirm should be considered as offering more than partial and temporary aspects. Truth seems to lie between conflicting thoughts (as a particle in equilibrium amidst opposing forces), and to be itself incapable of statement, though not of artistic representation ; and this fact may often suffice to explain apparent inconsistencies, and even contradictions in the following pages.
“For no thought is contented. The better sort,
As thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd
Richard II., Act v. sc. 5.
I can but hope that, in spite of many imperfections and doubtless some errors, the attempted expression of what I hold to be essential beliefs on the subject of the poetic faculty may be of use to those (and to them I principally address this book) who are beginning to feel the charm of art and are desirous of estimating the value of its influence, and may also prove not wholly uninteresting even to some of those who have already formed opinions different from mine, and who are not prepared to accept any ideal theory. “Platonism” is nowadays, I am aware, a synonym for vague and inaccurate thought, and is not unfrequently used as a term of keen contempt; but one who does not find in modern“ scientific philosophy” some basis as satisfactory to his mind as that supplied by the ideal theory (though, as a theory, of no more absolute and intrinsic value than any other) may be content to err with Plato at least to the extent of accepting his basis, if not his intellectual superstructure. And, after all, it is the basis that is of primary importance in philosophy, unless indeed we are to limit that word to the study of certain phenomena, and to define it, with one of the latest writers on the subject, as a “special department of scientific research.”
On many occasions I have used the thoughts and the words of others, when they coincided with or expressed my own thoughts. If I have sometimes failed to acknowledge the debt in full, I trust it will be a sufficient apology to say that after four years it has not been easy to trace everything back to its original source.