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IMPERSONAL THEORY OF POETRY Introduction:- Eliot is one of the long line of poet-critics which stretches right from Ben

Jonson to our day, and includes such names as Dryden, Dr. Johnson, Coleridge and Arnold. Though he did not formulate any comprehensive theory of poetry, he was a conscious poet who had thought long and deep about the mysteries of his own art. His critical essays, reviews and editorial contributions and commentaries throw a flood of light on his view of poetry. An understanding of his poetic creed is interesting and desirable, for he is the only critic after Wordsworth who has much to say about poetry and the poetic process. His criticism comes from his poetic workshop, and hence it has a special significance. Need for Complexity: The Georgian and Edwardian poetry of England of the first quarter of the 20th century was in the thinned out romantic-pre-Raphaelite tradition. It was simple, it was easy, and so it was popular, but it was not great or good. It was Eliots reaction to romanticism, that led to his formulating the literary theories from which all his poetry since has derived(Maxwell). For example, the decadent poetry of his age dispensed with all subtlety, metrical, linguistic, intellectual, or emotional. Eliots own esotericism complexity and difficultyis in part a reaction or revolt to the exotericism (lack of subtlety) of this poetry. Reacting against the popular appeal of the poetry of the day, he voluntarily cultivated subtlety and complexity in the hope of finding or creating an audience which, though small, would at least appreciate and understand. In his essay on The Metaphysical Poets, he writes: Poets in our civilisation must be difficult. Our civilisation comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a refined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate, if necessary, language into his meaning. The poet must create new devices, cultivate all the possibilities of words, in order to express entirely new conditions. His own poetry is a new kind of poetry, his technique is new, and this very novelty creates difficulties. Rejection of Subjectivism: Stress on Objectivity Eliots theory of poetry marks a complete break from the 19th century tradition. He rejected the romantic theory that all art is basically an expression of the artists personality, and that the artist should create according to the dictates of his own inner voice, without owing allegiance to any outside authority. In his essay on The Function of Criticism he tells us that writing, according to the inner voice, means writing as one wishes. Thus Eliot rejects romantic subjectivism and emotionalism, and emphasises the value of objective standards. Reacting against subjectivism of the romantics, Eliot advocated his famous theory of the impersonality of poetry. He recognised the dangers of unrestricted liberty, and felt that granted such licence, there would be only, fitful and transient bursts of literary brilliance. Inspiration alone is not a safe guide. It often results in eccentricity and chaos. Moreover, the doctrin e of human perfectibility and the faith in inner voice received a rude shock as a result of the world war. It was realised that man is not perfect, and hence perfect art cannot result from merely the artists following his inner voice. Some sort of guidance, some discipline, some outside authority was necessary to save art from incoherence and emptiness. Thus Eliot condemned the Inner Light as, the most untrustworthy and deceitful guide that ever offered itself to wandering humanity, and pointed out that the function of the critic is to find out some common principles, objective standards, by which art may be judged and guided. Eliot rejected the romantic fallacy, says Maxwell, for it, has resulted in destruction of belief in central authority to which all men might owe allegiance, in objective standards by which men might agree to judge art, and in any inspiration other than the shifting of personality through which adult, orderly art might be created. Eliot holds that the poet and the poem are two separate things and 'that the feeling, or emotion, or vision, resulting from the poem is something different, from the feeling or emotion or vision in the mind of the poet.' This he elucidates by examining, first, the relation of the poet to the past and, next, the relation of the poem to its author. The artist has to take something from the past, but at the same time he asserts his individuality, and while asserting his individuality he must be careful: he should remain objective. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. In a work of art the past and the present fuse into a new compound. Passion for Form: Unification of Sensibility Thus Eliot demands an objective authority for art, and in this way his theory of poetry approximates to that of the classics. Rejecting the romantic theory and the romantic tradition, he emphasises that the classics achieved, an elegance and dignity absent from the popular and pretentious verse of the romantic poets. In The Function of Criticism he writes that the difference between the two schools is that, between the complete and the fragmentary, lie adult and the immature, the orderly and the chaotic. This shows Eliots appreciation of the order and completeness of classical poetry, qualities which he tried to achieve in his own practice as a poet. The classics could achieve this form and balance, this order and completeness, only because they owed allegiance to an objective authority which was provided to them by past traditionstores of tradition. Another sign of maturity, according to Eliot, is the unification of sensibilityof thought and feeling, of the critical and the creative faculties. Such unification Eliot found in the Metaphysicals, and hence his admiration for them.

Sense of Tradition: The Poetic Process Since the romantic tradition had exhausted itself out and had lost its value and significance, it was necessary to search for some other tradition which may give a correct orientation to contemporary poetry. In his well-known essay, Tradition and Individual Talent, he advocates the acceptance of the European literary tradition as such an objective authority. Eliot views the literature of Europe from Homer down to his own day as a single whole and pleads that English literature must be viewed as a part of that European literary tradition. According to Eliot, two kinds of constituents go into the making of a poem: (a) the personal elements, i.e. the feelings and emotions of the poet, and (b) the impersonal elements, i.e. the tradition, the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the past, which are acquired by the poet. These two elements interact and fuse together to form a new thing, which we call a poem. The impersonal element, the erudition, the sense of tradition, or the historic sense, must be acquired by the poet. He must, develop or procure the consciousness of the past, and that he must develop the consciousness of the past throughout his career. Some will acquire it more easily, while others have to sweat for it. But all must acquire it, for great art is not possible without this sense of tradition. Thus Eliot emphasises painstaking effort through which the poet must equip himself for his task. Inspiration is not enough; perspiration too is necessary. That Eliot regards poetry as a craft, the result of painstaking effort on the part of the poet, is also borne out by his definition of poetry: Poetry is excellent words in excellent arrangement and excellent metre. A great part of the poets labour is the labour of analysing, selecting and rejecting. Dynamic Conception of Tradition Though like the classics Eliot insists that the individual poet must work within the frame of tradition, his view of tradition is not passive, static or unchanging. In this respect, he differs from the classics who believed in a blind adherence to a fixed, and unchanging tradition. According to Eliot, the literary tradition constantly grows, changes, and becomes different: When a really great work of art is created, the whole existing order is altered. In this way, the past is altered by the present and the present is directed by the past. The historic sense or the sense of tradition implied that the poet is conscious, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer down to the present day, and within it the whole of literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. Impersonality of Poetry Reacting against Wordsworths theory that poetry is, spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling, or that poetry has its origin in emotions recollected in tranquillity, Eliot advances his theory of impersonality of poetry. He observes, Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from emotion, it is not an expression of personality but an escape from personality. The greatest art is objective: the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates. As a matter of fact, the poet has no personality, he is merely a receptacle, a shred of platinum, a medium which fuses and combines feelings and impressions in a variety of ways. Intensity: The Themes of Poetry Thus poetry is not concerned with personal emotion. Even imagined experiences will do. The poets imagination can work as well upon what he has experienced as on what he had read. Further, Eliot points out that it is wrong to suppose that poetry is concerned merely with beauty. The subject of poetry is life with all its horror, its boredom and its glory. It is the poets consciousness of the situationthe human predicament, which has been the same in all ageswhich should inspire poetic creation. If the poets sense of his own age is intense enough, he will be able to pierce beneath the superficial differences between one age and another, and realise the fundamental sameness of human life in all ages. Then he will realise the horror, the ugliness as well the glory of life, and communicate it to his readers. It is the intensify of the poetic process, and not the romantic spontaneity, which is the important thing. Objective Co-relative: Depersonalisation of Emotion Further, Eliot points out that the poet can achieve impersonality and objectivity by finding some objective co-relative for his emotions. He defines, objective co-relative as a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula, for some particular emotion of the poet. Thus Milton could find a perfect objective co-relative for the release of his personal emotions in the story of Samson. Eliot himself uses European literature ancient myths and legends, as objective co-relatives in his poetry. Such depersonalisation of emotion is the test of great poetry. Function of Poetry As regards the function of poetry, Eliot suggests that the poet is an artist whose primary function is to maintain the pattern of tradition as well as to redesign it by his own creation. No doubt, poetry is a superior amusement, but primarily the purpose of poetry is neither to please nor to instruct. The poet is involved with the past and the future: with the future because he is assuring the continuance of tradition, and, therefore, of art; with the past because he must explore and study the tradition, as well as modify it, and in this way transmit it to the future. His search is to discover again what has been found before, and to adapt it to contemporary needs. Eliot does not totally reject the cultural function of poetry, but in this connection his views have a religious bias. Eliots impersonal theory of poetry is the greatest theory on the nature of poetic process after Wordsworths romantic conception of poetry. (A.G. George)

Since the artist has a mind full of varied feelings, his mind is no more than a medium to combine them into a new shape, itself remaining unaffected all the time. It may partly make use of the poet's own experience, 'but the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates.Impressions and experiences which are important for the man may take no place in the poetry, and those which become important in the poetry may play quite a negligible part in the man, the personality.' If this is also admitted, it will be found that 'poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from personality....The emotion of art is impersonal". It has 'its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet.' Unlike Wordsworth, Eliot prefers objectivity and intellect. He rejects Wordsworth's definition of poetry as 'emotion recollected in tranquillity.' It is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor tranquillity. The poetic process is a process of concentration of a very great number of experiences and this concentration is not conscious or deliberate. Some critics have interpreted Eliot's observation that a poem possesses a life of its own and that a poet must extinguish his personality in the poem as an abdication of the poet's proper responsibility. Such interpretations need not be put to it. As Allen Tate has stated the developing poem furnishes the poet with certain norms for its own nurturing. The main points of his impersonal theory of poetry can be summed up as under: 1. The poem and the poet are two different things. There is no connection between the poet's personality and the poem. A poet is great not because he puts his personality into his work, but because he has a mind in which varied feelings enter into new combinations. 2. There are two kinds of emotions, of the poem, which are impure and crude, and of the poem, which are 'significant'. The significant emotion has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet. The emotion of art is impersonal. 3. The poetic process is not that of the recollection of emotions in tranquillity, but of concentration. 4. The poet cannot reach the impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done. The progress of an artist is a continual extinction of personality. 5. Poetry is not a turning loose of emotions, but an escape from emotions; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. 6. The poet is a medium, not a personality. T. S. Eliot compares the poet with the catalyst. The mind of the poet is the platinum. The emotions and feelings are the gases. The more perfect he is as a poet, the less his own personality is involved. As the Sulphur and Carbon dioxide form Sulphurous acid, and the platinum remains unchanged, so the poet remains separate from his creation, though his feelings and emotions form new sum whole. 7. The poet's mind is a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together.' And it is not the "greatness", the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place that counts." One of the central problems of criticism has always been to define the degree to which literature should reflect the external world and the degree to which it should express the personality of the writer. It is no accident, then, that since Coleridge English criticism has been closely involved with idealist epistemology, which raises just those questions about perception in general. T.S. Eliot's fundamental critical concepts originated in his study of F.H. Bradley's version of the idealist theory of knowledge. But for Eliot, as for Bradley, the great weakness of the Romantic-idealist tradition was its tendency to subjectivism. In "Tradition and Individual Talent", Eliot opposes the Romantic conception by advancing his theory of impersonality in art and opines that the artistic process is a process of depersonalization and that the artist will surrender himself totally to the creative work. Eliot particularly objected to the great Romantics as well as Victorians who exaggerated the need to express human personality and subjective feeling and he says, "The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. Eliot holds that the poet and the poem are two separate things and "that the feelings or the emotion, or vision, resulting from the poem is something different from the feeling or emotion or vision in the mind of the poet.". Eliot realizes that the past exists in the present. "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His signification, his appreciation, is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone. You must set him for contrast and comparison among the dead. There is alienation between the poet and his poem. According to Eliot, the art emotion is different from personal emotion. In other hand, he should be depersonalized in experience he describes in the poem. Eliot brings the analogy of chemical reaction to explain the process of depersonalization Thus poetry is organization rather than inspiration. And the greatness of a poem does not depend upon the greatness or the intensity of the emotions, but upon the intensity of the process of poetic composition. The more intense the poetic process, the greater the poem. He strongly believes that "the differences between art and the event are always absolute. Eliot illustrates his view by a few examples among which one is of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale, which contains a number of feelings which have nothing particular to do with the nightingale. The artistic emotion evoked by Dante in his treatment of the episode of Paolo and Francesca is different from the actual emotion in the situation. The artistic emotion may approximate to the actual emotion as in Agamemnon the artistic emotion approximates to the emotion of an actual spectator; in Othello to the emotion of the protagonist himself. Eliot believes that the main concern of the

poet is not the expression of personality. Again, there is no need for poet to try to express new human emotions in poetry. Eliot's final definition of poetry is: poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion: it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality." So, honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry. The poet's biography is not to be studied; the structure of the poem and its evocative powers are important. Eliot's theory of depersonalization has been criticized by critics like Ransom and Yvor Winters. Ransom regards Eliot's theory as very neatly a doctrine of poetic automation. To Fei Pai Lu, Eliot's theory of depersonalization is completely vague. He says, "in the name of impersonality", Eliot by turns commends and censures poets and artist. Conclusion:- "To divert interest from the poet to the poetry is a laudable aim, T.S. Eliot declares in his acclaimed essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent. In the essay Eliot reintroduces the notion of the inconspicuous artist- the old classical interpretation of the artist-as-mirror- which went out of fashion in the early Romantic period and was replaced with a radically new view that placed the authors interior life at center. The points made in Eliots essay soon became some of the key concepts of the Formalist critics, particularly the New Critics, who advocated a kind of criticism that, to quote Eliot, is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry. Eliot later distanced himself from New Criticism, calling it the lemon-squeezer school of criticism and referring to their work as bogus scholarship. Nevertheless, his influence on their method of analysis, whether intended or not, is palpably evident. Wimsatt and Brooks are right in saying: Hardly since the 17th century had critical writing in English so resolutely transposed poetic theory from the axis of pleasure versus pain to that of unity versus multiplicity. Prepared by Professor Saleem Raza