Friday, May 22, 2009

Reading book by Owen Barfield

Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning Since I haven't gotten very far into it, I can't say much yet; but I know it is a book I like. The copy I have is of the second edition -- Copyright © 1964 by the McGraw-Hill Book Company. I have it on loan through a local library. The first sentence of the "Preface to the Second Edition" reveals this book's basis: The Preface to the first edition described briefly how this book grew out of two empirical obser- vations, first, that poetry reacts on the meanings of the words it employs, and, secondly, that there appear to be two sorts of poetry. On page 34 is a longer passage I would like to shorten but deem it best not to. Apart from pleasurable entertainment (which must never be forgotten), there are two important functions which poetry is there to perform. One of them is the one I have stressed throughout this book, namely the making of meaning, which gives life to language and makes true knowledge possible. And this it does inasmuch as it is the vehicle of imagination. The other, lying much nearer the surface of life, is to mirror, not necessarily by approving, the characteristic response of the age in which it is written. Now it may happen, and it has been happening increasingly since the eighteenth century, that these two functions conflict. They may even be diametrically opposed to one another. For there may be an age of which the characteristic response is to deny the validity of imagination. And if that happens, a true and sensitive poet will find himself in a dilemma. Obviously, many changes have occurred since Barfield wrote his book, and while I have an idea of where he would stand, I am going to defer that until I have read his entire book. bl00343

No comments: