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we are able to get just this same kind of pleasure, which is so good for us, without having any real things to arrange. If you shut your eyes and then think of a horse, for example, it is certain that there is no real horse that you are looking at, and yet in some wonderful way you have been able to make a horse in your mind out of nothing. And the truth is that the idea of a horse which you have been able to call up in your mind, is just as real a thing, and just as important to you, as the horse that you may see in the street. And nothing will help you more in your life than the habit of seeing things in your mind very clearly; the habit not only of making things with your hands, but of making them in your mind as well. And just as, if you were building a house of bricks, you would not get the greatest possible pleasure unless you built a good, well-shaped, and complete house, so you will not get the greatest possible pleasure from the things that you make in your mind, unless they too are well-shaped and complete. You will find, for instance, that if you think about a horse with

а your eyes shut, that is to say, if you make a horse in your mind, you will get far more pleasure if you have learnt how to make it very exactly and clearly, than if you are only able to make it uncertainly, so that the horse in your mind is a confused kind of thing.

I have said that the pleasure that we get from making things, whether with our hands or in our minds, is good for us. This is so because, ever since the earth began, the greatest purpose of the life on it has been to grow from a confusion that cannot be understood into clear shapes that can be well understood, and when we make anything clearly and exactly we are helping this purpose. So that if the thing that we make is not clear, but only, so to speak, half made or a quarter made, we are failing to help the life of which we are a part as fully as we might, and our pleasure is less in consequence. That is why, when you make a horse (or any other thing) in your mind, you will get far less satisfaction if it is only a vague horse, a little like a horse perhaps and a little like a donkey, shall we say, and a little like a bush or a wheelbarrow, than you will if it is a horse clearly and completely made.

And if we think about this a minute or two longer, we shall see that very often the things that we make in our minds are suggested to us by some one else. If I tell

you that I caw the moon last night, you will at once make the moon in your mind. And if some one has himself seen a thing very clearly indeed, he will be able to tell us about it so well that we in our turn can make it very clearly in our own minds, and so get an especially large amount of that pleasure of which I have spoken. And it is just this that the poets can do for us, and that is why their poems can give us so much delight.

The poet sees or understands something very clearly indeed, so clearly that he is able to put it quite clearly into his poem, and then in a wonderful way we make it all over again for ourselves in our minds. For instance, William Morris saw the river Thames flowing on a cold winter night underneath the hills by his country home. And he saw it so clearly that he was able to tell us about it in words so well chosen, and arranged so beautifully for us to hear, that we cannot read them without finding all our best ability helping us in the delightful experience of seeing it all as clearly as Morris himself saw it:

“The wind's on the wold
And the night is a-cold
And Thames runs chill

'T wixt mead and hill.” Now forget about all this, and read the poems in this book. And after a time, when you have got used

. to them and know which ones you like best, read again what I have been saying, and I hope it will help you to understand something about what poetry may be to you now and through all your lives. For, while the first and by far the most important matter is to like a good thing, it is helpful, and, indeed, increases our liking, if we can find out why we like it.


I HAVE tried to tell you something of the reason why poetry could give us so much pleasure, and do so much to enrich our lives and our ways of thought. I want now to talk a little about the way in which the poet does his work, so that you may begin to understand what lies behind the making of the poetry that we find so full of enchantment. And, again, I do not want you to puzzle too much over what I

but just to read it carefully, and then from time to time go back to it, from the poems themselves, in the hope that it may gradually help you to form your own clear judgment about the things that you read. .


And first, although it seems a very simple thing to say, it is important to remember always, that the material which the poet uses for his work is words. Words to the poet are what paint is to the painter, or stone or marble to the sculptor, or notes of sound to the composer of music. So that if a poet uses his words well he needs no other help, while if he uses them badly nothing can be done to make his poem anything but worthless. Let us think what this means. Suppose a poet to be looking along a country lane on a dry autumn day, just when most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. Seeing the flock of many-coloured leaves driven along by the wind, his emotions are stirred, and he then feels theneed of shaping the emotion it to the clear shapes of poetry. And to do this he has nothing but words for his purpose. So far as we are concerned, it is of no use for him to dance or wave his arms about in excitement, or rush along as though he too were a leaf driven by the wind. To do these things might in a certain way express his feelings, although it would be an expression of far less meaning than the exact statements of poetry, but in

1 If, for instance, you had been with Wordsworth when he saw a rainbow, and he had suddenly stopped walking and pointed to it, drawing a deep sigh of pleasure, just as any one in thousands of men might do, you would have by no means realised his personal delight as intimately as you now do when you read his simple but complete words

"My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky." .

any case they would mean nothing to us, since we should see nothing of them. So that what he has to record must be recorded in words, and in words alone. This, by the way, is the reason why it is so bad, when you are reading poetry aloud to people, to add to the words all sorts of gestures and facial expressions. The poet when he has finally chosen and arranged his words, if his poem is worth reading at all, has already said completely what he had to say, and if we add to his perfect expression this other feeble expression of our own, it is nothing but an impertinence, as though we were saying, “This poet is not able to express himself very clearly, so we must help him out."

Having now seen that words are what he has entirely to depend upon, we shall realise how necessary it is that the selection and arranging of words shall be his own doing and not as he remembers it to have been done by some one else. If the poet really sees that scene of the country lane and blown leaves with his own eyes and in his own heart, he will be so intent upon his personal experience that his mind will be absorbed in inventing a personal way of expressing that experience; he will, in fact, create, and it is just this creating that makes us create for ourselves when we read his poem, and so gives us so much precious delight, as I have already explained. But if his experience is a vague and incomplete one, his mind, instead of working vigorously to create for itself, will lazily turn away to remember what some one else has said about the same kind of thing, and since one mind can never repeat another mind's work perfectly, he,

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