Mill--What Is Poetry?
1) Poetry is not
"matter of fact or science."
2) Poetry's purpose is to "act upon the emotions."
3) The interest felt in a novel . . . and is derived from
4) The interest excited by poetry comes from the representation
5) Poetry works internally--this is the appeal of poetry.
6) Novels work externally--this is the appeal of eloquence.
7) That which is eloquent aims primarily to achieve a desired
effect on other people.
8) That which is poetic is "feeling confessing itself to
itself . . . in symbols.
9) Eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard.
begins his search for a definition of what poetry is by
telling us what it is not. Poetry is not "matter
of fact or science." Poetry's purpose is to "act
upon the emotions." Science "addresses itself to
the belief" (roughly corresponding to Shelley's category of
reason), while poetry addresses itself to the
"feelings" (Shelley's category of imagination).
But, Mill says,
poetry isn't the only thing which acts on the emotions.
Novelists work to make an emotional impression on readers just
as poets do. Here Mill makes his primary categorical
distinction: "there is a radical distinction between the
interest felt in a novel . . . and the interest excited by
poetry; for the one is derived from incident, the other from the
representation of feeling." Poetry works internally;
novels work externally. Mill calls these the appeals of
poetry and of eloquence. That which is eloquent aims
primarily to achieve a desired effect on other people;
that which is poetic is "feeling confessing
itself to itself . . . in symbols which are the nearest
possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in
which it exists in the poet's mind." Eloquence is heard;
poetry is overheard.
The passion for
story is the passion of an individual's childhood of a society's
primitivism: "the minds and hearts of greatest depth and
elevation are commonly those which delight in poetry."