10 February 2007

scholar says . . .

[from Michael Schmidt's Lives of the Poets]

Figurative language is not Dryden’s forte. Often it is not integrated with the argument but runs alongside, decorating and heightening but not collaborating with it at a deeper level. Milton exemplifies another mode. In “lik’ning spiritual to corporeal forms” Milton begins with figure and metaphor and attempts a realization that itself carries moral significance; Dryden teases prose meanings into metaphor. In each case a partial process is enacted. Pope, by contrast, thinks in shapes and forms, exploits reversals, contains his meanings in the figures themselves but works as it were with atomized forms and metaphors, divorced from the expected context and releasing new meanings in an original context. His poetry tends to fragment into brilliant shards. Milton’s procedure comes closest to the “organic” concept of poetic form enunciated by Coleridge and exploited by the Romantics. Dryden’s procedure is remote from this. He distrusts antithesis, paradox and disjunction and is wary of placing excessive confidence in plain narrative, at least for didactic purposes.

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