Tuesday, June 30, 2015

T.S. Eliot: "no art is more stubbornly national than poetry"

"That poetry is much more local than prose can be seen in the history of European languages. Through the Middle Ages to within a few hundred years ago Latin remained the language for philosophy, theology, and science. The impulse towards the literary use of the languages of the peoples began with poetry. And this appears perfectly natural when we realize that poetry has primarily to do with the expression of feeling and emotion; and that feeling and emotion are particular, whereas thought is general. It is easier to think in a foreign language than it is to feel in it. Therefore no art is more stubbornly national than poetry. A people may have its language taken away from it, suppressed, and another language compelled upon the schools; but unless you teach that people to feel in a new language, you have not eradicated the old one, and it will reappear in poetry, which is the vehicle of feeling."

"The Social Function of Poetry" in On Poetry and Poets by T.S. Eliot

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