Sunday, November 20, 2011

Poetic Diction Quotes Part 2

Another page of great quotes from Owen Barfield's book Poetic Diction:

p.86: [Shelley citing Bacon] “’Neither are these only similitudes, as men of narrow observation may conceive them to be, but the same footprints of nature, treading or printing upon several subjects or matters.’”

p.88: “Not an empty ‘root meaning to shine’, but the same definite spiritual reality which was beheld on the one hand in what has since become pure human thinking; and on the other hand, in what has since become physical light; not an abstract conception, but the echoing footsteps of the goddess Natura – not a metaphor but a living Figure.”

p.92: “Mythology is the ghost of concrete meaning. Connections between discrete phenomena, connections which are now apprehended as metaphor, were once perceived as immediate realities. As such the poet strives, by his own efforts, to see them, and to make others see them, again.”

p.100: “Mr Jespersen … builds argument upon argument to prove that the historical development of language is indeed ‘progressive’ and not a kind of falling away from grace, as his predecessors held. These arguments are absolutely convincing and require no comment, as long as we remember that, to the author, ‘progress’ in the history of consciousness does not merely include, but is synonymous with an increasing ability to think abstract thoughts.”

p.102: “These primary ‘meanings’ were given, as it were, by Nature, but the very condition of their being given was that they could not at the same time be apprehended in full consciousness; they could not be known, but only experienced, or lived. At this time, therefore, individuals cannot be said to have been responsible for the production of poetic values. Not man was creating, but the gods – or in psychological jargon, his ‘unconscious.’”

p.107: “Where then does the modern poet find again this poetic principle that is dying out of language? Where? Nowhere but in himself. The same creative activity, once operative in meaning without man’s knowledge or control, and only recognized long afterwards, when he awoke to contemplate, as it were, what he had written in his sleep, this is now to be found within his own consciousness. And it calls him to become the true creator, the maker of meaning itself.”

p.115: “It will, I think, appear that this ‘soul’, latent in words, and waiting only to be discovered, is for the most part a kind of buried survival of the old ‘given’ meaning under later accretions; or, if not of the ‘given’ meaning itself, then of an old ‘created’ meaning which has been buried in the same way. … That words lose their freshness through habit is a more humdrum way of saying the same thing; and it will do well enough, as long as we remember that ‘habit’ itself is only a familiar name for the repetition of the identical, and that the repetition of the identical is the very essence of the rational principle – the very means by which the concrete becomes abstract – the Gorgon’s head itself.”

p.120: “The new meaning must be strange, not incomprehensible; otherwise the poetry of the whole passage is killed, and the fresh meaning itself will be still-born.”

p.124: “Hundreds of dead words might be resuscitated by men like Bishop Percy and Sir Walter Scott; it was the task of even more vital spirits to awaken those that were only sleeping.”

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