Its philosophic function.
Then again, upon what Wordsworth calls “the more philosophical distinction” between Poetry and Matter of Fact—quoting, of course, the famous +"Philosophoteron kai spoudaioteron"+ passage in the Poetics—it is wonderful with what hearty consent our poets pounce upon this passage, and paraphrase it, and expand it, as the great justification of their art: which indeed it is. Sidney gives the passage at length. Wordsworth writes, “Aristotle, I have been told, hath said that Poetry is the most philosophic of all writings: it is so.” Coleridge quotes Sir John Davies, who wrote of Poesy (surely with an eye on the Poetics):
“From their gross
matter she abstracts their forms,
And draws a kind of quintessence from things;
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear them light on her celestial wings.
“Thus does she,
when from individual states
She doth abstract the universal kinds;
Which then reclothed in divers names and fates
Steal access through our senses to our minds.”
And Shelley has a remarkable paraphrase, ending, “The story of particular facts is as a mirror which obscures and distorts that which should be beautiful: poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”
In fine, this book goes far to prove of poetry, as it has been proved over and over again of other arts, that it is the men big enough to break the rules who accept and observe them most cheerfully.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE PUBLIC TOWARDS LETTERS
Sept. 29, 1894. The “Great Heart” of the Public.
I observe that our hoary friend, the Great Heart of the Public, has been taking his annual outing in September. Thanks to the German Emperor and the new head of the House of Orleans, he has had the opportunity of a stroll through the public press arm in arm with his old crony and adversary, the Divine Right of Kings. And the two have gone once more a-roaming by the light of the moon, to drop a tear, perchance, on the graves of the Thin End of the Wedge and the Stake in the Country. You know the unhappy story?—how the Wedge drove its thin end into the Stake, with fatal results: and how it died of remorse and was buried at the cross-roads with the Stake in its inside! It is a pathetic tale, and the Great Heart of the Public can always be trusted to discriminate true pathos from false.