A Critical Essay Upon The Faculties Of The Mind

A Critical Essay Upon The Faculties Of The Mind-74
Shelley married twice before he drowned in a sailing accident in Italy at the age of 29.

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A child at play by itself will express its delight by its voice and motions; and every inflexion of tone and every gesture will bear exact relation to a corresponding antitype in the pleasurable impressions which awakened it; it will be the reflected image of that impression; and as the lyre trembles and sounds after the wind has died away; so the child seeks, by prolonging in its voice and motions the duration of the effect, to prolong also a consciousness of the cause.

In relation to the objects which delight a child these expressions are what poetry is to higher objects.

Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry” is unusual compared with similarly titled “defenses” of poetry.

Shelley’s essay contains no rules for poetry, or aesthetic judgments of his contemporaries.

Reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things.

Reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.This assumption then, through Shelley’s own understanding, marks the poet as a prophet, not a man dispensing forecasts but a person who “participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one.” He goes on to place poetry in the column of divine and organic process: “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth . To Shelley, poetry is utilitarian, as it brings civilization by “awaken[ing] and enlarg[ing] the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought.Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.” Shelley also addresses drama and the critical history of poetry through the ages, beginning with the classical period, moving through the Christian era, and into the middle ages until he arrives back in his present day, pronouncing the worth of poets and poetry as “indeed divine,” and the significant role that poets play, concluding with his famous last line: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” According to one mode of regarding those two classes of mental action, which are called reason and imagination, the former may be considered as mind contemplating the relations borne by one thought to another, however produced, and the latter, as mind acting upon those thoughts so as to color them with its own light, and composing from them, as from elements, other thoughts, each containing within itself the principle of its own integrity.The social sympathies, or those laws from which, as from its elements, society results, begin to develop themselves from the moment that two human beings coexist; the future is contained within the present, as the plant within the seed; and equality, diversity, unity, contrast, mutual dependence, become the principles alone capable of affording the motives according to which the will of a social being is determined to action, inasmuch as he is social; and constitute pleasure in sensation, virtue in sentiment, beauty in art, truth in reasoning, and love in the intercourse of kind.Hence men, even in the infancy of society, observe a certain order in their words and actions, distinct from that of the objects and the impressions represented by them, all expression being subject to the laws of that from which it proceeds.Those in “excess” of language are the poets, whose task it is to impart the pleasures of their experience and observations into poems.Shelley argues, that civilization advances and thrives with the help of poetry. the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the Creator.” The task of poets then is to interpret and present the poem; Shelley’s metaphor here explicates: “Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”The next portion of Shelley’s argument approaches the question of morality in poetry.The one is the το ποιειν, or the principle of synthesis, and has for its objects those forms which are common to universal nature and existence itself; the other is the το λογιςειν, or principle of analysis, and its action regards the relations of things simply as relations; considering thoughts, not in their integral unity, but as the algebraical representations which conduct to certain general results.Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole.And, although all men observe a similar, they observe not the same order, in the motions of the dance, in the melody of the song, in the combinations of language, in the series of their imitations of natural objects.For there is a certain order or rhythm belonging to each of these classes of mimetic representation, from which the hearer and the spectator receive an intenser and purer pleasure than from any other: the sense of an approximation to this order has been called taste by modern writers.


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