“There Are Sensation, Love, & Poetry”
Number 2019. November 27, 2019
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is part 3 of the thrilling 1964 lecture we are serializing: Aesthetic Realism Looks at Sensation, by Eli Siegel. It is an illustration—groundbreaking, also delightful—of this Aesthetic Realism principle: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.” Mr. Siegel is showing that sensation, what our senses do, is a making one of the tremendous opposites self and world. We may be angry at the world, want to get away from it, sneer at it, see it as separate from our inner life. But the purpose of our senses—for sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch—is to take within ourselves that outside world and have it become of us. The deepest desire of every person, Aesthetic Realism explains, is “to like the world through knowing it.” Our very senses are grand evidence for the truth of that explanation.
Sensation & a Poem
In the section we’ve reached, Mr. Siegel is in the midst of discussing John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.” He comments on the opening stanzas of this poem of 1819, which is composed of 42 Spenserian stanzas. Mr. Siegel’s purpose is to illustrate what the senses, in their intricacy and simplicity, everydayness and grandeur, are. He is not, here, speaking about Keats’s importance as poet—on what makes his work authentic and powerful art—nor is he speaking on who John Keats as self and writer was. These big things Mr. Siegel did speak about at other times, always greatly and definitively; and I had the happiness of hearing him do so. Yet, somewhat earlier in the talk he alludes briefly, in one sentence, to what makes the poem art: he says, “As these sense impressions are presented…, there is something heard—which is Keats managing his words and lines and syllables.”
Eli Siegel was the critic to show that the thing distinguishing true poetry is music. This music arises from the writer’s having seen his or her subject and the world itself with such fullness, depth, accuracy, and love that the opposites of reality are heard as one in the lines: for instance, tumult and quietude, immediacy and wonder, delicacy and strength.
There Is Love
“The Eve of St. Agnes” has to do with love. And so, swiftly, I’ll relate it and the lecture to a recent New York Times article that deals, in a fashion, with marriage. The article (9-27-19) is titled “They’ve Got the Post-Wedding-Bell Blues.”…Read more
The Right Of is edited by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, who is author of its commentaries.