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(Points r just 4 guidance)




Right from the beginning, poets have been condemned as idle people. They are
generally considered to be worthless. Some are of the view that the poets are
worthless people and some consider them an essential need of life. However,
Heaney is a defender of poetry and he gives some lively ideas to prove his view-
point and he has been quite successful in defending poetry.

Plato and Republic;

To demand a utilitarian (useful rather than attractive) and the pragmatic approach
from poetry has been as old as Plato. Plato had banished the poets from his
Republic. But ironically, his argument was that poetry took us away from the idea,
while poetry is in fact is the world of the ideal. He is among the haters of poets and

Plato conceived this world as a world of illusions. This is not the real world. It is an
imperfect copy of an ideal world. That ideal world exists in our idea that is why it is
called ideal, belonging to the idea. In his ideal Republic, Plato would allow only
those people who may take us to perfection.

Aristotle opposition;

The poet takes us away from the ideal, so he does not allow the poets to enter his
Republic. Aristotle opposed his teacher and said,

“The poet had a vision and in our appearance he saw our ideal. When he makes our
portrait, he does not simply copy the features, he actually draws the character.”

Aristotle was of the view that poet was essential to keep balance in society.
He insisted that the poet takes us towards the ideal not away from it. Thus Plato
opposed poetry but Aristotle supported it.

Redress of Poetry;

The subject that Seamus Heaney has treated, the redress of poetry, is not a new
subject. The nature and purpose of poetry has been a subject of practical
importance to everyone who has an interest in poetry.


By redress Heaney means

…Reparation, satisfaction and compensation for wrong sustained (provide sth
enough to exist).

…our lose resulting against.

…and to rise again to an upright position.

This is the dictionary definition of what he proposes to say about poetry. The word
‘redress’ means to correct something that is unfair or wrong. By redress we also
mean consolation, compensation (payback), comfort or reassurance. So redress of
poetry means to remove or correct those false notions that have been created in
the mind.

Heaney’s Theories;

In his easy, The Redress of Poetry, Heaney builds different assumptions (theory) for
the redress of poetry. The question about the redress of poetry means;

Whether poetry can give man confidence?

Whether poetry can give man some assurance?

Whether poetry is the useful activity?

Whether poetry is an aesthetic (artistic) work or pragmatic (realistic) work?

Whether poets and poetry are any use in the complexities and miseries of life or

Answer of all these questions can be found in Heaney’s book Redress of Poetry

Defender of poetry;

Heaney makes a fresh attempt to defend poetry in this age of science and
technology when everyone is becoming a utilitarian and even education has been
commercialized. Poetry and philosophy are now considered idle mental luxuries
while commerce computer and business administration have been given the name
of education. Therefore, Heaney thinks that in the present world only poetry can
save man. This he calls ‘redress of poetry.’ There were others also who kept
defending poetry against all kind of objections. For example,

Sydney asserted (emphasized) that ‘’the poet takes us to the ideal.” She
straightforwardly wrote in ‘Apology For poetry’,

“A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with
sweet songs; his auditors are axmen and trance by the melody of unseen musician
who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

Shelley supported poetry because “they reach the perfection.”

Oscar Wilde said that “life should imitate art because art presents the perfection.”

Mathew Arnold went to extend that “all that now goes in the name of religion or
philosophy will be replaced by poetry. Poetry will perform the role of religion. It will
show man the right path and it will bring consolation to man. Poetry has a power of
sustaining man in difficulties.”

Matter-of-fact to imagination;

• “Squarings”…Heaney’s start his thesis by distinguishing two planes of

existence. He refers to his own poem, “Squarings”, which tells the story of an
apparition that comes on the earth but could not stay here because it would
have been drowned in the human element. The world of apparitions is one
plane of existence, while the human element is the other plane of it.

• “Pulley”…The next poem he quote is George Herbert’s Pulley. It is a

parable, a moral story. There is a mystic and religious touch in this story. God
created restlessness in the mind of man in spite of all the pleasures and pains
of life. It suggests that “the mind and aspiration of the human beings turned
towards the heavenly in spite of all the pleasures and penalties of being upon
the earth.

The two above mentioned poems show that there are two dimensions of
reality but there is a relationship between them. They can be brought to reconcile
with each other. This can be done by poetic sixth sense which provides a passage
from the domain of the matter-of-fact into the domain of the imagination.

Heaney is of the opinion that the world of reality and the world of imagination
are two different worlds but they depend upon each other and they reinforce each
other. We also see Heaney’s mysticism when he talks of the sixth sense. He
believes that beyond the five senses that we have, there is also a six sense, which
is a mystery to us. We know things mysteriously.

• “Responsibilities of The Poet”…Heaney keeps moving between the world

of matter-of-fact and the world of imagination. He quotes from the different
critics and poets to support his arguments. He quotes another writer, Pinsky,
in Responsibilities of The Poet says that the poet has a responsibilities to
answer. He is to answer the question raised by life.

Life raises questions and poets give their answers. this makes Heaney a very
didactic poet. He believes that poetry gives lessons. On the one hand, he believes in
the mystic sixth sense given by poetry, and, on the other hand, he believes in the
didactic responsibilities of the poetry and poets. This approach of Heaney’s is a
blend of the romantic and the classical.
Delight to wisdom;

Heaney defends poetry by describing its advantages. Beside a number of

advantages of poetry, it also has another advantage because of its rhyme and
rhythm and a pleasurable art of words. Roberts Frost explains it like;

“A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom”

Man comes to wisdom through delight, not to delight through wisdom. Man
studies poetry to amuse himself and to satisfy his soul but in this psychological
state he gets wisdom as well. Thus poetry is a pleasurable study of life as William
Wordsworth says;

“Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.”

Poetry answers the questions that life raises. When children make a play
house, it is their answer to the question what a house should be. Art shows what life
ought to be. Heaney gives precise examples to support his statement. Here he
gives an example from Thomas hardy’s poem, Afterwards. He says that the poet
tries to answer the questions raised by life. Life creates anxieties; poetry tries to
relive them.

Hypnological state

Life disturbs but poetry consoles. The frontier of writing is the state in which art is
created. It is when the poet is in between the outer world (face) and the inner world
(imagination). The poet becomes creative when he is half asleep and half awake.
This is a creative art and is also known as ecstasy. Neither he is too much bound
with reality nor much detached from it. This state of mind is called the hypnologic
state of mind. In this state of mind, the poet is aware of the fat and at the same
time he is aware of the ideal things.

This is what Richard Wilbur, an American poet, called the marginal area of
creative mood. In his poem Marginalia, he describes that the best things can be
perceived in a hypnological state of mind. Imagination actually colors the reality
and gives it an artistic vision. Therefore, the best art will be both full of life as well
as embellished of with imagination.

Poetry shows the way;

“Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason.”

Heaney agrees with Novalis in this quote and says that poetry is comprehensive,
that is not merely a product of events. Poetry gives us understanding of life. Poetry
doesn’t charge life; it only shows what should be changed. It shows what changes
should be brought in life. It tells that man is savage, cruel, good or bad but it does
not tell how these qualities can be removed or controlled. In simple words, poetry
shows the way. Novalis says;

Differences between poetry and politics;

Moreover, poetry is about man. Poetry promotes, love of man. Politics divides men.
Poetry shows that all men are human being and they deserved sympathy. But
politics tells that some people deserve our sympathy and some deserve our wrath.
Poetry speaks of love for all people; politics forces people to kill other people. If
poetry becomes politics then it will not remain poetry, it will becomes propaganda
and in this way it will divides humanity into friends and foes. Philip James Bailey
quotes it very beautifully that;

“Poets are all who love, who feel great truths, and tell them: and the truth of truths
is love”

Poet as a spokesman;

To defend poetry, Heaney makes another point which appeals to us. He says
that poetry is a joint effort of the reader and the writer. It means that the poet must
be the spokesman of the reader, he should feel and say what the readers feel and
wants to say. The poet echoes the feelings of the reader i.e. the poet must be
integrated with his society. He must feel what others feel. Heaney here quotes Jorge
Luis Borges who says “the taste of the apple lies in the contact of the fruit with the
palate.” Sweetness of the fruit depends upon the fruit as well as upon the Palate.
The beauty of poetry depends upon the poet as well as upon the reader. John Keats
represents it as,

“Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul,
and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.”

And Salvatore Quasimodo says;

“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and
which the reader recognizes as his own.”


To conclude, Heaney’s tries to demonstrate that poetry has a function in life,

though not ostentatious. The poet does nothing on purpose, but poetry is a medium
which by its very nature serve as a purpose.

This can be understood with reference to a statement by Wordsworth that

his poetry has a purpose. It is not meaningless activity. But this purpose is not
imposed on poetry. Since Wordsworth lives a purposeful life, therefore whatever he
does has a purpose in it. Heaney follows a similar line. He believes that redress of
poetry is inherent in poetry. Redress emerges from poetry as purpose emerges from
the heart of Wordsworth and informs his poetry.

Poetry is an imitation of an imitation twice removed from reality. Poetry is also a

creative work.

William Blake says…“Nature is a balm “

“Poetry is man rebellion against being what he is” James Branch Cabell

The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the
poem is not a thing we see-it is, rather, a light by which we may see-and what we see is life.
Robert Penn Warren

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.

Jean Cocteau