What is Poetry? At the very outset, it is indispensable for us to talk about the definition and the inner meaning of poetry. In fact poetry is variously defined.
Dr. Johnson defines poetry as ‘metrical composition’. Wordsworth defines it as the ‘spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling’. Carlyle declared poetry as ‘musical thought’.
Poetry cannot be defined just as life and love cannot be defined. Wordsworth said that truth is carried alive to the heart through poetry. It ‘is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science’.
Importance of Poetry
The importance of poetry can be highlighted by the following points:
- Poetry through sound and words create vibrations in the hearts of the readers.
- Poetry thrills and moves the hearts and broadens the awareness of things.
- It does not teach but it gives the highest wisdom.
- It appeals to the higher understanding and develops and sustains the emotions of love, beauty, sympathy.
- It attunes our hearts to the infinite.
- Its pleasure is profound; it deepens our awareness and communicates sense of things.
- It makes the readers discover life and nature a new.
Poetry has not only an emotional appeal; it has also an intellectual appeal. Instruction and entertainment are the two chief purposes of art of poetry. Shelley goes to the extent of calling poets ‘the unacknowledged legislators’.
The pleasure of poetry is the pleasure of discovery of the finer and deeper values of life. A poet can make sad things beautiful and sordid things wonderful. Coleridge has made beautiful poetry out of his dejection and Yeats says that he will create poetry out of ‘the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart’.
Macbeth’s despairing speech ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow’ moves us with the realization of take reality of life.
Poetry sublimates and recreates. It raises men from the narrow, circumscribed world of material gains and losses.
Poetry inspires as well as instructs. It sweeps away human thoughts, soothes human suffering and feeds human emotion. It ennobles, enlightens and entertains. It enters into the very depth of the human soul and lights up the dark corridor of human nature. In short, poetry acts as a great force through the pleasure it gives.
In a changing age, however, the taste of people has changed. But poetry deals with the eternal feelings of men. And its eternal appeal has remained the same amidst all the changes in the story of men.
A poet speaks though music, words and images. He interprets life in objective terms in sounds, rhyme, rhythm, imagery. Poetry creates beautiful pictures and sounds which give us pleasure.
Wordsworth describes both the songs of the solitary reaper and the cuckoo. He says:
‘A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard. In spring time from the cuckoo bird, Breaking the silence of the seas. Among the farthest Hebrides’