Introduction to Poetic Process

This essay first began to take shape in 1946 when I embarked upon a study of the growth and operation of Coleridge's mind. It seemed to me then — and still seems — that a task so delicate and susceptible of distortion might not be possible faithfully to complete; but at least I could explore the most likely causes of distortion and avoid them. Not a few books, I found, had been written about art both from the philosophical and critical points of view. But as I read through some of these and recalled others that I had read and tried to bring these into relation with Coleridge's mind, they seemed to be talking about something other than the experience and values of art. In some quarters there was a good deal of talk about Beauty and in others a tone of patronizing severity; many critics, in treating works of art as “things”, seemed to force alien preconceptions upon their subject-matter — some insisted upon common sense and others maintained fiercely that one must at all costs be scientific. A few artists, however, when they were writing about their own art, seemed to be talking about something that could be recognized as falling within the scope of an artist's experience; and these artists represented the root and core of criticism. Enraged that philosophers and critics could so disingenuously avoid the subjects they purported to illuminate, I wished to mend their ways. So my first shot at this essay was A Critique of Criticism, an attempt to determine the nature of the critical judgments we make in the presence of works of art.

This proved to be an evasion — precisely the evasion I wanted to drive out of aesthetics and criticism: one was assuming art and concentrating upon something else. I wished to know more about the way an artist's mind worked, what activities it shared with other minds, and how one could distinguish and compare different activities of mind. As soon as I started to ask direct questions about artistic experience, a number of other questions cropped up with them; the most searching questions, it seemed, that one could ask in ethics, psychology, philosophy, religion, and science. This would have been reason enough to lay the whole matter aside to await the attention of intellects more acute, sensibilities more refined, experience more profound, judgment more mature. Questions about knowledge, perception, vision, fact, truth, faith, symbolism, logic, imagination, moral judgment, had been asked from the beginning of recorded philosophy; and although some answers had been offered, the questions did not cease to clamour for attention. I could find no satisfactory attempt to integrate them into a single vision. Plato and Aristotle seemed to offer the greatest hope; Aquinas was not hostile; Bergson and Whitehead, though suspect in some quarters, seemed hospitable to the artist's attitude. Not until my work was well advanced did I come upon the fulfillment, in the work of Kierkegaard, Jaspers and Marcel, of much that Coleridge had striven for and of much that, in a tenuous and indistinct form, I had been led by my subject to adopt. Kierkegaard had noted in his journal in 1848, “My whole life is an epigram calculated to make people aware”; but no such appropriate centre seemed to have been chosen for a study of art. And there was no single comprehensive philosophy that took its departure from the nature of artistic experience itself.[1]

It was necessary to ask why philosophers, even when writing aesthetics, failed to recognize some of the most rudimentary assumptions that an artist makes. Martin Turnell, for example, in an article on Jules Laforgue and the theory of vers libre, has observed that “The foundations of modern art were laid in the period when the classical metaphysic was challenged by the rise of the idealist systems, by the change from a philosophy of being to a philosophy of knowing.” Descartes' cogito ergo sum, he suggests, is perhaps the turning-point — “it marks the retreat of the thinker and the artist into the world within.” But why “retreat”? Has not the artist's creative charter always been patior ergo sum — I suffer, therefore I am? And is it not in suffering that knowing and being meet luminously in value? And why were critics content to break off their discussions with an elegant gesture of evasion — as Eliot does at the end of his Hamlet essay: “If it is complained that I have not defined truth and fact and reason I can only reply modestly that it was never my intention to do so”? Was there no relation between the philosopher's world and the artist's? That seemed unlikely. Had the practice of art no light to throw upon the graver questions of philosophy and psychology, of morality, value, behaviour? There were no signs that art was clearly enough understood to be dismissed without a hearing. Other questions crowded in. Was artistic experience somehow abnormal, pathological, parasitic? Was art (as I had found some maintaining) simply an escape from those “facts of life” which (it was alleged) every sane person knows are hard, intractable, and perhaps hopeless? Was scientific method the sole and final judge of what was real? Must knowledge always be judged by the access it gave to power — and if so, what kind of power? Or was art a crude sort of groping which the refined methods of analytical logic and scientific technology had now rendered obsolete?

Certain similarities between artistic and mystical experience began to become clearer; there seemed to operate there a kind of knowing, valuable in its own right, which did not support itself either by logical or by sensory verification. Art and religion were not fighting a rearguard action against a new and self-sufficient development of the mind as revealed in science and certain kinds of philosophy; art was not a pterodactyl waging futile battle against Nature's latest masterpiece. I came to see that, whatever knowledge was, the end of knowledge was not material power but awareness; that whatever battle is going forward in the mental and spiritual spheres, it is not between rival avocations like science, art, religion, philosophy, big business, but between fundamentally different ways of mind. The ways of mind could, for my purposes and without over-simplification, be reduced to two. These I called “contemplative” and “technical”; the second term was to embrace both the practical way of mind that discharges in immediate action, and that state of suspended practicality which in defiance of Greek usage is commonly called “theoretical”.

My purpose was to clarify to myself what may be called “the facts of artistic experience”. It was now clear why this had not been undertaken more often or more vigorously: such an inquiry could not be confined within the limits of any recognized intellectual activity — not of aesthetics, art-criticism, history, psychology, metaphysics, ethics, or any other special department of philosophy. It lay at the intersection of all these special interests, and probably others. Art then might provide a fresh entry to many ancient problems and a novel attitude towards them; it might bring together into a single glance problems which had grown into unwholesome separation; it might supply some means of accurate inquiry into whatever experience is essentially moral, valuable, and individual.

But theories and systems and the solution of specific problems were something for a distant future. For a start it was a matter of seeing clearly what art and artistic experience were. Philosophy was to me a chilly and unfamiliar country, as vividly unreal as Paris or Los Angeles on a first visit; but if the trail led there too, one must try to avoid both bucolic vacuity and provincial intolerance; for there was no saying that philosophy might not be, in its own way, a holy city.


Philosophy, psychology, and criticism, I felt, had not notably succeeded in giving an adequate account of art. The most penetrating critics were inclined to gloss over the philosophical and moral implications of whatever they might conclude about art; the more busily the scientific critics analysed, the farther they moved away from art; philosophers were inclined to consider art as an afterthought, adding it as an appendix or footnote to a settled scheme, sometimes with a virtuoso's condescension.[2] In short — with a few exceptions — art was being “explained” (sometimes explained away) in terms which had previously been established for other purposes but which were neither sensitive enough nor comprehensive enough to embrace art.

One could not fail to notice that the only philosophers who had made any particularly illuminating remarks upon art were those whose thought started from and constantly returned to the irreducibly moral character of human experience. It was clear that the philosophical problem for artistic experience was in certain respects identical with that of moral experience, and that neither could be understood without examining each for what it was. The reality for art and the reality for ethics intersected in value and knowledge. Aesthetic theory had been seriously hampered by attempting to introduce value and knowledge only when they could be shown to arise from certain conceptual processes and to rest upon logical tests of evidence. Samuel Alexander — particularly in Beauty and Other Forms of Value — placed the emphasis upon Value; but he simultaneously centred his attention upon Beauty. Even though he conceived Beauty to be value and not quality, Alexander seemed to envisage value, much as he envisaged space-time, as substance and not as relation. In Richards' “psychological theory of value” (The Principles of Literary Criticism) the question of knowledge and value was evaded or disguised by arguing that everybody knew what knowledge was — that it was conceptual, and that value was only the psychological reconciliation of personal “wants” or “drives”. In seeking a scientific — that is, experimental and quantitative — basis for judging works of art, he had enjoined a wholesome respect for the complexities of art but had seriously misrepresented the nature of the creative act. It was necessary to return to artistic experience itself and settle the primary questions about art in the light of artistic facts and not on some other basis. For, as Herbert Read had written,

Beauty has no other reason

     than the eye can indicate;

Only the miraculous conception

     is immaculate.

Logic and conceptual verification could bear only upon propositions; but art was not basically propositional. Was the non-propositional character of art reason enough to deny that art arises from genuine knowledge? If fully developed artistic experience could be examined, would it be found that in art the situation of value was much the same as it is in instances of moral choice?

From a direct inquiry into artistic experience certain facts emerged with compelling force to dominate the whole investigation. (a) In art, fact and value are inseparable. (b) Value is not a term to be ascribed to certain classes of things or to events in general or in the abstract, but only to an individual event in which a person is actually, sensitively and comprehensively, involved. (c) Value and genuine knowledge are ineradicable features of artistic experience; they are vital features of poetic process in its most rudimentary beginnings and are largely responsible for its distinctive character; they are not to be regarded as 'terminal products' that appear when aesthetic experience has passed over into conceptual and veridical activity. (d) The archetypes of the event of value, of knowing, of perception, of language are more readily to be discerned and more accessible to examination in art than anywhere else. (e) A work of art is not first conceived and then made; it is discovered and realizes itself in the making. (f) Art bodies forth reality.[3]

This final axiom had to be assimilated with caution. The term 'reality' had to be given a genuine meaning beyond a gesture of applause; it had to be shown as the intersection in time of the time-less, of value, and of the person. I therefore took art to be meta-physical in a sense not usually assigned: that is, art was concerned to express reality and being, in forms which were structurally faithful both within themselves and to reality. 'Being' was not to be regarded as involving a question about the abstract 'existence' of things; but was taken to affirm the quality of that experience which was at once personal, valuable, and responsible. The centre of emphasis for an inquiry into art must be at once moral and experiential. But Whitehead's caution was to be observed: “There is a conventional view of experience . . . persistently lurking in tacit presuppositions. This view conceives experience as a clear-cut knowledge of clear-cut items, with clear-cut connections with each other. This is the conception of a trim, tidy, finite experience uniformly illuminated. No notion could be further from the truth. . . . The word ‘experience’ is one of the most deceitful in philosophy.” Other methods of inquiry claim access to reality and means of revealing reality: these had to be considered in the light of a reality which was not so narrow as to be silly, nor so inclusive as to be meaningless.


Albert Schweitzer repeats with approval the questions by which Goethe always examined a new philosophy: “Is it concerned with natural reality without preconceived theories, and does it bring man into direct relationship with nature? Is its conception of ethics pro-found and enlightened? When it has arrived at the final questions raised by research and reflection, has it the courage to admit that there remain unfathomable mysteries, or does it pretend to offer a system which explains everything?” If the pages that follow can satisfactorily survive questioning along those lines, I shall be content.

This is not primarily an essay in method; but in writing the essay a suitable method of inquiry had to be discovered for it. I did not feel entitled to make any presuppositions about the nature of the materials under inquiry, nor about the method proper to elucidate and correlate them. The inquiry was not to be an analysis of propositions or statements about art, but an inquiry into certain kinds of experience; the method therefore became suspensive and dialectical. No matter how useful the methods of logical analysis might be in refining terms in the approaches to the main inquiry, the integrity of the complex states exhibited in art had to be preserved under inquiry. To suppose that the subject could be exhausted by a succession of propositions, and that the worth of the inquiry could be determined by the logical correlation of those propositions, was an assumption that I could not accept. To demolish by analysis whatever meaning a statement might have been intended to have, is a common enough gambit in positivist argument; it usually shows that the statement did not mean something that it was never intended to mean. An artist recognizes clearly enough when he has got hold of a fruitful germ: why should not a philosopher single out certain accounts and statements which he recognizes as fruitful, accept them, and see what light the implications of that position would throw upon other established opinions, methods, and conclusions?

This way of working does not renounce analysis, nor does it seek to avoid criticism; it simply reserves the right to select starting points which it recognizes to be fruitful and relevant, and to examine them in a way that will fertilize rather than annihilate. In this way we arrive at an account of art by a process of dialectic — a dialectic in which the terms held in tension are contemplative entities and not propositions.[4] By means of analysis the contemplative terms are refined, clarified, and criticized before being brought into dialectical tension with other terms. Analysis in this sense is Aristotle's analusis — a loosening of mental knots, an unravelling of what is dense, compact, germ-like, packed with implications not indicated by the outer structure. By this restricted use of analysis contemplative entities can be clarified, and gently detached from the narcotic obscurities that confuse their margins. The analysis does not, however, penetrate into or anatomize the contemplative entity itself; only in a state of passive concentration, of vision, can a person hold a contemplative entity within the range of attention. Purified, detached from parasitic accretions which are no more of their own nature than barnacles are of the nature of a ship, contemplative entities can then be brought into collision and tension with each other as a stage towards dialectical synthesis. This is synthesis in the true sense of the word; not an analytical diagram or schema, but an integral comprehension of the related entities in a single moment of vision. But this contemplative dialectic evidently belongs in the sphere of art rather than in the sphere of any technical discipline so far established. Total assertions are brought into collision to generate further total assertions.[5] But no technical method can provide assertions other than partial: even in the 'thinking' process there are always needed the successive leaps into the dark. But the leaps must be carefully prepared: “There always comes a moment for the ‘thinker’ when, at the limit of his elaboration, elimination, fractionizings — at the end of his analysis — it is the first idea now received that carries him forward, as all the skill of the tight-rope dancer finishes up just at the extremity of the rope. There always comes a moment when every thinker is the victim of the conclusion of his finished effort, and of his own transformation (from thinker into sufferer)” (Paul Valéry). The language of the sufferer, the language of total assertion, is the language not of science but of poetry. The appropriate language for revealing these contemplative entities and their dialectical relations cannot be formulated before-hand. To prescribe a way of language, a manner of exposition, is to prescribe a way of mind; and the history of aesthetics and criticism does not show that an appropriate way of mind can yet be prescribed for poetics. Valéry has indicated the delicacy of the task.

“To invent ought closely to resemble the recognizing of a tune in the monotonous fall of raindrops, in the throbbing of the train and the alternating strokes of a machine.

One must have, I believe, an object, or nucleus, or substance that is vague — and a disposition. . . .

The general advance of inventions belongs to this general type: a sequence of successive deformations, almost continuous, of the given matter, and a threshold — a sudden perception of the future of one of the states.”

Looking back over the book I find that this is the method which has emerged by allowing the materials to discover their own coherence. I do not claim that this essay is a model of method. Only now at the end can I see at all clearly what the method was. If, with that in mind, I were to rewrite the whole book as a formal exposition or example of that method, clarifying and stylizing the procedure, the book would be an essay in method and not an essay in poetics. Poetry was what I wanted to write about, not method. But since poetry in particular, and art generally, impose peculiar difficulties for the inquirer, it seems not altogether presumptuous to set forth as clearly as may be a sketch of the method which seems to have been forced upon me in this case.

By putting on a particular pair of methodological spectacles it would seem that we could correct our aberrations of vision. But the analogy of spectacles does not apply to aesthetics and ethics; neither does it apply (I suspect) to any philosophy which is regarded in its ancient sense as the persistent search for wisdom and fullness of life. In these instances the observed and the observer are one and inseparable in several senses. In one sense the observer observes himself always, in that he can observe only what he can see; and what he can see is determined by what he is. Spectacles may clarify vision but they cannot create vision. They may, by limiting the field of vision, increase acuity; but at the same time they may act as blinkers or shutters occluding much of what must be seen at a single glance. I suspect that in studying poetic activities system and technique must be renounced; the method, the line of approach, wants to be heuristic, an alert way of open-minded seeking which does not prejudge either the nature of the materials or the final issue; an attitude of discovering, a rigorous and delicate sense of relevance; an embracing hospitality for all sorts of ideas and evidence which at first sight might seem to have nothing at all to do with art. If this essay gives a hint towards this method, it simply asserts the method that Socrates and Plato used, the method that Aristotle regarded as the crown of philosophical attainment although he left no writing of his own to illustrate this manner. This dialectical, heuristic method is (I believe) returning to the West, with encouraging force, chiefly under the name of existentialism.

Theory and system, and a neat box-hedged plan for poetry — these were never my intention. How to analyse without destroying the vitality and diversity; how to generalize without destroying the individual uniqueness; how to keep constantly in sight, as point of departure and test, the intricate and vigorous activity which terminates in works of art, and the arresting excitement and peace enjoyed in their presence — these were the problems in method. How such a method is to be classified I do not know; it is, I suppose, philosophy in the perennial sense. I have ventured to use the term Poetics, not simply in deference to Aristotle's fragmentary monument of that name, but because a name is needed for those inquiries which are neither aesthetics nor criticism but both at once; for it was necessary to claim the privilege of moving freely back and forth across whatever boundaries of method or subject those two more specialized studies might legitimately claim for themselves. The object is to see poetry and the poet in their full stature, in their full complexity, in the perspective of value and eternity: to see the poem as timelessly valuable, and the poet as a person who — through little virtue of his own — is transfigured by his art.


Whenever the attitude or method of science and positivism is mentioned in this essay, I observe that a note of asperity enters. This I should have liked to remove, if only to give my work an air of cool detachment, and to avoid the company of those cheerful partisans who insist upon dividing mankind into sheep and goats. An account of imagination, of the mind's ways of discovering and making, would be ridiculously narrow if it could not include every genuinely valuable event of making and discovering. There must be some way of thinking of Bach, Sherrington, and Beethoven, Matisse, Hindemith, and Einstein in one breath. John Livingston Lowes, in The Road to Xanadu, wrote about Newton in a way indistinguishable from his way of writing about a poet: “Once more there was the long, slow storing of the Well of memory; once more the flash of amazing vision through a fortuitous suggestion; once more the exacting task of translating the Vision into actuality.” He continues: “But it is of the utmost moment to more than poetry that instead of regarding the imagination as a bright but ineffectual faculty with which in some esoteric fashion poets and their kind are specially endowed, we recognize the essential oneness of its function and its ways with all the creative endeavours through which human brains, with dogged persistence, strive to discover and realize order in a chaotic world.”

When I try to discipline out of existence my acrimonious remarks upon science and the technical mind, I find that I am dealing with something more solid and serious than an “emotional block” on my own part or a state of sublimated envy. The technical mind is undoubtedly a powerful instrument for analysis and specific application. Its refined operations have undermined many superstitious fears and given leisure and space — both physical and mental — in which the mind can seek the central peace and freedom it longs for. But the very success of the technical mind has bred other superstitions no less oppressive than the old ones. We are probably cleaner than our ancestors, and better fed; generally we live longer. But we have not mastered the terrors of space and time, nor do we bother much to heal the sick conscience. A “rational” and materialist obscurantism is solidly in the air we breathe — more so, one supposes, in North America than in Europe but rapidly invading Europe under the guise of cultural and democratic insemination. It is difficult to cite actual instances, for obscurantism is nebulous and evasive; its power depends upon dispersal and the uncritical mind. It has no name or label, does not readily associate itself with single names or particular groups; and when one tries to pick out illustrations they sound like the excoriating jeremiads that envious men and social misfits, time out of mind, have screamed at their contemporaries. “Science” is the prevailing superstition, subserving every form of materialism, distorting principles, motives, and “facts”, with the bold inconsequence of propaganda broadcasts, inducing a destructive futility and what somebody has called “cosmic impertinence”. This is only partly to be laid to the charge of true scientists; it gathered full weight only when science came to be exploited by those who were in no sense scientists but were prepared, through ignorance or to serve material ends, to deify the technical mind, the expert view, the scientific method. For it thrives whenever belief has been debased into sophisticated gullibility, when curiosity grows blunt and inconsequent for lack of discipline.

Perhaps the most disastrous aspect of this superstition is the view — endorsed by experts and fomented by enthusiasts — that the technical mind is man's most refined instrument of discovery and the final criterion of all knowledge. At all events the forces of (what may conveniently be called) “positivism” and of a cerebral oversimplification disguised as common sense are not men of straw or Quixotic windmills. Bertrand Russell writes in his History of Western Philosophy: “There remains a vast field, traditionally included in philosophy, where scientific methods are inadequate. This field includes ultimate questions of value; science alone, for example, cannot prove that it is bad to enjoy the infliction of cruelty. Whatever can be known, can be known by means of science; but things which are legitimately matters of feeling lie outside its province” (my italics). At first sight he seems handsomely to be conceding, as few positivists would be prepared to, that there are limits to science. But the concession is immediately withdrawn by asserting that knowledge and science are co-extensive, and (by implication) that outside science there is no knowledge. The word “science” is the anglicized form of the Latin scientia = knowledge; but that meaning of the word “science” has only slowly made headway, and it is not much more than a century since science has come to be regarded as a genuine form of knowledge. Whence then this arrogant appropriation of knowledge to science? That is a historical question with which I cannot at the moment be concerned; but it looks very much like that inversion of values which the Greeks called ὕβϱις, the one-sidedness that makes a man spiritually blind and leads him to imagine that he is a law to himself As long as science maintains speculative detachment within its own methodological limits, it is not much less useful than breathing and not much more reprehensible than chess-playing. But when the “scientific attitude”, in a vulgarized form, mistaking hard-headedness for wisdom, invades the moral basis of responsibility, then obscurantism is undermining the health of a civilization. And rather more than a century ago Coleridge had already noticed that “We have purchased a few brilliant inventions at the loss of all communion with life and the spirit of nature.”

Here the central issue is that raised by Bertrand Russell — knowledge and the claim that knowledge is wholly embraced by science. A study of artistic experience, like a study of religious experience, brings one to recognize that there are other forms of knowing than the scientific kind, and that the immediacy and power of artistic knowing places scientific knowing in an ancillary and not a sovereign position. One of the results of this study has been to show that the technical mind, despite its brilliant triumphs, is a limited mental organization constructed in response to the circumstances of the human situation, and distorted into tyrannous oversimplification by an accident of emphasis.

But my essay has in this matter a more positive purpose. Whatever conflict this obscurantism implies, it is a conflict not between rival avocations — between scientists and artists and men of religion — but between two ways of mind: the technical and the contemplative. I wish to distinguish those two ways of mind and particularly to draw attention to the contemplative. Within the sphere of formal philosophy there is bitterness enough between those who would retain some connection between philosophy and life, and those who, by limiting philosophy to the narrow ambit of logic as we know it at present, deny the philosophical validity of value and of metaphysics. It may be that within philosophy the conflict of assertion and counter-assertion can never be satisfactorily resolved: there is no common meeting-ground between positivism and what the positivists with comprehensive scorn call “idealism”. Yet it is difficult to see how the whole sphere of moral inquiry can be dismissed as an illogical muddle. The direct study of art, of artistic experience, of the activities of mind exhibited in art, and of the artistic use of language enjoy an especially powerful point d'appui for metaphysical, epistemological, and moral questions.

In accepting the facts of artistic experience one is obliged to recognize processes which are synthetic and integral, ringed about with mystery and darkness, infused at crucial moments by events which can only be regarded as fortuitous. In poetics a contemplative attitude is required; otherwise there is no poetry to examine, no poetic experience to be recognized. Poetics concentrates upon whatever is capable of conveying wisdom, of broadening our awareness for the values of being and the qualities of human experience:

And wisdom is a butterfly

And not a gloomy bird of prey.

Poetics asserts — to put the matter in a very rudimentary form — that faithful self-abandonment is more valuable than cerebral consent. It has been said that “religion is what a man does with his solitude”. Poetics seeks to enter into the state of solitude, to discern value, to consider the implications of a categorical imperative, not of doing but of being. For poetics strives to reveal how in the artistic mind form and content become a unified entity which is neither form nor content but simply art. That such a unity is possible — and it proves to be a complex and extensive unity — suggests that there may lie here a clue to the quality of being which arises, neither from the contemplative mind alone, nor simply from the technical way of mind; but where both operate simultaneously, fusing purpose and vision, means and end, in that contemplative activity which is not merely action but value. Both ways of mind fall within the scope of artistic experience; singly neither can produce a work of art, yet when integrated in a delicately poised activity they can discharge in works which are timeless and inexhaustible.

The two ways of mind are neither mutually exclusive nor strictly antithetical; they are complementary, but at a level so radical that to integrate them is — and always has been — the most delicate and urgent practical problem for society and for the individual. They are not, however, of equal or interchangeable value, nor can we without peril choose one to the exclusion of the other: the human tragedy arises from our being endowed with both capacities; refusal or failure to integrate them is Death-in-Life. Poetics throws a peculiarly clear light, not only upon the distinction between the technical and the contemplative, but upon the relations between the two; for, in its critical function, poetics has power simultaneously to discriminate value and intention.

This essay then is not intended as another pamphlet in the strident logomachies between science and poetry, faith and reason. It is intended for a strong plea that the mind should be recognized for what it is; that mental creations should not be regarded too arrogantly on the one hand, nor too condescendingly on the other; that before any conception of reality is assumed, we should consider such apparent anti-theses as ideal — real, actual — phenomenal to see whether some notions of reality widely current are not simply assumptions convenient for some activities but inappropriate if extended to others. In short, this is a plea that we should notice how from time to time, in those persons for whom we reserve the name of genius, the mind asserts itself by breaking through the opaque screens of cultivated custom, social formality, and intolerant professionalism, to achieve and embody acts of vision; and how those acts of vision, by bringing us suddenly and humbly back to earth, restore for us the memories of incandescent moments-in-time which are our only glimpses of eternity.

For it is always a salutary shock to find that the vision of God is reserved, not for the excessively clever, urbane, or cultivated, for the men of ponderous learning or for those who display sharp singleness of purpose in the world of affairs or research; but quite simply for “the pure in heart” — not for the expert but for the initiate, and for the initiate in the discipline of humility, patience, and wholeness. This essay does not advocate one way of life and condemn all others. Purity of heart is not a trade specification and does not fall under any specialized category of function. It is a quality of intension.[6] Nothing can reveal the intension faithfully except the finished and realized work itself, and then only when the work is appropriately grasped. For the work is the intension embodied, the value arrested and made physical. Biography, personal statement, and reminiscence, throw at best a wavering light upon intension. The concept of motive involves a causal regress: it is as difficult to apply in philosophy as in a court of law, not because it lacks external criteria but because it implies a disguised attempt to explain the contemplative in terms of the technical. If we choose as fundamental criterion in art, not motive but intension, we are on much firmer ground; for each of the two ultimate intensions when embodied reveals itself in a distinct texture and rhythm. Once we can distinguish these two organizations — and the distinction has been asserted before in a variety of forms — it is possible to distinguish intension. Further, if in a particular case we can distinguish intension, we are in a fair way to adopt an appropriately receptive attitude; and this applies not only to works of art but to any kind of utterance or action whatsoever. But when we choose as our fundamental term intension rather than motives, emotional “drives”, and the like, we are renouncing the mechanistic determinism which scientific method seeks to assume even for human behaviour; we are asserting that will and value and moral judgment are of the irreducible essence of art and of all the higher forms or human experience and activity.

Whatever interest this essay may hold for the philosopher as distinct from the art critic will centre upon the distinction of these two attitudes of mind as exhibited in art. There may be some psychological interest in the suggestion that each intension does not simply arise from a special set of assumptions; each intension imposes — or simply is — a distinctive psychic and mental organization. In the long ascendancy of the technical way of mind, the contemplative mind has been recognized less and less clearly for what it is, and has seldom in recent years been submitted to patient scrutiny. On the other hand, the technical way of mind has been misrepresented; it has been described as though it were wholly distinct from — and had outmoded — the contemplative; consequently the speculative meeting-point of the two — in inference, discovery, vision, invention — has not been clearly understood. Yet “recognition”, a certain quality of insight, has recently come to dominate the philosophical scene. In this essay I am concerned primarily to examine the contemplative way of mind as exhibited in art; not because it occurs only in artistic activity, but because in art intension, activity, and product are so closely related in their modes of overt expression that they can, within the compass of poetics, be compared and examined without distorting their pristine character.

The contemplative mind in art relies upon and manifests in its physical products a primitive prelogical mode of knowing. The value and status of this mode of knowing is to be judged in individual events of value, not by its logical relations with generalized events, but by the structure and inner coherence of the individual cognitive act itself. Prelogical knowing does not preclude analytical thinking, but it is not propositional and does not arise from analytical thinking, nor does it return to it for verification: it bears its own argument within its body. This mode of knowing I believe is far more prominent and potent in human experience — even of the most humble and earthy sort — than is generally recognized. There can be no doubt that not all effective technical action is valuable. It may well come to be recognized that the contemplative prelogical mode of knowing exhibited so forcibly in art, the knowing that terminates in recognitions and not in 'conclusions', is the source from which all valuable action flows. For my own part, I am convinced that prelogical knowing is not only more reliable and comprehensive than the intellectual knowing of analysis, abstraction, generalization, and verification, but that it is in fact — in its directness and vividness — the prototype to which all human knowledge is referred in action, in actual events of reality.


Throughout this essay I have assumed and asserted the unity of art: that is, that there is no essential difference between the different arts if a correct adjustment is made for differences in medium and if the inquiry be carried to an appropriate level. The account here offered, however, concentrates upon poetry; the other arts have been used for illustration and to avoid the misunderstandings that occur when general statements about art are drawn from some special feature of a particular art. In most passages of this essay the words “poetry”, “poem”, and “poet” can be taken to stand for “art”, “work of art”, and “artist”; for I have tried to consider all general statements about poetry in the light of the other arts. I have used the phrase “poetic process”, not so much to indicate that the essay is concerned principally with poetry, but to recall the word “poetic” to its original Greek meaning of “creative”. There are however at least two strong objections to using the word “creative”. It has been too much used “for ritual terror and adornment”, for mystification, and for evasion — particularly in the phrases “creative imagination”, “creative artist”, and “creative writing”. It is well that artistic activity be regarded as different in kind from the practical and technical activities which seem “normal”. But there is nothing gained by placing the matter beyond inquiry either by retiring into a cloud, or by presupposing a partial view of “making”.

The second objection is fundamental. The word creative can only be applied analogically and not actually to human activity. An artist's experience is integrative; he selects and arranges in order to produce a translucent entity which is of value and which had not existed before in precisely that quality and character. But is that in the fullest sense creation? I believe that we cannot claim — even for the highest human achievement — a greater power of creation than Coleridge claims for the artist's imagination — “a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I am”. Some years ago Ivor Richards, in his Principles of Literary Criticism, was infuriated beyond measure by this phrase of Coleridge's, and asserted that an account of Imagination must be “devoid of theological implications”. Richards at that time was anxious to establish a scientific criticism: that perhaps explains his impatience fully enough. Perhaps art should be devoid of theological — that is, dogmatic and apologetic — implications; but I cannot see how any honest inquiry into art can be devoid of religious implications. The highest artistic creativity in man arises from a state of humility which is in truth not merely self-abasement, but self-annihilation. The great artist is not omnipotent: he is at best omni-viable, a perfectly translucent medium, ideally a conductor free of resistance or distortion. To call this “creative” is either honorific nonsense or hybristic blindness; a poet no more creates a poem than a mother creates a child. Most literary critics and writers on aesthetics contrive to pretend that no moral or religious issues should enter the realm of art; but it is not until we examine the implications of art in the sphere of moral value that we can understand why art proceeds perpetually upon a knife-edge, not only of achievement but also of damnation.

“Works of art”, Rilke once remarked, “are of an infinite loneliness and with nothing so little to be reached as with criticism.” In respect of judgment the artist is also of an infinite loneliness; the complete work of art, the artist in creation, is always right, is always unassailable; and as far as the range of the work extends, each work of art stands impregnable and timeless. To regard the artist as creator is more than a polite analogy; it represents the acute menace that the artist is to himself and to society. The artist is always right; he asserts, and his affirmations are beyond proof and disproof Yet in his humility and irony he does not much care whether the world thinks him right or not. What he has made is not entirely or even primarily his own; nor has he fashioned it out of his own power and knowledge, rather he has allowed it to happen through him. He has adjusted himself to a state of translucence, of medium-like conduction; he has co-operated in a minute moment of the universal and eternal process of coming-to-birth, the self-bodying of reality. In that activity he has realized himself; but that realization is a marginal product of the making, and the making is not the product of the realized self. In some sense the artist's function is priest-like; through the laying on of hands, by the ritual ordonnance of the sensory materials, a state of grace may be induced in the reader — but only if the reader, abasing and abandoning himself, is prepared to allow the vision to complete itself in him. A work of art, in the manner of a sacrament, offers perpetual access to reality. But between the work of art and the potential reality there is no necessary relation; to be in the presence of a work of art is not enough — its influence must fall (as in a sacrament) like rain upon the humble and thirsty heart. When the priest regards himself as exerting power in his own person, he becomes a dictator; when the sacrament becomes a formal benison, a documentary dispensation which disregards the recipient's attitude of mind, religion has degenerated into superstition.

Yet a complete work of art is timeless, a rendering and arrest of the luminous instant of reality, the perpetual now. So to arrest time is at once godlike and treasonable; or rather it becomes treasonable when the artist feels that of his own power he can arrest and annihilate time. Jacques Maritain, in his Art and Scholasticism, says that “Rimbaud's silence denotes perhaps the end of an age-old apostasy. At all events it clearly indicates that it is folly to try to find in art the words of eternal life and rest for the human heart: and that the artist, if he is not to shatter his art or his soul, must simply be, as artist, what art would have him be — a good workman.” Here there seems to me to be some confusion. If the “words of eternal life” can be uttered they can only be uttered in poetry: if there is to be found any “rest for the human heart” it will be found in a vivid and courageous apprehension of the present, perpetually novel and the sole source of value. Certainly the artist will probably “shatter his art or his soul” if his attitude towards his work is not the matter-of-fact attitude of the skilled craftsman. Yet if it is folly to try to find in art eternal truth, that is a circumscribed notion of art; for only in art can eternal truth ever be expressed. In the perfect state of man it will be all art, or no art. Not all art is secular; and not all secular art — including Rimbaud's — is irreligious. If art is not confined to “Beauty” but can embrace, in its embodiments of reality, “the horror, and the ugliness, and the glory”, why then should the religious mind depart from the infinite pity and wisdom that would find the seeds of eternal life in the secular and non-ecclesiastical, in the horror and emptiness of an ascetic discipline of evil?[7]  Could it not be said, as Eliot has said in his introduction to Kipling, that “it is not a Christian vision, but it is at least a pagan vision — a contradiction of the materialistic view: it is the insight into a harmony with nature which must be re-established if the truly Christian imagination is to be recovered by Christians”? Some connection between the artistic and the religious there certainly is, and it meets in the vivid integrity of the inner life. Henry James observes, in the Preface of his Portrait of a Lady, that “There is, I think, no more nutritive or suggestive truth . . . than that of the perfect dependence of the ‘moral’ sense of a work of art on the amount of felt life concerned in producing it. The question comes back thus, obviously, to the kind and degree of the artist's prime sensibility, which is the soil out of which his subject springs.” This, being the root of the glory, is also the root of the apostasy.

We know how reluctantly Matthew Arnold brought himself to the view that religion had decayed, that if civilization was not to degenerate into an apathetic materialism, art — as the “criticism of life” — must for the time being take the place of religion. Arnold's vision of art, and particularly his view that criticism must make the best ideas prevail, has tended to settle into a kind of literary fundamentalism. Art never can be a substitute for religion; but of the many (including Eliot) who have used Arnold as a whipping-post, few have shown respect for his penetrating insight. The connections between art and religion (but not theology) are neither slight nor accidental. Art has its heresies; these are not dogmatic divergences so much as the truncations of awareness, the rejections of responsibility, the wilful assertions that are all comprehended within the single sin of pride, the desolating game of playing at being God; these end in despair by a process of apostasy that Kierkegaard has described.

“Every human existence which is not conscious of itself as spirit, or conscious of itself before God as spirit, every human existence which is not thus grounded transparently in God but obscurely re-poses or terminates in some abstract universality (state, nation, &c.), or which, in obscurity about itself, takes its faculties merely as active powers, without in a deeper sense being conscious whence it has them, which regards itself as an inexplicable something which is to be understood per se — every such existence, whatever it accomplishes, though it be the most amazing exploit, whatever it explains, though it were the whole of existence, however it enjoys life aesthetically — every such existence is after all despair.”

The crisis of self-consciousness in an artist's life is a microcosmic sketch of his always being under threat of a capital charge for treason. Herbert Read has indicated how self-consciousness may undermine a system of myth: “A religion like Christianity is built up largely of unconscious symbols: it find its most powerful forces in unconscious processes like faith, prayer, grace. The effect of experimental sciences has been to destroy the unconsciousness of these symbols: it understands them and therefore equates them with conscious equivalents, which are no longer symbols and which on that account no longer compel the imagination.” Once an artist notices that he can make a work of art whenever he wishes, he is in danger of never making another. If he continues to make, he may easily fall into the position of Eliot's Thomas à Becket, desiring to find eternal power in the ultimate self-sacrifice of martyrdom. It is a shadow of emphasis that stands between the priest and the ruthless man of power — both in their own ways sincere, devoted to the point of self-destruction, convinced to the point of destroying others. The artist's position can be very similar.

Thomas Mann has rendered the mature form of this crisis with appalling directness in his portrait of Goethe in Lotte in Weimar.'[8] The artist, he says, may be illumined, but not inspired. “Can you imagine”, he continues, “the Lord God being inspired?” “One ascribes to Him a peculiar coldness, a destructive equanimity. For what should He feel enthusiasm, on whose side should he stand? For He is the whole, He is His own side. He stands on His side. His attitude is one of all-embracing irony.” Goethe's God here is the projection of Goethe, of Goethe's conception of the artist, the man who exerts “the gaze of absolute art, which is at once absolute love and absolute nihilism and indifference and implies that horrifying approach to the godlike-diabolic which we call genius.” The “neutrality of absolute art” is a unity of allness and nihilism “having nothing to do with gentleness, and amounting to a most peculiar coldness, a crushing indifference”. That neutrality arises from the artist's double nature, at once willing and suffering. “What I am after is the productive, male-female force, conceiving and procreating, susceptible in the highest degree. I am the Lindheymer [female ancestor] in male form, womb and seed, androgynous art, quick to receive, yet myself begetting, enriching the world with that I have received.” Androgynous the great artist certainly is, but in respect of consciousness and not of creativity. When Goethe conceives the double nature of the artist as concentrating in one person the double function of creation, he justifies his shocking cruelty to Lotte, his crushing insensitiveness, by supposing himself God, omnipotent, amoral, impervious. This is the pinnacle of temptation that the artist is led to: he can create, he knows he can create, he is God. Goethe is not an isolated instance: any powerful heresy is at least half true. But between this attitude and the attitude of a brutal and self-deceiving autocrat there is no difference. The difference, it might seem, is that the one attitude produces abiding works of art, and the other manifests itself in mass graves and the shattered conscience. The paradox is only verbal; for no abiding work of art can grow out of a lust for power, but only out of the humility of the craftsman who can be perpetually surprised that his work can at times transcend and redeem the limits of his own power and his own weakness. The artist is not absolved from the moral order of man's universe of value; only his position is more hazardous, more solitary, more desolating.

There is a profound difference between the way art is created and the way it is recreated. Art can never be morally neutral, and it can never be separated from profound (if sometimes only momentary) beliefs. Although it is now fashionable to reject with scorn the principle of “l' art pour l' art”, it is difficult to see how any other attitude in the artist can preserve him from the sin of pride and the lust for power. So intricate, and delicate, and impossible is the making in art that it absorbs the whole of the artist's energy and attention; the virtues of humility and disinterestedness are forced upon him by the nature of his activity. But that does not mean that his work is amoral or powerless to communicate and influence. Only when criticism regards art as an isolated end-in-itself does the notion of art for art's sake become vicious and sterile. Criticism has been enriched by regarding art in the perspective of morality rather than in the light of a Puritan or Philistine moralism; it has increased its stature and power by going beyond the tests of Beauty and naughtiness to take serious account of qualities of intelligence and sensibility. It has been wholesome for a time to say with Remy de Gourmont that “La vérité est tyrannique; le doute est libérateur”; and to cry with Gide, “Let us drop the word Truth, which might lead one to believe that the despotism of certain ideas is legitimate.” It was well perhaps for our time to concentrate upon fidelity to inner experience, to find means of rendering the luminous envelope of the individual sensitive life, to assert — even with brutal force — the artist's privilege to cultivate his private universe of vivid being regardless of social custom and convention. But when one considers the sedulous cultivation of sensibility and intellect in vacuo, in the padded satin room pervaded with nostalgic perfumes; when one regards the universe of Proust or Gide or Joyce or at large the world of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolists; one recognizes self-abnegation, a particular asceticism in the inner discipline of suspension, avoiding every formulation which might mar the nacreous evanescence of the naked sensibility. Yet about it all there is an air of death; for all the vaunted integrity, so much is narrowly circumscribed, private, narcissistic, unashamedly self-exhibitory. One marvels at the cool-headed criticism that can do full justice to the qualities of intelligence and sensibility in this work without noticing its moral vacuity. So to suspend moral discrimination is not a true scepticism but an evasion of judgment, an evasion of the responsibility to judge wholly of art in all its implications.

It does not follow from what I have just said that I am advocating an exclusively rosy-cheeked jumper-and-gym-shoes school of art. But I am frankly puzzled by the self-gratulatory onanism exhibited in some of the literature of this century, and, behind the unquestionable originality and brilliance of some of its achievements, by the inconsequence and emptiness of the world it reveals. Even this I am prepared to accept in the all-embracing name of art, and in the hope of finding illumination there and some correction for my personal cranks of taste and response. It is less easy to accept the irresponsibility of those critics who have arrogated to themselves a “creative” role in order to add professional dignity and paedagogic authority to the unassuming chore of carrying literary slop-pails and pruning-hooks. Plato banished much poetry from his state, not for philosophical convenience, but because — being a poet — he recognized and was appalled by the power of poetry; a power which could bemuse and pervert as well as liberate. Yeats was to suffer some afterthoughts:

Did that play of mine send out

Certain men the English shot? . . .

Could my spoken words have checked

That whereby a house lay wrecked?

The youthful Shelley withdrew from Ireland frightened lest his writing might stir up civil war and end in the spilling of blood. It is easier — and altogether more comfortable — to dismiss these facts with laughter than to recognize the truth they point to. Most of the art criticism of this century is guilty of renouncing moral judgment. And this has usually been done, not designedly, but absent-mindedly: by limiting critical judgment to the order of scientific judgment and “aesthetic” propriety. In art, however, judgment is a direct grasp of value, intention, integrity — in short, of morality. Such judgments are not purely aesthetic any more than they can be purely scientific. If one supposes that poetry is the utterance of wisdom and being, and that philosophy is the criticism and correlation of statements about wisdom and being, then poetry and philosophy go hand in hand. Criticism, in trying to become more philosophical, has merely tended to become more positivist; it has thereby tended to fragment poetry as well as criticism and has helped to drive a wedge of “humanist” materialism between the two great centres of contemplative wisdom — poetry and philosophy.

For several years the New Criticism has divided its allegiance between the School of Value as represented by T. S. Eliot and the scientific or Manifesto School as represented by the early Richards. For many years Eliot's poetry and criticism have served as host for much clever and parasitic journalism. During the last year or so, however, former admirers and scholiasts of Eliot's work have started to show their teeth. One would not be surprised if the revulsion were an elementary gesture of surfeit; but there is a note of terror in it. In all conscience Mr Eliot has been evasive enough behind his erudite dogmatism; he has not been easy to label — not even with his own labels. But now he has stepped forward, unabashed, in the role of heresy-hunter. “Aesthetic sensibility”, he asserted in his Notes towards a Definition of Culture, “must be extended into spiritual perception, and spiritual perception must be extended into aesthetic sensibility and disciplined taste before we are qualified to pass judgment upon decadence or diabolism or nihilism in art. To judge a work of art by artistic or by religious standards, to judge a religion by religious or artistic standards should come in the end to the same thing: it is an end at which no individual can arrive.” This is an unnerving statement. It destroys— or ought to destroy — at a single stroke the comfortable and defensive fiction that in art nothing counts beyond intelligence and naked sensibility.

This is not the place fully to examine these issues. I simply wish to indicate at one extreme some of the issues forced upon us by inquiring into artistic process and the experience of artists. Art, being an integrated activity of the person, cannot be separated from the most serious and persistent crises that man in his angelic obtuseness is called upon to survive with honour. But in the pages that follow there will be no plentiful use of words like “death”, “God”, “life”, and “love” — I have tried as far as possible (following Paul Valéry) to eschew these trombones.


In the body of the essay, and in notes upon the text, I have introduced parallel and supporting quotations from other writers. There may exist an account of artistic experience similar to mine: if there is, I have not seen it. In reading and in discussion I have found numerous anticipations of details of my own position, and a gratifying quantity of support. The only claim I can make is not for originality, but for singleness of conception. I have striven to work persistently from the facts of artistic experience and aesthetic facts, as far as I was able to grasp them for myself in the presence of works of art. The method is neither eclectic nor deductive; no doubt it has most of the classical defects of an inquiry primarily introspective. Yet because I wished to examine artistic experience and not something else, I was determined that the inquiry must constantly be referred to and tested by artistic experience. How far my introspection has been modified by reading and discussion, how deeply germinal debts and borrowings may be submerged, I cannot possibly say: I know that my debts are numerous and heavy. The essay was first drafted after very little specific reading, and has not substantially altered its premisses or conclusions since then. During the five years that that draft has lain fallow I have been encouraged to bring the work to completion, not by finding numerous disagreements, but by finding in later reading a quantity of fragmentary agreements. The original draft was almost completely bare of illustrative material; the parallels and particular illustrations now included have been drawn very largely from reading carried on while the final draft was being written. Whatever authority the essay may have will arise, I suggest, from the fact that it was conceived existentially with the single critical test of my own experience; it is encouraging that an account so conceived should coincide at some points with the statements of artists whose work and reminiscences were not known to me until the work was virtually finished.

When I speak of a poem or a work of art I do not include everything that might conceivably be called a poem, but only the few greatest poems which are unquestionably entitled to that name. But I do not offer a list of these few greatest poems, nor can such a list be inferred from my essay. Great poetry is at once too widely dispersed and too severely localized to be comprehended within any one person's critical grasp. My view of poetic process has not been, and could not have been, deduced or evolved from any specific group of works of art; it has grown out of meditations upon the experience of the artist and upon whatever other 'inner goings-on' clustered around that experience. Nor do I believe that my view could have been deduced or inferred from any specific collection of statements made by artists themselves: the evidence there is too confused, and by its very nature it resists most attempts to reduce it to a datum for comparison.

A writer skilled in philosophical exposition would have made a tidier job of this essay. For myself, I did not hold clear philosophical exposition as a principal aim. If I have been able to delineate in some wise the arch and movement, the urgency and mystery, of artistic activity; if I have been able to strike a blow against the gross over- simplifications of art that have gathered weight in this century; if I have been able to indicate that the complexities, delicacies, happy accidents, the tensions, collisions, and illogicalities of art present a fruitful and almost virgin field of inquiry for the philosopher who would extend philosophy, to the psychologist who would make his study at once more sensitive and more personal; I shall be content. Clarity is difficult to achieve; words — inscrutable, fertile, unbiddable as they are — always stand between the force of the felt thought and the marks on the page. To avoid the ambiguity of using eroded terms I have reluctantly introduced two or three special terms. These are not 'technical' terms so much as unavoidable, if somewhat clumsy, devices to prevent the reader from crossing over to somebody else's tramlines of thought. If I am correct in believing that the study of poetic process will be fruitful for philosophy, psychology, and logic, a clear break with some earlier ways of thinking about art will be necessary at some points. Until a fresh mode of thought is established in poetics, until a new way of thinking about art becomes natural, the mind will tend to follow more familiar and comfortable highways. To start with, we need a few one-way words. When usage has turned a blazed trail into a paved road, the road-signs can be less numerous, the police force smaller; we shall enjoy the luxury of regarding every word as a four-cross-roads because we shall know in what direction home lies if we want to get there. If I am mistaken in this, there will be a little more terminological wreckage lying in the ditches of scholarship: that risk seemed worth taking. But here I hope will be no undue 'abusing of God's patience and the King's English'.

Somewhere between the excitement of discovery and the discouragements of 'trying to use words', between the sudden brilliance of vision and the successive desolations of striving to render the vision — somewhere in that middle land of ordered and accidental communication the words rest when the pen is put aside. “In the beginning of important things,” André Gide has said,  “— in the beginning of love, in the beginning of the day, in the beginning of any work — there is a moment when we understand more perfectly than we understand again until all is finished.” But perhaps when all is finished there will be no art and no language; and then all the anguished struggles towards clarity in words will be redeemed when the mind falls upon the simple enterprise of going naked.


[1] Croce's Estetica, it is true, following somewhat in the steps of Vico's Scienza Nuova, had attempted to start from the “facts” of art, but through an imperfect understanding of artistic experience broke its back over the central term, “expression”. Professor H. A. Hodges' book, The Philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey (1952), unfortunately did not come into my hands until after my manuscript was completed; there is much in that book that would have profited me.

[2] R. G. Collingwood's influential and somewhat authoritarian writings in aesthetics are irredeemably hampered by his refusal to allow art to modify the philosophical position he had previously adopted. I suspect from the texture of his writing that he recognized how disrupting art could have been in his philosophy, but was not prepared to let that disruption occur.

[3] Some time after establishing these premisses for myself I find three luminously set forth by A. E. Taylor in the second chapter of The Faith of a Moralist (1930) and in his essay “Knowing and Believing” in the Philosophical Studies (1934). For further comparison Leone Vivante's English Poetry and its contribution to the knowledge of a creative principle (1950) may also be consulted. Gabriel Marcel's The Mystery of Being (1950-1) rests upon a similar position.

[4] It seems to me that in Hegel's dialectic the terms are suppressed propositions couched in single words; the concealed technical character of his method makes it, as the Marxists have found, easily susceptible to disingenuous distortion.

[5] For the meaning of the term “total assertion”, see my pp. 32-3 below.

[6] By intension I mean something more comprehensive and internal, something less deliberate and “conscious”, than is implied by “intention”. Intension may be defined as the impulsive orientation of the person in a moment of awareness. Part of the task of resolving intension into action is to externalize the impulse into an “intention”; the Greek for intend being to “have it in mind [to do] . . .” The word “intension” belongs with Hopkins's words “inscape” and “instress”; although it has a technical application in logic it is not likely to lead to ambiguity.

[7] Jacques Maritain describes this well in Art and Poetry. “There is a speculative sincerity, I mean with respect to the self and in the very order of the interior life; a straightforward gaze before which the heart spreads like a deployed campaign; for which the shames, the opprobriums, the social prohibitions and all the rules concerning the dialogue with others, do not enter in, transferred to the secret colloquy in which God alone takes part, to dissimulate aught of what is. If such a sincerity is not frequent, this is because it requires courage.

    “The saints possess it, lighted as they are by the gift of knowledge, illumination of tears, and upheld by the gift of strength, which prevents them from dying of grief in seeing themselves. On another level certain gifts of the artistic order procure this kind of sincerity in their manner. Such appeared in profane literature, at the price of what ransom, of what redoubtable availability, the privilege of Proust. Such is also, in the mystical description of the most singular religious itinerary, the marvellous gift that we find in Rene Schwob.”

[8] Whether it is an accurate portrait of Goethe is not the question at issue here. I take it to be a faithful account: it is shockingly repeated in Rilke's life.