On Form: Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word

By Angela Leighton

What's shape? Why does shape subject? during this imaginitive and impressive research, Angela Leighton assesses not just the legacy of Victorian aestheticism, and its richly imaginitive key-phrase, 'form', but additionally the very nature of the literary. She indicates how writers, for 2 centuries and extra, have back to the belief of shape as whatever which incorporates the key of artwork itself. She tracks the improvement of the note from the Romantics to modern poets, and gives shut readings of, between others, Tennyson, Pater, Woolf, Yeats, Stevens, and Plath, to teach how shape has supplied the only most crucial manner of accounting for the activities of literary language itself. She investigates, for example, the previous debate of shape and content material, of shape as tune or sound-shape, because the ghostly dynamic and dynamics of a textual content, in addition to its lengthy organization with the aestheticist precept of being 'for nothing'. In a wide-ranging and artistic argument, she means that shape is the major to the excitement of the literary textual content, and that that excitement is a part of what literary feedback itself must resolution and convey.

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B. Yeats: A Variorum version, second edn revised and enlarged, ed. Warwick Gould, Phillip L. Marcus, and Michael J. Sidnell (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992), 88. ⁵⁴ Ibid. 89. ⁵⁵ Yeats, Autobiographies, 277. 168 Yeats’s toes of his ‘responsibilities’. yet even with out this autobiographical examining, the hare, that's additionally a lady, is going the best way of all hares. Its leaving is dramatic, powerful—the emotional element of the poem. Who is familiar with if it was once a hare or a girl? Who is aware the place it went? what's transparent is that drumming of heels after which the ‘leap’. because the hare escapes, it's the ft that we listen, the rhythm of its drumming at the flooring, the final thud earlier than the ‘leap’. within the comparable quantity, the fast poem ‘Memory’ additionally remembers a hare, yet right here the creature has already long past, leaving in basic terms its imprint in the back of: ‘the mountain grass | can't yet retain the shape’ (350) of it. the following shape doubles up on its different that means: the hare’s lair. this sort of ‘form’ remains within the reminiscence, even though the hare has long past, and all of the poet can do is retain the influence of it, its heat or after-shape. The be aware not just tricks on the verse-form from which the topic has escaped, but additionally on the neoplatonic feel of whatever wilfully inhabited, or deserted. whilst, on the very finish of his lifestyles, Yeats requested: ‘Which of her varieties has proven her substance correct? ’ (618), he was once acknowledging the difficulties of his personal view of shape. The hare may be not more Maud Gonne than the horses or swans are. but its relation to her is like that of a ‘form’—something she has selected, taken, after which left. ‘Memory’ is the name of a poem during which the triple experience of ‘form’, neoplatonic body-form, poetic verse-form, and literal lair, is either what's left over from the ‘mountain hare’ and all that's left of it. The ‘form’ used to be taken, after which deserted. in addition, the shape is a simile for the hare, because the hare is a simile for the girl. even as, inhabiting kinds can be all we've. If not anything else, ‘Memory’ is the shape of an elegy for no matter what it really is that has long past. ∗ ∗ ∗ whilst Michael Longley, Andrew McNeillie, and David Harsent write approximately hares of their poetry, they keep in mind at a few point ‘the shape’ Yeats bequeathed them. In Longley’s four-line poem known as ‘Form’, the audio system’ pairs of fingers mislay ‘the hare and the heat it leaves behind’. ⁵⁶ it really is as though they're feeling at one eliminate for whatever that Yeats additionally misplaced. McNeillie’s poem, ‘Hare’, recognizes Yeats’s implicit department of shape and content material, yet places them jointly back: ‘Form and ⁵⁶ Michael Longley, The Ghost Orchid (London: Cape Poetry, 1995), 1. Yeats’s ft 169 which means so comfortable together’. ⁵⁷ In David Harsent’s ‘The girl and the Hare (1)’ the bleakness of Yeats’s poem, its uncanny failure of direct comparability, is recalled: i've got come to come back to not anything, or under not anything if not anything is absence and shortage not anything greater than a face or identify long gone lacking. ⁵⁸ anything during this poem, as in all of the others, is ‘missing’: either the ‘hare’ and ‘a face or name’. Yeats’s ‘Memory’, with its managed heartbreak and play on ‘form’, supplies to those later poets an ideal miniature: of ‘form’ as whatever left over while the creature has long gone.

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