What is poetry and its main characteristics

What is poetry and its main characteristics

What is poetry and its main characteristics: It is difficult to say how poetry was born in the first place. There are numerous opinions and theories.

What is poetry ? What are its main characteristics ?

1. Origin of Poetry-

It is difficult to say how poetry was born in the first place. There are numerous opinions and theories. Perhaps the most plausible explanation was implied in the famous utterance of the great epic poet of Sanskrit, Valmiki. He was moved to tears by the sight of the male bird, lying dead by the side of his female, killed by a pitiless fowler in the very act of copulation. Pity burst out of him the form of these moving lines:

Thus poetry was born out of some deeply-moving sight of nature in the tender heart of a sensitive being. Man gave expression to his emotions, feelings and deep-rooted faiths through the medium of poetry. Most of the sacred books of religion, very ancient in origin, are in the poetic form.

2. Subjective and Objective Poetry-

It is not easy to say what exactly the word poetry means. Some famous definitions of poetry may help us to understand its elements, but they are all inadequate to explain its essence. We will not, therefore, try here to catch that essence. It would be sufficient for our purpose to note that there are two broad categories of poetry according to its subject-matter. When a poet gives expression to his own thoughts and feelings, the result is subjective or Personal poetry.

When he deals with the external world, with its sights, its objects, and natural or human events, the result is objective poetry. The same objects or events may give rise to both kinds of poetry. If the poet observes the thing from without, in a detached manner, his treatment will be called objective.

If he views it from within, giving expression to his thoughts and feelings aroused by it, his treatment is subjective. Both Shakespeare and Coleridge have written fine poems under the same title, Youth and Age. While Shakespeare’s is an Objective poet, that by Coleridge is a purely Subjective one.

3. Main Characteristics of Poetry-

Before we come to consider the qualities essential for poetry, let us have a look at some famous definitions. We quote here a few of these.

  1. Johnson Poetry is “metrical composition”; it is “the art of uniting pleasure with truth by calling imagination to the help of reason.”
  2. Carlyle-Poetry “we will call Musical Thought.”
  3. Shelley-Poetry “in a general sense may be defined as the expression of the imagination.”
  4. Coleridge-“Poetry is the antithesis of science, having for its immediate object pleasure, not truth.”
  5. Wordsworth-Poetry “is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.”

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings : it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’

  1. Matthew Arnold-Poetry “is a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty.”
  2. Edger Allan Poe-It is “the rhythmic creation of beauty.”
  3. Prof. Courthope-It is “the art of producing pleasure by the just expression of imaginative thought and feeling in metrical language.”

The list can be extended indefinitely, but it is sufficient for our purpose.

Essential parts of poetry  :

(1) meter

(2) imagination

(3) thought and feeling

(4) pleasure

or an appeal to the emotions. Neither of these qualities is sufficient in itself to make a composition be labelled poetry. It is only a just combination or a fine balance of all these elements that is capable of producing a great poem.

Important links: Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

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