A Study of Poetry
By Bliss Perry

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Public Domain Books



M. S. P.


The method of studying poetry which I have followed in this book was sketched some years ago in my chapter on “Poetry” in Counsel Upon the Reading of Books. My confidence that the genetic method is the natural way of approaching the subject has been shared by many lovers of poetry. I hope, however, that I have not allowed my insistence upon the threefold process of “impression, transforming imagination, and expression” to harden into a set formula. Formulas have a certain dangerous usefulness for critics and teachers, but they are a very small part of one’s training in the appreciation of poetry.

I have allotted little or no space to the specific discussion of epic and drama, as these types are adequately treated in many books. Our own generation is peculiarly attracted by various forms of the lyric, and in Part Two I have devoted especial attention to that field.

While I hope that the book may attract the traditional “general reader," I have also tried to arrange it in such a fashion that it may be utilized in the classroom. I have therefore ventured, in the Notes and Illustrations and Appendix, to suggest some methods and material for the use of students.

I wish to express my obligations to Professor R. M. Alden, whose Introduction to Poetry and English Verse I have used in my own Harvard courses in poetry. His views of metre have probably influenced mine even more than I am aware. The last decade, which has witnessed such an extraordinary revival of interest in poetry, has produced many valuable contributions to poetic theory. I have found Professor Fairchild’s Making of Poetry particularly suggestive. Attention is called, in the Notes and Bibliography, to many other recent books on the subject.

Professors A. S. Cook of Yale and F. B. Snyder of Northwestern University have been kind enough to read in manuscript certain chapters of this book, and Dr. P. F. Baum of Harvard has assisted me most courteously. I am indebted to several fellow-writers for their consent to the use of extracts from their books, particularly to Brander Matthews for a passage from These Many Years and to Henry Osborn Taylor for a passage from his Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages.

I wish also to thank the publishers who have generously allowed me to use brief quotations from copyrighted books, especially Henry Holt & Co. for permission to use a quotation and drawing from William James’s Psychology, and The Macmillan Company for permission to borrow from John La Farge’s delightful Considerations on Painting.

B. P.


Preface  •  Part I: Poetry in General  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Part II: The Lyric in Particular  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Notes and Illustrations  •  Appendix  •  Bibliography  •  Index

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