Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Immature poets ..."


frogelette said...

Ahahahah, did he say that?

Joyce Fetteroll said...

Well, I had to look it up to find out! ;-)

It's in "The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism" (1920) It goes on for several pages. The quote is from the part of the essay about a dramatist, Philip Massinger, who apparently cribbed some of his writing from Shakespeare. But Eliot is saying all poets do it (including himself). They take and then make it better.

"We turn first to the parallel quotations from Massinger and Shakespeare collocated by Mr. Cruickshank to make manifest Massinger's indebtedness. One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest."