Louis MacNeice Poetry: British Analysis
Louis MacNeice was an extremely self-conscious poet. He wrote several books of literary criticism, gave lectures on the subject, and often reflected on the role of the poet in his poems. In an early essay, written in 1936, he reveals his allegiance to the group of poets represented by W. H. Auden, who believed their chief responsibility to be social rather than purely artistic. MacNeice divided art into two types: parable and escape. William Butler Yeats and T. S. Eliot, while unquestionably great, represent the latter, the less valid route. MacNeice always retained his belief in “parable-art,” that is, poems that appear naturalistic while also suggesting latent moral or metaphysical content—although he came to realize in later years that journalistic or overly realistic art has its defects while “escape-art” often addresses fundamental problems. MacNeice’s lasting conception of the poet’s task is remarkably close to William Wordsworth’s in the preface to the Lyrical Ballads (1798): The poet should be a spokesperson for and to ordinary men. To communicate with a large audience, the poet must be representative, involved in current events, interested in the news, sports, and so on. He must always place the subject matter and the purpose of his art above a pure interest in form. In Modern Poetry, he echoes Wordsworth’s dictum that the poet must keep his eye on the object. A glance at the titles of MacNeice’s poems reveals the wide...
(The entire section is 5905 words.)
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