Nonfiction > Walt Whitman > Prose Works > I. Specimen Days > 246. After Trying a Certain Book
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Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Prose Works. 1892.
  
I. Specimen Days
246. After Trying a Certain Book
  
I TRIED to read a beautifully printed and scholarly volume on “the Theory of Poetry,” received by mail this morning from England—but gave it up at last for a bad job. Here are some capricious pencillings that follow’d, as I find them in my notes:   1
  In youth and maturity Poems are charged with sunshine and varied pomp of day; but as the soul more and more takes precedence, (the sensuous still included,) the Dusk becomes the poet’s atmosphere. I too have sought, and ever seek, the brilliant sun, and make my songs according. But as I grow old, the half-lights of evening are far more to me.   2
  The play of Imagination, with the sensuous objects of Nature for symbols, and Faith—with Love and Pride as the unseen impetus and moving-power of all, make up the curious chessgame of a poem.   3
  Common teachers or critics are always asking “What does it mean?” Symphony of fine musician, or sunset, or sea-waves rolling up the beach—what do they mean? Undoubtedly in the most subtle-elusive sense they mean something—as love does, and religion does, and the best poem;—but who shall fathom and define those meanings? (I do not intend this as a warrant for wildness and frantic escapades—but to justify the soul’s frequent joy in what cannot be defined to the intellectual part, or to calculation.)   4
  At its best, poetic lore is like what may be heard of conversation in the dusk, from speakers far or hid, of which we get only a few broken murmurs. What is not gather’d is far more—perhaps the main thing.   5
  Grandest poetic passages are only to be taken at free removes, as we sometimes look for stars at night, not by gazing directly toward them, but off one side.   6
  (To a poetic student and friend.—I only seek to put you in rapport. Your own brain, heart, evolution, must not only understand the matter, but largely supply it.   7

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