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Poetry for Poetry's Sake An Inaugural Lecture Delivered on June 5, 1901   By: (1851-1935)

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Poetry for Poetry's Sake

HENRY FROWDE, M.A. PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD LONDON, EDINBURGH NEW YORK

Poetry For Poetry's Sake

AN INAUGURAL LECTURE

DELIVERED ON JUNE 5, 1901

BY

A. C. BRADLEY, M.A., LL.D.

PROFESSOR OF POETRY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD FORMERLY FELLOW OF BALLIOL COLLEGE

OXFORD AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 1901

NOTE. This Lecture is printed almost as it was delivered. I am aware that, especially in the earlier pages, difficult subjects are treated in a manner far too summary, but they require an exposition so full that it would destroy the original form of the Lecture, while a slight expansion would do little to provide against misunderstandings.

A. C. B.

POETRY FOR POETRY'S SAKE

One who, after twenty years, is restored to the University where he was taught and first tried to teach, and who has received at the hands of his Alma Mater an honour of which he never dreamed, is tempted to speak both of himself and of her. But I remember that you have come to listen to my thoughts about a great subject, and not to my feelings about myself; and, of Oxford, who that holds this Professorship could dare to speak, when he recalls the exquisite verse in which one of his predecessors described her beauty, and the prose in which he gently touched on her illusions and protested that they were as nothing when set against her age long warfare with the Philistine? How, again, remembering him and others, should I venture to praise my predecessors? It would be pleasant to do so, and even pleasanter to me and you if, instead of lecturing, I quoted to you some of their best passages. But I could not do this for five years. Sooner or later, my own words would have to come, and the inevitable contrast. Not to sharpen it now, I will be silent concerning them also; and will only assure you that I do not forget them, or the greatness of the honour of succeeding them, or the responsibility which it entails.

Since I left Oxford one change has taken place in its educational system which may be thought to affect the Professorship of Poetry. A School of English Language and Literature has been founded, and has attracted a fair number of candidates. Naturally I rejoice in this change, knowing from experience the value of these studies; and knowing also from experience, if I may speak boldly, how idle is that dream which flits about in Oxford and whispers that the mastering of Old English, on the basis of Teutonic phonology, and the conquest of the worlds opened by Chaucer and Shakespeare and Swift and Burke and twenty more, is a business too slight and a discipline not severe enough for undergraduates. I should be glad to lighten their labours, and, if it should seem advisable to those who can judge, I propose to give in one of the three Terms of the year, in addition to my statutory lecture, a few others intended specially for those who are reading for the School of English. I wish I could do more, but I resigned my chair in Glasgow with a view to work of another kind, and I could not have parted from my students there, to whom I am bound by ties of the most grateful affection, in order to take up similar duties even in the University of Oxford.

The charming poem with which my predecessor opened his literary career, and his admirable contributions to poetical history and criticism, prove that it would have been easy to him to devote his lectures to the interpretation of particular poets and poems. I believe, however, that he thought it better to confine himself chiefly to questions in Poetics or Aesthetics. I can well understand his choice; but, partly because he made it, I propose to make another, and to discuss these questions, if at all, only as they are illustrated by particular writers and works. Still in an inaugural lecture it is customary to take some wider subject; and so I fear you may have to day to lament the truth of Addison's remark: 'There is nothing in nature so irksome as general discourses, especially when they turn chiefly upon words... Continue reading book >>




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