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Canonical Essays

Classic essays representing the history of the poetical and critical "canon" - these essays are required reading for anyone who is seriously interested in poetry.

  • The Poetic Principle
    by Edgar Allan Poe - 1850
    I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. The value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevating excitement…
  • The Philosophy Of Composition
    by Edgar Allan Poe - 1846
    I have often thought how interesting a magazine paper might be written by any author who would… detail, step by step, the processes by which any one of his compositions attained its ultimate point of completion…
  • Old English Poetry
    by Edgar Allan Poe - 1845
    The old English muse was frank, guileless, sincere and although very learned, still learned without art…
  • Tradition And The Individual Talent
    by T. S. Eliot - 1922
    No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead…
  • Hamlet And His Problems
    by T. S. Eliot - 1922
    So far from being Shakespeare’s masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure. In several ways the play is puzzling, and disquieting as is none of the others. Of all the plays it is the longest and is possibly the one on which Shakespeare spent most pains…
  • Preface To Lyrical Ballads
    by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1802
    It is supposed, that by the act of writing in verse an Author makes a formal engagement that he will gratify certain known habits of association; that he not only thus apprizes the Reader that certain classes of ideas and expressions will be found in his book, but that others will be carefully excluded…
  • Preface To Lyrical Ballads: Appendix
    by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1802
    They became proud of a language which they themselves had invented, and which was uttered only by themselves; and, with the spirit of a fraternity, they arrogated it to themselves as their own…
  • Advertisement To Lyrical Ballads
    by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1798
    It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves…
  • A Defence Of Poetry
    by Percy Bysshe Shelley - 1819
    Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be “the expression of the imagination”: and poetry is connate with the origin of man. Man is an instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven, like the alternations of an ever—changing wind over an Aeolian lyre…

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