The concluding part of the preceding section brings up a question regarding what poetry is and should be about. After all, we are prompted to ask why a poet writes poetry.
Does he write just for the sake of writing?
Is it so that poetry has no purpose?
Well, the poet composes poetry because he has to communicate something to his readers and he wants to communicate in verse. He chooses the verse medium because he feels that the communication of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions etc. through the medium of poetry would make them much more lively and effective than through the medium of prose.
So far what is communicated to us and how, we need not limit ourselves to the ‘didactic’ theory as advanced by Plato or the theory of ‘delight’ as established by Aristotle. For our purpose, it would suffice to say that poetry aims at giving us pleasure as well as providing us with instruction.
While giving us delight poetry, through its contents, also widens the horizon of our experience. Shakespeare’s sonnets enrich our notion of love, our knowledge of time versus eternity, the temporal versus the eternal.
Donne’s Death is not proud changes our attitude towards death as the arch fear. After a study of the poem we find that death ceases to be dreadful. We know that one short sleep past we wake eternally. Death itself dies or ceases to be. We begin to live through Donne’s experience and living gains essence. A poem by William Wordsworth tells us how man can make his life worth living by living in conformity with Nature. The study of poetry gives us a new insight which helps us to see things and events in a new perspective.
Poetry springs from certain basic human situation. No wonder then, the ideas and thoughts presented in poetry have a natural appeal to our senses only. They also appeal to our hearts and minds. Poetry sees everything ideal and does what it can to lift us towards this ideal.
Poetry is therefore, “the most surely and wisely elevating of all human things.” Poetry emanates from emotion. It calls forth in the reader a responsive emotion. After reading Wordsworth’s Simon Lee we develop pity for Simon. Even if our purest songs bring us the saddest thoughts, they bring comfort and solace to the unquiet heart. We know that if winter comes, spring cannot be far behind. As we wander in the plane of poetic sensibility and rapture the fever and the fret of the world are assuaged.
Those who agree with Aristotle and support the theory of ‘delight’ uphold the view that the business of poetry is to please or entertain. It has nothing to do with teaching. We know that all good poetry has no didactic goal. However, there is no denying the fact that all great poets have always aspired to be teachers of mankind. Of course, we camouflage this motive. They teach in a very subtle and mysterious way. They enter into our minds unawares.