THE HUMAN heart has ever dreamed of a fairer world than the one it knows. No man, however dark his spirit, however cramped his senses, is quite without the yearning after wider horizons and a purer air. In a happy moment earth seems to hold for all the promise of larger things. The moment passes; and the world closes in again, actual, bare, unyielding, as before. Yet among men there are some endowed with vision, an insight more penetrating and more sustained. To their liberated spirit the world unfolds a farther prospect. Earth clothes itself for them in radiant vesture, mute forms are speaking presences, the riddle of life resolves itself into a meaning. To them it is granted to arrest the moment of illumination, otherwise so fleeting; and, gifted further with a shaping power, they are able to re-create the moment in enduring forms. The men of vision are the seers and prophets; the shapers of the revelation, re-creating it, are the artists and the poets.

What each of us is seeking the poet has already found. Poetry is the step beyond, which we were about to take, but were not certain of the way. In our experience from year to year, we are not without glimpses of beauty in the world, a sense of meaning somewhere within the shows of things. Of this beauty and this meaning poetry is a fuller revelation. The poet gives us back the world we already know, though it is a world transfigured; he draws his material from stores to which we all have access, but with a difference. His vision, clearer and more penetrating, transfigures the facts and discloses the beauty only waiting to be thus revealed. His fresh sight of this beauty quickens in him an emotion of wonder and of joy which impels him to expression. Seeing the world in new combinations, he selects from the common store of experience certain images colored by his mood. Of these images he weaves a pattern of words, which re-create the beauty he has seen and are charged with that deeper significance he has divined within the outward manifestation. It is just because he sees farther and feels more intensely that he is a poet; and then because he is able to phrase his experience in words which have the power to create the vision and the meaning in us. So the poet fashions that fairer world of which the heart has dreamed; and by the mediation of his art it becomes ours for an enduring possession. If this be indeed the office and destiny of poetry, we may well ask whence it draws its inspiration and by what means it accomplishes its high ends.

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