Though reached by a different process, Burke’s conclusion as to the province of poetry is, in its negative aspect, identical with Lessing’s: words are ill adapted to the vivid presentation of objects by means of detailed description. And though crude and materialistic, his “Inquiry” is an excellent introduction to the study of æsthetics as a branch of psychology. The real founder of this science, however, and the philosopher from whom it derives its name, was a contemporary of Burke’s in Germany, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten.

Adopting the monistic system of Leibnitz and Wolf, Baumgarten, a clear thinker and a lover of poetry, but no connoisseur of the formative arts, undertook to fill the gap left by his forerunners in the logic of the lower powers of the soul, that is, the senses. His theory of the beautiful is general; he defines beauty as the perfection of sensuous perception; but clinging to the maxim, “Like picture, like poetry,” he does not, in his application of the theory, progress far beyond the treatment of poetry as the typical art, rating it, like Burke, higher than painting. Poetry he defines as perfect sensuous speech. So Milton says that poetry is more simple, sensuous, and passionate than prose. And that perfection which is the definition of beauty and of poetry is a set of harmonious relationships in the object and between the object and the sensitive soul, of which the intellect may take cognizance, but of which, above all, the senses make us conscious, being impressed with an extensive clearness separable from intensive distinctness; so that a poem is a poem not for the accuracy of any “imitation,” nor for the loftiness of its idea, nor for the elegance of its forms, but for the fullness of its appeal to those functions which most immediately respond to man’s contact with his material environment; that is to say, for intuitively perceptible reality.

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