By Robert Pack
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Additional info for Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic form
The historical self is merely chance. Through his imaginative powers, the poet chooses to live many lives and thus to have many selves. It is this composite self from which poems should be born. Keats expresses the same idea in his letter to Richard Woodhouse, October 27, 1818: As to the poetical character itself . . it is not itselfit has no selfit is everything and nothingIt has no characterit enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevatedIt has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen.
Such happiness sets the measure for all loss and betrayal. It is passionate in desiring only what it already possesses, so that its energy is to be seen as if in repose or resolution. The essence of paradise before the Fall, as Milton shows it to us, is simply Adam and Eve's contentment with one another, desiring no more than what they have. In this spirit, everything they do is a source of pleasure, as is the passage of time itself, and thus each moment has the quality of eternity. The completed bond between them, a bond language makes possible, allows them to celebrate what they possess, and their consciousness of shared pleasure raises pleasure into happiness.
Talk to me of originality and I will turn on you with rage. I am a crowd, I am a lonely man. " His message is that the poet should beware of writing from the perspective of the autobiographical self-the self that is neither generalized nor extended through invention, transformation, or identification with others. The historical self is merely chance. Through his imaginative powers, the poet chooses to live many lives and thus to have many selves. It is this composite self from which poems should be born.
Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic form by Robert Pack