Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Suitable Subjects for Poetry

Joseph Wood Krutch, Samuel Johnson, chap. III (Running About the World):
Johnson's melancholy nature supplied him with sick fancies which, it is not unreasonable to suppose, might have appeared, in print, as novel as those of Rousseau or even Baudelaire. But like most of his contemporaries, it would never have occurred to him to regard them as suitable subjects for poetry. Of some he relieved himself through the prayers and meditations which it became his habit to write, but he would no more have published verses about them than he would have exhibited his physical peculiarities on a platform at Smithfield Fair.
Today, when sick fancies masquerading as poetry ("When did you look at your skin and decide you were an impotent dirty old locomotive?") and public exhibitions of physical peculiarities (Michael Jackson's nose and crotch) are not uncommon, that eighteenth century reserve has a certain quaint appeal.

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