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Archive for August 30th, 2005

Romantic Meritocracy

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A famous passage from Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads:

Taking up the subject, then, upon general grounds, I ask what is meant by the word Poet? What is a Poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is  to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater  knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions,  and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the  Universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.

Always “more,” “greater,” here. The poet is quantitatively, rather than qualitatively, different from the rest of humanity.
Parallel: the differentiation that couldn’t quite be cut out of the generally leveling “Declaration of the Rights of Man”:

1.  Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

A document that only shows its true hand with its last point:

17.  Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

Wish I knew enough about the provenance of the DoRM to know if there’s a reason this comes last…

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August 30, 2005 at 12:48 am

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