We should conceive of poetry worthily, and more highly than it has been the custom to conceive of it. We should conceive of it as capable of higher uses, and called to higher destinies, than those which in general men have assigned to it hitherto. More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us.
But if we conceive thus highly of poetry, we must also set our standard for poetry high, since poetry, to be capable of fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry, to be capable of fulfilling such high destinies, must be poetry of a high order of excellence.
In poetry the distinction between excellent and inferior, sound and unsound or only half-sound, true and untrue or only half-true, is of paramount importance. It is of paramount importance because of the high destinies of poetry. In poetry. In poetry, as a criticism of life under the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the law of poetic truth and poetic beauty, the spirit of our race will find, as time goes on and as other helps fail, its consolation and stay.
The best poetry is what we want; the best poetry will be found to have a power of forming, sustaining, and delighting us, as nothing else can. A clearer, deeper sense of the best in poetry, and of the strength and joy to be drawn from it, is the most precious benefit which we can gather from a poetical collection such as “The English Poets”.