In this profound collection of essays on writers such as Virgil, Byron, Johnson, Kipling, Goethe, Milton and Yeats, Eliot argues, among other points, that poetry performs a powerful social function in our culture: ''Unless we have those few (writers) who combine an exceptional sensibility with an exceptional power over words, our own ability, not merely to express, but even to feel any but the crudest emotions, will degenerate.'' In a time when the sheer surface noise of our culture deadens the depths of emotional complexity and drowns the very idea of history, Eliot's precise and passionate insights into the ''continuity'' of past and present writing is a necessary and refreshing tonic.
An Eighth Day View:
T. S. Eliot was not only one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century--he was also one of the most acute writers on his craft. In "On Poetry and Poets," which was first published in 1957, Eliot explores the different forms and purposes of poetry in essays such as "The Three Voices of Poetry," "Poetry and Drama," and "What Is Minor Poetry?" as well as the works of individual poets, including Virgil, Milton, Byron, Goethe, and Yeats. As he writes in "The Music of Poetry," "We must expect a time to come when poetry will have again to be recalled to speech. The same problems arise, and always in new forms; and poetry has always before it . . . an 'endless adventure.'"