If I must account for it, I think it would be best described as the only possible reaction to a particular kind of experience, a feeling that you are the only one to have noticed something, something especially beautiful or sad or significant. Then there follows a sense of responsibility, responsibility for preserving this remarkable thing by means of a verbal device that will set off the same experience in other people, so that they too will feel How beautiful, how significant, how sad, and the experience will be preserved.Yet if the meaning of words changed constantly, or meant something different depending on the different people who heard them, poets like Larkin could not possibly combine words in a poem to set off the same experience in other people.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Larkin on semantics
It seems Philip Larkin agrees with me. Explaining why he wrote poetry on the BBC overseas service in 1958, he said