abstract nouns in poetry:

perceptual and conceptual categorization
feeling and knowing

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Abstract Nouns in Poetry
Perceptual and Conceptual Categorization

Feeling and Knowing

This paper discusses an important stylistic property of abstract nouns: what may be called their double-edgedness. "Double-edgedness" denotes the phenomenon that a given element, device, structure can give rise to incompatible or even opposite effects in different stylistic environments. In the present case, abstract nouns are perceived in certain circumstances as clear-cut concepts, intellectual abstractions; in other circumstances as evoking undifferentiated, often emotionally loaded, qualities. The latter variety embraces occasionally qualities perceived as some vague, elusive, but intensive atmosphere; on other occasions as the presence of the ineffable, as getting a glimpse into some supersensuous, spiritual reality; then again the source of some "oceanic" experience, of being totally immersed in some supersensuous, but dense, substance ("Oceanic dedifferentiation" will be discussed in the next paper at considerable length). What are those "certain circumstances" and the cognitive mechanisms underlying them, is the question here explored.

I propose to begin my discussion with a "minimal" pair of examples, in which the opposition is less clear-cut than the literal ~ metaphorical, rational ~ emotional, or conceptual ~ perceptual oppositions. The first example is from Wordsworth's famous "Observations Prefixed to 'Lyrical Ballads' " (1800), the second one from his "Solitary Reaper". In both examples he uses the word overflow in a figurative sense, in relation to an abstract noun. This abstract noun, in both cases, is a highly generic term, the hyponyms of which refer to a wide range of immediately experienced qualities.

1.  For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings [...].

2.  Behold her, single in the field,
   Yon solitary highland lass!
   Reaping and singing by herself,
   Stop here or gently pass!
   Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
   And sings a melancholy strain;
   O listen! for the vale profound
   Is overflowing with the sound.
               (Wordsworth, "The Solitary Reaper")

Wordsworth-critics have drawn attention to the similar use of overflow in the two quotations and suggested that the two passages are closely related within the Wordsworthian conception of poetry. In what follows, I shall explore the perceptual difference between the two metaphors, in the light of the above-mentioned double-edgedness of abstract nouns.

I have said that the opposition between the perceived qualities of the two metaphors is less clear-cut than the concept ~ percept opposition. Nevertheless, they may be located at two different points on the percept-concept continuum, excerpt 1 being nearer to the concept-end, excerpt 2 to the percept-end. Such a description presupposes that there be, in spite of the differences in the unique conscious qualities, a continuum between perception and cognition (or, percept and concept).

Lloyd (1972: 19) quotes French on the nature of such a continuum:

Perception can be defined as the process of immediate experience in organisms. This links perception with sensation; such primitive terms as "seeing", "tasting" and "feeling" are refinable into perceptual processes. As experience becomes less immediate and the amount of inference by the organism increases, processes of cognition have become involved. Among the primitive terms are "knowing" and "thinking".

Lloyd, further, refers to Tajfel, who adopted the notion of immediacy in defining perception, but specified four necessary qualifications:

These required that the stimulus material allow the possibility of only one correct response, that responses must occur at the time the sensory material is received, and must not be based on complex and abstract inferences, nor on an awareness by the perceiver of alternatives (ibid).

The phrase "nor an awareness of" in the last qualification ought to bear on some of the other ones too. Thus, for instance, according to the current view, perception is based on the forming and testing of hypotheses, but it is performed with such immediacy that the perceiver is not aware of it.

In relation to "feeling" in French's description the following two definitions from the American College Dictionary are, I would suggest, relevant: "physical sensation not connected with sight, hearing, taste, or smell" and "consciousness itself without regard to thought or a perceived object, as excitement-calm, strain-relaxation".

Now, there is a paradoxical phenomenon observable in this comparison of excerpts 1 and 2. In spite of the occurrence of the word feeling in excerpt 1, the word feeling is felt to be relatively less appropriate to the description of the perceived effect of excerpt 1 than to that of 2. That is, according to French's distinction, excerpt 1 is intuitively felt to be further away from the feeling-pole of the feeling ~ knowing continuum. The present section of this paper elucidates the nature of this apparent paradox.

One way to handle this paradox would be to substitute owing to for in spite of in the preceding paragraph. Such aesthetic qualities as "feelings" are, typically, regional qualities of aesthetic objects, that is, according to Beardsley (1958: 83), a quality that "belongs to a complex but not to any of its parts". Owing to the occurrence of the word feelings in excerpt 1, feelings become something that is less than a regional quality of the expression. In other words, the word feelings denotes here the concept of feeling, and so it refers to consciousness itself, but not "without regard to thought". In still other words, the word feeling may be part of a text, naming a feeling; or part of a metalinguistic discourse, referring to a linguistic structure in the first order text. In yet other words, we are up against the familiar dichotomy "telling" vs. "showing".

Insofar as "feeling" is perceived as a regional quality of excerpt 1, it is due to what happens to the meaning of overflow in this phrase. Overflow denotes the movement of liquid in space, implying some vessel or riverbed that cannot contain all the liquid. It has such meaning components relevant to the context as suddenness, superabundance, an outlet for excess, an uncontrollable discharge rising from itself with a necessity comparable to that of physical processes. Since overflow is associated here with feeling rather than with water (or some other substance), there is a conflict between the selection-restriction features and the noun selected. As a result of this conflict, the features [+material +liquid +spatial movement] tend to be cancelled (or at least weakened) in overflow. As a result, one way of realizing excerpt 1 is to regard overflow as a bundle of conceptual predicates including "suddenness", "superabundance", "an outlet for excess", "an uncontrolled discharge rising from itself", containing the information required for the definition of "all good poetry" after having cancelled the visual-spatial image.

However, I believe, most readers would report having some kind of single, unified sensory image, involving elements of overflow, such a smooth but powerful movement from one's inside to the outside, involving visual, tactile and kinaesthetic sensations. This "moving mass" will have its material components cancelled; on the other hand, it will tend to have the psychological atmosphere of specific direction and patent purpose (i. e., to explain the existence of good poetry). This psychological atmosphere seems to be just enough to tilt the balance of meaning-components in the direction of "cognition", so as to assume the conceptual nature required to fulfil its role in conceptual discourse (i. e., in the definition of "all good poetry"). In this process, such meaning components of overflow as suddenness and arising from itself tend to reinforce the meaning of spontaneous; superabundance and excess tend to reinforce the meaning of powerful, whereas the tactile and kinesthetic sensations (if any) tend to reinforce the meaning of feelings. That is why excerpt 1 is to be perceived as almost conceptual discourse, but still including a perceptual ingredient.

Now turning to the last two lines of excerpt 2, one notices an intense "thing-free" quality that can be contemplated "without regard to thought or perceived object", so to speak. Sound itself denotes a thing-free quality. Furthermore, the verb overflowing, which is associated with the visual and tactile senses, takes the object sound, which is associated with the aural sense. The conflict between the senses cancels in sound the auditory components, and leaves the component of the presence of a thing-free quality. This thing-free quality becomes "infested" with undifferentiated sensations--the residuum of the tactile sensation of being immersed in water, after the cancellation of the specific tactile in it by conflict between the senses. From the visual sensation only the spatial presence of superabundance and the movement in space has been left. Thus, in excerpt 2, unlike in 1, there is an intense regional quality of "feeling", in the sense of "Physical sensation not connected with sight, hearing, taste or smell".

Thus, the overflow of sound is perceived in excerpt 2 as an intense, undifferentiated, supersensuous presence, in which one might totally be immersed, so as "to suspend the boundaries between self and not self". In excerpt 2, then, overflow contributes to the presence of a "gestalt-free" and "thing-free" quality (Ehrenzweig's terms, 1965), that is intensely felt, but not interpreted (there is no awareness of inferences). This kind of feeling is not unlike French's "process of immediate experience", that "links perception with sensation" at its most "refined".

It should be noted that semantic information is processed in different ways in the two metaphors. In excerpt 1, feeling is a solid frame of metaphor, and no feature (or components) are cancelled in it; all the burden of feature-cancellation and transfer is "inflicted" upon overflow. In excerpt 2, feature-cancellation has been performed in both terms, so as to generate a "thing-free" and "gestalt-free" presence. The meaning-components activated by the metaphor in excerpt 1 are rapidly conceptualized, so as to serve the purposes of a conceptual discourse. The conceptualization of the meaning-components activated by the metaphor in excerpt 2 is relatively delayed, so as to form as long as possible the object of pre-conceptual, "immediate" experiencing. As a corollary, the feature of spatial presence is more emphatically retained in excerpt 2 than in 1.

Excerpts 1 and 2 have been compared in four respects. First, the two passages were shown to contain the same kind of metaphorical construction. Second, the felt differences between their perceived effects were characterized. Third, some of the supposed semantic mechanisms responsible for them were described. Fourth, certain apparently significant correlations between the semantic mechanisms and the perceived effects were suggested. It remains to be determined whether there is anything in the texts themselves that should bias the reader in the perceptual direction in one text, and in the conceptual direction in the other. If we can point at such biasing factors, we shall have to proceed in two different directions. On the one hand, we shall have to offer some cognitive hypothesis to explain the relationship between semantic structure and perceived effect (or perceptual quality). On the other hand, we shall have to show that this kind of relationship holds quite consistently between semantic structures and perceived effects. There is one obvious explanation, namely, that excerpt 1 is part of expository prose, whereas excerpt 2 is part of a lyric poem, and this knowledge biases the reader's decisions concerning semantic information-processing. This kind of influence of the reader's contextual knowledge is, no doubt, active; but in itself it is an unsatisfactory explanation, mainly in view of similar differences within one and the same genre.

Strong and Weak Shapes
A more convincing solution would be offered by applying gestalt-psychology to art-criticism. This kind of activity is one of the most illuminating ways to relate structures with effects. Let us consider briefly Leonard B. Meyer's discussion of strong and weak shapes and their perceived effects in music:

Because good shape is intelligible in this sense, it creates a psychological atmosphere of certainty, security, and patent purpose, in which the listener feels a sense of control and power as well as a sense of specific tendency and definite direction (Meyer, 1956: 160).

Where, on the other hand, there is chaotic overdifferentiation or primordial homogeneity, "the lack of distinct, tangible shapes and of well-articulated modes of progression is capable of arousing desires for, and expectations of, clarification and improvement" (ibid, 160); hence their emotional, non-conceptual quality.

In discussing the double-edgedness of abstract nouns, we have distinguished between clear-cut concepts, well-articulated intellectual abstractions on the one hand, and vague, undifferentiated perceptions on the other. These can be associated with the gestalt-psychologists' strong and weak (or good and poor) shapes, respectively. It has been pointed out that the word feelings in excerpt 1 is, and remains, a clear-cut, stable concept. This character is reinforced by the psychological atmosphere of patent purpose and definite direction. The phrase "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" has been introduced with the patent purpose of defining "all good poetry"; it has a definite direction: it leads to the definition of "all good poetry". It is this fairly "well-articulated mode of progression" that prevents the various meaning-components of overflow from fusing into an undifferentiated mass, presenting them, rather, as a bundle of conceptual predicates.

This implies that not only do clear-cut concepts and distinct, tangible shapes possibly have a psychological atmosphere of certainty, patent purpose, sense of control, but also, and conversely, the presence of this kind of psychological atmosphere may tilt the balance of categorization in the conceptual direction. We might find a conspicuous example of this in the quantifier all (in "all good poetry"). Let us consider Herrnstein-Smith's remarks (1968: 185) on unqualified assertion:

There is, for example, more than a numerical difference between "99 per cent" and "all", and a world of difference between "for twenty years" and "forever", or between "rarely" and "never". The point is that when universals and absolutes (words such as "all", "none", "only", and "always") occur in the assertions, they are themselves expressions of the speaker's refusal to qualify.

Such "non-qualification" displays exactly the same kind of psychological atmosphere as, according to Meyer's description, do "good shapes": it "suggests reserve, a sense of control, security and authority" (Herrnstein-Smith, 1968: 186), and thus reinforces the conceptual character of excerpt 1.

Turning now to excerpt 2, it should be noted that the overflowing sound in it is far from having distinct, tangible shapes or well-articulated modes of progression: it is left to "tremble on the brink of chaos" (Meyer, 1956: 161). In other words, in this couplet we do not receive the sequence of particular sounds that may or may not have some fairly good shape, but rather the highly generic term sound, which becomes, thus, double-edged. It usually denotes a "truly empty generalization" (Ehrenzweig's term, 1969: 124), but here it refers to some undifferentiated mass. Furthermore, the overflowing sound not only has no definite direction in space, but, unlike the phrase in excerpt 1, has no conceptual purpose either: it is there, can be perceived, but leads nowhere.

Such an account in terms of gestalt-qualities, while it seems to be reasonably supported by wider theoretical considerations as well as by empirical evidence, presents quite frequently difficulties when it comes to making practical decision whether a particular abstract noun, or set of abstract nouns, in a particular text, is conceptual in nature, or the source of a thing-free and gestalt-free perception. Therefore, it would be welcome, if one could supplement the foregoing considerations with some more reliably discernible indications.

Sequential and Spatial Processing

The comparison of excerpts 1 and 2 might suggest such indication: the presence or absence of a particular physical setting as a back-ground for the nouns. One of the definitions of "abstraction" in The American college Dictionary is "act of considering something as a general object apart from special circumstances". This is exactly what happens in the phrase "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings", whereas the phrase "overflowing with the sound" is set in a particular physical setting, in carefully emphasized "special circumstances". Since, as we have found, one of the necessary conditions for perceptual categorization was that "responses must occur at the time the sensory material is received", a gestalt-free and thing-free perception arising from abstract nouns may occur only when they are set in an imagined situation defined here and now, as it were, from the point of view of the perceiving consciousness. From this point of view, such exclamations as "Oh listen!", or the imperative in line 4, or behold and yon in the first two lines of "The Solitary Reaper" serve as emphatic deictic devices, that is, serve emphatically to define the situation here and now.

This explanation may be approached from a different direction as well. Language is conceptual and linear by its very nature. Thus it is best suited for logical discourse. Even such words as feeling, emotion, intuition, orientation refer to concepts, intellectual abstractions. It would appear impossible to evoke with their help the non-linear experiences from which they have been abstracted. In other words, words appear to be particularly ill-suited to some of the most wide-spread aims of poetry. This problem, as well as its solution, might be better understood through a consideration of the lateralization of the human brain.

The left hemisphere (connected to the right side of the body) is predominantly involved with analytic, logical thinking, especially in verbal and mathematical functions. Its mode of operation is primarily linear. This hemisphere seems to process information sequentially. This mode of operation of necessity must underlie logical thought, since logic depends on sequence and order. Language and mathematics, both left-hemisphere activities, also depend predominantly on linear time.

If the left hemisphere is specialized for analysis, the right hemisphere (again, remember, connected to the left side of the body) seems specialized for holistic mentation. Its language ability is quite limited. This hemisphere is primarily responsible for our orientation in space, artistic endeavour, crafts, body image, recognition of faces. It processes information more diffusely than does the left hemisphere, and its responsibilities demand a ready integration of many inputs at once. If the left hemisphere can be termed analytic and sequential in its operation, then the right hemisphere is more holistic and relational, and more simultaneous in its mode of operation (Ornstein, 1975: 67-68).

This specialization of operation in different modes may explain much about the fundamental duality of our consciousness. "This duality has been reflected in classical as well as modern literature as between reason and passion, or between mind and intuition. Perhaps the most famous of these dichotomies in psychology is that proposed by Sigmund Freud, of the split between the 'conscious' mind and the "unconscious'" (ibid, 74).

Coming back now to our problem: such experiences as feelings, emotions, intuitions, orientation are diffuse, global, non-linear processes, and are related to the right hemisphere, whereas the words that refer to them do so via concepts that are compact, analytic, linear, and are related to the left hemisphere. Hence the problematic nature of the telling-and-showing dichotomy in this particular issue. Telling about diffuse, global, illogical experiences becomes necessarily compact, analytic, logical.

It is, however, the nature of the problem that also offers the nature of the poets' solution; and our comparison of excerpts 1 and 2 appears to supply a typical example of this solution. Considering that such global activities as emotions on the one hand, and spatial orientation on the other, are intimately associated with the right hemisphere, one might surmise that in "The Solitary Reaper" the definite spatial setting may be an instrument for transferring part of the processing of the verbal message to the right hemisphere. This conception could be further elaborated in the following way. At least two kinds of information about semantic categories are stored in memory: the names of the categories and representations of their properties. In the course of normal speech we perceive the representations of these properties categorically; we do not perceive the semantic features (or meaning-components), but a single compact semantic entity which they constitute. Ornstein brings some convincing experimental evidence that when some memory image concerning spatial orientation is called up, the right hemisphere may be activated, even though one may be engaged in some verbal activity. "Which direction a person gazes is affected by the question asked. If the question is verbal analytical (such as 'Divide 144 by 6, and multiply the answer by 7' [or 'How do you spell Mississippi ?]), more eye movements are made to the right than if the question involves spatial mentation (such as 'Which way does an Indian face on the nickel')" (ibid, 77). When a landscape-description (in the world-stratum of the poem), and certain stylistic devices (such as repetitive schemata both on the semantic and phonetic level) activate the right hemisphere of the brain (or, alternatively, transfer a significant part of the processing of the message to the right hemisphere), representations of some or many properties of these categories escape the control of categorical perception, and constitute some global, diffuse atmosphere in a concrete landscape. (My chapter on the TOT phenomenon and thing-free qualities provides ample support for these speculations). At the extreme of this technique, there may be no stable objects at all in the description, the concrete landscape being compellingly indicated by emphatic deictic devices only. Moreover, in several cultures emotionally loaded exclamations are intimately related with the pathetic fallacy, that is, with the bestowal of the speaker's feelings upon surrounding Nature. The reason, again, seems to be that the bestowal of emotions on the surrounding landscape transfers part of the information processing to the right hemisphere of the brain.

The right side of the cortex processes its input more as a "patterned whole", that is, in a more simultaneous manner than does the left. This simultaneous processing is advantageous for the integration of diffuse inputs, such as for orienting oneself in space, when motor, kinesthetic and visual input must be quickly integrated. This mode of information-processing, too, would seem to underlie an "intuitive" rather than "intellectual" integration of complex entities (ibid, 95).

Our foregoing discussion might suggest that this mode is responsible not only for "the integration of diffuse inputs", but also for "the diffusion" of compact inputs, so as to create the impression of an "intuitive rather than intellectual integration of complex entities".1 Owing to the underlying cognitive mechanisms, this kind of poetry may be called poetry of orientation (chapter 11 will discuss, by contrast, what may be called poetry of disorientation).

On the basis of these distinctions one may risk a few predictions concerning certain correlations. Thus, for instance, abstract nouns will appear to be more nearly conceptual when associated with sequential time, than when associated with a specific landscape at a specific point in time; more nearly conceptual when associated with stable characteristic visual shapes than when associated with diffuse masses; more nearly conceptual when associated with motion in a specific direction, than when associated with some irresolute motion; more nearly conceptual when part of some logical argument than when part of some complex of juxtaposed entities that have no beginning, middle and end. Violent actions quite frequently exhibit some patent purpose or definite direction, and tend to tilt the categorization of abstract nouns in the conceptual direction.

To this list of correlations I would like to add two more sets of items. First, one may expect to find that abstract nouns tend to be perceived as more nearly conceptual when associated with clausal (verbal) rather than phrasal (nominal) style. It has been found empirically that although the left hemisphere is the predominantly linguistic hemisphere, the right hemisphere does discern, though rather imprecisely, linguistic stimuli. As far as parts of speech are concerned, nouns are better discerned than verbs, and within verbs, present and past tense better than future (notice that past and present are actual, whereas future is only hypothetical). Nouns typically refer to entities that have no temporal relations, direction or beginning, middle and end; finite verbs have tenses and are clearly related to sequential time; the actions denoted by verbs have frequently definite directions, and may establish clear logical relationships between a considerable number of noun-phrases (consider such a sentence as "John sent Mary a letter from London to New York").

Second, strong shapes as well as intellectual activities are usually characterized as well-differentiated. Actually, shape may be "regarded as a kind of stylistic 'mean' lying between the extremes of chaotic overdifferentiation and primordial homogeneity" (Meyer, 1956: 161). There appears to be some optimal differentiation which should be related to intellection and related qualities and activities (associated with the left hemisphere). Both overdifferentiation and undifferentiation may be expected to be associated with the activities of the right hemisphere. Thus, for instance, clear-cut contrasts or oppositions will tend to assume some logical organization, with a psychological atmosphere of certainty and patent purpose, in which the observer feels a sense of control. Finer distinctions, on the other hand, may produce an overwhelming amount of information threatening with chaos, which may be integrated in a sequential manner. Not infrequently, however, poetry is processed in relation to the "integration of diffuse input, such as orienting oneself in space", resulting in some vague, elusive, emotionally loaded atmosphere perceived in a concrete landscape.

These considerations, then, typically "count toward" either conceptual or perceptual categorization of abstract nouns. One may expect, normally, an interaction of several of these variables. Since, however, there is no way to weight them for their relative impact on the perceived effect of the whole, no rules or principles can be given to predict the "aesthetic quality" of the whole from its non-aesthetic parts.

If we are not following rules and there are no conditions to appeal to, how are we to know when [the aesthetic concepts] are applicable? One very natural way to counter this question is to point out that some other sorts of concepts also are not condition-governed. We do not apply simple color words by following rules or in accordance with principles. We see that the book is red, just as we tell that the tea is sweet by tasting it. So too, it might be said, we just see (or fail to see) that things are delicate, balanced and the like (Sibley, 1962: 77).

In the same manner we perceive (or fail to perceive) that an abstract noun in a certain context generates some diffuse perception, or denotes some compact concept. It is only after the event that we may account for this, in terms of features that typically or characteristically "count toward or against" them ( cf. Sibley, 1962: 69).

In order to test the above correlations and predictions, we shall consider a random sample of poetic passages from the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, in which the abstract noun time or some of its hyponyms occur (frequently personified).

in Poetry

3.  Those hours that with gentle work did frame
    The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
    Will play the tyrants to the very same
    And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
    For never-resting time leads summer on
    To hideous winter and confounds him there [...]
                        (Shakespeare, Sonnet 5).

4.  Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws [...]
                        (Shakespeare, Sonnet 19)

5.  Being your slave, what should I do but tend
    Upon the hours and times of your desire?
                        (Shakespeare, Sonnet 57)

6.  Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
    But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
    How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea
    Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
    O how shall summer's honey breath hold out
    Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
    When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
    Nor gates of steel so strong but Time decays?
                        (Shakespeare, Sonnet 65)

7.  That time of the year thou mayst in me behold
    When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
    Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
    Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet bird sang; [...]
                        (Shakespeare, Sonnet 73)

8.  But at my back I always hear
    Time's winged chariot hurrying near.
                        (Marvel, "To his Coy Mistress")

9.  It is a beauteous evening, calm and free:
    The holy time is quiet as a Nun
    Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
    Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
    The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea.
    Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
    And doth with his eternal motion make
    A sound like thunder--everlastingly.
                        (Wordsworth, "Composed upon the Beach Near Calais")

10. Soul-soothing Art! whom Morning, Noontide, Even,
    Do serve with all their changeful pagentry [...]
                        (Wordsworth, "Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture")

11. My spirit is too weak--mortality
    Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
    And each imagined pinnacle and steep
    Of godlike hardship, tells me I must die
    Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
                        (Keats, "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles")

Let us consider for a moment the first two lines of excerpt 9. They obviously involve a personified abstraction. So do the various references to Time in Shakespeare's sonnets and in some other 17th century poetry (cf. excerpts 3, 4, 6, 8). Yet, how different is the usage of Shakespeare and Marvell from that of Wordsworth in this sonnet. To characterize my first impression of the two kinds of usage, I would say that in the poems of Shakespeare and Marvell (of which examples could be multiplied endlessly), Time usually refers to some clearly definable entity, a concept or some visual shape (in most cases both), whereas in Wordsworth's sonnet it refers to some thing-free, gestalt-free, elusive quality of the immediate scenery. The question to be asked in such a case is whether this is a mere idiosyncratic impression, or can be established, fairly consistently, on more solid grounds? What arguments can be brought in support of our intuition that in a given passage time refers to some compact entity, or some elusive, diffuse quality?

In order to answer these questions, we have to make a few distinctions concerning the meaning of time, and then relate them to our foregoing cognitive considerations. Time may refer (a) to a sequence, (b) to the principle of that sequence, or (c) to a specific point in that sequence. In sense (a), time is a mass noun that refuses the indefinite article, but accepts the quantifier some (e.g., "some time ago"); in sense (c), it is a count noun in accepting the definite and indefinite articles (e.g., "this time", "once upon a time"); in sense (b) it is usually considered as a mass noun; but, since it denotes a category that denotes a single generic principle, it resembles a proper name in uniquely referring to one and only one referent (that is why it is quite frequently capitalized). Thus, both in sense (b) and (c) time is a singular term but whereas in sense (c) it is frequently individuated in a particular situation, in sense (b) it is necessarily considered as a general object, apart from special circumstances. Thus, in sense (b) time has a somewhat ambiguous status: in some respects it is a mass noun, in some respects it resembles a proper noun. In several poems by Shakespeare and Marvell, this ambiguity has been resolved in the direction of proper nouns, by attributing to time some characteristic visual shape and some visible, often violent action. In this way, time becomes a superpersonal agent. When I speak of time as a superpersonal agent, I imply "of the nature of an individual rational being", and "of superhuman dimensions and power". In this capacity, Time features compact consciousness, definite will, patent purpose and so on. In the light of our foregoing cognitive considerations, then, we might expect time in these instances to be nearer to the conceptual pole.

Since both sequence (of time) and purposeful actions (of a superpersonal agent) are what we have called "linear", both time-as-a-sequence and time-as-a-generic-principle will tend to be perceived as compact concepts, intellectual abstractions. When time denotes a particular point in a sequence, part of a situation defined here-and-now, the abstraction may be related to spatial orientation, and perceived as a diffuse quality: a mood, an atmosphere. In such instances Time has a double function: it helps to define the immediate situation in time, and provides the abstraction that is to be perceived in it as a diffuse entity. Universal scenery will reinforce general concepts, a particular immediate scene (located in space and time) will enhance gestalt-free quality. The more elaborate the scene and the more subtle and numerous the details, the more elusive the quality will prove. In addition, conclusive statements, logical arguments, clausal (verbal) syntactic structure tends to enhance the definable conceptual entity, whereas descriptive utterances, suspensive (non-conclusive) statements, phrasal (nominal) syntactic structures tend to reinforce some mood or atmosphere, that is, elusive, sensuous qualities.

Knight (1964: 57-58) characterizes time in Shakespeare's sonnets as follows:

It also appears to be all-embracing [...]. The contrast is between "now" Shakespeare's thought does not call it, though it may suggest, an "eternal now"--and the temporal sequence. He is concerned with the simple actuality of "all those beauties whereof now he's king" (63), as against the inevitable future; with time as now, and time as sequence. Normally "time" means "sequential time".

The "eternal now" of which Knight speaks should be distinguished from Wordsworth's "immediate now" in excerpts 2 or 9. Whereas Wordsworth implies "at this particular time, at this particular place", Shakespeare, in speaking of "all those beauties whereof now he's king", implies "at any particular moment, at any particular place you care to consider", that is, apart from specific circumstances. There are instances, as in excerpt 5, when Shakespeare refers to particular points in time. Here, however, the particular "hours and times of your desire" are in the plural and, again, apart from specific circumstances; so the phrase is turned into a conceptual summary of momentary emotional qualities.

In Marvell's "To his Coy Mistress" (see excerpt 8), Time is set in what appears to be a vigorous logical argument, as pointed out by Cunningham (1969), the first section ("Had we but world enough and time) being a hypothetical statement, the second section a contradictory one ("But at my back I always hear ..."), set in an eternal now; the third section is the logical conclusion ("Now therefore, while ..."). All this has the psychological atmosphere of patent purpose to persuade his coy mistress to enjoy the present day, trusting as little as possible to the future. The poem plays up, on the one hand, time against timelessness, and on the other hand, sequential time against the eternal now. In the couplet quoted in excerpt 8, Time has been associated with a conventional visual image and an intense action, in a definite direction. So, although in excerpt 8 the phrase "at my back I ... hear" suggests an undifferentiated percept detached from the thing itself (and the verb hurry too is highly generic and suggests no characteristic visual shape), this seems to be counteracted by the "eternal now" indicated by always and by the stable visual shape of chariot as well as by the other elements discussed in this paragraph, and time is perceived as a compact, near-conceptual entity.

In Shakespeare's sonnets, Time is frequently associated with logical arguments, occasionally introduced by some causal conjunction (such as Since in excerpt 6). The logical argument also prevails in the sonnets persuading the friend to get married, in which time occurs several times. Or, consider excerpt 4. Here Time acts as a superpersonal agent: two violent actions are attributed to it (Devouring, blunt), the first one being part of a vocative phrase, the other being expressed by an imperative verb. Both these grammatical forms are noted for their psychological atmosphere of definite direction. In addition, there is no definite setting in which the action might take place.

Time acts as a superpersonal agent, constructive and, in due course, destructive, in a temporal sequence, strongly associated with several actions, partly in a universal setting, and partly in no setting at all, with a causal argument beginning in the fifth line, in excerpt 3. A different effect is produced in excerpt 7. Here there is an atmosphere, evoked by the images; there is a prevailing autumnal quality, hovering, as it were, in the quatrain. Time, as could be expected, refers to a particular season of the year, not to sequential time. The statements are descriptive rather than persuasive. The setting described vibrates, so to speak, between a particular landscape and a typical representation of Autumn. There is a very detailed description of the landscape, particularizing every subtlety, attempting to achieve maximum exactitude. The four finite verbs ( unlike blunt, frame, or lead in excerpt 3) do not denote any conclusive action of time or related objects. Behold denotes an act of perception; hang denotes a state rather than an action: sang denotes a continuous action that "supplies food to the senses"; shake, although denoting physical movement, is anything but a conclusive action; furthermore, in a context of bestowing emotions upon a landscape, it suggests rather a state of mind or a state of being cold. In neither case can it be described as having a psychological atmosphere of certainty or security. The auxiliary verb mayst in excerpt 7 is far less conclusive than did or doth in excerpt 3. Two prominent phrasal constructions draw attention in the present quatrain: "Yellow leaves, or none, or few ...", and "Bare ruined choirs", which have no parallel in the former quotation. The suspensive (non-conclusive) quality of the first phrase is reinforced by the hesitating tone of ...or ...or, and, by the same token, by delaying the expected predicate. Thus, the Autumnal mood of decay is abstracted from parallel instances of autumnal decay, subsumed under a coherent landscape, and reinforced by the inconclusive tone of the quatrain. Although the whole quatrain is a periphrasis for Autumn, the concept becomes blurred by the incongruous relationships described above, which compete for the reader's attention. Now let us return to excerpt 9. The first quatrain requires fine discriminations, as Brooks' analysis (1968: 6) may testify:

... consider the adjectives in the first lines of Wordsworth's evening sonnet: beauteous, calm, free, holy, quiet, breathless. The juxtapositions are hardly startling; and yet notice this: the evening is like a nun breathless with adoration. The adjective "breathless" suggests tremendous excitement; and yet the evening is not only quiet but calm. There is no final contradiction, to be sure: it is that kind of calm and that kind of excitement, and the two states may well occur together. But the poet has no one term [...] He must work by contradiction and qualification.

Now this complex emotional state of mind interacts in a peculiar way with the landscape. Whereas a nun is visible, the "holy time" is invisible, and may show no visible sign of excitement. In the present context of abstract qualities (no visible parts of the nun are mentioned), the excitement is devoid of physical activity, and all its immense energy is fused, to intensify them, with the other abstract qualities: calm, holiness, tranquillity, solemnity.

"The holy time" (like "beauteous evening") is, obviously, an abstraction from certain natural objects at a given time. It occurs in a fairly particularized situation (at any rate, more particular than any of Shakespeare's sonnets quoted above). It is not sequential time, but a particular now in a particular here. The immediate subtlety of the minute is reinforced by the particular "tiptoe effect" of "calm excitement", which, as suggested by Brooks, is dependent on the particular combination of apparently incompatible elements. The abstractness of Time is reinforced, as we have seen, by the surrounding abstract nouns, even by the adjective holy. On the other hand, Time serves here to shift attention away from the perceived objects of the scene to its felt quality. In the physical reality represented, it is not time that is quiet, but the natural objects of the landscape seem quiet at this time. Thus, "the holy time" oscillates, as it were, between an abstract existence and its function as metonymy for a concrete situation: it is more concrete than a mere abstraction, but, still, less than a physical--visible, audible, tangible--entity. It is perceived as a thing-free quality hovering in a concrete landscape. The nun may be "breathless with adoration", but this meaning does not come into full focus. Breathless may apply to a landscape as well, in the sense of "there is not the slightest current of air". This is corroborated, in retrospect, by one of the meanings of calm"not windy". Similarly to the invisible presence of breathless air and the mighty being--thing-free qualities as holiness, adoration, tranquillity, solemnity are intensely present. The nominal style of the quatrain is remarkable. There are only three finite verbs in four lines, only one that denotes spatial motion (is sinking down), the verb is twice, once as a copula, and once denoting existence. Time is not associated with vigorous actions (as in so many of Shakespeare's sonnets), but with states and gestalt-free qualities.

Although the atmosphere of the sonnet has been subsumed under a well-defined scene, this has been indicated only in the title in some editions ("Composed upon the Beach near Calais"), and by two concrete nouns: sun, sea. What is important here is not the landscape but the atmosphere, the impressive solemnity hovering over it. Instead of talking about natural objects in the landscape--as usual with Wordsworth--he talks about the spirit that informs them, by turning some attributes and circumstances of the possible landscape into abstract nouns, which have a strong cumulative impact of thing-free qualities, together with some other abstract nouns: evening (with time as its synonym), the gentleness of heaven, adoration, tranquillity. The phrase gentleness of heaven is noteworthy in this respect, especially if one compares it to a possible alternative phrasing: the gentle heaven broods o'er the sea. Wordsworth resorts here to a poetic device which in the chapter "The Abstract and the Concrete in Poetry" I have called "transferred attribute", or "nominalized predicate", or simply the-ABSTRACT-of-the-CONCRETE metaphor. This is a conspicuous device to direct attention away from the objects and concepts to their felt qualities.

I wish to make three further comments on lines 6-8. First, Listen! shifts the mood of the poem from description to the imperative; this is a vigorous deictic device to place the perceiving consciousness right in the midst of the situation, activating its "emotional" mechanism of locating itself in its environment with reference to time and space. Second, some important aspects of the object of listen are inaudible. The mighty being may be an abstract periphrasis for "God", imperceptible to the senses. Is awake denotes a state, and is similarly imperceptible in itself. Thus, again, a more refined sensation of the supersensuous is evoked, possibly intimating a pantheistic deity. A sound like thunder is introduced only two lines after listen. Third, the thing-free sound-perception of line 6, then gets belatedly a "thingy" (though gestalt-free) motivation in lines 7-8. It should be noticed, however, that And doth with his eternal motion make / A sound like thunder--everlastingly is to be attributed to the sea more suitably than to an abstraction. One could suggest, therefore, that lines 7-8 as well comprise intense, thing-free sound-perceptions, a supersensuous atmosphere which has, nonetheless, a dislocated motivation in line 5 (sea). This dislocation is, of course, "mitigated" by an animistic pantheistic view, informing this and some other poems by Wordsworth.

This style of cumulating emotionally loaded abstract nouns is less common in Wordsworth's poetry than in Keats's. Even when Wordsworth writes a sonnet on a typically Keatsean theme, "Upon the Sight of a Beautiful Picture", his abstract nouns tend to the conceptual pole. Compare, for instance, the perceived effect of excerpt 10 to that of 11. Both sonnets purport to express an emotional response to some work(s) of art. But whereas "Mortality / Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep" is perceived as some diffuse though intense essence, all the abstract nouns in excerpt 10 remain compact, conceptual, anything but diffuse. Hence, the two lines are perceived as "rhetorical" rather than emotional. Let us try to account for this compact, conceptual character of these abstractions. The first thing that strikes the reader is that at this point of the sonnet, the beginning of the sestet, it invokes art in general, transferring the discourse to a highly generalized level, with no attempt to create a particular situation defined here-and-now. Second, the hyponyms of Time, Morning, Noontide, Even constitute a linear sequence, and thus, according to our foregoing assumptions, they assume a compact conceptual character, and even tend to reinforce the conceptual character of any other part of the discourse. Third, the temporal sequence, as in Shakespeare, is associated with a verb of action, but, unlike in Shakespeare, the verb (do serve) is highly generic and tends to present the abstractions as "merely conceptual" rather than poetic. Fourth, Pageantry, too, suggests a succession, and so it has a grain of linearity in it. It may refer to some colourful succession, but it merely summarizes it on a highly conceptual level. Fifth, a vocative phrase may have an ingredient of a specific direction (in being directed to its addressee), or may have the potential of a powerful deictic device. Here (as in Shakespeare's "Devouring Time") the vocative phrase strengthens the linear conclusive tone of the poem, and--in the absence of an immediate situation--it does not act as a deictic device as in the other poems by Wordsworth quoted.

Last but not least, one notable way in which excerpt 10 attempts to achieve poeticity is the peculiar use of the epithet in Soul-soothing Art and changeful pageantry. These adjectives are non-restrictive (the poem does not distinguish art that soothes the soul from art that does not), and they act here in a way that is similar to stock epithets in classical and neo-classical poetry. As Riffaterre (1978: 28) has pointed out, in such phrases "the agent of poeticity is a specific relationship between epithet and noun, which designates a quality of the noun's referent [...] as characteristic or basic", where the adjective's meaning "is represented a priori as a permanent feature"; "in one way or another they must be exemplary, strikingly representative" (ibid, 28-29). So, whereas in excerpt 9 we have a fleeting quality in an immediate situation, one may regard the epithets "Soul-soothing" or "changeful" as a reverse kind of deictic devices, that "shift" their respective nouns to an "eternal now" rather than to an "immediate now". The nouns thus qualified become instances of general ideas, apart from specific circumstances, even when they happen to occur in some particular situation; they tend to focus on stable and permanent properties, rather than on fleeting, elusive qualities. In excerpt 10, at any rate, they tend to reinforce the conceptual nature of the whole discourse.

The following comment has been made--by a sympathetic but critical reader--on an earlier version of my discussion of Time in poetry.

In the lines of Wordsworth and Marvell, we have not only two different senses of "time", but two different words, one a mass noun and one a count noun. How much of the poetic difference (concept and mood, etc.) is just a consequence of this grammatical fact?

In the concrete realm, at least, mass nouns tend to designate undifferentiated, diffuse entities, some general extended substance, whereas count nouns tend to designate differentiated entities with characteristic visual shapes. So we might expect mass nouns to be the source of undifferentiated moods, and count nouns the source of differentiated concepts. In our poetic sample, however, we find that the reverse is the case. Time as a count noun helps to define the immediate situation in time and provides, by the same token, the abstraction that is to be perceived in it as a diffuse entity. Time as a sequence, on the other hand, is a mass noun, it designates a general extended entity, but it is extended in one specific direction, from the past (or present) to the future: so it is linear time and tends to be conceptual. Time as a general principle is, on the one hand, a mass noun, but, on the other hand--being a general principle--it is a concept. So, it occupies a somewhat ambiguous position between an undifferentiated mass and a differentiated concept. Shakespeare and Marvell disambiguate Time (in the differentiated direction), by endowing it with a particular identity, a personal will, purposeful actions and characteristic visual shapes. Time both as a count noun and a mass noun designates a concept; and both have definite elements (a definite point or a definite direction); the poetic difference arises from the different exploitations of these definite elements. The "definite" character acts in different ways against a generalized background and in a specific situation. In the former it counts toward a conceptual entity; in the latter it may help to define it in time (and space), so that an abstraction may be perceived in it as a diffuse entity.

Thus, the double-edgedness of abstract nouns is not derived from the fact that some abstract nouns are count nouns and some--mass nouns. In fact, the same mass noun may be double-edged, in different contexts. One may demonstrate this point by comparing the two tokens of the word mortality in 6 and 11. In "But sad mortality o'ersways their power" (in 6), the abstraction mortality has a compact, conceptual character (and so have the other abstractions of the sonnet, even "summer's honey breath", to some extent). To prophesy after the event, this perceived effect could be predicted, on the basis of our foregoing generalization. The sonnet has the structure of a vigorous logical argument, beginning with a clausal conjunction; the main clause predicting it (in line 3) is a rhetorical question. The sonnet attributes violent actions to Time and its hyponyms: "Sad mortality o'ersways their power", "wreckful siege of battering days" and "No gate of steel so strong but time decays". The epithet sad designates a basic, exemplary feature of mortality, just as the epithet impregnable designates an exemplary feature of rock. The four nouns in the first line, too, denote objects that are "strikingly representative" examples of endurance. In such a context, the absence of a unique, immediate setting, too, counts toward the compact conceptuality of mortality.

Keats's "Elgin-Marbles" sonnet contains a considerable number of abstractions and thing-free qualities (mainly in the parts not quoted here) which are the source of emotionally loaded undifferentiated qualities. I have discussed it at length elsewhere (see "Aspects of Cognitive Poetics"). Here I only want to point out that mortality in excerpt 11 makes a totally different impression from excerpt 6. We have described this impression as a diffuse though intense essence. This sonnet, too, begins in a way that could be perceived as almost plain conceptual language. My spirit is too weak is a straightforward enough conceptual statement of an emotional state; weighs heavily on me is, in ordinary language, a dead metaphor, in the sense "troubles me". Nevertheless, the first two lines are perceived rather as undifferentiated and non-conceptual. Why? One reason lies in the peculiar tension between the abstract and the concrete in the sentence "Mortality weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep". Another reason lies in the peculiar nature of the concrete element in this tension. Finally, the perceived quality generated in this way is reinforced by the relation of this phrase to the surrounding phrases.

First, let us compare Keats's own words to a paraphrase: "Death weighs heavily on me". This appears to be somewhat less diffuse. Mortality is relatively rare in poetry; Death is far more common. Though both are abstract nouns, mortality is more abstract than death, in the sense that the potential is more abstract than the actual. Besides, we have been accustomed to personifications of Death in poetry, myth, and even our every-day thought, to the extent that we no more associate it with pure abstractions; whereas mortality is shape-free in our awareness. In this sense, mortality stretches the expression into the abstract direction. Weighs, on the other hand, attributes to mortality a property which is the exclusive property of physical objects. Now, as we have seen, when an abstraction is associated with a physical object that has a characteristic visual shape, the typical result is a figurative expression in which the abstraction has a compact, differentiated, conceptual character. When, however, the abstraction is associated with a physical quality that belongs to the domain of one of the least differentiated senses, the tactile or thermal sense, or the sense of weight (the domains of these three senses are barely differentiated even from one another) it tends to be perceived as a diffuse, undifferentiated, though intense and saturated percept. By attributing weight to mortality, one endows it with potency, or power by transference, while at the same time dramatizing a feeling of "distress" or "depression". In this way, the present metaphor joins a highly abstract (differentiated) noun with a very lowly differentiated predicate; there is a "hole" left at what Wimsatt (1954) calls the substantive level (thus the expression suggests the kind of feeling for which our vocabulary has no name). It is immediately preceded by a direct expression "My spirit is too weak" on the substantive level, thus serving as a standard for deviation in both directions. The above analysis takes for granted that the predicate weighs is not taken in the straightforward idiomatic sense of "troubles me". But the qualities suggested here can be detected only if one understands weighs as a physical attribute proper, and conceives of the expression as being split into a more abstract and a more concrete term than the term on the substantive level. Here such a reading is encouraged by the sequel, "like unwilling sleep" (whether unwilling to come or to go), metonymically transferring an undifferentiated sense of heaviness from the limbs to mortality, the abstraction related to the speaker from the outside, as it were.

I shall make only a few relevant comments on the ensuing landscape description. According to our initial assumptions concerning the relationship between landscape descriptions and emotional qualities in poetry, one might expect that the "pinnacles and steeps" amplify the emotional quality of mortality, by increasing its diffuseness. This, however, is not unambiguously the case. "Each imagined pinnacle and steep" may be conceived of as of strikingly representative examples of "godlike hardship", that is, of a circumstance in which excessive and painful effort of some kind is required. Qua exemplary, the landscape tends itself to bring the conceptual nature of hardship into sharp focus.

Now, the more emphasis is placed on the actual (rather than the exemplary) nature of the landscape, the softer (the more diffuse) the focus of perception of the abstraction hardship. Alternatively, the more awareness is focussed on the shapes of the pinnacles and steeps, the sharper the definition of the conceptual quality; and, conversely, the more awareness is focussed on locating oneself in space and time with reference to the pinnacles and steeps, the more diffuse (the more "perceptual") the concept becomes.

"Like a sick eagle looking at the sky" has a multiple relationship to the preceding utterance. First, the eagle reinforces connotations of loftiness in "pinnacle and steep". Second, the eagle enacts the sense of desperate helplessness; it combines in one visual image impending death with what the eagle might be in the sky, reinforcing a tragic feeling. Third, the mere occurrence of the eagle enhances the suggestion that the pinnacles and steeps may constitute a concrete, actual landscape. Fourth, the eagle represents a consciousness in the very act of locating itself with reference to space, that is, emphasizes the aspect of spatial orientation rather than the exemplary aspect in "each pinnacle and steep", and thus increases the diffuse rather than the compact perception of mortality and also, possibly, of hardship.

Allegory and Symbol

Our discussion of the two aspects of "each imagined pinnacle and steep" upon which awareness may be focussed, raises an additional issue of utmost importance. The theoretical equipment introduced in the present paper can help to discern some crucial respects distinguishing allegory from symbol. Traditionally, both suggest a kind of double-talk: talking of some concrete entities and implying some abstract ones. But whereas in allegory the concrete or material forms are considered as the "mere" guise of some well-defined abstract or spiritual meaning, the symbol is conceived to have an existence independent on the abstractions, and to suggest, "somehow", the ineffable, some reality, or quality, or feeling, that cannot be expressed in ordinary language. The landscape in 11 can be perceived as an allegorical landscape, strikingly representative of "godlike hardship", or as a symbolic landscape suggesting certain feelings that tend to elude words.

Now, ineffable experiences are ineffable precisely because they are related to right-hemisphere brain activities, in which information is diffuse, undifferentiated, global, whereas language which ought to express those experiences is a typical left-hemisphere brain-activity, in which information is compact, well-differentiated and linear. Traditional allegory bestows well-differentiated physical shapes and human actions upon clear-cut ideas, which can be represented in clear conceptual language too; whereas symbol manipulates information in such a way that some (or most) of it is perceived as diffuse, undifferentiated, global, by associating it with the cognitive mechanism of spatial orientation, or by treating it in terms of the least differentiated senses, or by presenting its elements in multiple relationships; all these techniques can be reinforced by what I have elsewhere called "divergent structures" (Tsur, 1972; 1977; 1978; 1983).

In what follows, I shall use the term symbol in the very restricted sense used with reference to 19th century French symbolist poetry, in which the above principle appears at its extreme. Mallarmé "defined Symbolism as the art of evoking an object little by little so as to reveal a mood or, conversely, the art of choosing an object and extracting from it an 'état d'âme' " (Chadwick, 1971: 1). Mallarmé's disciple, Henri de Régnier "defined the term 'symbol' as being a comparison between the abstract and the concrete with one of the terms of the comparison being merely suggested'une comparaison de l'abstrait au concret dont un des termes reste sous-entendu' " (ibid, 2). Back in 1888 an adverse critic, Jules Lemaître, offered a very similar description: "Un symbole est, en somme, une comparaison prolongée dont ne nous donne que le second terme, un système de métaphores suivies. Bref, le symbole, c'est la vieille 'allégories' de nos pères" (quoted by Brooke-Rose, 1958: 32).

Mallarmé's disciple and the adverse critic do agree upon the description of the linguistic device used in symbol. Where they differ is the implications concerning the term "merely suggested". This is brought out clearly if we read on Chadwick's account:

And, as Régnier further pointed out, because the symbol thus frequently stands alone, with the reader being given little or no indication as to what is being symbolized, Symbolist poetry inevitably has a certain built-in obscurity [...]. The sad and mournful landscapes of Mallarmé's contemporary, Paul Verlaine, are intended to convey to the reader the poet's profound melancholy though his poems rarely state explicitly that this is their purpose (Chadwick, 1971: 2).

It is noteworthy that according to Régnier symbolist poetry has a built-in obscurity and, one might add, the spiritual meaning merely suggested is an undifferentiated transient mood for which language has no name, whereas "good old allegory of our fathers", one might suggest, has a certain built-in lucidity, and the spiritual term suggested is a clear-cut, differentiated idea, regularly named by conceptual language. It is also noteworthy, and certainly in harmony with the basic tenets of the present paper, that, according to Chadwick, Verlaine chooses to convey his profound melancholy through the description of "sad and mournful landscapes". In other words, what Lemaître is doing in the above quotation, is to "level" the difference between symbol and allegory. As Ohmann (1970: 231) has pointed out following George Klein, "leveling" may be an effective device in the service of a cognitive style.

The leveler is more anxious to categorize sensations and less willing to give up a category once he has established it. Red is red, and there's an end on't. He levels (suppresses) differences and emphasizes similarities in the interest of perceptual stability. For him the unique, unclassifiable sensation is particularly offensive [...].

Now, I don't pretend to know anything about Lemaître's cognitive style or, in fact, anything beyond what is said in the above quotation. But here, he not only levels the differences and emphasizes the similarities between allegory and symbol, but he does this for a very obvious purpose: to deny the existence of the unique, unclassifiable sensation. One feature that symbolism has in common with impressionism is, that they both "desired to capture the fleeting impression at the very moment in which sensations are transformed into feelings" (Weisstein, 1974). When Lemaître resorts to the strategy of debunking, stating that the poetic symbol is nothing but good old allegory of our fathers, he denies in fact that "the fleeting impression at the very moment in which sensations are transformed into feelings" can be captured by poetry, or that such an experience may exist at all.When in a piece of criticism, or in the output of a critic, certain cognitive devices are consistently deployed in a way that is characteristic of a certain cognitive style, I call it "the implied critic's decision style" (I have discussed related issues in Tsur, 1975; 1979).

Lemaître is, then, right in pointing out a similar structure between allegory and 19th Century French symbolist poetry; intuitively, however, he seems to be misguided in leveling the difference between the two. Nevertheless, it is not an easy task to prove him wrong. The common element can be defined and shown to be palpably there, whereas the difference is elusive, dependent on transient moods that immediately vanish when one tries to put one's finger on them. An obviousand not uncommonway to handle the problem is to discuss the old allegories of our fathers and 19th century symbolist poetry on separate occasions, applying to each one the relevant theoretical framework, without questioning its applicability. If, however, one wants to make a direct comparison between a piece of good old allegory of our fathers and a piece of 19th century French symbolist poetry, a far more illuminating way seems to be to have recourse to the theoretical apparatus proposed by the present paper. In this case, one must proceed, first, by acknowledging the structural similarities; second, by contrasting the perceived effects of the poems (in such terms as compact ~ diffuse; concept ~ percept; ideational ~ emotional, and the like); and third, one must point at elements in the respective poems that typically count toward a conceptual, compact, ideational quality, or toward a perceptual, diffuse and emotional quality. In the rest of this paper, I am going to compare a short passage from Spenser with a sonnet by Baudelaire.

1. The application of neurophysiology to poetics and other "higher" mental processes is controversial. I am defending my practice in the Second Appendix at the end of this book.

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