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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 6 Number 6, 1976.

Beauty and Truth I.A. Richards


IN REVISING this TV presentation for print, I find that a number of reflections compete for precedence. Any very familiar poem - especially one much pushed to young readers at school - accumulates a thick deposit of misconceptions, the more so if its meanings are both intricate and deep. For the 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' all these conditions are fulfilled in excelsis. Has it perhaps been buried for too many under too huge a tumulus of nonsensical commentary? Or to reverse the image, has what should have been a spell to invoke Quietude in meditation been turned into a football battle-ground? A TV presentation has to reckon with both these threats. It has to remember too that it is not young readers but their mentors, among which it must itself be counted, that can promote the most absurd misreadings. That it has been misunderstood is never of course necessarily the poem's fault. In general, may we not think that the greater the poetry the greater the risks it must take?

As this poem and, most pointedly, its close is so eminent an instance of art treating of art, of poetry on poetry, a longer Introduction may here be in place.

I left this TV presentation very much as I gave it. To have loaded it with further aberrations of critics would have confused its audience. But the printed page can do much that a vocal performance cannot. So here I add, without comment, ...


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