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Poetry, Necessity, and Subjectivity

August 28, 2012

Thus, at the turn of the Eighteenth Century an early warning against the direction taken by science and technology was sounded by poets and visionaries: Goethe, Swedenborg, Blake. Too bizarre to be understood, as it attempted to undermine the premises that seemed obvious, their warning did not succeed in turning the tide. European romanticism signified just the opposite solution: once the authority of reason and its quantitative methods were recognized as the only certain source of truth–but of a truth impersonal, cold, severed from man’s aspirations and longings–human subjectivity was left to itself as a sort of outcast in the world of iron laws. A poet, an artist, would protect his “truth of the heart” from that world of causes and effects, of universal necessity, conceding at the same time that his inner fortress was made with a fabric of dreams–while only the external, the domain of the scientist, was real.

Czeslaw Milosz in his Introduction to The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz, edited and selected by Christopher Bamford (West Stockbridge, MA: Lindisfarne Press, 1985), 37-38.

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