Concrete Expression As Decadence

Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony

The essence of Romanticism consequently comes to consist in that which cannot be described. The word and the form, says Schlegel in Lucinde, are only accessories. The essential is the thought and the poetic image, and these are rendered possible only in a passive state. The Romantic exalts the artist who does not give a material form to his dreams — the poet ecstatic in front of a forever blank page, the musician who listens to the prodigious concerts of his soul without attempting to translate them into notes. It is romantic to consider concrete expression as a decadence, a contamination. How many times has the magic of the ineffable been celebrated, from Keats, with his
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter. . . .
to Maeterlinck, with his theory that silence is more musical than any sound!

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