T.S. Eliot 2

30Ago11

L’opera d’arte nuova e i poeti morti

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities.

[…]

To proceed to a more intelligible exposition of the relation of the poet to the past: he can neither take the past as a lump, an indiscriminate bolus, nor can he form himself wholly on one or two private admirations, nor can he form himself wholly upon one preferred period. The first course is inadmissible, the second is an important experience of youth, and the third is a pleasant and highly desirable supplement. The poet must be very conscious of the main current, which does not at all flow invariably through the most distinguished reputations. He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe—the mind of his own country—a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind—is a mind which changes, and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsmen. That this development, refinement perhaps, complication certainly, is not, from the point of view of the artist, any improvement. Perhaps not even an improvement from the point of view of the psychologist or not to the extent which we imagine; perhaps only in the end based upon a complication in economics and machinery. But the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show.
Some one said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know.

Da “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, in The Sacred Wood. Essays on Poetry and Criticism, Knopf, New York 1921.

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Nessun poeta, nessun artista di nessuna arte, da solo, ha in sé tutto il proprio senso. Il suo significato, la valutazione che riceve è  la valutazione del suo rapporto con i poeti, con gli artisti morti. Non possiamo giudicarlo isolatamente, dobbiamo collocarlo, per contrasto e confronto, tra i morti. E questo io lo considero un principio di critica estetica, non meramente storica. La necessità che l’artista si conformi, che si adegui, non è  unilaterale: ciò che avviene quando si crea un’opera d’arte nuova avviene simultaneamente a tutte le opere d’arte che l’hanno preceduta. I monumenti esistenti creano tra loro un ordine ideale, che viene modificato dall’ingresso di un’opera nuova (davvero nuova). Prima del sopraggiungere della nuova opera, l’ordine esistente è completo; ma per poter rimanere tale dopo il sopravvenire della novità, l’intero ordine esistente deve, sia pure di poco, alterarsi; e così i rapporti, le proporzioni, i valori di ogni opera d’arte rispetto al tutto ne escono ridefiniti; ed è questo l’adeguamento fra vecchio e nuovo. Chiunque approvi questa idea di ordine, della forma della letteratura europea, della letteratura inglese, non troverà impensabile che il passato sia alterato dal presente tanto quanto il presente è governato dal passato. E il poeta che ne è consapevole sarà consapevole delle sue grandi difficoltà e responsabilità.

[…]

Traduzione mia (ancora incompleta).



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