By Robert Pack
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Additional resources for Affirming limits: essays on mortality, choice, and poetic form
Stevens calls this power the "gaiety of language," and this gaiety is inherent in the human mind as a continuous source of possible happiness. When language is made to flourish through willed pattern, the feeling it brings forth is one of spontaneous pleasure, yet this is paradoxical, since the feeling of spontaneity is achieved only with the completion of the work of art, only after the necessary choices have been made. The making of the choices is what brings forth the feeling of freedom. Spontaneity and freedom come last: they are the achievements that result from mastery; they are the triumph of willed happiness.
The most difficult Page 5 achievement for an artist is to present suffering so that its main effect is not entertainment (attention and profit for the artist), and to present what is good in such a way that the spectacle of goodness, as in human kindness, is as compelling as the spectacle of degradation and destruction. "Evil, be thou my good," says Milton's Satan. "Evil, be thou my source of power" is the unspoken principle at the heart of much contemporary artistic endeavor. There is an alternative view of the artist's relation to evil that argues that all art is affirmative because it is the creation of order, no matter what its theme or its attitude toward evil.
II It is apparent that the novelist and the dramatist project themselves into the characters they create, but the lyric poeteven when speaking as "I" and thus appearing to be only his own selfalso may be re-creating himself as something other than what he is in fact. " In Yeats's poem, "Father and Child," for example, a father recounts an exchange he has had with his daughter: Page 28 She hears me strike the board and say That she is under ban Of all good men and women, Being mentioned with a man That has the worst of all bad names; And thereupon replies That his hair is beautiful, Cold as the March wind his eyes.