Delacroix on Poetry

Delacroix's Views on Poetry from His Work 'Psychology of the Art'

In art, the purest kind of spirituality is in search for the most sensitive material. Sensitivity reaches its strongest point when coming in contact with the most subtle images. These are some of the ideas expressed by Henri Delacroix in his "Psychology of the Art."
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 10, 2018
Any perfect aesthetic pleasure is, in Delacroix's opinion, the synthesis of sensorial, formal and emotional pleasure. A good piece of art should be able to arouse this mixture of pleasures within one's spirit. The order of the sensations is also essential and mandatory. Without proper arrangement, without proper order, in one word, without construction, all we deal with is a sensorial chaos. Delacroix states that the law of the art is to perceive or constitute certain forms. This overall art's function incorporates some elementary functions such as: intelligibility, unity in diversity, clarity, symmetry, etc.
Without significance, without value, the aesthetic pleasure remains poor. We may expect a poem, a painting or a symphony to be more than a beautiful arrangement of words, colors or sounds. This beautiful arrangement should symbolize a spiritual state. Art should aim to enchant not only the five senses, but also the mind and the spirit. There are well-done, pleasant art pieces that are devoid of any interest, they seem to lack something essential. And there are also art pieces that are charged with good, beautiful intentions and valuable messages, but which do not reach the proper type of expression.
They say Degas used to complain to Mallarme about how hard it was for him to write good sonnets. However, Degas claimed to have plenty of ideas. Mallarme responded to Degas that poems are not made of ideas, they are made of words. Poetry is done both with ideas and with words. One needs to have ideas in order to be a painter, a musician, a poet, a designer. But these ideas need to be poured onto the proper kind of shapes in order to create something unique, something artistic, and something worthy of interest.
Delacroix explains how the musical pleasure comes to reunite the sensorial and metrical-sensorial pleasures of sounds and movements, the architectural pleasure of sound forms and the pleasure of the feelings and of the confused or precise world which lies beyond them. The entire spirit of the musician gets contracted within the gesture which synthesizes these elementary operations.
When enjoying art, one experiences a purely sensitive pleasure. It is a sensorial kind of pleasure. It implies agreeable sensations without which feelings cannot be awaken or ended. This pleasure is excited like in a sort of diffuse irradiation. But this pleasure pertains to the realm of beauty so it is an orderly arrangement, a piece of architecture. This architecture is animated and expressive.
Among other definitions of poetry we can find in Delacroix's writings, there is also the one according to which poetry could be considered as music in which the idea became feeling. Because it is lyrical, poetry is a translation of the soul's movements, of the inner voices and reveries. When it is dramatic, poetry expresses the action which is born out of the poet's interior life and which is alive when coming out of the artist's spirit in order to come into conflict with social order or with the natural destiny. Poetry takes up all these above-mentioned forms throughout history, and it is sometimes exteriorized, sometimes more internalized.
Delacroix says that it's possible for poetry to start, like music, from the exterior, from the social, architectural and decorative dimension in order for it to reach, in certain epochs and certain artistic trends, the very essence of pure poetry. Poetry seems to oscillate between visual arts and music. At different levels of tension, it can be either more fluid or denser. Poetry uses visual, musical, logical and emotional elements. Delacroix considers that poetry can only exist through the interaction and synthesis of the idea, the feeling, the images, the verbal music and the curves of the poetic forms. Like in the case of most types of artists, for the poet thought and thinking exist only if they fall prey to his senses.
These are but a few aspects referring to the functions of art in general and poetry in particular, and how they interact.