The Value of Sad Poetry
Just as one may wonder why we should enjoy watching tragic plays, listening to‘sad’ music, or looking at ‘ugly’ pictures, we might also ask what joy is to be had, and why, in reading lines such as ‘No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief, / More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring’ (G.M. Hopkins). I offer two reasons to explain the paradox of negative emotions in the case of poetry (lyric poetry in particular). The first is that the pleasure we derive from formal poetic devices (alliteration, rhyme, meter, and so on) provides a countervailing weight to the sad or painful meaning of the words and sentences. While the artistry does not do away with those meanings, it helps make them bearable and even enjoyable.
If part of the process of overcoming painful emotions involves putting our feelings into words, then finding those words in the verse of another provides a readymade vehicle for the expression of our own thoughts and feelings. By virtue of being written in the first person and thereby promoting a personal engagement akin to identification with the thoughts and emotions expressed in the work, sad lyric poetry has a therapeutic value that helps explain the satisfaction we take in it.
Tags : poetry, sad, value, words, language, speech
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