"Poetry is the music of language, expressing the music of the mind."

— Hazlitt, William (1778-1830)

August 1817
"Poetry is the music of language, expressing the music of the mind."
Metaphor in Context
Mr. Coleridge bewilders himself sadly in endeavouring to determine in what the essence of poetry consists;--Milton, we think, has told it in a single line--
--'Thoughts that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers.'
Poetry is the music of language, expressing the music of the mind. Whenever any object takes such a hold on the mind as to make us dwell upon it, and brood over it, melting the heart in love, or kindling it to a sentiment of admiration;--whenever a movement of imagination or passion is impressed on the mind, by which it seeks to prolong and repeat the emotion, to bring all other objects into accord with it, and to give the same movement of harmony, sustained and continuous, to the sounds that express it,--this is poetry. The musical in sound is the sustained and continuous; the musical in thought and feeling is the sustained and continuous also. Whenever articulation passes naturally into intonation, this is the beginning of poetry. There is no natural harmony in the ordinary combinations of significant sounds: the language of prose is not the language of music, or of passion: and it is to supply this inherent defect in the mechanism of language--to make the sound an echo to the sense, when the sense becomes a sort of echo to itself--to mingle the tide of verse, 'the golden cadences of poesy,' with the tide of feeling, flowing, and murmuring as it flows--or to take the imagination off its feet, and spread its wings where it may indulge its own impulses, without being stopped or perplexed by the ordinary abruptnesses, or discordant flats and sharps of prose--that poetry was invented.
(Vol. 10, pp. 155-6 in Works)
Reading M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (London: Oxford UP, 1953), p. 48.
William Hazlitt, "Coleridge's Literary Life," Edinburgh Review, vol. 28 (August 1817).

Text from The Collected Works of William Hazlitt, ed. A.R. Waller and Arnold Glover, vol. 10. Contributions to the Edinburgh Review (London: J.M. Dent, 1904). <Link to Google Books
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.