Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish

ArsPoetica by Archibald MacLeish

Sincethe beginning of the society, poets have attempted to develop poetrythat endures time. Ars Poetica is a Latin title borrowed from Horace,in his ‘Artof Poetry’:A prose treatise developed during the Silver Age of Rome (Ho 21).During the first century A.D, Horace advised poets among otherthings, to make their poems brief and long lasting. Following hisfootsteps, Archibald McLeish developed the Ars Poetica, which becamehis ultimate expression of the art-for-arts-sake slogan in 1926.

MacLeish developed his poem after the first Imagist had come up withthe new movement. His poem as critiqued is believed not to supportimagism and yet his philosophy and technique focus on that style. Hispoem consists of images that are unique and well-illustrated. On theother hand, these images illustrate and exemplify the imagistprinciples and practices of poetry (Ho 21). In his poem, MacLeishattempts to join the classic and modern approaches to poetry insupport of the notion that standards of good poetry do not changeregardless of time. However, one can note that actual poems changefrom time to time and language to language but retain their essence.

The author uses contradictory statements and images to bring outthe true nature of poetry. Poems cannot be ‘mute’, ‘dumb’ or‘silent’ (Ho 21). Rather, MacLeish attempts to emphasize on themeaning of poetry being metaphysical than its physical nature. In hisfinal paradox, ‘A poem should not mean but be,’ the poetemphasizes on the nature of poetry holding a divine meaning that isageless and permanent (Ho 21). He focuses on the power of a poem tohave a significant meaning. From the works that inspired him,MacLeish was able to develop a modern Art of Poetry that fulfills thethree rules of Imagism namely, being direct, brief as well usingfree verse.


Ho, Mondi. Poets on Poetry: . New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.