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What is poetry? It's a question which has been asked many times since the
world began and it has received a number of widely differing answers. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, for example, attempting to define prose and poetry declared: «Prose is words in their best order; poetry is the best words in the best order» — but that is clearly inadequate and inexact. Coleridge's friend the famous English poet William Wordsworth wrote that poetry is «the spontaneous overflow of pow- erful feelings and emotions» which is also not enough. The Oxford English Dic- tionary says that «poetry is composition in verse or metrical language» and that is, probably, as close as we shall ever get in a few words.
Admitting some exceptions we understand that in general poetry must be met- rical, however irregular or even unrythmic. Furthermore, it must be based rather upon qualities of imagination than those of matter of fact; it must illuminate rather than explain, it must deal with things and thoughts of the spirit rather than be lim- ited to the obvious, with that which is permanent rather than that which is transitory.
Amongst most essential qualities of poetry come sincerity, clarity and simplici- ty. Without them there can be no true poetry. Form and characteristic metres are also very important.
Every national tongue has the metres most familiar to its stresses and inflection, most suited to its idioms and its syntax. In English the main and the most charac- teristic metre is the five-foot iambic, which has gradually come to dominate al- most all poems and verses with the great exception of Spencer, who wrote ninelined stanzas closely knit by the elaborate pattern of their rhyming sequence.
Apart from the great Spencer, «the poets' poet» there are some other world fa- mous poets of England. At least Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, Burns should be mentioned. They were fine craftsmen in poetry making good use of dif- ferent poetic devices: alliteration, metaphors, adjectives, vowels and consonants, repetitions and their proper connections.