In all these cases, poets espouse imagination warmly but encode or enact a retreat or caveat of varying intensity. From about the middle of the century, however, the caveat begins to disappear. The poetry of Gray and Collins typically has the poet conjure a scene that cannot actually be seen and is thus wholly and positively imaginary. Half a century after Pope's alpine simile, Goldsmith's "The Traveller" surmounts an Alp to imagine scenes from the adjacent countries. In Goldsmith's The Deserted Village (1770), "Imagination fondly stoops to trace" a rural idyll now despoiled (Goldsmith 1966: vol. 4, l. 225). The bard is now against civilization, and "imagination" is beyond the polite niceties of mere pleasure: it is coming to mean something like "higher thought." Pope, and Pope's view of what the imagination did, suffered in this change. Joseph Warton's Ode "To Fancy" (1746) celebrated the "magic" power of imagination to waft us on "rapid wings" over material boundaries (Warton 1746: ll. 14, 17). When Warton came to compose the first substantial critical account of Pope, he wrote: "It is a creative and glowing imagination, . . . and that alone" that makes the poet (Warton 1782: vol. 1, v) — and Pope does not possess "a lively plastic imagination" (vol. 1, 133).

It is manifest, that good sense and judgement were his characteristical excellencies, rather than fancy and invention; not that the author of the Rape of the Lock, and Eloisa, can be thought to want imagination, but because his imagination was not his predominant talent, because he indulged it not, and because he gave not so many proofs of this talent as of the other . . . The perusal of him affects not our minds with such strong emotions as we feel from Homer and Milton; so that no man of a true poetical spirit, is master of himself while he reads them. (vol. 2, 408—9)

Warton thus adroitly purloins Pope's own praise of Homer's imagination to use against him.

Other poets shift their emphasis. Young's Night Thoughts (1742—5) is a series of contemplations on life, the universe, and everything, presented as images against the backdrop of night — in other words, the whole displays, and seeks to prompt, imagination. But where imagination is specifically mentioned, the faculty has much less creative virtue than Pope conceives it to have. We are "Imagination's Fool" in our fears of death ("Night IV," in Young 1989: l. 14); imagination is a "Paphian Shop" of feeble desires: "In This is seen Imagination's Guilt; / But who can count her Follies? ("Night VIII," ll. 994, 1004-5). We may be invited to "indulge / The warm Imagination' in contemplation of God's power, but we have already been told that such attempts founder: "In Mid-way Flight Imagination tires" ("Night IX," ll. 1565-6, 1220). Better if we "Imagination's airy Wing repress" and "Wake all to Reason" ("Night IX," ll. 1442, 1444).

But when Young comes to write Conjectures on Original Composition (1759), things have changed. Young argues that poets need to look inside rather than outside, to reverence themselves rather than models. Here, imagination has a "strong wing" and one can enter "the bright walks of rare Imagination" (Young 1759: 13, 55). But in espousing the cause of originality against "imitation" (of literary models, but also of the external world), Young comes to denigrate Pope because of his intense engagement with classical literature and his failure to produce his own epic poem rather than translate Homer's. "Had he a strong Imagination, and the true sublime?" (p. 68). Only a certain kind of imagination is now of any use: it is not merely the ability to produce images that counts, but the production of a certain kind of image: high, noble, deep, serious, fervent — above all, it is a matter offeeling. Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful had already assigned to the imagination a "creative power" that is beyond merely "representing at pleasure the images of things" (Burke 1759: 15—16). As with Addison, imagina tion seeks limitlessness, enjoys that which lies uncompleted, to be supplemented and extended, and consequently it seeks all the way up to the infinity of God and all the way down to the infinite promise of atoms; it loves "Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude and Silence" as giving it something to work with (p. 125). As the science of mind pushed enquiry further and further back into the individual human mind, so poetry looked more and more for a source of images that was not external at all but actually produced autonomously by internal processes. As poetry tended to abandon outward social and economic engagement in favor of private sensation, so it was reconstituted in terms of a hidden and private economy - the imagination becomes a producer rather than a consumer, the very sign of possessive individualism.

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