As for the other term — physicalnillness I understand. A person is sick:nhe can’t do the things he usually cannand wants to do. But sometimes onenperson may say to another in responsento an observation that causes discomfort,n”You’re sick!” It’s a put-down, anway not to reply, an overused andnuninteresting metaphor. Are “crazy”nor — if the psychiatrist prefers — “severelyndisturbed” people incapacitatednand therefore “ill” in the primarynmeaning of the word? Don’t theynfrequently say things that are veryninteresting — haunting even? Isn’t thatnwhat a literary artist strives to do? Sonhow can we describe them as ill, since,nin this respect at least, they are highlyncapable? The term “niental illness” isna metaphor and like all metaphorsnlimited in its application. When it isnpushed beyond its limits, it breaksndown, becomes meaningless.nMoved by such doubts, one has tongo on and ask whether the termsn”creativity” and “mental illness”nhaven’t often been used to defend rigidnsocieties now and in recent centuriesnfrom too much oddity, too much artisticnquestioning, too much fun. If wencan think that Shakespeare only creatednOthello and lago, we may “appreciatenthem properly,” which is to say, wenmay safely ignore them, may safelynexperience the play untroubled by thennaive and scary notion that Othellonand lago are discoveries, there to benfound in all of us. And if someone (likenthe “Savage” in Aldous Huxley’snBrave New World) takes Shakespearentoo seriously in this way, too naively,nwe may say such a person is mad andnsafely ignore him.nBut what about the simple, crudenlittle question implied by the psychiatrist’snlofty jargon: is art made by madnpeople? Plato, for one, seems to haventhought so — remarking in Ion: “as thenCorybantian revelers when they dancenare not in their right mind, so the lyricnpoets are not in their right mind whennthey are composing their beautifulnstrains: but when falling under thenpower of music and metre they areninspired and possessed.” That view ofnpoetry frequentiy becomes the basis fornbanishing it from society — good middle-classnresponsible managerial society—naltogether: as Plato himself didnfrom his ideal republic.nBut Plato’s views in this, or at leastn58/CHRONICLESnhis motives for them, are suspect forntwo charmingly opposed reasons: henhimself was a failed poet (as a youngnman he showed Socrates the tragedynhe had written, and Socrates told himnto forget it) and, at the same time, henwas a great poet, a poet-turned-criticnwhose criticism has the power andnimagination of poetry. Or are thosendialogues too full of yes-men to bentruly dramatic?nIt is a historical oddity that when anculture becomes secular, rationalistic,nand anti-poetic, poetry itself in thenearly stages of the new dispensationncomes to be looked upon as Plato doesnwith perhaps a touch of mockery innIon: as a divine emanation, irrational,nand beyond ordinary life. In compensationnfor losing his social (Miltonic/nAeschylean) function as an interpreternof the divine, the poet looks uponnhimself as divine while the rest ofnsociety regards him as, at best, a bitnaddled. Didn’t something like this happennagain in our own European 19thncentury? If Plato was impressed andnamused by the poets who remindednhim of Corybantian revelers, whatnwould he have said about Blake, whonclaimed divine powers, and about thenoutcast, expatriate Shelley, whonannounced that poets were the unacknowledgednlegislators of mankind?nPlato, then, was a Romanticist, andnthe cultural soil in which Romanticismngerminates would seem to be, paradoxically,nthe unabashed materialism of annemergent middle class. And what isnmodern psychiatry, after all, but ansecular priesthood that deals with thenstill pesky, if atrophied, spiritual needsnof that middle class?nBut after Plato comes Aristotle. HisnPoetics, in the casual form in which thentreatise has come down to us, may wellnbe merely the lecture notes of a student.nIt seems clear, nevertheless, thatnthis most seminal of all essays in literaryntheory is primarily a counterstatementnto the Platonic view. For our purposen(which is to give the proper answer tonthe psychiatrist’s question) the relevantnpassages are XVII, 2:nAgain, the poet should work outnhis play, to the best of hisnpower, with appropriate gestures;nfor those who feel emotion arenmost convincing through naturalnsympathy with the charactersnnnthey represent; and one who isnagitated storms, one who isnangry rages, with the mostnlife-like reality. Hence poetrynimplies either a happy gift ofnnature or a strain of madness. Innone case a man can take thenmould of any character; in thenother, he is lifted out of hisnproper self.nAnd XXIV, 7:nHomer, admirable in allnrespects, has the special merit ofnbeing the only poet who rightlynappreciates the part he shouldntake himself. The poet shouldnspeak as little as possible in hisnown person, for it is not thisnthat makes him an imitator.nOther poets appear themselvesnupon the scene throughout, andnimitate but little and rarely.nHomer, after a few prefatorynwords, at once brings in a man,nor woman, or other personage;nnone of them wanting inncharacteristic qualities, but eachnwith a character of his own.nFrom these passages it would appearnthat what, in Aristotle’s view, distinguishesna good poet and storyteller isnnot madness necessarily, but, alternativelynand preferably, a form of sanity,n”a happy gift of nature.” True, he mightnseem a little odd to someone secretlynwatching him “work out his play, to thenbest of his power, with appropriatengestures.” But if oddness is madness (asnit is sometimes taken to be by psychiatrists,namong others), then we live in anmad society. The poet, according tonAristotle — that is, the imitative poet,nthe kind who describes actions, which isnthe kind of poet that both he and Platonare talking about—does not directlynexpress himself (or herself) at all. FornAristotle, the poet rationally, lucidlynloses himself in the actions that henundertakes to describe and in the peoplen(and “other personages” — gods?nspirits?) that he hopes to portray. Andnthe aim of the whole process is to helpnus all achieve the same recognition, thensame identification with the feelings ofnothers that is the foundation of thenpoet’s sanity and ours.nRichard Moore writes from Belmont,nMassachusetts.n