Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

Texts without Comment for Chapter Three

by Jacques Maritain


Texts without comment for Chapter Three of Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry.

Larger Work

Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry

Publisher & Date

Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1953

1. Plato, Ion (534, 536):

The epic poets, all the good ones, utter their beautiful poems not from art, but because they are inspired and possessed. So it is also with the good lyric poets; as the worshiping Corybantes are not in their senses when they dance, so the lyric poets are not in their senses when they are composing their lovely strains. . . . A poet is a light and winged thing, and holy, and there is no invention in him until he has become inspired, and is out of his senses, and reason is no longer in him. So long as he has not attained to this state, no man is able to make poetry or to chant in prophecy. . . . One poet is suspended from one Muse, another from another; he is said to be "possessed": for he is taken hold of. And from these primary rings, the poets, others are in turn suspended, some attached to Orpheus, some to Musaeus, from whom they derive inspiration.a

2. Plato, Phaedrus (245):

He who, having no touch of the Muses' madness in his soul, comes 'to the doors of poetry, trusting to enter in, and who thinks forsooth that art is enough to make him a poet, remains outside, a bungler: sound reason fades into nothingness before the poetry of madmen.b

3. William Blake, in Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds' Discourses:

What has reasoning to do with the Art of Painting?


4. Plato, Republic (Book III, 398):

And therefore when anyone of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him away to another city.c

5. Plato, Republic (Book X, 607, 608):

We are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers of our State.

. . . We too are inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has implanted in us, and therefore we would have her appear at her best and truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her defense, this argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which we will repeat to ourselves while we listen to her strains; that we may not fall away into the childish love of her which captivates the many. . . . Poetry . . . is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law.d


6. Thomas Aquinas, De spiritualibus Creaturis (a. 10):

Necesse est ponere intellectum agentem Aristoteli: .quia non pone-bat naturas rerum sensibilium per se subsistere absque materia, ut sint intelligibilia actu; et ideo oportuit esse aliquam virtutem quae faceret eas intelligibiles actu, abstrahendo a materia individuali; et haec virtus dicitur intellectus agens.

7. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol. (I, q. 79, a. 4):

Intellectus agens . . . est aliquid animae. . . .

Sicut et in aliis rebus naturalibus perfectis, praeter universales causas agentes sunt propriae virtutes inditae singulis rebus perfectis, ab universalibus agentibus derivatae: non enim solus sol generat hominem, sed est in homine virtus generativa hominis; et similiter in aliis animalibus perfectis. Nihil autem est perfectius in inferioribus rebus anima humana. Uncle oportet dicere quod in ipsa sit aliqua virtus derivata a superiori intellectu, per quam possit phantasmata illustrare.

8. Thomas Aquinas, De Anima (a. 5):

Est ergo in anima nostra invenire potentialitatem respectu phantasmatum, secundum quod sunt repraesentativa determinatarum rerum. Et hoc pertinet ad intellectum possibilem, qui, quantum est de se, est in potentia ad omnia intelligibilia; sed determinatur ad hoc vel aliud per species a phantasmatibus abstractas. Est etiam in anima invenire quamdam virtutem activam immaterialem, quae ipsa phantasmata a materialibus conditionibus abstrahit; et hoc pertinet ad intellectum agendum, ut intellectus agens sit quasi quaedam virtus participata ex aliqua substantia superiori, scilicet Deo. Unde Philosophus dicit (III de Anima, comm. 18) quod intellectus agens est ut habitus quidam et lumen; et in Psalm. IV (7) dicitur: Signatum est super nos lumen vultus tui, Domine.

9. Thomas Aquinas, De Veritate (q. 10,a. 9, ad 10):

Intellects cognoscit speciem intelligibilem non per essentiam suam, neque per aliquam speciem, sed cognoscendo objectum cujus est species, per quamdam reflexionem.


10. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol. ( q. 172, a. 1, ad 1):

Anima quando abstrahitur a corporalibus, aptior redditur ad percipiendum influxum spiritualium substantiarum, et etiam ad percipiendum subtiles motus, qui ex impressionibus naturalium causarum in imaginatione humana relinquuntur, a quibus percipiendis anima impeditur, cum fuerit circa sensibilia occupata.

11. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theol. ( q. 172, a. 1, ad 2):

. . . Utrumque autem melius potest fieri in dormientibus quam in vigilantibus, quia anima vigilantis' est occupata circa exteriora sensibilia; unde minus potest percipere subtiles impressiones vel spiritualium substantiarum, vel etiam causarum naturalium. Quantum tamen ad perfectionem judicii, plus viget ratio in vigilando quam in dormiendo.

12. Dante, Purgatorio (Canto IX, 7-18):

E la notte de' passi, con che sale,
fatti avea due nel loco ov' eravamo,
e il terzo già chidava in giuso l'ale;

quand' io, che meco avea di quel d'Adamo,
vinto dal sonno, in su l'erba inchinai
ove già tutti e cinque sedevamo.

Nell' ora che comincia i tristi Jai
la rondinella presso alla mattina,
forse a memoria de' suoi primi guai,

e che la mente nostra, peregrina
più dalla carne e men da' pensier presa,
alle sue vision quasi e divina.

(and Night, in the place where we were, had made
two of the steps wherewith she climbs, and the third was
already down-stooping its wings;

when I, who with me had somewhat of Adam, vanquished
by sleep, sank down on the grass where already all we
five were seated.

At the hour when the swallow begins her sad lays nigh
unto the morn, perchance in memory of her former woes,

and when our mind, more of a wanderer from the flesh and
less prisoned by thoughts, in its visions is almost prophetic.)e

13. Novalis, in Hymnen an die Nacht:

Himmlischer, als jene blitzenden Sterne, dünken uns die unendlichen Augen, die die Nacht in uns geöffnet.

(More celestial than yonder sparkling stars appear the infinite eyes that Night opens in us.)f


a. English version mine.

b. English version mine.

c. Trans. B. Jowett (New York: Random House, 1937).

d. Ibid.

e. Trans. Thomas Okey (The Temple Classics, London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1946).

f. Trans. Mabel Cotterell (Hymns to the Night, London: Phoenix Press, 1948).

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