Wimsatt, William Kurtz.
The Verbal icon; studies in the meaning of poetry.
Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1967.
p. 244-245.

The rift between technique and value accomplished by Richards' Principles appeared most clearly and curiously in the chapter on "Badness in Poetry." And it is here that I meant we may see disvalue (with its inherently divisive tendency) as a severe test of just how cognitive and hence how coherent a theory of poems may be. Richards distinguished two kinds of bad poemss. In one the "original experience" was somehow recognized to have "had some value," but there was a serious failure to communicate the value. This was illustrated by a tiny scrap of H.D.'s imagism. In the other the reproduction of "the state of mind of the writer" was thought to be exact, but the values thus reproduced or communicated were sadly inferior. This was illustrated by a heavy-footed sonnet of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's on Love and Friendship. It is to be noted in passing that this kind of division in badness produced an especially mysterious instance of "intentionalistic" interpretation. (How could he tell that H.D.'s poem proceeded from a valuable experience?) But the more important thing to note is that once the merit of perfect communication (that is, expression and hence structure and meaning) was conceded to the sonnet by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, there was no way left of explaining how it was bad. Richards spoke of the "pleasure and admiration" which ensue for many readers from "the soothing effect of aligning the very active Love-Friendship groups of impulses with so settled yet rich a group as the Summer-Autumn simile brings in." "The value" of the reconciliation, he said, "depends upon the level of organization at which it takes place, upon whether the reconciled impulses are adequate or inadequate. In this case those who have adequate impulses...are not appeased. Only for those who make certain conventional, stereotyped maladjustments instead, does the magic work." My objection to this as a critique of the poem is that instead of talking about the poem to you or to me, Richards backed off and started talking equally about the poem and about you and me--what it was going to do to our impulses if they were set in a certain way, what if not. Those remarks about our adequate or inadequate impulses were an opaque substitute for a discourse that could easily have focused an embarassing light on the poem itself. What kind of Love was it (not Cupid, one assumed, not Venus) who had managed to lead us by an action composed entirely of "his own throes and torments, and desires"? Did this allegorical figure, appearing so strangely in a landscape of midsummer burned to ashes, stand for something inside us, or for something outside? What kind of love had we experienced anyway? Why indeed were we haunted with some sense of loss? Not only the "triteness" of the close, as Richards put it, but its fatuity was to be noted. In short, what was wrong with the poem was that neither in its main explicit statement nor in the implications of its imagistic parts (and of its overemphatic metrical pattern) did it make sense. The criticism of this poem might have been much more closely unified with that of the first, even though one wished to insist that while neither poem actually conveyed anything coherent, the second was more offensive because it made an elaborate pretense of doing so.