Some time ago Matthew Arnold prophesied that poetry would come to replace religion; and the personal heretics have made this true in a sense which he probably did not foresee. Poetry has, naturally enough, not yet attempted the salvation of souls or the enlightenment of the understanding; but the cult of poetry is taking on some secondary religious characteristics – notably the worship of saints and the traffic in relics. Every teacher of English has had pupils to whom the study of literature principally meant a series of acts of devotion to various dead men who wrote poetry. We have biographies of Keats and even (I believe) of D.H. Lawrence which are almost exercises in hagiography. We have even had such tangled trinities as “Christ, Shakespeare, and Keats” proposed to us. If we have also our “debunking” biographies, that is but the reverse side of the same medal: blasphemy is the child of religion.
From The Personal Heresy
The Personal Heresy: A Controversy. Copyright © 1939 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.