Campion also talks of poetry “raysing the minde to a more high and lofty conceite”. This view, in which the teaching of morality is, to quote Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poesy, “the very end of poesy”, leads inexorably to Shelley’s own Defence and the suggestion that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”.
This is, it seems to me, the most dangerous definition for a poet to accept, and not just because we have come to see morality as relative rather than absolute. The Irish poet Brian Coffey wrote that “the political use of words kills the capacity to use words to make poems”, and I am inclined to agree. The poet who would enter into the sphere of the legislator, either political or moral, is likely to find that the debasing of language in these spheres becomes something of a problem for the making of poems. For me, at least, poetry has more to do with uncertainty than certainty, questions than answers.