The areas of greater meaning are created by symbolical poems. “A symbol,” writes John Ciardi, “is like a rock dropped into a pool; it sends out ripples in all directions, and the ripples are in motion. Who can say where the last ripple disappears?” True, but even a symbol does not have unlimited meaning. The pool in which the rock is dropped has borders. A symbol in literature is made up of words which, by the way they are used, have acquired a sometimes tremendously increased area of meaning. To switch from Ciardi’s figure, we may envision such a symbol as a powerful beam of light flashed out into the darkness by a searchlight from a point on earth. The cone of light is the area of meaning. Its point is precise and easily located. But its base fades out into the atmosphere. Its meanings are therefore almost infinite. But they are not unlimited. They must be found, at whatever distance from the apex, within the circumference of the cone.
- “The Nature of Proof in the Interpretation of Poetry” by Laurence Perrine