In this extract from the fifth book of the poem, Aurora starts to interrogate the relationship between form and content – a key point for Aurora Leigh overall.
What form is best for poems? Let me think
Of forms less, and the external. Trust the spirit,
As sovran nature does, to make the form;
For otherwise we only imprison spirit
And not embody. Inward evermore
To outward,- so in life, and so in art
Which still is life.
Five acts to make a play.
And why not fifteen? why not ten? or seven?
What matter for the number of the leaves,
Supposing the tree lives and grows? exact
The literal unities of time and place,
When ’tis the essence of passion to ignore
Both time and place? Absurd. Keep up the fire,
And leave the generous flames to shape themselves.
(Aurora Leigh, Book 5, ll. 223-36)