The real function of symbolism is much deeper and much more practical. We are surrounded in this world by huge and anonymous forces: as they rush by us we throw a name at them-love, death, destiny, remembrance-but the things themselves are infinitely vaster and more varied than the names. True artistic symbolism exists in order to provide another alphabet for the direct interpretation of these infinite anarchic things than the alphabet of language. It is not that a sea at sunset "represents" sorrow, but that a sea at sunset represents a great deal of the truth which is missed by the word "sorrow." So it is with Mr. Downing's Shakespeare allegory. It is not that Shakespeare is a mere philosopher: it is that philosophy is one way of describing certain unutterable things, and Shakespeare is another. Caliban, says Mr. Downing, "represents the mob." The truth is that Caliban represents an old, dark, and lawless element in things, an element which has no name except Caliban, and of which the mob is one of the hundred incarnations. So far from it being true that Caliban symbolises the mob in the street, it would be far truer to say that the mob in the street symbolises Caliban.
-May 11, 1901, The Speaker