Friday, March 27, 2009

Vor-texts: Another installment of Make It New, Already!

The chief work of literary men in dealing with language, and of poets especially, lies in feeling back along the ancient lines of advance.

-- Pound's Fenollosa

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Can I be honest? Your postmodernists have done for unaffected speech. Jokes and flashy effects, yes; but where's the beef? Dead and gone. When Sophocles and Euripides were working, beginners matched style with content. Update Homer? Pindar and company didn't dare. That was before Professor X and "Creative Writing." Never mind poets. Plato and Demosthenes: catch them taking courses! A great stylist never showboats; no purple patches, no polysyllables. Charm derives from fluency. An ill wind has pumped hot air into today's jargon. Blowing in from Athens and eastern colleges. The young fall for it like superstars. Bang goes decent speech, for good. Thucydides? Hyperides? Who needs it? Unpretentious poetry? Not us; unless it's sick, forget it. Mature mastery? To do what with? Fine art; same story: why learn drawing when you get awards for painting by numbers?

Encolpius, discovered in the porch of Agamemnon's Academy of Speech and Drama; from Petronius' Satyrica, translated by Frederic Raphael

1 comment:

Henry Gould said...

Amazing. Welcome to Alexandria, folks. No, that's not an exit.