For authorities whose hopes are shaped by mercenaries? Writers entrapped by teatime fame and by commuters' comforts? Not for these the paper nautilus constructs her thin glass shell. Giving her perishable souvenir of hope, a dull white outside and smooth- edged inner surface glossy as the sea, the watchful maker of it guards it day and night; she scarcely eats until the eggs are hatched. Buried eight-fold in her eight arms, for she is in a sense a devil- fish, her glass ram'shorn-cradled freight is hid but is not crushed; as Hercules, bitten by a crab loyal to the hydra, was hindered to succeed, the intensively watched eggs coming from the shell free it when they are freed,— leaving its wasp-nest flaws of white on white, and close- laid Ionic chiton-folds like the lines in the mane of a Parthenon horse, round which the arms had wound themselves as if they knew love is the only fortress strong enough to trust to.
Marianne Moore - 1887-1972
Picking and Choosing
Literature is a phase of life: if one is afraid of it, the situation is irremediable; if one approaches it familiarly, what one says of it is worthless. Words are constructive when they are true; the opaque allusion—the simulated flight upward—accomplishes nothing. Why cloud the fact that Shaw if self-conscious in the field of sentiment but is otherwise re- warding? that James is all that has been said of him but is not profound? It is not Hardy the distinguished novelist and Hardy the poet, but one man “interpreting life through the medium of the emotions.” If he must give an opinion, it is permissible that the critic should know what he likes. Gordon Craig with his “this is I” and “this is mine,” with his three wise men, his “sad French greens” and his Chinese cherries— Gordon Craig, so inclinational and unashamed—has carried the percept of being a good critic, to the last extreme. And Burke is a psychologist—of acute, raccoon- like curiosity. Summa diligentia; to the humbug whose name is so amusing—very young and ve- ry rushed, Caesar crossed the Alps on the “top of a diligence.” We are not daft about the meaning but this familiarity with wrong meanings puzzles one. Humming- bug, the candles are not wired for electricity. Small dog, going over the lawn, nipping the linen and saying that you have a badger—remember Xenophon; only the most rudimentary sort of behavior is necessary to put us on the scent; a “right good salvo of barks,” a few “strong wrinkles” puckering the skin between the ears, are all we ask.