Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


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.

Credit


This poem is in the public domain.

Author


Marianne Moore

Born in 1887, Marianne Moore wrote with the freedom characteristic of the other Modernist poets, often incorporating quotes from other sources into the text, yet her use of language was always extraordinarily condensed and precise

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/picking-and-choosing-0