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.
This poem is in the public domain.
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
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