Sunday, October 26, 2014

`An Early Entrance Into the Living World'

Since his death one month ago, wisecracks and profundities from D.G. Myers have bubbled to the surface. Proud but never pretentious, David was generous with his best thinking, happily dropping pearls before swine. Of late I ruminate on themoral obligation to write well.” I thought of it again reading this rousing passage from C.H. Sisson’s free translation of Horace’s Epistle II.3, Ars Poetica: 

“The man who can actually tell when a verse is lifeless
Will know when it doesn’t sound right; he will point to stragglers,
And equally put his pen through elaboration;
He will even force you to give up your favourite obscurities,
Tell you what isn’t clear and what has got to be changed,
Like Dr. Johnson himself. There will be no nonsense
About it not being worth causing trouble for trifles.
Trifles like that amount in the end to disaster,
Derisory writing and meaning misunderstood.”

We’re drowning in bad writing, some of it intentional, some merely slipshod. Every choice of syllable is an act of criticism. Sloppy writing reflects sloppy thinking. When not simply lying, inept writers are betraying their lazy ignorance of the world. Dr. Johnson suggests as in The Rambler #168, published on this date, Oct. 26, in 1751: 

“Among the numerous requisites that must concur to complete an author, few are of more importance than an early entrance into the living world. The seeds of knowledge may be planted in solitude, but must be cultivated in publick. Argumentation may be taught in colleges, and theories formed in retirement, but the artifice of embellishment, and the powers of attraction, can be gained only by general converse.” 

I was born on this date in the waning days of the Truman administration, in 1952, and I’m still trying to write more pointedly, more honestly.


Edward Bauer said...

A belated happy birthday to you. Thank you for the daily fix you provide me and many others. May we all strive toward your goal. Edward Bauer

Don said...

It was your birthday but we still happily get the gift of your blog. Thanks and best wishes.