Thursday, August 14, 2008

H. L. Mencken on Puritans and Puritanism

The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable.

—H.L. Mencken. Prejudices, First Series. 1919.

Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

—H. L. Mencken 1880 - 1956

Monday, July 28, 2008

Plato on Writing

If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

Plato—Phaedrus 275a-b

Saturday, July 12, 2008

John Davies' Weasel Sonnet

According to medieval bestiaries, with help from Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville, “the weasel conceives through the mouth and gives birth through the ear”—Isidore, after describing this reproductive miracle, says it is false, but that didn't stop John Davies (16 April 1569 – 8 December 1626) from metaphorically using the weasel's reproductive methods in a sonnet.

John Davies of Hereford, Wittes Pilgrimage, Sonnet 29
Some say the Weezel-masculine doth gender
With the Shee-Weezel only at the Eare
And she her Burden at hir Mouth doth render;
The like (sweet Love) doth in our love appear:
For I (as Masculine) beget in Thee
Love, at the Eare, which thou bearst at the Mouth
And though It came from Hart, and Reynes of me
From the Teeth outward It in thee hath growth.
My Mouth, thine Eares, doth ever chastly use
With putting in hot Seed of active Love;
Which, streight thine Ear conveyeth (like a Sluce)
Into thy Mouth; and, there but Aire doth prove:
Yet Aire is active; but, not like the fire
Then O how should the Sonne be like the Sire?
Via Cliosfolly

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rebecca West on Feminism

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist when I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute

Rebecca West

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Robert Frost on The Figure a Poem Makes

. . . inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life—not necessarily a great clarification, such as sects and cults are founded on, but in a momentary stay against confusion.

Robert Frost

Robert Frost On Education By Poetry

Poetry provides the one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another. People say, “Why don’t you say what you mean?” We never do that, do we, being all of us too much poets. We like to talk in parables and in hints and in indirections—whether from diffidence or some other instinct.

Robert Frost

Friday, March 7, 2008

Chaucer on Plain English

Speketh not in the heigh style, but so playn at this time,
I yow preye, that we may understonde what ye saye.

The Host to the Clerke of Oxenforde. Chaucer. Canterbury Tales. c. 1400.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mark Twain on Doing Right

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest

Mark Twain