The reason for this weblog. Helen Hayes, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Clifton Fadiman, Delmore Schwartz, Shakespeare, and the Exeter poet
It is reassuring to have a hoard... of good thoughts well expressed, stashed away in one's head for those crises that must come to every life.
We rely upon the poets, the philosophers, and the playwrights to articulate what most of us can only feel, in joy or sorrow. They illuminate the thought for which we only grope, they give us the strength and balm we cannot find within ourselves. Whenever I find my courage wavering I rush to them. They give me the wisdom of acceptance, the will and resilience to push on. They enable me to see that I am not alone, that others have known similar problems. I'm so grateful for this inheritance, this legacy-- this gift of joy-- that makes me feel as rich as Croesus and enables me to say with Emerson:
"I am the owner of the sphere,
of the seven stars and of the solar year,
of Caesar's hand, and Plato's brain,
of Lord Christ's heart, and Shakespeare's strain."
Delmore Schwartz has said: "Only the past is immortal." To which Clifton Fadiman in his essay 'In Praise of Quotation' has added: "But its immortality is not unconditional. It cannot be kept alive solely by scholars and professional intellectuals. It must be kept alive by you and me. All mankind is but a carrier, and part of our precious burden consists of things that have been said perfectly. To repeat them, appositely and not too frequently, is to add to the general stock of knowledge and pleasure. Indeed it is a kind of good citizenship, for we are all citizens of History, a country whose continually threatened borders we must at any time be prepared to defend."
Long ago a Saxon wrote these verses which say much the same thing:
Less doth yearning trouble him who knoweth many songs, or with his hands can touch the harp...
Longað þonne þy læs þe him con leoþa worn,
oþþe mid hondum con hearpan gretan...
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.