Friday, April 10, 2009

Temporary Victory

"The worst thing about such rhetorical devices, about any of the mechanisms and patented insights that make up so much of a style, is that they are habit-forming, something the style demands in ever-increasing quantities. The poet learns subtle variations or extensions he once would have thought unlikely or impossible; but he permits himself excesses, both quantitative and qualitative, that once would have appalled him. This is how styles and more than styles degenerate. Our victories are temporary victories; and nothing makes us more susceptible to a vice than the knowledge that we have already overcome it. (The fact that one once used an argument somehow seems to give one the right to ignore it.)"

— Randall Jarrell, Randall Jarrell on W.H. Auden, 50