Sunday, September 25, 2011

Verities of the Heart

Part of William Faulkner's speech at the Nobel Banquet at the City Hall in Stockholm, December 10, 1950, turned into a prose poem:

Our tragedy today
is a general and universal physical fear
so long sustained by now
that we can even bear it...

The young man or woman writing today
has forgotten
the problems of the human heart
in conflict with itself
which alone can make good writing
because only that
is worth writing about,
worth the agony
and the sweat.

He must learn them again.
He must teach himself
that the basest of all things
is to be afraid;
and, teaching himself that,
forget it forever,

leaving no room in his workshop
for anything
but the old verities and truths of the heart,
the old universal truths
lacking which
any story is ephemeral and doomed -

Until he relearns these things,
he will write as though
he stood among and watched the end of man.

I decline to accept the end of man.
It is easy enough
to say that man is immortal simply because
he will endure:
that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged
and faded from the last worthless rock
hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening,
that even then
there will still be one more sound:
that of his puny inexhaustible voice,
still talking.

I refuse to accept this.
I believe that man will not merely endure:
he will prevail.

He is immortal,
not because he alone among creatures
has an inexhaustible voice,
but because he has a soul,
a spirit capable of compassion
and sacrifice
and endurance.

The poet's,
the writer's,
duty is to write about these things.

It is his privilege to help man endure
by lifting his heart,
by reminding him of the courage
and honor
and hope
and pride
and compassion
and pity
and sacrifice
which have been the glory of his past.

The poet's voice need not
merely be the record of man,
it can be one of the props,
the pillars
to help him endure and prevail.

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