that which flows

Ezra Pound, The Spirit of Romance (1910):


I have floundered somewhat ineffectually through the slough of philology, but I look forward to the time when it will be possible for the lover of poetry to study poetry — even the poetry of recondite times and places — without burdening himself with the rags of morphology, epigraphy, privatleben and the kindred delights of the archaeological or “scholarly” mind. I make no plea for superficiality. But I consider it quite as justifiable that a man should wish to study the poetry and nothing but the poetry of a certain period, as that he should study its antiquities, phonetics or paleography and be, at the end of his labours, incapable of discerning a refinement of style or a banality of diction.

. . .

There are a number of sciences connected with the study of literature. There is in literature itself the Art, which is not, and never will be, a science.
Art is a fluid moving above or over the minds of men.
Having violated one canon of modern prose by this metaphysical generality, I shall violate another. I shall make a florid and metaphorical comparison.
Art or an art is not unlike a river. It is perturbed at times by the quality of the river bed, but is in a way independent of that bed. The color of the water depends upon the substance of the bed and banks immediate and preceding. Stationary objects are reflected, but the quality of motion is of the river. The scientist is concerned with all of these things, the artist with that which flows.


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