Thursday, September 24, 2009

W.H. Auden, A.S. Byatt: The Danger of Words

W.H. Auden in his foreword to Owen Barfield's History in English Words (1953):

"We can only cope with the dangers of language if we recognize that language is by nature magical and therefore highly dangerous."

A. S. Byatt in an interview with Sam Leith in The Guardian (April 25, 2009):

"I don't understand why, in my work, writing is always so dangerous...People who write books are destroyers."

P.S. When Odin wanted to bring the art of poetry to the gods (and to mankind as a gift on selected occasions), he sought out its jealous guardian, the giant Suttung son of Gilling. Taking the name of "Baleful Action," Odin proceeded to cause nine serfs to slit one another's throats, tricked Suttung's brother into betrayal, slept with Suttung's daughter, and finally stole all the poetry in the world, which took the form of a pool of mead. Odin held the mead of poetry in his mouth as he flew in the shape of an eagle back to Valhalla, hotly pursued by Suttung. In short, the giants lost possession of poetry through trickery, bloodshed and theft. Of course, the giants themselves only gained poetry by coercing it from the dwarves... and so it goes.

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