Wednesday, January 17, 2018 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

William Empson (1906 – 1984)

Influential English literary critic and poet.
William Empson
Law makes long spokes of the short stakes of men.
Empson quotes
Your rights reach down where all owners meet, in Hell's
Pointed exclusive conclave, at earth’s centre
(Your spun farm's root still on that axis dwells);
And up, through galaxies, a growing sector.
Shall I make it clear, boys, for all to apprehend,
Those that will not hear, boys, waiting for the end,
Knowing it is near, boys, trying to pretend,
Sitting in cold fear, boys, waiting for the end?

Empson William quotes
It is the pain, it is the pain, endures.
Your chemic beauty burned my muscles through.
Poise of my hands reminded me of yours.
Empson William
Attending there let us absorb the cultures of nations
And dissolve into our judgement all their codes.
Then, being clogged with a natural hesitation
(People are continually asking one the way out),
Let us stand here and admit that we have no road.
William Empson quotes
Twixt devil and deep sea, man hacks his caves;
Birth, death; one, many; what is true, and seems;
Earth's vast hot iron, cold space's empty waves.
William Empson
Feign then what's by a decent tact believed
And act that state is only so conceived,
And build an edifice of form
For house where phantoms may keep warm.
Empson William quotes
The waste even in a fortunate life, the isolation even of a life rich in intimacy, cannot but be felt deeply, and is the central feeling of tragedy. And anything of value must accept this because it must not prostitute itself; its strength is to be prepared to waste itself, if it does not get its opportunity.
Buddhists and Christians contrive to agree about death
Making death their ideal basis for different ideals.
The Communists however disapprove of death
Except when practical.
Empson William
To produce pure proletarian art the artist must be at one with the worker; this is impossible, not for political reasons, but because the artist never is at one with any public.
William Empson
Ripeness is all; her in her cooling planet
Revere; do not presume to think her wasted.
Project her no projectile, plan nor man it;
Gods cool in turn, by the sun long outlasted.

William Empson quotes
All those large dreams by which men long live well
Are magic-lanterned on the smoke of hell.
William Empson
The central function of imaginative literature is to make you realize that other people act on moral convictions different from your own.
Empson quotes
Liberal hopefulness
Regards death as a mere border to an improving picture.
Empson William
Man, as the prying housemaid of the soul.
Empson William quotes
But as to risings, I can tell you why.
It is on contradiction that they grow.
It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
Up was the heartening and the strong reply
The heart of standing is we cannot fly.
William Empson
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
It is not the effort nor the failure tires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
William Empson quotes
Hours before dawn we were woken by the quake.
My house was on a cliff. The thing could take
Bookloads off shelves, break bottles in a row.
Then the long pause and then the bigger shake.
It seemed the best thing to be up and go.
William Empson
Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
Empson William
An ambiguity,in ordinary speech,means something very pronounced,and as a rule witty or decetful....any verbal nuance,however slight,which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language. (From the Preface)

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