Sunday, October 26, 2008

Empson on Educating the Proles

"Many people, without being communists, have been irritated by the complacence in the massive calm of the poem … And yet what is said is one of the permanent truths; it is only in degree that any improvement of society would prevent wastage of human powers; 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."
-- William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral

("The poem" is Gray's Elegy.)


Unknown said...

i love the 'without being communists' fascist/mccarthyist ass-covering gesture. . . no seven types of ambiguity about that.

Zed said...

Wrong decade, I think. In 1936 it was pretty popular in Empson's circle to be a communist. For some reason -- probably maverickiness -- Empson never took the plunge.