William Faulkner's acceptance speech after winning The Nobel Prize for literature.
I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin. But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish and travail, among whom is already that one who will some day stand where I am standing.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, 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 universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so, he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars. He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
Until he learns 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 because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong 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.
"Like a seed growing into a tree, life unfolds stage by stage. Triumphant
ascent, collapse, crises, failures, and new beginnings strew the way. It is the
path trodden by the great majority of mankind, as a rule unreflectingly,
unconsciously, unsuspectingly, following its labyrinthine windings from birth
to death in hope and longing. It is hedged about with struggle and suffering,
joy and sorrow, guilt and error, and nowhere is there security from
catastrophe. For as soon as a man tries to escape every risk and prefers to
experience life only in his head, in the form of ideas and fantasies, as soon
as he surrenders to opinions of 'how it ought to be' and, in order not to make
a false step, imitates others whenever possible, he forfeits the chance of his
own independent development. Only if he treads the path bravely and flings
himself into life, fearing no struggle and no exertion and fighting shy of no
experience, will he mature his personality more fully than the man who is ever
trying to keep to the safe side of the road."
- JOLANDE JACOBI "The Way of Individuation"
"The paths by which the Lover seeks his Beloved are long and perilous. They are
populated by considerations, sighs and tears. They are lit up by love.
The Lover wept and said, "How long will it be until the darkness of the world
is past, when the paths to hell will be no more? When will the hour come when
water, which flows downwards, will change its nature and mount upwards? When
will the innocent be more in numbers than the guilty?"
The Beloved asked the Lover, "Have you remembered any way in which I have
rewarded you for you to love me thus?" "Yes," replied the Lover, "for I make no
distinction between the trials which you send and the joys."
Love is the mingling of boldness and fear which comes through great fervour. It
is the desire for the Beloved as the End of the will. It is this which makes
the Lover like to die when he hears someone sing of the beauties of the
Beloved. It is this through which I die daily, and in which my will dwells
- RAMÓN LULL "The Book of the Lover and the Beloved"
"For the sake of a single verse, one must see many cities men, and things. . .
One must be able to think back to roads in unknown regions, to unexpected
meetings and to partings. . . And still it is not enough to have memories. . .
Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, name-
less and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves - not till then can it
happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their
midst and goes forth from them."
- RAINER MARIA RILKE.
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