Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading, hardly short on strong opinions, contains a fantastic chapter on Chaucer, who Pound submits is superior in some ways to Shakespeare. A taste—
Sloth is the root of much bad opinion. It is at times difficult for the author to retain his speech within decorous bounds.
I once heard a man, how has some standing as writer and whom Mr. Yeats was wont to defend, assert that Chaucer’s language wasn’t English, and that one ought not to use it as basis of discussion, ETC. Such was the depth of London in 1910.
Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books for ever.
As to the relative merits of Chaucer and Shakespeare, English opinion has been bamboozled for centuries by a love of the stage, the glamour of the theatre, the love of bombastic rhetoric and of sentimentalizing over actors and actresses; these, plus the national laziness and unwillingness to make the least effort, have completely obscured values. People even read translations of Chaucer into a curious compost, which is not modern language but which uses a vocabulary comprehended of sapheads
Wat se the kennath
Chaucer had a deeper knowledge of life than Shakespeare.
Let the reader contradict that after reading both authors, if he chooses to do so.
From Ezra Pound’s literary study, ABC of Reading—
1. Let the pupil write the description of a tree.
2. Of a tree without mentioning the name of the tree (larch, pine, etc.) so that the reader will not mistake it for the description of some other kind of tree.
3. Try some object in the classroom.
4. Describe the light and shadow on the school-room clock or some other object.
5. If it can be done without breach of the peace, the pupil could write descriptions of some other pupil. The author suggests that the pupil should not describe the instructor, otherwise the description might become a vehicle of emotion, and subject to more complicated rules of composition than the class is ready to cope with.
In all these descriptions the test would be accuracy and vividness, the pupil receiving the other’s paper would be the gauge. He would recognize or not recognize the object or person described.
Rodolfo Agricola in an edition dating from fifteen hundred and something says one writes: ut doceat, ut moveat, ut delectet, to teach, to move or to delight.
A great deal of bad criticism is due to men not seeing which of these three motives underlies a given composition.
The converse processes, not considered by the pious teachers of antiquity, would be to obscure, to bamboozle or mislead, and to bore.
The reader or auditor is at liberty to remain passive and submit to these operations if he so choose.