Quotation by Paul Valery

For the musician, before he has begun his work, all is in readiness so that the operation of his creative spirit may find, right from the start, the appropriate matter and means, without any possibility of error. He will not have to make this matter and means submit to any modification; he need only assemble elements which are clearly defined and ready-made. But in how different a situation is the poet! Before him is ordinary language, this aggregate of means which are not suited to his purpose, not made for him. There have not been physicians to determine the relationships of these means for him; there have not been constructors of scales; no diapason, no metronome, no certitude of this kind. He has nothing but the coarse instrument of the dictionary and the grammar. Moreover, he must address himself not to a special and unique sense like hearing, which the musician bends to his will, and which is, besides, the organ par excellence of expectation and attention; but rather to a general and diffused expectation, and he does so through a language which is a very odd mixture of incoherent stimuli.
Paul Valery (1871–1945), French poet, essayist. Originally delivered as a lecture (late 1927). "Pure Poetry: Notes for a Lecture," The Creative Vision, Grove (1960).
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