09 January 2006

Monday Quote Frenzy - The Difficulty of Writing

Having just finished James Shapiro’s superb A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare – 1599, and being unable to finish anything else today, I have drawn two Elizabethan comments cited by Shapiro, on the difficulty of getting it down.

First, Shakespeare, from The Rape of Lucrece, on the problem of having too much to say:
First hovering o’er the paper with her quill:
Conceit and grief an eager combat fight;
What wit sets down is blotted straight with will;
This is too curious-good, this blunt and ill:
Much like a press of people at a door,
Throng her inventions, which shall go before.
Then, Ben Jonson, on Shakespeare’s talent as an editor on deadline:
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses’ anvil; turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn,
For a good poet’s made as well as born.
And such wert thou.


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