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What is done easily is done without us

Posted by William Fennie at Jul 15, 2010 02:55 PM |

Paul Valéry is one of the most remarkable minds I've ever encountered. I'll share some quotations in this space.

What is done easily is done without us

Attribution unknown

Now, this work, these researches, these struggles of the poet against the  stringent conditions I had set myself - and whose indirect importance so few people grasp - were never, I must say, wasted efforts. I made those hours of labor and tension yield everything they could possibly contain. The art of poetry is, happily, not an exact one. At every instant insurmountable problems confront one. A nothing - and a beautiful poem is shipwrecked, achievement compromised, the charm broken. The poet's brain is a sea-bottom on which many hulls repose.

But these desperate plights that all poets know are not always without their uses; it is a question of intelligence. After all, hasn't the observer in us learned something from this defeat ? What is done easily is done without us.

- from "Letter to a Friend" translated by Louise Varèse

in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry, New Directions, 1984.