Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics. Lecture, 25 November
On Translating Beowulf. 1940.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Lecture, 15 April 1953.
On Fairy-Stories. Lecture, 8 March 1939,
enlarged for publication 1947.
I have claimed that Escape is one of the main
functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is
plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which "Escape"
is now so often used: a tone for which the uses of the word outside
literary criticism give no warrant at all. In what the misusers are fond
of calling Real Life, Escape is evidently as a rule very practical, and
may even be heroic. In real life it is difficult to blame it, unless it
fails; in criticism it would seem to be the worse the better it
succeeds. Evidently we are faced by a misuse of words, and also by a
confusion of thought. Why should a man be scorned, if, finding himself
in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so,
he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?
The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot
see it. In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong
word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere
error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter. Just
so a Party-spokesman might have labelled departure from the misery of
the Fürher's or any other Reich and even criticism of it as
treachery. In the same way these critics, to make confusion worse, and
so to bring into contempt their opponents, stick their label of scorn
not only on to Desertion, but on to real Escape, and what are often its
companions, Disgust, Anger, Condemnation, and Revolt. Not only do they
confound the escape of the prisoner with the flight of the deserter; but
they would seem to prefer the acquiescence of the 'quisling' to the
resistance of the patriot. To such thinking you have only to say 'the
land you loved is doomed' to excuse any treachery, indeed to glorify it.
English and Welsh. Lecture, 21 October 1955.
Most English-speaking people, for instance, will
admit that cellar door is 'beautiful', especially if dissociated
from its sense (and from its spelling). More beautiful than, say, sky,
and far more beautiful than beautiful. Well then, in Welsh for
me cellar doors are extraordinarily frequent, and moving to the
higher dimension, the words in which there is pleasure in the
contemplation of the association of form and sense are abundant.
A Secret Vice. Lecture, 1931.
The man next to me said suddenly in a dreamy
voice: 'Yes, I think I shall express the accusative case by a prefix!'
Valedictory Address. Lecture, 5 June 1959.