Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I remember to have wept with a sense of the unnecessary

Lies would be more serious if one could lie about the matter in hand;
But it is an impertinence to think oneself so penetrating.
What people tell you by lies is how they would deal with this if it was true,
What they would like to make you think about this,
The fact that they think this worth repeating or inventing,
Or the fact that they will endeavour to make this true,
And, whether the external circumstances are favourable to them or not,
These are important truths, and you have been told them.

People who feel that lies make life intolerable,
That it is madness to attempt living, since people are liars,
Are like people who look at the handbook before the picture,
Are like people who wish the words of a poem to have a single meaning,
Are unable to feel safe unless they are irrelevantly informed.

Lies are the discipline of knowing that people are not you.
It is licentious not to lie to a friend.
The belief in truth leads to many untrue beliefs.
It leads to the belief that a series of earnest statements make a poem.

If one could speak the whole truth about lies one would be contradicting oneself.

- William Empson 'I remember to have wept'

Brilliant. Keep that in mind the next time you sit down to read your morning paper.



Cheshire Cat said...

"It is licentious not to lie to a friend."

Wicked. One can almost envision Empson flipping through his book to make sure none of the types was left out, no ambiguity about which ambiguities he meant precisely...

Thomas said...

Falstaff, would you care to submit today's poem to the Minstrels? Ta very much.

The Black Mamba said...


And, the last line - very catch-22.

Falstaff said...

cat: Yes. Sly old bugger isn't he?

Thomas: Sure, why not. Will send it over.

BM: Thanks.

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