Mightier Than A Sword
In Jorge Luis Borges's story, "The Mirror And The Mask," a poet is commanded by the king to write a poem about a battle. He responds by reciting his abilities:
For twelve winters I have honed my skills at meter. I know by heart the three hundred sixty fables which are the foundation of all true poety. The Ulster cycle and the Munster cycle lie within my harp strings. I am licensed by law to employ the most archaic words of the language, and its most complex metaphors. I have mastered the secret script which guards our art from the prying eyes of the common folk. I can sing of love, of cattle theft, of sailing ships, of war. I know the mythological lineage of all the royal houses of Ireland. I possess the secret knowledge of herbs, astrology, mathematics, and canon law. I have defeated my rivals in public contest. I have trained myself in satire, which causes diseases of the skin, including leprosy. And I also wield the sword, as I have proven in your battle. There is but one ting that I do not know: how to express my thanks for this gift you make me.And now, do we think of writers and poets as having developed these kinds of mythic skills, or do we think of them instead as miserable scribblers who churn out commercial pulp in their pursuit of a paycheck? Or is it something in between? All I can say is that to me the former is far more fun to read. And more fun to try to produce. It's another reason for not quitting a day job.