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Sweden December 10, 1950
that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work--a
life's work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not
for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of
the materials of the human spirit something which did not
exist before. So this award is only mine in trust. It will
not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of
it commensurate with the purpose and significance of its origin.
But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too, by using
this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to
by the young men and women already dedicated to the same anguish
and travail, among whom is already that one who will some
day stand where I am standing.
tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so
long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are
no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question:
When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or
woman writing today has forgotten the
problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which
alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing
about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn
them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things
is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever,
leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities
and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which
any story is ephemeral and doomed--love and honor and pity
and pride and compassion and sacrifice. Until he does so,
he labors under a curse. He writes not of love but of lust,
of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, and victories
without hope and worst of all, without pity or compassion.
His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.
He writes not of the heart but of the glands.
he learns these things, he will write as though he stood among
and watched the end of man. I decline to accept the end of
man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because
he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged
and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in
the last red and dying evening, that even then there will
still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice,
still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man
will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not
because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice,
but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion
and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty
is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help
man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage
and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice
which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need
not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props,
the pillars to help him endure and prevail.