from ezra pound
“Art or an art is not unlike a river, in that it is perturbed at times by the quality of the river bed, but is in a way independent of that bed. The color of the water depends upon the substance of the bed and the banks immediate and preceding. Stationary objects are reflected, but the quality of motion is of the river. The scientist is concerned with all of these things, the artist with that which flows.”
An art, Pound claims, is independent in its life from its practitioners, their historical situation, their works. We know this to be true, for arts have rules belonging to their practice which any artist or school of artists must confront if they are to practice at all. The life of an art is protected and hidden in this rule: it is when the fluent force of the river is felt within the pathways of rule, and this rule validated, qualified, and nuanced, and in this way held against a measure that surges and dwindles according to its secret principle, that the art is alive in any case. There is something that moves of itself, subject to its own governance, that an art follows and holds itself up against. So a sailor’s skill takes the measure of what wind is blowing, letting it enter and fill the bellying cloth, either tacking in against it, listing leeward, or leaning upright in the music of the gale.