Life is spent in learning the meaning of great
words, so that some idle proverb, known for years and accepted
perhaps as a truism, comes home, on a day, like a blow.
Style (1897), Walter Raleigh
At the outset we should be clear in the goal. There ‘s no graduation in learning, only maturation in fullness or, conversely, desiccation and decay.
Another tale of plagiarism un-covered. Another. Yet another. The cycle won’t soon end. Oh, it could be ended. Simply. Either give up vilifying dis-covered cases, hence admitting most writing is n’t worth being read, or re-move the titling and benefits of publishing.
But that is n’t what we want to hear. Instead, we want academic members to prove their abilities by publishing and so most provide worthless, unreadable literature. What else could we expect? But this is n’t the only carrot rewarding the well-published; status and money are packed in.
Can’t they just be honest? I hope you can answer that for yourself. Of course many are, but truthfulness is either self-rewarding or slow-to-answer.
The best quotations, the best translations, the best
thefts, are all equally new and original works. From quotation, at least, there is no escape,
inasmuch as we learn language from others. All common phrases that do the dirty work of the world are quotations – poor things, and not our own.
Raleigh’s point rings clear: we learn by imitation. ‘Common knowledge’ is merely knowledge we can no longer recall the source for. We ‘ve all forgotten where we placed it.
What makes a quotation good or bad? The quality of our appropriation. But poor writing is not ignored, not if the right strings are pulled. But instead of recognising that the best authors steal well, our concerns are for protection of intellectual property.
I have no idea what those words mean.
Communication necessarily requires an attempt to speak to another. There ‘s a releasing which is part of writing. At some point you let it go. The best authors are recognised consistently, according to T.S. Eliot’s “Philip Massinger”, by the quality of their imitation.
What do they do with it? Simply, (via Nancy Prager’s ‘Good Poets Borrow, Great Poets Steal…’)
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.
Eliot, T.S., “Philip Massinger,” The Sacred Wood, New York: Bartleby.com, 2000.
as cited by Ms Prager in her ‘Good Poets Borrow, Great Poets Steal…’
I believe Thoreau, in ‘Walden’, remarked that poets are ever stealing the sunset, regardless of who holds the deed of property. Their plagiarism could be followed, but what does their smithery evoke?
Is n’t that the real question? If you ‘ve tracked from my appropriation of Raleigh, the use is more important than the theft.
Again: “Quotations, conscious or unconscious, vary in kind according as the mind is active to work upon them and make them its own (Raleigh, Style).”
Plagiarism is a crime only where writing is a trade; expression need never be bound by the law of copyright while it follows thought, for thought, as some great thinker has observed, is free. The words were once Shakespeare’s; if only you can feel them as he did, they are yours no less than his.
That ‘s where I have to lay my allegiance. Simply by using words, you submit their appropriation to the other. Wrestle over intellectual property so long as you wish, would n’t you be better wrestling over the proverbs and re-crafting your own ineloquencies by attempting to dis-cover and say something worth remembering.
For these words of Raleigh still resonate:
But writing cannot be luminous and great save
in the hands of those whose words are their own by the indefeasible title of conquest.