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The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English 3 73
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Literatufe and· Society

T he word has soul as well as body. Writers who consider themselves keepers
of the word may not ignore the fact that it has a physical body and possesses
qualities of sound and color, fancy and imagination. But the word is more than
so�J.�olor�_i_:;__��E.i?._:_'.1ing of blood af1:9JiJ�, capable of infinite beauty
and power. It is not an inanimare-rhing-of-1:fead consonants and vowels but a
living force-the most potent instrument known to man.
Whoever uses speech merely to evoke beauty of sound or beauty of
imagination is not exploiting the gift of speech for all that it is worth; he is
exploiting it only in those qualities that are inherent in the word but external to
the mind and soul of man. When a writer uses words purely for their music or
purely as an instrument-of fancy, he may claim that he is a devotee of pure art,
since he insists on using words. on_ly in their strictly primitive qualities. In point
•:_._1 • of fact he is really a d�cadent aesthete who stubbornly confuses literature with
·. •--' " painting and refuses to place words in the employ of man and his civilization.
There is hardly any writer of importance who does not, sooner or later,
) come to a point where his readers will ask of him:
"Why do you no longer write as you used to?" or "The lightness and the
laughter have gone out of your writing; you now write almost exclusively on
politics, as if life offered nothing besides human folly and the social struggle.
Why do you no longer \Vrite of pleasant and beautiful things?" 'f- 071.i� ;0 \
For the young writer is almost certain to start his career by writing m�shy
poetry and-sophomoric philosophy, permitting his f;mc)Vfo reveal hedonistically
among lovely phrases culled from books and sayings come down from the
ancients-remnants of fascinating courses in lite�r.�.tili.n..i.n
college. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, as the years pass, there com@s.oyer
his writing a change not only in subjectmatter but in general temP,t;J.ap.g_@.Jl!J!!d�

ni 1.,;/d,«ar 4"Ui1 {t
Daily exposed to the headlines of the newspapers, his Olympian superiority

ABkQ h�1N01 el... or indifference yields slowly to the persistent hammering of the facts of his own

fh1li (}t \!\..-a lr-r w t(;, i 5t, f� [

experience and of contemporary history. Upon his sophomoric certainties is cast

fttPs�t. &c: � Jr flffs�1 · _ pn i,

the shadow of terrible happenings-whole nations in the grip of terror, starved,
1 maimed or killed through no fault of their own, pawns in the bloody game of
'/11.( men lustful for wealth and power crushed under the heels of the dictators. An
amorphous idealism or, on the other hand a precocious cynicism is no longer
374 The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English
The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English 375

adequate to meet the vast problems which daily present themselves before his "Sociological themes greatly inspired me to more writings. We were then
eyes. passing a period of real historical transition. Jverything was being subjected to
change-customs, laws,
.. ------ language, social_pric!c:ttc:�_s."
Did he use to write on poetry and philosophy, expatiate on the beauty of life ----=---··•-._ -·-·------------·-··•-
Kalaw, the 'romantic idealist and aesthete, had become aware that society
and the splendor of human brotherhood? If so, he soon begins to realize that he
had a claim on his a�ten�ion, and he was ncit unw.iiling to oblige. He began writing
was merely echoing what he had read in books, for the book of life conveys a
different message altogether. In his heart is no longer merely the singing exultation ,.__; seriously on political and social questions, criticizing what he believed to be the

over art and nature and living; in his heart is a deep compassion for the suffering �/- evgs_bro'!}ghu1.b9utp_y the American !egime, bemoaning the degeneration of the
"' � . "Filipino Soul," attackinfth abuses of the Constabulary.
.,;.J" "\\.'
° e
of the oppressed and anger at their oppressors. t \.
Not that he has become blind to the beauty of nature and the works of man; When, several years later, he became editor of El Renaci�iento, he was one
it is only that he has begun,to relate his ideas and every important thing that of the principal defendants in the most �pectacular libel suit that this country
happens to some definite principles of beauty and justice and truth. His eyes has yet known. Growing out of the strong spirit of nationalism and the universal
have pierced through the veil of deception with which so much of the face of life aspiration for independence from America, this celebrated c;1_se r:nay be said to\ \ ·:' 4

have marked the full intellectual maturity of the�yoilllg.. lit�rary jou-ina1ist, fancier:
that is ugly is covered. He has begun to pursue truth instead of phrases.
·""of'15eautiful thoughts couched In beautiful words.
He is no longer a florist, scissors in hand gathering lovely blossoms; he has
become a tiller of the soil, spade in hand, digging into the roots of things and Having traveled the weary road from the Ivory Tower tojfti�,, he had learnedr. ( ·n ,.
1_1 �I \, ),�1 that the only true basis of lasting beauty in literature is-{power,J -if ,.,0:• t�.J
planting seeds. · ·, ·'
This is the usual course of a writers litei=ar1 development. There is no more T here are two perilous roads operi:;-to the heedless y�ung�riter. ffne,road
dramatic illustration of this process than the case of the late Director Teodoro Kalaw leads to .!,_I:diffgentism and the otheLfo misanthro.2.�Y- T he writer beco'mes a
of the National Library who, like so many of the outstanding leaders of the older confirmed indifferentist either because he is ignorant and does not know better
or because, knowing better, he believes sincerely, if erroneo1:lili, that the._thing;i
l 1 generation, started his career as a newspaperman. His autobiography contains a ..which men liye_by .are-.b.e..y.o�cl..th_e interests of his�:fn_:And a writer becomes a
\ 1 candid confession which shows the inevitable change that occurs in the attitude
1 cynic and a misanthrope because the waters of his spirit that were once clear and
and temper of the sensitive writer as he grows older in experience and wisdom.
Kalaw, it seems, was something of a "columnist" in the early days of his sparkling have become muddied by personal disappointment, weakness of will
or intellectual Gonfusion.
employment on the staff of that famous newspaper of the transition, El
(��_ifFrenti�rri)); usually an inheFent vice, and there is little that can be done
Renacimiento. He writes: "I must have written my first news items very badly ·
to correct it: -ffTi arises from ignorance, it may be possible to apply the remedy of
because Guerrero made innumerable corrections on them ... My literary reading
instruction, but if it arises from a twisted point of view, the vice usually runs so
had not predisposed me to prosaic journalism, which I considered as ephemeral
as a wind-blown leaf, but to writing as an art, as an expression of the beautiful. I deep that all who are thus afflicted may as well be counted lost to the quse of
!, ,:•"" -"
soon became,Yvhat today is known as a colll!!!.n.1 ?_tJ2JJ.t my_s_c:ilu�_ll-�ic!.5- litelE.)', movmg . and m1·1·1tant speech. ,,--
and I made no in.em tp to-comme-nionpolitical �Jl..mor.al -�ai:t«:'..[S as is usual
t0day'. My c�lumn, written daily, �ontained--;hort rambling parag;;p1;-;;-n
On the other hand, only those men suffer from i.::ynicism and
--- --
misanthropy·) :, f'-,,,_t..··
who possess a profound and sensitive spirit and who, some,vhere along the -�.,, ,·,r
. .\,\\

\ philosophy, literature, love, dreams, illusions, and other such abstractions. To road, received some injury in the heart, in the will or in the mind. Their , . K
· .�' -
.,,/-" me, in those youthful days, the all-important consideration was styJe_.'._the ... �ftlj�tio_njs ng_t n��-�rily in�u..r_a)?le. Since it is almost certain to have been
caused, in the first place� by a faulty understanding of the basic principles
· ·· ·. discovery of the beautiful word for the beautiful thought."
Nor was he unmindful of the adulation of the ladies, for he admits with a that underlie human existence, it can be cured by helping the writer stand
firmly upon so.me indestructible faith. For a_ sensitive spiri�.�._easgy_p_r:one . ' / c
a'isarming frankness: "In common with the rest of the journalists in the office; ·
my secret desire was to have the young ladies avidly peruse my column, and in -----ro cynicism and misanthropy unless it isfeinforce� by the st�eJgf u,n,deviating I , · --1- ·+­
truth, the column was all the rage among our society girls, who considered my. � t :ifi�i�le. S?iritual sensitiveness becomes a vice only when it is not married <; )"1_1_' /
./ toTough-mmdedness.
writings piquant and intriguing." l I' ..----, .fa>- y'Ji ,1v/

Yet it was not long before Columnist Kalaw outgrew his Flaubertian pre­ Although the dogma of "Art for Art's sake" has been discredited in the minds
occupation over the discovery of "the beautiful word for the beautiful thought." of most thinking people everywhere, yet it survives in our days in a new disguise
Soon enough he was drawn out of his Ivory Tower of "pure literature" into the that makes it more difficult to identify properly and therefore to combat. T he
grneral condition of international chaos has, surprisingly enough, encouraged
social and political currents swirling about him. He says:

<i '.-.
·: r ,:_ li-1 ,· (([ I
376 The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English
The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English 377

the revival of a dogma once favored by Oscar Wilde and the coterie of aesthetes Nothi11gmore thoroughly disproves the contention of the Art-for-Art-sakers
who agreed with him. _than thdacts of everyday life. When artists and writers meet, do they talk of art and
This is easily explained. The universal fear of insecurity, chaos and war has Hterature? Ou"tsiders who attend their gatherings and listen to their conversation
had the effect of distorting the vision of a beautiful and orderly world that third­
rate artists as a rule are prone to affect. This fear has driven them into fashioning -hS. , will be appalled to discover that for hours they will talk of everything under the sun
a comfortable philosophy of escape through the medium of which they hope to
1_,'/ i.Jy' save only art and literature. These two things they will dismiss after one or two
'f t� a-�t · remarks on the latest books and an unusually good story that appeared the previous

flee the ugly facts of life and the repulsive realities of the contemporary scene. _
day. Then, inevitably it seems, the talk will veer to the arrant stupidities of public
Like frightened children they are overcome by fear of the dark and seek refuge \-/.J; ),
· 1 officials, the latest statement of President Quezon on social justice, national defense,
in some untroubled Shangri-la of art. the war, the coming elections, and even perhaps the latest piece of scandal.
To the challen,ge.tha,tJh.e.y_g��l?IT,l_e sodally conscious and that they take partin Go through the history of literature, and you will find that the greatest writers
.!h�P?lmcafstruggle, they answer: ''Th�;;�ld is too much with us; we will have are ever those vyl-iose feet were planted solidly on_the.-�<!.r:.th_r:t".gm:gle.sJ_(_)f how high
nothing to do with the stiilggk.vve conceive of art as an escape from the ugliness up in the clouds their heads might have been. This is not to say, however, that great
we see around us; we will henceforth consecrate ourselves to the expression of writing must pertain to some department of propaganda. Propaganda is written
beautiful thoughts and the creation of beautiful things. Life is ugly enough as it is; with the definite object of influencing people to believe or to do something. While
therefore, we propose to make it more beautiful with the products of our imagination. there ;,re a few books which have survived the immediate motive of propaganda
.1 Man being what he is, to attempt to change him or the world he lives in is bound to
\,\.,lu that inspired them, yet one can say truly that the bulk of literary works of permanent
\tt:�J.�tile �tei:p:cise. A:rJt;ll-!!l��()d CJLescape; _it is an end in itself, never a m:�1::' ._Jcr;,;).P· value consists of those that are neither pure propaganda nor pure art but ")'hich are
tQ: a,11.encl,,_The-pen was made for purposes utterly differenrftom the-sword; we
refuse to be artists in uniform." The argument will seem sound until we reflect that v, ,)v)
in some way deeply rooted in the earth of human experience. l / (
If somebody should point to Shakespeare as an example ofthe pure artist, it
the highest form of art is that which springs from the wells of man's deepest urges would only be necessary to show that Shakespeare was neither an aesthete
and longings-his love of his own kind and his longing to be free. Divest man of shrinking in a corner nor a self-satisfied person too complacerit to b6ther about
these interests, and he ceases to be what he is: the richest subject for observation, tlie piobleri.1s ofhis·time: The period in which he lived was one of the most
portrayal and study that the artist can have before him. active that mankind has seen. Exploration and discovery, science and invention,
The opinion is still widely held that the artist and the man of letters should art and letters-all these activities were being carried on at a high pitch. The pall
leave social agitation alone and stick to art, that it is not their business to help of the DarkAges had just been lifted, and the minds of men were once again free
advance social justice and to defend democracy, but exclusively to paint a and venturesome. Since Shakespeare had one of the keenest minds of his time
landscape, compose a song or write a sonnet. Despite the fact that events in the and was a contemporary of Francis Bacon, it is impossible for a man of his deep
modern world have made it increasingly difficult for artists to do their work, and sensitive nature not to have been stirred by the ideas and movements of the
there are still those :,vho fondly cling to the delusion that there is an Ivory Tower age. Well has it been said of him that he was a humanist but not a "closet
to which the wors-4,ippers ofBeauty can retire away from the madding crowd. Of humanist," a man of historic perspective, reacting powerfully to the social and
course, there is no such tower; only people who imagine.that the.y dwell in one. political currents oLhiSJ;,ime, and striving earnestly to change the world.
For deliberate isolation from th� re�t o-f the world and complete indiffer�rice to The life (if Emile Zol¥s the_�Ef�t_ r,eJ1J!_aJi9n of the belief that the _great ar�ist
the fortunes of mankind on the part of the artist can only mean one thing: that is a gaunt, solita-ryoeiiigforever immersed. in visions of deathless beauty, untouched
he is incapable of profound thought and deep feeling and is therefore, to that by questions of pain, poverty, injustice, and oppression. In the beginning you have
extent, incapable also of great art. a young sensitive artist, quick to anger against social injustice and political corruption.
Only greatness of heart and mind and soul can produce great art. But the A time comes when his books bring him wealth and fame, and he forgets his
development of a man's emotional, intellectual and spiritual qualities is impossible antecedents, saying to justify himself: Well, I have fought my battles. I don't see
save his heart, mind and soul are enriched by fruitful contact with others. A man why I should not enjoy my life as it is. As for those who are condemned to live in
can know himself only through knowing others._ To be self-centered is to be the gutter, there is nothing anybody can do about them a�y.='\
small in heart, narrow of mind, mean of soul. Selfishness is the naturafeffect of Then, suddenly, in the midst of this smugness, the(9.!�yf�� ��\?mst ur.on
:tcyjiicaTancfbar��� ;�litude, and the absolute divorcement of the artist from
�� and Zola is drawn into it. The old fire in his he.i,n p_urris again, and he
thiworld which alone can provide a large background for his work must result fights as he never fought before. When the battle is won agd a great wrong has
in mediocre or inferior achievement. been righted, he has learned to say: The individual does rni matter; only society

378 The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English The Likhaan Anthology of Philippine Literature in English 379

does. I thought that my work was done; now I know that it has only started. The too, Swift is the greater master of prose than Charles Lamb, Thomas Huxley
world must be made over for the humble and the wretched. than Stevenson, and in our own day, Bertrand Russell than Christopher Morley,
�Th�h;i�e of the writers of the Philippines is clear. Will they spin tales and
string verses in an Ivory Tower? Will they fiddle while Rome burns? Will they
�{J/ Theodore Dreiser than Branch Cabell. }�� form�r are smiths of i1ei!s. _as the_
_ -
Jeuer are S!Jli_ths of hmguage; as the tarter have the talent to fashion the perfect
wall in a vacuum? Or will they, without forgetting that art must make its appeal phrase, so have the former the power to impart the stirring thought. Language
to man through beauty and power, rather do their work in the world of men, with the latter see)Tis almost to be an end in itself, a device of pleasure; with the
breathing the air we breathe, thinking of the problems that puzzle us, lending former it is' ii(��;ns to an e�d,;;; instrument of ideas.
the vision and genius with which they are dowered to their ultimate solution? In the ·end, what really interests the writer, granting that he recognizes the
Poetry is probably the oldest form of literature. On the one hand, it is akin value of social content in literature, is some sort of assurance that his writing
to songTn which form primitive riian"iiought to preserve tne remembrance of his will result in something that he can lay his hands on as good and useful. For
heroic past. On the other hand, it is akiD, to _magi_c; by means of which heseught certainly he has a right to expect that, having acceded to the demands of society
. to.preserve himself from evil spirits through incantation and to win the favor of upon his talent, certain measurable benefits will flow from his work wholly
the beneficent deities through praise and prayer. distinct from the purely subjective satisfaction that is his birthright as an artist
Thus primitive man may be said to have stumbled upon literature, if he did and which comes naturally with the act of creative expression.
not purposely fashion it as an instrument primarily functional in character. It The question is easily answered. The writer who has once admitted to himself
may be stretching the point too far to say that with him art was a purely utilitarian that the problems of society are his proper meat and drink has come to a point
device, but it seems logical to suppose that the natural economy of his life was where merely technical problems have become of small account compared to
such that it did not easily encourage indulgence in activities of an artificial, the ultimate problem which he is presumed to have already answered for himself;
superfluous or useless character. When he fashioned a stone ax, it was to facilitate namely, whether there is such a thing as progress, and whether it is within the
the securing of his daily food, and when he sang, danced, or chanted poetry it capacity of man ever to achieve progr.ess-, ,
was not merely to fill an idle hour with pleasurable excitement but to invok-e-the ··· Now, a writer either believes ir(,progresJ or he does not. He either believes
f avors of his gods. that man is improvable because he h·as -the innate ·capacity to correct his errors
As it was with primitive man, so it is with him who has not fallen into the or he is convinced that man is eternally damned beyond any possibility of
error of regarding civilization as a process of enfeeblement and deterioration. redemption. All that we have said about writers is meant only for those who
Indeed, the dogma of Art for Art's sake is the mark of a decadent generation, believe in progress, not that we would withhold from the others the name of
advanced and defended most stoutly by those who have irretrievably lost writer, but that these have excluded themselves by nature or by choice from a
something of the vitality of nature through vicious selfindulgence or by those 1 ./·calli,Rg-wh(ch is essentially an endeavor of hope.
who have been tainted in the blood by some inherent vice. """.V\ (;:rogre1, then, is the best article in the creed of the writer of _1,Vhom_ we have
/ _g�en _s-pea.king-.--He believes that civilization, despite evident reverses, is forever
Undoubtedly there are men in every generation who will create for their
own sake beautiful things which it is our duty to treasure. But these artists picking up and moving upward. He believes, finally, that he has a place in this
represent an aberration from the normal course of nature, and if we confer upon scheme of universal progress and that whatever he can do to help is a worthy
,them the name of genius, it is genius of a decidedly inferior category. Thus contribution to the upward movement of life. We are not forgetting, despite the
I •
/ i=-J-- emphasis on "social content," t'.1at we are speaking of literature and not propaganda.
iShakespeare is a greater artist than Christopher Marlowe, Shelley than Keats,
Walt Whitman than Edgar Allan Poe. Shakespeare, Shelley and Whitman achieved
�-: � ,_ ,,,_ ; Ipe challenge which we ask the intelligent writer to meet is not challenge to beat / fJ/ o(
f Jo 1 · the drums and to blow the trumpet of pmgress. We are only reminding him that of uJn1
more than mere beauty in their w,nks; they were, in a fashion that is not to be C;.
confused with crude insrn..1ction, teachers of men. -,. all the ends_ to which he may dedicate his talents, none is more worthy ,than the
If poetry originated as a functional activit)f(P�ose JS s�ch is_even._more frank\y improvement of the condition of man and the defense of his freedom.

utilitarian in character. Prose is of the world; i'hs-fci"o earthly to serve as a vehicle Nor need the writer feel that he is being compelled to become a social
· ofpure fancy. And the jgreatest masters of prose are those who have employed it reformer rather than an artist. Whatever the writer's conception of his craft may
in the service principally of reason and secondarily only of the imagination, be, he can safely cling to the principle that literature is the imaginative
those who have used it for what Matthew Arnold has called the "criticism ·of representation of life and nature, and upon this principle honestly build his
life." Thus the man who wrote Job was a greater artist than he who wrote the achievement. If he is sincere and if he has the ability, he need have no fear that he
Song of Songs, and the author ' &clesiastes than he who wrote_ the_Psalms. So,
will become a purveyor of propaganda and lose caste as a creative artist.