I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work
-- 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.
Our 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 the 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, of 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.
Until 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 simply 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.
William Faulkner - December 10, 1950