Friday, March 13, 2009

Along with some good I had borrowed from Heine a quality which did not become me at that stage of life: a habit of speaking about everything ironically. This complicated my relations with my friends, who did not appreciate irony, especially bad irony. I became ruthless towards sentimentality, like so many people in their early twenties. The reasons for this phase is comprehensible enough. It is that a young man is keenly aware of his feelings and at the same time unsure of them. His awareness of them makes him despise conventional emotion, which seems a caricature, and his unsureness makes him distrust deep emotion in case it should be false. He needs a standard of criticism, and, not having it, falls back on sarcasm. Heine had initiated me into the art of feeling and laughing at my feelings; but if one laughs long enough the feeling dwindles, and the laughter usurps its place, until there is very little left to laugh at, unless one manufactures it.
--Edwin Muir, An Autobiography

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