Jurgen "Poetry Is Man's Rebellion Against Being What He Is"

James Branch Cabell

"Poetry Is Man's Rebellion Against Being What He Is"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Jurgen, a pawnbroker in the unidentified land of Poictesme and a dabbler in verse, having said a kind word for the Devil, is relieved, as a favor, of his shrewish wife. However, since shortly after her disappearance she is seen walking in Amneran Heath, Jurgen feels it is his manly duty to seek her out. His search begins in a cave, where he learns that his only recourse in order to find her is to find Koshchei the Deathless, "who made things as they are." His search leads him into a mythical world where he undergoes many strange and fantastic adventures. At last he returns to the cave and finds Koshchei. They have a revealing conversation concerning the nature of things, the follies of men, social amenities, and other matters, all of which are satirically treated. In the course of his reply to Jurgen's timid inquiries about his wife, Koshchei calls Jurgen a "fellow rebel." Quickly Jurgen replies: "But I do not know, Prince, that I have ever rebelled. Far from it, I have everywhere conformed with custom." To this Koshchei replies:

Your lips conformed, but all the while your mind made verses, Jurgen. And poetry is man's rebellion against being what he is.