Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
The Journal of Arthur Stirling
By Upton Sinclair
(A young poet, starving and about to commit suicide, leaves his farewell testament to the world)
THE POET! He comes with a heart trembling with gladness; he comes with tears of rapture in his eyes. He comes with bosom heaving and throat choking and heart breaking. He comes with tenderness and with trust, with joy in the beauty that he beholds. He comes a minstrel, with a harp in his handand you set your dogs upon him, you drive him torn and bleeding from your gates!
The poet! You make him go out into the market and chaffer for his bread! You subject him to the same law to which you subject your loafers and your loutsthat he who will not work cannot eat! Your drones and your drunkardsand your poets! Every man must earn for himself, every man must pay his way! No man must ask favors, no man must be helped, no man shall be different from other men! For shame! For shame!
I am to die now, therefore let me write it: that I was a man of Genius. And that you have trodden me down in the struggle for existence. I saw things that no other man has ever seen, I would have written things that no other man can ever write. And you have trodden me down in the struggle for existenceyou have trodden me down because I could not earn my bread!
This is what I tell youthis is what I cry out to you, that the man of Genius cannot earn his bread; that the work by which he develops his power is something absolutely and utterly different from the work by which he earns his bread; and that every hour which he gives to the one, he lessens his power and his capacity for the other. Every hour that he gives to the earning of his bread, he takes from his soul, he weakens his work, he destroys beauty which never again can he know or dream.
And this again is what I tell you, this again is what I cry out to you: that the power by which a man of Genius does his work, and the power by which he earns his bread, are things so entirely distinct that they may not occur together at all! The man may have both, but then again he may only have the former. And in that case he will die like a poisoned rat in a hole.