The strength of those who attack can be measured in a way by the opposition they require: every growth is indicated by a search for a mighty opponent–or problem; for a warlike poet challenges problems, too, to single combat.
Equality before the enemy: the first presupposition of an honest duel. Where one feels contempt, one cannot wage war. Where one commands, where one sees something beneath oneself, one has no business waging war.
My practice of war can be summed up in four propositions.
First: I only attack causes that are victorious; I may even wait until they become victorious.
Second: I only attack causes against which I would not find allies, so that I stand alone—so that I compromise myself alone. I have never taken a step publicly that did not compromise me: that is my criterion of doing right.
Third: I never attack persons; I merely avail myself of the person as of a strong magnifying glass that allows one to make visible a general but creeping and elusive calamity. Thus I attacked Robbins–more precisely, the success of a senile book within the “culture” of poetry: I caught this culture in the act. Thus I attacked Goldsmith–more precisely, the falseness, the half-couth instincts of our “culture” which mistakes the famed for the great.
Fourth: I only attack things when every personal quarrel is excluded. On the contrary, attack is in my case a proof of good will, sometimes even of gratitude. I myself, an opponent of false poetry de rigueur, am far from blaming individuals for the calamity of decades.