Why have we none [no grace] for books, those spiritual repasts; a grace before Milton, a grace before Shakespeare, a devotional exercise proper to be said before reading the Fairy Queen?
—Charles Lamb, “Grace Before Meat” (1823)
(Lamb cedes this extension of “the solitary ceremony of manducation” to “the use of a certain snug congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians,” which is a double shame, first that we don’t specific devotional exercises for specific authors & acts of reading, and second that there isn’t an actual congregation of Utopian Rabelæsian Christians.)
There is no better way to explore the Real Man, the Imagination, than to study his monuments: The Four Zoas, Milton, and Jerusalem; The Prelude and the Recluse fragment; The Ancient Mariner and Christabel; Prometheus Unbound, Adonais, and The Triumph of Life; the two Hyperions; Don Juan; Death’s Jest-Book; these are the definitive Romantic achievement, the words that were and will be, day and night.
—Harold Bloom, “The Internalization of Quest-Romance,” The Yale Review 58:4 (1969)
(In addition to an excellent reading list, this sentence makes for a decent gloss of Ss-33/10,000: the good is the words that were and are; the best is “the words that were [and are] and will be.” Our duty to the good is to look for it. Our duty to the best is to keep it, but don’t get confused. That is only our duty, and to perform it is only to commend ourselves to its guidance. Who knows what the duty of the best is, or if it even has one? The best keeps itself, possesses autonomous functions—associating, coding, coinciding, contaminating, deterritorializing, influencing, involving, latching, numerizing, participating, propagating, subsisting, tallying, territorializing, triggering, etc.—and that is why it is the best.
ADDED: an example of the autonomous glitching of the best, or the canonical: today is Bloom’s 87th birthday—who would have thought that Bloom would outlive Hartman?—a coincidence that I didn’t realize until after I posted this. Today is also, so my email informs me, the release of Deap Vally’s video for “Julian,” which contains an image of the three-volume Heritage Press edition of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at 0:10.)