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To a Snail

If "compression is the first grace of style,"
you have it. Contractility is a virtue
as modesty is a virtue.
It is not the acquisition of any one thing
that is able to adorn,
or the incidental quality that occurs
as a concomitant of something well said,
that we value in style,
but the principle that is hidden:
in the absence of feet, "a method of conclusions";
"a knowledge of principles,"
in the curious phenomenon of your occipital horn.

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Added by Dan Costinaş
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Dan Costinaş said on 19 July 2017:
Author's Notes:
'Compression is the first grace of style': Democritus.
'Method of conclusions'; 'knowledge of principles': Duns Scotus.

The poem adds the author's original end-notes, as seen above. Moore herself acknowledged a few years later that Democritus was not the author of the first quotation, but Demetrius of Phalerum, who wrote in «On Style» (W. Rhys Roberts' translation): 'The very first grace of style is that which results from compression, when a thought which could have been spoiled by dwelling on it is made graceful by a light and rapid touch.'


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