55. Poetry and prose work with words, and

not with ideas.1512a



It should be known that both poetry and prose work with words, and not with ideas. The ideas are secondary to the (words). The (words) are basic.

The craftsman who tries to acquire the habit of poetry and prose uses words for that purpose. He memorizes appropriate words from Arab speech, so as to be able to employ it frequently and have it on his tongue. Eventually, the habit of the Mudar language becomes firmly established in him. He becomes free from the non-Arab (linguistic habits) in which he was reared among the people of his race. He considers himself like a (half-breed) child who grows up among Arab Bedouins and learns their language as a child learns it. Thus, eventually, he becomes like one of them, as far as their language is concerned. 1513

As we have mentioned before, 1514 this comes about as follows. Language is a habit concerned with speech. One tries to acquire it by repeated practice with the tongue, until one has acquired it, as is the case with (all other) habits.1515

Now, tongue and speech deal only with words. Ideas are in the mind. Furthermore, everyone may have ideas. Every­one has the capacity to grasp with his mind whatever (ideas) his mind wants and likes. No technique is required for their composition. 1516 But the composition of speech, for the purpose of expressing (ideas), requires a technique, as we have stated. 1517 (Speech) is like a mold for ideas. The vessels in which water is drawn from the sea may be of gold, silver, shells (mother-of-pearl), glass, or clay. But the water is one and the same. The quality of the vessels filled with water differs according to the material from which they are made, and not according. to the water (in them). In the same way, the quality of language, and eloquence in its use, differ according to different levels (of attainment) in the composition of speech, depending on the manner in which an utterance conforms to (the situation) that it wants to express. But the ideas are one and the same.

A person who is ignorant of the composition of speech and its methods, as required by the (Arabic) linguistic habit, and who unsuccessfully attempts to express what he wants to express, is like an invalid who attempts to get up but cannot, because he lacks the power to do so.

God "teaches you what you did not know." 1518