Don Quixote on poetry, in response to a gentleman whose son appears to be wasting his life as a scholar of the classics:
“Señor, regarding your son’s lack of esteem for poetry in the modern languages, it is my understanding that he is mistaken, for this reason: the great Homer did not write in Latin because he was Greek, and Virgil did not write in Greek because he was Latin. In short, all the ancient poets wrote in their mother tongues, and they did not look for foreign languages in order to declare the nobility of their ideas. And this being true, it is reasonable to extend this custom to all nations, and not to despise the German poet because he writes in his own language, or the Castilian, or even the Basque, for writing, for writing in his. But I imagine, Señor, that your son does not condemn vernacular poetry but poets who are merely vernacular and do not know other languages or other fields of knowledge, which adorn and awaken and assist their natural impulse; even in this he may be mistaken, because, according to reliable opinion, a poet is born: that is to say, the natural poet is a poet when he comes from his mother’s womb, and with that inclination granted to him by heaven, with no further study or artifice he composes things that prove the truthfulness of the man who said: Est Deus in nobis*. […] I also say that the natural poet who makes use of art will be a much better and more accomplished poet than the one who knows only the art and wishes to be a poet; the reason is that art does not surpass nature but perfects it; therefore, when nature is mixed with art, and art with nature, the result is a perfect poet.”
* Ovid, Fasti 6.5: “est deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo; impetus hic sacrae semina mentis habit” (in A. S. Kline’s version: “There is a god in us: when he stirs we kindle: / That impulse sows the seeds of inspiration”).