I was reading a book and there appears something like this

A reader or auditor is at liberty to remain passive.
— Ezra Pound

I want to understand the full meaning of this quote and want to know its source (the book or poem or essay where it has been said by Pound). My try at the meaning is: A reader can just read the idea, he is at liberty to believe or not to believe it but the writer has to believe something before writing it else he shall not be able to write it with full originality.

The auditor part is completely dark for me. The word “passive” there have a very strong part to play, I think. I would appreciate a full analysis of this quote.

1 Answer 1


This is the context:

Rodolfo Agricola in an edition dating from fifteen hundred and something† says one writes: ut doceat, ut moveat ut delectet, to teach, to move or to delight.

A great deal of bad criticism is due to men not seeing which of these three motives underlies a given composition.

The converse processes, not considered by the pious teachers of antiquity, would be to obscure, to bamboozle or mislead, and to bore.

The reader or auditor is at liberty to remain passive and submit to these operations if he so choose.

Ezra Pound (1934). ABC of Reading, pp. 66–67. New York: New Directions (1960).

Rodolphus Agricola (1479). Inventione Dialectica, book I, prologue. Coloniae [Köln]: Ioannes Gymnicus (1539).

“Auditor” means “listener”. So Pound is saying that passive readers and listeners—people who just accept what they read and hear—subject themselves to the risk of being bamboozled and misled. To defend themselves from liars and propagandists they must read and listen actively, interrogating and criticizing the text.

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