phrase E=MC^ is also rapidly becoming tedious. The grammarnof knowledge — old or new — is by its nature inevitablyncliche since it formulates an elementary ground which we mustnshare in order to encounter the truth of things. It is only whennsuch elementary formulation may be assumed in our conversationnthat we are free to move beyond the seeming deadness ofngrammar, the weariness of the elementary. And the desire tonmove beyond the elementary itself requires our constantnreexamination of the grammar of our conversation, since we soneasily mistake or confuse that ground. If we fail to bencommitted to the elementary, we will find ourselves asncommunity in a panic moment such as the current one. Ourncry will be, “back to the basics.”nThe elementary ground, the grammar of knowledge, whichnwe are likely to condescend to insofar as we take ourselves to bensophisticated, is more tolerable to the very young. For them, allnthe world is new, including very old words with buriednhistories. The literal surface of “Little Jack Horner” is a portraitnof a seemingly inoffensive little fellow, quietly feasting. He isnsafe, just beyond the adult world, in which he would not bentolerated to fish in his plum pie. The story is quietly seductivenin its music and in the teasing rhyme, and in the situation itselfnAs we grow older, we begin to wonder why Jack is in the cornernand just what beyond the literal fruit may be meant by “plum,”nsince there is little reason for self-congratulation in finding anplum in a plum pie. Thus we may later rescue, or rationalize,nour childhood delight by finding possible historical implications.nIt has been suggested, for instance, that the name is anhistorical one; Thomas Horner, stewart to Abbot RichardnWhiting at Glastonbury Cathedral, was sent to Henry VIIInwith a pie in which was secreted deeds to 12 manorial estates.nHorner, the tale says, took out the deed to the Manor of Mells,nwhere his family has lived ever since. Abbot Whiting, withnHorner on the jury, was convicted of hiding sacramental cupsnfrom the King’s greed and was hanged, beheaded, andnquartered. Or so claims Baring-Gould in his AnnotatednMother Goose. Our child’s delight advances to adult delight:nThe irony that Horner sat on the Abbot’s jury seems lessnhistory than art; the historical date seems off, more likely tonhave been in the reign of Henry’s father (Henry VII) than thatnof his more colorful son. There seems to have been somentampering. Here is a play in the making, caught in a nurserynmusic with teasing overtone. That elementary ground to thenbasics of education, the grammar of knowledge, is here. Ornconsider the music of “Hickety pickety, my black hen,” in itselfnan immediate delight; but it is a larger preparation as well, wendiscover, when we happen at last upon something like A.E.nRobinson’s line “Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn.” The linenechoes in its syncopation that older music out of the childhoodnof our language, out of the time of the Tudors; it becomes anneffective signal that Robinson’s whole poem is built out ofncliches. In mimicking Miniver’s arrested development, hisnrefusal to accommodate old and new knowledge, Robinsonnmakes a commentary on our humanity that enters the rationalnmind through the imaginative mind. Our response to Robinson,nthen, is a stage in our education that has been underwaynlong before we encounter the poem itselfnEducation in its preliminaries, then, is the labor of acquiringnnecessary cliches. In its advanced concerns, education is thenassaying of cliche. For the cliche is a common coinage whosentrue value is obscured by the residue of frequent handling andnabuse. All language suffers such wear and distortion. But thenmystery of language is that the validity of words, insofar as theynare precisely oriented to reality, are never absolutely destroyednby use and abuse. A word may be mis-taken and so mis-spentnbecause not fully assayed. It will nevertheless carry within itnwhat it has to say about the truth of things. Aside from itsnintrinsic value, of course, a word may pass as coinage of quitenanother value, through general assent. Thus, if I shouldnsuddenly proclaim the virtue of prejudice, given the presentnsurfaces of the words as we spend it most recklessly, I wouldnruffle sophisticated feathers. Then I should have to explain, bynrecourse to the depths of the word, that it involves prejudgmentnand that we live our lives out of acts of prejudice that arenperfectly justified by judgment. It is such prejudice that makesnme drive on the right side of the road or cross under a greennlight. It is such prejudice that makes it possible for me to setnaside worry as to whether the stairs will be there when we leaventhis place. It is such prejudice that makes me more or lessnconfident of my bank account or of tomorrow’s sun. Withoutnsound prejudice to depend upon, I should have to begin everynmoment of my conscious life as if there had been no momentnof my life before this moment.nWe use words, sometimes, at the face value they seemncurrently to have, not so much recognizing their value asnrecognizing the smudges given them by current transactionsnwith them. Thus meanings accumulate in dictionary incarcerationsnof the word, bearing in such history the evidence ofnshifting prejudices, often evidence of a slippage between thensignification and the signified. There is present, for instance, innthe entry in the New English dictionary on the word imaginationna complex history of our understanding of man’s place innthe world and the role man plays as maker in the world, fromnthe medieval understanding of the thing signified by the termnimagination down to our own uses of this much worn coin. Innfreeing such a word from its present limits, seeing its full life innrelation to mind, we discover in that word a more fascinatingncomplexity, though much more may be revealed to us than wenare prepared to accept. This is to say that we grow out ofnignorance, out of adolescence of mind, sometimes in proportionnto our exploration of old knowledge, our recovery ofnsubsurfaces in the cliches we so randomly spend. Let menillustrate the point by personal witness.nWhen I have 30 sophomores in a literary survey coursenwrite a paper comparing the opening lines of Sidney Lanier’sn”Marshes of Glynn” with the opening lines of Poe’s “Ulalume,”nmy primary purpose is to make sure each onenunderstands what is meant by “imagery” in relation to words. Indo so with the knowledge of experience which tells me thatnimagery is a green term to them, though they have heard itnspoken of It is in some respects an attempt as futile asnconvincing them that “groaning table” is a cliche, though it is anfar more necessary task in its consequences to the growth ofntheir minds. I am always arrested by the consequences ofnexercise. First off, there is a vocabulary common to a givennclass, out of their immediate encounter with the world whichndiffers from mine, though we are in the world at a coincidentntime. Theirs includes, for instance, the latest pop music andnmovies and television shows. Just as there is a commonnpopularity in the naming of infants, influenced by currentnfascinations (read the birth announcements in the “FamilynSection” of the Sunday paper), so is there a more generalnnnJANUARY 19881 21n