— Northrop Frye
"Quotes", The Educated Imagination (1963), Talk 6: The Vocation of Eloquence
Context: The particular myth that's been organizing this talk, and in a way the whole series, is the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible. The civilization we live in at present is a gigantic technological structure, a skyscraper almost high enough to reach the moon. It looks like a single world-wide effort, but it's really a deadlock of rivalries; it looks very impressive, except that it has no genuine human dignity. For all its wonderful machinery, we know it's really a crazy ramshackle building, and at ay time may crash around our ears. What the myth tells us is that the Tower of Babel is a work of human imagination, that tis main elements are words, and that what will make it collapse is a confusion of tongues. All had originally one language, the myth says. That language is not English or Russian or Chinese or any common ancestor, if there was one. It is the language of human nature, the language that makes both Shakespeare and Pushkin authentic poets, that gives a social vision to both Lincoln and Gandhi. It never speaks unless we take the time to listen in leisure, and it speaks only in a voice too quite for panic to hear. And then all it has to tell us, when we look over the edge of our leaning tower, is that we are not getting any nearer [to] heaven, and that it is time to return to the earth.