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Eliot explains that to write with tradition in mind does not mean imitating, as this would lead to repetition and “novelty is better than repetition.” He defines tradition as something only to be gained by the labour of knowing literature of the past and by being critically aware of what techniques and content is of value. The poet should be aware of the simultaneous order of literary tradition, dating back to the classics. Tradition is the accumulated wisdom and experience of literature through the ages and is, according to Eliot, essential for great achievements within poetry. Eliot argues that no writer or piece of literature has value or significance when isolated from the literary cannon. In order to judge a work of art or literature it must be compared to works of the past. He believes that tradition is constantly changing due to adding new work to the literary cannon. He suggests that the author should conform to literary tradition and be informed by the past, but that by doing so the work of the author modifies the work they have been informed by. It is important for the poet to be aware of their own position within the present but also their relevance in relation to literature of the past. The modern author adds meaning to the traditional text by incorporating its influence into their work. Eliot acknowledges that the new work of art, when original, modifies the literary tradition in a small way. The relationship between past and present is not one-way, the present can alter the past, just as the past informs the present.


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