empty of future, renew the sign: lucent paradox, ineluctable trace ...


Nothing has changed here. The privilege of stones?
They always are, for that is the way they like it.

Czesław Miłosz: from The Rising of the Sun, VII, Bells in Winter

Si j'ai du goût, ce n'est guères
Que pour la terre et les pierres.

This "taste for stone" is a theme in modern literature that emerges in the early days of Romantic writing and flows like a submerged river through practically all serious works in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It stems from the classical feeling that stone was a dead substance and therefore belonged to a separate realm of being. Hades, for instance, was stone, as was the dead moon. The firm Greek sense that stone does not grow distinguished it radically from things that do. And yet it was of mineral substance that everything was made: an organism was an interpenetration of matter and spirit.

Put the understanding another way: science and poetry from the Renaissance forward have been trying to discover what is alive and what isn't. In science the discovery spanned three centuries, from Gassendi to Niels Bohr, and the answer is that everything is alive.

Poetry has a similar search, and its answer is not yet formulated, as it cannot understand nature except as a mirror of the spirit ...

Guy Davenport: from Olson, in The Geography of the Imagination, Forty Essays

No comments: