Sunday, April 8, 2012

To the gulping years

.. as if he had been
smuggled away acciden-
tally with no knowledge
of the act, into the future.

Michael Ondaatje

          Life is a series of surprises. 
          We do not guess today the mood,
          the pleasure, the power of to-
          morrow, when we are building up
          our being .. The new position
          of the advancing man has all
          the powers of the old, yet has
          them all new .. I cast away in
          this new moment all my once
          hoarded knowledge, as vacant
          and vain. Now, for the first
          time, seem I to know any thing
          rightly. The simplest words, -
          we do not know what they mean,
          except when we love and aspire.

I spent a pleasant couple of Saturday
hours in an al fresco lunch with a 
young scholar at the University, ex-
cited to gain a fellowship to pursue
a question of history that I knew
from my own study to be quite large.
Right before me were those qualities
of what we see as the gulping years,
ravenous for original assimilation,
for recapitulation as new knowledge.
It would have put one in mind, with-
out smirking, of Wallace Stevens in
a timely early portrait ~

Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.

What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?

Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.

One often has cause to think, in agrarian
pursuits, of a distinction between hunger
and desire, which rolls in more apparent-
ly with every growing season. These are 
not perspectives on our purpose in a hi-
erarchic chain, I do not think. Even if
they are not always known to each other
I have not found them yet to be sever-
able, and I do not think I will. But I
do not think Stevens or Emerson was
wrong; there is such a time as the 
gulping years, a seething roiling in
the world whose instrument is eternal.
We feel, we let it come, but like On-
daatje's random stowaway, we come to
cherish our lack of choice, admitting
to our use, more as a license to play.

Michael Ondaatje
The Cat's Table
op. cit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Annotated Emerson
David Mikics, editor
Harvard University Press, 2012©

Wallace Stevens
The Palm at the End of the Mind
  Tea at the Palaz of Hoon, 1921
Holly Stevens, editor
Random House, 1990©

Gerhard Richter, watercolour, 1964


  1. Wonderful!

    And just as an aside--my brother recently edited a book entitled: "Visiting Wallace, Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Wallace Stevens."

  2. wonderful book, the cat's table. cine

  3. Thank you for your visit, Bruce, it's great to share this early Spring morning with you and your, may I say, distinctively sunny perceptions! Thank you for the compliment; these are 'wonderful' people to write about. How exciting to look for these poems, now, inspired by Stevens - which probably does not have a back cover, I'm guessing? You know the poet, Anne Carson: she would figure out how to structure that project in some innovative package .. Best wishes of the day to your family and to your table.

  4. Is this the estimable and elusive 'ciné' of the inaugural city of coffee mug? Oh, my, I feel like Toad at Nürburgring, if that is the case. But I've been counseled to be less 'clubby' in this space - and very wisely, because I wish it to belong to visitors who come to care about other things than rmbl. And so, the loft of this 7-iron to the green: yes, this is a wonderful book (referenced here before, as the search engine will show), and I love people who can hit a gorgeous shot like this, for the longest possible appraisal against the sky, never doubting the grip with which it descends. This book is a gorgeous thing, so thanks for opening the space to say so.

  5. Yes, just wonderful. Thank you:)

  6. Dear Linnea, thank you for taking the time to come so far on Easter! Have a wonderful evening and thank you, Laurent