Monday, July 23, 2012

To roll the universe, again

My father

We have a better Batman to talk about,
who simply know the intimidation to be
faced in all the porcelain of everyday
life. It's a wonder, 'Prufrock' didn't cite the frightening warning on the mattress tag - or maybe this was an enhancement of our direr times?


And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,       
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question ..

Forty years ago Princeton University filed away in Firestone Library an undergraduate thesis of some departmental excitement, To Arm the Revolution, on how the 2nd Amendment's permission for a State militia was simply a negligible sop to resistance to the new nation's radical power, to maintain a standing army. How this transitional gesture, like the 3/5 Clause to assimilate slave states, became the rallying cry of the murder industry was not that writer's concern. He only wanted to explain the existence of a peculiar little zit in the Bill of Rights. 

No one wants to spend his life, entrusting information to resisting psychotics and self-seeking gun merchants, as Prufrock does, one coffee spoonful at a time. Everyone wants something which no American is free, because of these monsters, to enjoy in unimpeded delight, the sweet and natural experiments of a pretty Summer weekend.

The poem conjures real struggle from the elements of superficial placidity, and famously resorts to the natural to portray the greatest risk. What it wants is enactment in the mind in reading it. It is an admitted curiosity, that the text's standard of heroism is so poignant, its morality so luminous that its readers aren't numbered in the millions anymore, or armed with personal howitzers. The scale of human feeling is so perfectly attuned to its natural vessel, that its power probably isn't remarkable enough today, for connoisseurs shaped by our culture. Yet history has gathered such proofs of the genius of reticence - sometimes, a heroism against the self - that this is no longer a poem about a little man we must laugh about.

From time to time we are warned of humanity's displacement by this culture, and yet we write blogs for each other within this expired, human scale. Our subject never has been dictated by this ambient aberrancy, but like Prufrock, we are aware that we are exposed in all our movements, all our gestures, all our aspirations. This is a poem about pressures not of ennui and fatigue merely, but of timidity, also, yet of the purest, most transparently self-knowing kind. It is almost beautiful to contemplate; certainly, it is elegantly wrought, contained, and expressed. We observe the open, tender link to the heart with an almost abashed response, but for its humane and kindly cherishing of our own nature. 

This poem, sometimes the bane of schoolboys' introduction to modern literature, was written by a youth of this age. Eventually, it came to be known as a love song. Again, against our own resistance, we observe, the reading of our gorgeousness must be done; and as it comes down to it, everyone is implicated. But here, and at the page in your mind, we presume a civilisation which we know to exist, which we know must triumph over the hyena of its capture in this culture, any day. Prufrocks, we try not to let it suffer the distortions of militant defense. Let us announce it, let us describe it, let us relish its brilliance, its radiance, its immunity from this time, its entitlement to this place. 

iii, v  Sam Way
ix,  x  Benjamin Eidem

No comments:

Post a Comment