Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Last week, on the 29th, 100 years ago in Paris

We might have remarked as we
passed a bold centennial with
some concession to its mean-
ing, but we find that a con-
sensus still eludes us. I re-
fer to the first performance
of Le sacre du printemps, at
the new Théâtre des Champs-
Élysées, Nijinsky hollering
in the wings to give direc-
tion to the dancers, the or-
chestra inaudible above the
commotion in the hall.

No two witnesses agreed with
each other, on what they saw
or heard, or even with what
they'd said the night before.
They put one in mind of how
Wallace Stevens parsed The
Things of August, greatly 
now affronting the minds of 
denizens of Virginia, endur-
ing a cacaphony of cicadas:
something so generative that
breaks upon the stage as if 
by shock, itself, but ancient: 

These locusts by day, these crickets by night
Are the instruments on which to play
Of an old and disused ambit of the soul
Or of a new aspect, bright in discovery -

A disused ambit of the spirit's way,
.. that was a ghost, and is ..

A century later, almost to the day,
that instant in the history of the
dance is what has not expired, as
much as it is said, the world has
changed. The great commotion lives
and its instruments are with us, a
comprehension needing to be played.

      The greatest events and thoughts -
      but the greatest thoughts are the
      greatest events - are comprehended
      last: the generations that are con-
      temporaneous with them do not exper-
      ience such events - they live right
      past them. The light of the remotest
      stars comes last to men ..

Modris Eksteins
Rites of Spring
  The Great War and
  the Modern Age
Houghton Mifflin, 1989©

Wallace Stevens
Collected Poetry and Prose
  Things of August
Frank Kermode and 
  Joan Richardson, editors
The Library of America, 1997©

Friedrich Nietzsche
Basic Writings of Nietzsche
  Beyond Good and Evil:
  What is Noble
Walter Kaufmann, translator
op. cit.



  1. You are right...cicadas are much more menacing than crocuses :)

    1. but so less disconcerting than a jury of our peers, would you say?