Thursday, September 4, 2014

an air of human music

I assert my right not to be Dora Wilcox, says Daniel Deniehy; I assert my right to write like music, “All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music,” that line they always quote from Walter Pater, an old line to you though it is not as old as me, who died in 1856, twenty-one years before it was written. I never knew it.

For while in all other kinds of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it. That the mere matter of a poem, for instance, its subject, namely, its given incidents or situation — that the mere matter of a picture, the actual circumstances of an event, the actual topography of a landscape — should be nothing without the form, the spirit, of the handling, that this form, this mode of handling, should become an end in itself, should penetrate every part of the matter: this is what all art constantly strives after, and achieves in different degrees.

The “chamber music” of a fly in Proust, “evoking heat and light quite differently from an air of human music” in the Moncrieff translation, gives the fly itself the character of summer, “the flies' music is bound to the season,” and of course it is bound to the fly as well, in a chain (my imagination makes me wonder if the singing fly is accidentally telling the universe that it wants to aspire to the condition of music as well, since it is going in that direction, and one day we will all grant the wish it never asked for and it will disappear ...), see, then, I have tied myself to night, not night, your night, their night, it's my Night, and Wilcox has a bellbird and a nightingale, the bellbird bound to Australasia, the nightingale bound to England, a bondage expressed over five lines in London and again in Two Sonnets from the book Rata and Mistletoe (1911)

I. The Nightingale

Last eve I heard an English nightingale
Pouring her very soul out to the sky,
When nothing moved save Solitude and I
Pacing the fields together till the pale
Enchanted moonlight flooded all the vale.
And she sang on, and high and yet more high
Toward Heaven thrilled that rich and passionate cry,
Till at the full it seemed to flag and fail.

Thou art the embodied Spirit of the Past,
O Nightingale ! thou singest Love and Sorrow
For all that was, for all that could not last,
Being too perfect ; never shall to-morrow
Assuage thy pain, nor ever grant relief
For thy superb and all-consuming grief.

2. The Bell-Bird

Not so thou carollest at break of day,
O Bell-bird ! when the world is flushed with light
And slips triumphant from the clasp of night,
And the wind wakes and blows the clouds away,
And the hill-spirits rise and shout at play,
Rejoicing. Then thou takest sudden flight
From tree to tree, and warblest with delight.
Thou and thy comrades, jubilant and gay !

Thou singest of the Future, radiant Bird !
Surely the Gods have lent thee sacred fire
And taught thee songs forgotten or unheard
By old-world men ! thou singest of Desire,
Youth, and high Hope, and the infinity
Of all we dream the Newer Worlds may be.

No comments:

Post a Comment