William Butler Yeats: “The Stolen Child.” Of Suffering. Of Escape.

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

A Quote. Of Name. Of Place. Of Experience as Interpretation.

For those who pass [the city] without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name. . . .

—Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities
“Cities & Names 5 (Irene)”

A Sketch. Opula.

Opula was unlike any other city. It had a population of millions, yet one could walk through its garden streets and never brush another’s arm or coat, and one could speak with a neighbor in whispers with no trouble hearing and being heard, and one could say a greeting in a wide-open space and hear the nearest five or six passersby reply in a soft, friendly tone, “How beautiful to see you!” Everyone seen in the city was beautiful: their elaborate hair, their delicate posture and gestures, their make-up, their deep-colored clothes—everything about the denizens was crafted for the finest presentation. They went to work, not at a rush, but at a stroll, so that everyone they met might have a chance to see how fine they looked and then say, “How beautiful to see you!” And when they worked inside, they worked in front of clear windows where the light could expose their fineness for all to see and savor just the same.

One would think they took hours to make up their hair and faces. “How could they find the time?” foreigners would ask.

A denizen, a high-thinker whose job it was to think beautiful thoughts, might answer: “Beauty and time are incommensurable. I mean that one cannot measure the other, and there is no trade between them. Beauty is indifferent to time, and what has time got to do with beauty?”

The foreigners might think that such an odd response missed the question. And it did. What the high-thinker did not say is that, in Opula, the time it would take to make things beautiful was not time spent by the beautiful. For there were millions of people in Opula, but only thousands were seen. The beautiful walked out on the streets and whispered politely in the public spaces and stood in the windows for all to see. The rest, however, were never seen, and it was they who paid the price of time for beauty.

When a beautiful man went home at the end of his day at work, he went to a place underground. There others washed him, fed him his vitamins and minerals for lovely skin and smooth hair, arrayed him in fine robes. The next day these countless others roused him from bed. They washed him, fed him, arrayed him. They fixed his hair and face to be as splendid as it had been the day before. And then they sent him off to go above ground, a representative of them all, their beautiful creation for all the world to see and praise. But they themselves remained to work all day in the darkness where no windows let the light expose their unfinished looks.

The Opula that the foreigner saw was a city of masked men and women, of men and women who are themselves living masks for the masses below. The city itself wore a mask, so to speak, made of thousands of masks.

This world is all symbol.

A Quote. Of Gender. Of Feelings. Of Self-Assertion.

Act I, Scene 2 of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959)the middle of a conversation. Beneatha, a twenty-year-old American, is speaking privately with Asagai, an intellectual from Nigeria who met her at the university:

Beneatha. Will you call me Monday?
Asagai. Yes . . . We have a great deal to talk about. I mean about identity and time and all that.
Beneatha. Time?
Asagai. Yes. About how much time one needs to know what one feels.
Beneatha. You see! You never understood that there is more than one kind of feeling which can exist between a man and a woman—or, at least, there should be.
Asagai (shaking his head negatively but gently). No. Between a man and a woman there need be only one kind of feeling. I have that for you . . . Now even . . . right this moment . . .
Beneatha. I know—and by itself—it won’t do. I can find that anywhere.
Asagai. For a woman it should be enough.
Beneatha. I know—because that’s what it says in all the novels that men write. But it isn’t. Go ahead and laugh—but I’m not interested in being someone’s little episode in America or—(with feminine vengeance)—one of them! (Asagai has burst into laughter again.) That’s funny . . . huh!
Asagai. It’s just that every American girl I have known has said that to me. White—black—in this you are all the same. And the same speech, too!
Beneatha (angrily). Yuk, yuk, yuk!
Asagai. It’s how you can be sure that the world’s most liberated women are not liberated at all. You all talk about it too much!

A Position. Of Metaphor. Of Experience.

Metaphor is transference—of the unconditioned present to the contents of memory, of world to self and self to world, of words among contexts, etc. It is the interpretive mode that makes experience possible.

Not a mere consequence of the ambiguities of word and world, metaphor is rather the primary habit of thinking that creates all words and reveals all worlds.

A Quote and Maxim. An Expansion. Of Sharing Experiences.

It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.

—F. Scott Fizgerald (Nick Carraway), The Great Gatsby

We are displeased whenever someone expresses a preference that differs from our own. More displeasing, even horrifying, is a friend’s hatred of something we too once hated but have grown to love after many trying experiences.

From My Journal. A Theory of Art and Thought.

Reviewing journals and notes from my undergraduate years, I found something relating to the contents of this blog and their presentation. I had forgotten about my “indwellings” project until recently. The following, with some alterations in style (not without irony), are the opening paragraphs of an old theory that might have served as an introduction to the book I never finished, and never will, though now instead the theory seems to complement this blog’s about page nicely:


Indwellings

Il arrive souvent que des choses se présentent plus achevées à notre esprit qu’il ne les pourrait faire avec beaucoup d’art. *

—François de La Rochefoucauld

This blog contains multifarious contents, none of which are indwellings as such while they are on the page. The contents were once indwellings, but indwellings cannot be written, cannot be read. What you see instead are the expressions of indwellings.

Now, expression is violence, which is called “art” when mixed with memory and smatterings of knowledge. Expression transforms indwellings as air changes the color of blood. Everything you read has been violently wrenched from the depths. I have taken the raw, unseen indwellings and thrust them out, changing their form, so that you may be enticed enough to take them as your own.

Each one of us does this violence to our indwellings. Some of us know that we do it, and others are ignorant of it. Of the knowers, some try to make the expressions beautiful, and others, who abhor the corruption inherent in cleverness, seek to preserve the raw qualities of the indwelling as much as possible, as if the truth of them might be saved by degrees. These two classes are extremes, of course; most of us find uniformity obnoxious, so we go back and forth between the smooth and the rough. But in all cases the indwellings have been more or less processed and contaminated in the activity of expression.

When you take one of these spoken or written expressions, some deep part of you renders them again into a raw indwelling that resembles the primitive. What indwelled me I make nice on the page. After you find it nice on the page, it may indwell you. If my art has been too strong, if my expression has done too much violence to the primitive, then what indwells you may not actually resemble the primitive. Art, after all, can deform.

. . .


* Translation: “It often happens that things introduce themselves to our mind more complete than we could ever make them with much art.”