16 May 2016

Reluctantly I admit this post is quote-heavy

I used to like speed, but now I prefer depth. Everything seems fast nowadays: that’s cheap—I want rarity. Tho it’s probably unfair, the online world has taught me to equate speed with shallowness. Are profound things always slow? Not necessarily, I guess; for light is relatively swift-footed. Perhaps there are beings who perceive photons as heavy, sluggish particles like sand granules. Perhaps, to such beings, humans appear as statues. (Is it a sin that these ultra-dimensional existents worship us?) I think of houseflies as fast. I think of behemoth as slow.

Behold now behemoth… he eateth grass as an ox… He moveth his tail like a cedar… His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.

Those are some of the words that the LORD speaks from “out of the whirlwind,” in the Book of Job (40:15-24). I like behemoth because he seems at once enormously strong but naturally gentle:

Surely the mountains bring him forth food, where all the beasts of the field play. He lieth under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about. Behold, he drinketh up a river, and hasteth not…

I didn’t want to make this a quote-heavy post, but, after mentioning my bias for everything big and slow, those passages came to mind. And now, thinking about behemoth “lying under the shady trees, in the covert of the reed” reminds me of a verse near the beginning of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

So my favorite beast and my favorite poet have at least one temperament in common. And now I remember quoting, in an earlier post, another line from “Song of Myself” where Whitman says, about the earthly matter that eventually will come to take part in forming his body:

Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it with care.

So I guess this diary entry is committed to making itself quote-heavy, despite my intention. Now, since both that earlier entry as well as yesterday’s contain thoughts about atomic particles, I might as well copy a couple more relevant lines from Whitman’s song—they occur in the very first section:

My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air…


For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Knowing that my other favorite poet William Blake wrote fiery passages against the idea of the atom (at least the Newtonian idea), correcting it with better ideas of his own, I thought to add them here; but then, when I was paging thru his writings, something else caught my eye and made me want to change the subject. It’s from an 1810 writing on “A Vision of the Last Judgment” (since the original contains not even a single comma, I tried to serve the sense of the outburst by punctuating it—I hope I did so unobtrusively); the excerpt is about how wealth affects artistic creation:

Nations Flourish under Wise Rulers & are depressd under foolish Rulers; it is the same with Individuals as Nations: works of Art can only be produced in Perfection where the Man is either in Affluence or is Above the Care of it. Poverty is the Fools Rod which at last is turnd on his own back… Some People & not a few Artists have asserted that the Painter of this Picture [Blake is referring to himself] would not have done so well if he had been properly Encouraged [that is: patronized]; Let those who think so reflect on the State of Nations under Poverty & their incapability of Art: tho Art is Above Either, the Argument is better for Affluence than Poverty, & tho he would not have been a greater Artist yet he would have produced Greater works of Art in proportion to his means.

Only because it intrigues me to compare such different styles, (and, having recently read it, it was on my mind), I’ll copy this part from Juvenal’s Satire VII:

…Go on then, burst your lungs, talk till you drop,
Collect a green palm-wreath on your garret staircase—
But what’s the pay-off? One dried-up hock-end of ham
And a jar of pickled fish, or some mouldy onions—
African ration standard—or five quart bottles
Of the cheapest local wine.

(That’s Peter Green’s translation, by the way.) Now I’m out of time, so I’ll give John Milton the last word on this subject (the following lines are from “Lycidas”):

Alas! what boots it with uncessant care
To tend the homely slighted shepherd’s trade,
And strictly meditate the thankless Muse?
Were it not better done as others use,
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
Or with the tangles of Neaera’s hair?
Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise
(That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears,
And slits the thin-spun life.

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