Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Seedtime: Notebooks 1954-1979

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

Seedtime: Notebooks 1954-1979

Article excerpt

Semaison: The natural dispersion of a plant's seeds.

- Littré

1958

January

Columns of snow are blown across fields, roads, and hills,

truncated or twisted by the wind,

frail, fearful stars,

restless constellations of crystal

that a puff of wind could transform into tears.

Thrown to ground, these routed armies

are now but a trickle.

Throughout the night, the wind growled like flames in an oven.

At dawn, the snow was still in flight under low clouds, and a sun,

only slightly higher, was visible through its sheets.

1959

October This evening, golden light in the frigid air. How quickly it leaves the trees and rises toward clouds carried away by the wind. In the garden, dead acacia leaves, pale yellow, the first to fall; every day they cover the ground. The leaves of the Japanese persimmon change with more flair, more gradually, with more nuance as their fruit ripens. Though still green, the peach tree grows lighter. The vine is almost bare, old, sick. Colors of autumn daisies or litüe chrysanthemums, so well attuned to die season. A bush, pink from top to bottom.

And now gold turns to pink and the green of the fields and trees deepens, turning from yellow-green to blue-green. Arrows of wind. The road is the color of water, of slate. Some clouds are already like smoke. Intimacy of light in the room, on the white page that has in turn taken on a pink tinge. An envelope of shad-ows on the books, the objects. Nothing but the sound of wind and words.

Soon night will make it impossible to write without a lamp. Day remains only in the sky's highest realm. We turn our backs to the sun.

Purple clouds, violet. The paper is almost blue. A dying fire. I can barely see the words.

The other side of the sky is still golden, while blue takes over the East. Silver-gold. Day-night.

Raise the ornament above the night once more, over the abyss. A dreamed-of ornament: at once learned and musical, firm and muted, vast and hidden. Models: Hölderlin, Leopardi, some poems by Baudelaire.

An effortless movement in the infinite. Birds. Other examples, the most beautiful, perhaps, in Dante: Dolce color d'orientai zaffiro . . . (gentle hue of oriental sapphire . . .). But no more Thomism today, no sacred numbers, etc. Solitude, withdrawal, threats, the sapphire is all the sweeter.

Reservations (absurd, of course!): with regard to Leopardi 's allegories and thought, tension in Hölderlin, Baudelaire's posing.

Perhaps it is time to try something else, in which lightness and gravity, reality and mystery, detail and space enter into a harmony that is not quiescent but alive. Grass, air. Infinitely fragile and beautiful glimpses - as of a flower, a jewel, gold work - placed in the extraordinary immensity. Stars and night. A vast and fluid discourse, airy, in which jewels of language are discreetly placed. Just as something reappears now and again in the mist. Or else the way you suddenly remember the depths of space and time while busy with some menial task.

November It is not certain that modern times, for all their negative aspects - an enormous mass that blocks the sky - do not also have a happy message for us: that we are children of urne and that everything is given to us through time, that opposites cannot be dissolved and that we are neither able nor allowed to rise above contradictions; that we must simply prevent one term from dominating the other.

Our condition is very strange because it does not allow for substantial progress, because we have never gotten close to a definitive answer. We know we will not arrive at an answer and yet we keep asking because the urge to question is an essential part of our nature. What is strange is that no experience, whether religious or philosophical, can be had for others. It must be experienced afresh, relived each time in order to be valid. We must always start again.

Hence the irritating feeling of treading water: seinesgleichen geschieht (experience repeats itself) , says Musil. …

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