Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Mr. Holgrave, Daguerreotypist

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Mr. Holgrave, Daguerreotypist

Article excerpt

Do I misuse Heaven's blessed sunshine by

Tracing out men's features through its agency?

Light is the language of the Lord. With light

He limns heart-shadows. He defines the brow,

Aureoles the nostrils, tames the chin,

Allots to eyes their mica-chips of wit

Or mischief, consecrates the cuffs

From which the shady veins and sinews

Of the hands, dignified by darkness,

Issue forth. Do I blaspheme

In capturing these images?

At moments the uncleanness of my trade

Gives pause. Conferring permanence

On slivered seconds-is that not

Idolatry? Time is another name

God garbs His immobility within.

Is it not monstrous to arrest

The whirlpool of the clock?

He sentenced us to transience,

But I, like Lucifer, who bore the light,

Excise an instant from its sequences

And cast it into stone with chemicals.

I have stolen something from the cataclysm

Of the hourglass, have filched a sand-grain

From the poisonous procession of the dial,

Have pinched the smallest particle

Out of the torrent. Time and Fate

Have been my deities and not the Lord

Of Time. Inescapably the crystalline

Machinery of the minute baffled me.

Around me stand the portraits of the dead

Who live still in their images. They breathe

And blink and stare, they smile or frown.

The men's beards are softened but so

Clarified by the magnesium that each hair

Shines, distinct and indelible. …

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