in the court of Pluto and Proserpina
Évrart de Conty, Les Échecs amoureux, France 1496-1498.
BnF, Français 143, fol. 136v
These sweet temples which I have seen everywhere in Greece, her islands and colonies, with their thin, fluted columns browned by age and sunlight, with their trees, knot-kneed or mossy or slender still in their fortieth year, gather all their circumjacence, their rocks, nettles, narrow windows, god images, turning shadows, birds’ nests, wasp hives, urns, priests, and acolytes, into a venerable family, for how can a tree’s shadow flowered, full-leaved, or laden with snow, move on a temple’s wall from the old age of Herakles to the graying of Hadrian’s beard, without becoming its sister or brother as those kinships stand among wood and stone? It was Herakleitos who said that some things are too slow to see, such as the growth of grass, and some too fast, like the arrow’s flight. All things, I have often thought, are dancing to their own music. A Lydian song is soon over, but the music to which the zodiac is turning requires twelve times three thousand years to close its harmony, if we may follow the calculations of Pythagoras, and the rhythms of time for a child are so much slower than for a man that we have lived for centuries before our beards arrive. It is the young who are so very old. Yet there is a mortality even in children which we cannot discern in old temples, which, in surviving generation after generation, have taken on that grace by which their sacredness shall probably survive Greece and Rome. Earthquake and impiety cannot destroy them all.
-from “The Antiquities of Elis,” by Guy Davenport
“‘Within my being I’m decaying, I know now the cause of my dying, on the banks of the Tagus’ flow, where life is light and slow’—Slauerhoff. I remember one day in class talking about the sinister role of the prepositionaanin that line. We don’t dieofthings butonthings, so only in Dutch can you die on caner and on the Tagus, but no one laughed…”
—from The Following Story by Cees Noteboom
W. H. Auden taught at the University of Michigan during the 1941-42 academic year. Here’s a syllabus from one of his classes. Hey teachers: next time one of your students complains that your schedule is too demanding, show him or her this.
That’s right. Auden required students to read both The Brothers Karamazov and Moby Dick in the same semester. Among many other things.
I too play with symbols and have planned a little work, Geometric Cabala, which is about the Ideas of natural things in geometry; but I play in such a way that I do not forget that I am playing. For nothing is proved by symbols; things already known are merely fitted [to them]; unless by sure reasons it can be demonstrated that they are not merely symbolic but are descriptions of the ways in which the two things are connected and of the causes of these connections.
-Kepler, via Waggish
I feel this makes a nice summary of Robert Duncan’s own way of working with the mystical and occult, but I also fear that feeling is a hope, not a truth, and that somewhere in The H.D. Book he will go unequivocably off the deep end.