Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


The Eschatological Constant

A haiku to get into form:


Kafka met Einstein,
talked the problem of our laws;
no transcript survives.

NB: untitled ≠ headless: That Ashbery's Waves may be equivalently viewed as Kafka's particules is enlightening (but then, cf "On Parables") ... "Zur Frage der Gesetze" (sorry, no Englishing online, though searching turned up J-Hillis wishing Jacques de France a Kafkaesque birthday) first appeared in Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer i.e. The Great Wall of China.

Which leads me to Empson's poetry (well, first was I led here, but Gotham recently put Collected Poems, ending in The Birth of Steel, into my hands unasked). Kermode's appraisal seems right qualitatively, but omits the quantification Empson often aimed for, making Nature poetry conform to its physical Laws, and processes, and imposed forms, sometimes with astronomical if not cosmological scope. Perhaps owing to limitations of language, the (often cyclic) terza rima doesn't come off nearly as well (Courage Means Running notwithstanding) as the more tightly constrained villanelles (Villanelle and Missing Dates [Kermode's complaint omits Empson's exculpatory note: "It is true about the old dog, at least I saw it reported somewhere, but the legend that a fifth or some such part of the soil of China is given up to ancestral tombs is (by the way) not true."]), where the form forces line repetition to appear natural in altered contexts. But I wouldn't concede that Auden's Miranda exceeds these efforts; maybe Empson was making up for this smack, or saying that embedding this in "The Sea and the Mirror" (in the context of The Tempest) was impressive in its own right.

(More bibliomancy: This machinery in turn sent me to open Conrad's "The Mirror of the Sea" at random:
For machinery it is, doing its work in perfect silence and with a motionless grace, that seems to hide a capricious and not always governable power, taking nothing away from the material stores of the earth. Not for it the unerring precision of steel moved by white steam and living by red fire and fed with black coal. The other seems to draw its strength from the very soul of the world, its formidable ally, held to obedience by the frailest bonds, like a fierce ghost captured in a snare of something even finer than spun silk. For what is the array of the strongest ropes, the tallest spars and the stoutest canvas against the mighty breath of the infinite, but thistle stalks, cobwebs and gossamer? Continuation to push the envelope ...)

The incantatory technique of line repetition is relaxed for another one of his best, Aubade (and Success, to a lesser extent). But the culmination of what can be accomplished under this constraint remains Frost's Stopping by Woods ..., wherein the immediate repetition establishes the context in the end; elaborated by these crit bits, of which Rotella's quantum mechanics overextend Natural Laws, but Montiero's observation that the late "Draft Horse" is Frost's own reworking of Stopping with The Path Not Taken overshadows my mere parodic mashup of meter of the former with scheme and theme of the latter. Which makes all the differance.

Addendum, perhaps related items: via 3QD: Barash on CPSnow's Arts & Sciences, and Dirda on Stach's new Kafka bio; meanwhile, continuing on EEuroLit, I've started reading Gombrowicz's Cosmos (in prior translation), though this may not be statistically significant ...

... to which I'll add further, the CPSnow di-culture-lead-in from prior addendum was thematic to Axess not so long ago, with pointers towards EELit in assessment of the state of European culture. (Which also has something to do with their Enlightenment issue; got to via B&W.)


Anonymous Whit said...

Not the same Pdale.

26/1/06 16:36  

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