and storms

Forms & Shapes - Chart iv

[Peter Skwiot Smith - Chart]


I've been finding Lucy Snowe and Villette in unexpected places.

The long Poe post below was due entirely to the affinities it has to Lucy's descriptions of her own swoon:

If the storm had lulled a little at sunset, it made up now for lost time. Strong and horizontal thundered the current of the wind from the north-west to the south-east; it brought rain like spray, and sometimes, a sharp hail like a shot; it was cold and pierced me to the vitals. I bent my head to meet it, but it beat me back. My heart did not fail in this conflict; I only wished that I had wings and could ascend the gale, spread and repose my pinions on its strength, career in its course, sweep where it swept. While wishing this, I suddenly felt colder where before I was cold, and more powerless where before I was weak. I tried to reach the porch of a great building near, but the mass of frontage and the great-spire turned black and vanished from my eyes. Instead of sinking on the steps as I intended, I seemed to pitch headlong down an abyss. I remember no more.

Where my soul went during that swoon I cannot tell. Whatever she saw, or wherever she travelled in her trance on that strange night, she kept her own secret; never whispering a word to Memory, and baffling Imagination by an indissoluble silence. She may have gone upward, and come in sight of her eternal home, hoping for leave to rest now, and deeming that her painful union with matter was at last dissolved. While she so deemed, an angel may have warned her away from heaven's threshold, and, guiding her weeping down, have bound her, once more, all shuddering and unwilling, to that poor frame, cold and wasted, of whose companionship she was grown more than weary.

I found another startling passage which recalled Villette to me -- a description of Valéry's renunciation of writing in Axel's Castle.

This moral and intellectual crisis was precipitated, Valéry Larbaud tells us, by an unhappy love affair. Through sleepless nights Valéry struggled with his emotions: 'the will was driven back on itself, schooled itself to leap clear, to break idols, to free itself, at no matter what cost, from those falsehoods: literature and sentiment. The supreme crisis, the costly victory took place during a stormy night -- one of those storms of the Ligurian coast which are not accompanied by very much rain, but during which the lightning was so frequent and so bright that none of the things which had hitherto made up the life of the young man mattered any longer. He left Montpellier and went to live in Paris, where he would be able, when he chose, to shut himself away in solitude, in order to give himself up to that 'penetration of himself' which has now become his only concern.


That final line -- his intention -- Valéry describes it himself:

Reading and writing were becoming dull work for me, and I confess still bore me a little. The study of my self for its own sake, the comprehension of that attention itself and the desire to trace clearly for myself the nature of my own existence, almost never abandoned me. this secret disease alienates one from letters, despite the fact that it has its source in them ... I felt, at the time, a sort of contrast between the practice of literature and the pursuit of a ertain rigor and of a complete intellectual sincerity.

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Off-topic, I've seen a lot of references to articles on the effect of the internet and blogging on the way we read. I also often see authors of blogs and other online resources apologizing for the length of quotes -- I've done this myself -- I won't anymore. Art, literature and life cannot always be condensed into aphorisms.