Saturday, July 30, 2005 +

Créteil and French Poetry

From Jacques Barzun, “Some Notes on Créteil and French Poetry,” New Directions, v9, 1946.

If it is conceded that the changing sensibility of the poet does perpetually reshape the form and technique of poetry, and even the conception of what poetry is for, then the radical “proposition” embodied by [H. M.] Barzun in L’Orphéide appears both thoroughgoing and, by now, intelligible. We have got used to many things done upon the body of language since 1914; but at that time the principle of simultaneity in poetry necessarily seemed cataclysmic. For it brought into question again the basis of all poetic techniques since Lessing’s Laokoon. The western world had agreed that poetry was to be read the way it was written—one word after another. All discussions of “technique” dealt with “lines.” “This is a good line; that is a bad line.” A poet is known by his lines, in much the same way that a volume of poems is known by the irregular aspect of the right-hand margin. It is even believed by the innocent that Homer was a writer and that the Greek dramas originally sounded very much like the girls’ school commencements which they now adorn.

But if the scribe tradition is rejected and instead of lines and books the poet should begin with sounds and sensations, he would logically arrive at the view that his page was simply a convenient portion of space in which to organize the symbols for what he hears. Space relations would indicate time relations as well—would create a larger syntax for his use—and he might them give himself and others the feeling that he was composing a world in motion instead of merely “extending remarks” like a Congressman.

See From the Barzun File.

Friday, July 29, 2005 +

Circles of Chant

This is not a painting.

Cross for Cecil Gray and Friends

See also An Art Poor in Spirit.

An Art Poor in Spirit

[Gregorian chant] possesses a purely aesthetic appeal as great as that of any other form of art that has ever existed—an appeal which, however, triumphantly defies all attempts at analysis or definition. Wherein lies the secret of its irresistible glamour and fascination, of its immemorial power to move us? It seems, on the face of it, to be entirely devoid of every attribute of musical beauty which is commonly deemed essential. It has no determinate rhythm, no harmony or accompaniment of any kind, and its melodic scope is severely limited and circumscribed. Nevertheless, when heard in the appropriate surroundings and under fitting conditions, these simple unisonal changes take on a remote, magical, and disembodied quality—a grave ecstasy, radiant yet austere, impassioned yet serene—and glow as with a secret inward fire. The voices themselves seem to undergo a curious transmutation and become impersonal, sexless, super-human almost, giving expression to the inarticulate yearnings and aspirations, not only of the living, but also of the countless generations of the dead and the unborn. If we accept the definition of a miracle as a phenomenon contrary to or deviating from the laws of nature, then we may justly call Gregorian chant a musical miracle, for its beauty and appeal are not to be accounted for by any known laws or principles governing musical art, but exist in spite of them, in defiance of them.
—Cecil Gray, The History of Music

See also Cross for Cecil Gray and Friends.

02005 07 29 +

If I speak to no man, let me speak to myself, and to you.

But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.
—1 Corinthians 14:28


Jesus Prayers 3

Jesus Prayers 1 2 3


Even if God wrote every word of the Bible it would not be revelation, since revelation only exists in being revealed.

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth [Isaiah 53:7-8]. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
—Acts 8:26-35


Jesus Prayers 2

Jesus Prayers 1 2 3