Unreal Nature

January 27, 2017

The Prime Initiation

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:26 am

… It is in “the waste of time, of passion, of curiosity, of contact — that true initiation resides” …

This is from ‘The Hawk and the Butterfly’ (1934) found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

… Blue belongs to the church; also to the poet, and it is not a surprise to find in the work of an author who lives in Ireland “the stars and the deep blue they swim in,” the blue hem embroidered with roses, “tombs of lapis lazuli,” the blue-eyed hawk, unicorns with aquamarine eyes, and a “low blue hill flooded with evening light.” Mr. Yeats speaks of having a ring on which are a hawk and a butterfly — “the straight line of logic” and “the zigzag of imagination”; and often becomes the symbol — that is to say, is “the sign of a moral thing” — and is his mask, which he defines as “that which is one and toward which one moves.”

… “All things are from antithesis” the poem says — “out of hell or down from heaven. We cannot have unmixed emotions. There is always something in our enemy that we like, and in our sweetheart that we dislike. It is the entanglement of moods which makes us old” — “yes and no”; “maybe and perhaps.” As opposed to “those intuitions of coming power which every creator feels,” “the dark powers cling about us day and night, like bats upon an old tree.” From Leda’s egg hatched Love and War and Mr. Yeats wonders to what extent the hatred of Synge and James Joyce for Ireland, is love.

This next is from ‘Henry James as a Characteristic American’ (1934):

… Education for him, in a large sense, was conversation. Speaking of Cambridge, he said, “When the Norton woods, nearby massed themselves in scarlet and orange, and when to penetrate and mount a stair and knock at a door, and, enjoying response, then sink into a window-bench and inhale at once the vague golden November and the thick suggestion of the room where nascent ‘thought’ had again and again piped or wailed, was to taste as I had never done before, the poetry of the prime initiation and of associated growth.”

… A child is not a student of “history and custom, … manners and types”; but to say that Henry James as a child was “a-throb” with the instinct for meanings barely suggests the formidable paraphernalia which he was even then gathering. It is in “the waste of time, of passion, of curiosity, of contact — that true initiation resides,” he said later; and no scene, strange accent, no adventure — experienced or vicarious — was irrelevant.

[line break added] When older, he alluded to “the maidenly letters” of Emerson; but in New York, Emerson had been strange and wonderful to the child he had invited “to draw near to him, off the hearth-rug.” He was “an apparition sinuously and elegantly slim, … commanding a tone alien to any we had heard round about”; and the schoolmate Louis De Coppet, in “his French treatment of certain of our native local names, Ohio and Iowa for instance, which he rendered … O-hee-oh and Ee-o-wah, … opened vistas.”

[line break added] He said, “There hung about the Wards, to my sense, that atmosphere of apples and nuts … and jacknives and ‘squrruls,’ of domestic Bible-reading and attendance at ‘evening lecture,’ of the fear of parental discipline and the cultivated art of dodging it, combined with great personal toughness and hardihood”; and there was ” ‘Stiffy’ Norcom … whom we supposed gorgeous. … (Divided I was, I recall, between the dread and the glory of being so greeted, ‘Well, Stiffy — !’ as a penalty for the least attempt at personal adornment.)”

My most recent previous post from Moore’s book is here.

-Julie

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