Unreal Nature

March 17, 2017

There’s a Lot You Don’t Keep

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:33 am

… Malvina watched her cousin, Herbert Hazeltine, draw. He said, “There’s a lot you don’t keep.”

Last few bits from various different late writings, found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

… Combine with charmed words certain rhythms, and the mind is helplessly haunted. In his poem, “The Small,” Theodore Roethke says:

A wind moves through the grass,
Then all is as it was.

[ … ]

… In declining an invitation to the Jefferson birthday dinner of 1859, he [Abraham Lincoln] wrote, “The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society. One dashingly calls them ‘glittering generalities’; another bluntly calls them ‘self-evident lies.’ ” And in combating repeal of the Missouri Compromise (which would have ended slavery), he said, “Repeal the Missouri Compromise — repeal all compromises — repeal the Declaration of Independence — repeal all history — you cannot repeal human nature.”

[ … ]

… Among assets that one cannot ignore is the power of concentration. A preamble on television or snatch of phonograph music is not part of it [i.e. is not what Moore means. Rather:] Are you able to ignore a disparaging comment, insult, slander? Smother your desire for revenge? Make allowance for the defiant salesman who writes, goes on writing and will not look up? The traffic man hardened to explanation? The asset of assets was summed up by Confucius when asked, “Is there a single principle that you practice through life to the end?” He said, ” … What you don’t want, don’t inflict on others.”

[ … ]

… Robert Frost’s “commitment to oppositions” is made emphatic, his “temperamental bias seen in his love of irony and ‘doubleness’ ” producing metaphors which in having two meanings at once, are puns. ” ‘The philosopher values himself on the inconsistencies he can contain by main force,’ ” he said. ” ‘They are two ends of a strut that keeps his mind from collapsing’ .”

… Of the swiftness of the current, Mr. Frost says in “The Master Speed”:

And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still —

a “poem of faith … in mind and character,” Mr. Brower calls it, “of firmness in the face of terror.”

[ … ]

… James G. Crowell, headmaster of the Brearley School, said of seaweed and grasses he collected, “Many look at them. You must look into and through them and make them part of yourself.” Malvina watched her cousin, Herbert Hazeltine, draw. He said, “There’s a lot you don’t keep.”

[ … ]

… Even a touch of affectation would have spoiled it — what he [Randall Jarrell] says in “The Lost World” of himself as a child, reading at bedtime, “Forced out of life into / Bed.” Safe in his naturalness, he says, “I’m not afraid,” and goes on [reading] in his glow of gratitude to existence:

There off Sunset, in the lamplit starlight
A scientist is getting ready to destroy
The world. “It’s time for you to say good night,”
Mama tells me; I go on in breathless joy.
“Remember, tomorrow is a school day,”
Mama tells me; I go on in breathless joy.

………… Then I go back
To my bedroom; I read as I undress.
The scientist is ready to attack.
Mama calls out, “Is your light out?” I call back, “Yes,”
And turn the light out.

[ … ]

… Tomorrow? The Italians have a saying: “It’s a queer bee that makes honey only for itself.” To what life and fashion principle may one adhere? Confucius, translated by Ezra Pound, said, “Sympathy.”

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

-Julie

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