Unreal Nature

January 13, 2018

In the Impure Current of the Things of the Mind

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:39 am

… It changes into all things, without being itself changed.

This is from “a fragment of” the essay ‘Memories of a Poem’ found in Selected Writings of Paul Valéry (1950; 1964):

… And so here I was once more playing with syllables and images, with similarities and contrasts. Once more, my mind was filled with the forms and the words suitable for poetry and I would forget myself, waiting for it to give me those remarkable groupings of terms that offer us all at once such a happy combination, appearing spontaneously in the impure current of the things of the mind. Just as a definite combination is precipitated in a mixture, so some interesting form is detached from the disorder, or instability, or ordinary state, of our interior morass.

It is a pure sound that resounds in the midst of noise. It is a perfectly executed fragment of an edifice. It is the suspicion of a diamond in a mass of ‘blue ground’; a moment infinitely more precious than all the others and than the circumstances that gave it birth! It provokes an incomparable contentment and an instantaneous temptation; it arouses our hope of finding in its vicinity a whole treasure-trove of which it is the sign and the proof; and this hope often starts a man on a boundless labor.

This next is from “four fragments” from ‘Eupalinos, or the Architect’:

… Let us now consider this great act of constructing. Note, Phaedrus, that when the Demiurge set about making the world he grappled with the confusion of Chaos. All formlessness spread before him. Nor could he find a single handful of matter in all this waste, that was not infinitely impure and composed of an infinity of substances.

He valiantly came to grips with this frightful mixture of dry and wet, of hard and soft, of light and gloom, that made up this chaos, whose disorder penetrated into his smallest parts. He disentangled that faintly luminous mud, of which not a single particle was pure, and wherein all energies were diluted, so that the past and the future, accident and substance, the lasting and the fleeting, propinquity and remoteness, motion and rest, the light and the heavy, were as completely mingled as wine and water when poured into one cup.

[line break added] Our men of science are always trying to bring their minds close to this state. … But the great Shaper acted in contrary wise. He was the enemy of similitudes and of those hidden identities that we delight to come upon. He organized inequality.

… But the Constructor whom I am now bringing to the fore first finds before him, as his chaos and as primitive matter, precisely that world-order which the Demiurge wrung from the disorder of the beginning. Nature is formed, and the elements are separated; but something enjoins him to consider this work as unfinished, and as requiring to be rehandled and set in motion again for the most special satisfaction of man.

[line break added] He takes as the starting point of his act the very point where the god had left off — In the beginning, he says to himself, there was what is: the mountains and forests; the deposits and veins; red clay, yellow sand and the white stone which will give us lime. There were also the muscular arms of men, and the massive strength of buffaloes and oxen. But there were in addition the coffers and store-rooms of intelligent tyrants and citizens grown over-rich by trade. And lastly there were priests who wished to house their god; and kings so puissant that they had nothing more to desire but a matchless tomb …

… This so-weighty metal [gold], when it becomes the associate of a fancy, assumes the most active virtues of the mind. It has her restless nature. Its essence is to vanish. It changes into all things, without being itself changed. It raises blocks of stone, pierces mountains, diverts rivers, opens the gate of fortresses and the most secret hearts; it enchains men; it dresses, it undresses women with almost miraculous promptitude. It is truly the most abstract agent that exists next to thought. But indeed thought exchanges and envelopes images only, whereas gold incites and promotes the transmutations of all real things into one another; itself remaining incorruptible and passing untainted through all hands.

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




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: