Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yet must I think less wildly

Yesterday I was re-reading Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and there were a couple stanzas that well-described the state of the melancholy poet-prophet who Byron believed himself to be. (Okay, okay... so I really meant “who I always believed myself to be,” but I can’t always be self-revealing on this listening-blog. Every poet thinks himself a prophet, and most of them are melancholy ones.)
Yet must I think less wildly: I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy boiling and o’erwrought,
A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame:
And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame,
My springs of life were poisoned. ’Tis too late!
Yet am I changed; though still enough the same
In strength to bear what time cannot abate,
And feed on bitter fruits without accusing fate…

But soon he knew himself the most unfit
Of men to herd with Man; with whom he held
Little in common; untaught to submit
His thoughts to others, though his soul was quelled,
In youth by his own thoughts; still uncompelled,
He would not yield dominion of his mind
To spirits against whom his own rebelled;
Proud though in desolation; which could find
A life within itself, to breathe without mankind.

(III: vii., xii.)
Without expounding on why those passages struck me—the poet whose thoughts can become poisonous torture, the visionary whose stubbornness isolates him—which would by necessity be either hypocritical or self-incriminating, I thought I’d contrast them against what I read this morning from the daily lectionary.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 131
The contrast for me this morning after spending yesterday submerged in Byron was striking.

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