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Old 05-25-2008   #81
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

"Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart." -- Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-25-2008   #82
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

A dialog between Matthew and Bleak&Icy:

Bleak&Icy: You claim that you are a pessimist?
Matthew: I do.
Bleak&Icy: Nonsense, you are a romantic who mistakes his own personal dissatisfaction for existential misery.
Matthew: Untrue!
Bleak&Icy: [snorts in derision] You are a romantic who magnifies his tiny unfulfilled desires to the gigantic scale of cosmic hopelessness.
Matthew: Leave me alone.
Bleak&Icy: Allow me to summarize, you little fool. You are not a pessimist, you are merely an unsuccessful romantic.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-25-2008   #83
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

"The failed magician waves his wand, and in an instant the laughter is gone." - Martin Gore
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Old 05-25-2008   #84
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Steve Dekorte View Post
- William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
It is a grave misreading to claim that Blake's poem is even remotely pessimistic; one must consider the above passage in the context of the whole poem (citing poetic stanzas out of context is tantamount to a surgeon holding aloft the diseased bowels of a corpse and claiming, Behold, this is the human being in all his totality).

Blake "sees" the Godhead in all things, both good and bad. This point is made forcibly in the lines immediately following the cited passage, lines which you did not quote:

We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro' the eye,
Which was born in a night, to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is Light,
To those poor souls who dwell in Night;
But does a Human Form display
To those who dwell in realms of Day.

"To those poor souls who dwell in Night" -- implicit in this line is the acknowledgement that an alternative exists, an alternative to the misery of blindness... If only you had the ability to "see" (Ah! sunflower!), you would "dwell in realms of Day", and thus you would experience "Heaven is a wild flower."

Not pessimism, not at all.

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-25-2008   #85
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy View Post
It is a grave misreading to claim that Blake's poem is even remotely pessimistic; one must consider the above passage in the context of the whole poem (citing poetic stanzas out of context is tantamount to a surgeon holding aloft the diseased bowels of a corpse and claiming, Behold, this is the human being in all his totality).
I'm familiar with the poem but the point here (as I understand it) is to express a certain shade of emotion, which (for me) this passage does as beautifully as any I've seen in this thread. Were the subject "Re: Pessimistic Poem/Book of the Day...", then some vigorous pedantic masturbation might have been justified.

"The failed magician waves his wand, and in an instant the laughter is gone." - Martin Gore
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Old 05-25-2008   #86
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

The point being: this is a poem of ecstasy, and to take the little passage out of context misrepresents the poem as a whole. Blake may have despised the dehumanizing impact of modern industrialization, he may have scorned the mass mentality of a money-driven civilization devoted to the spurious notion of progress, but he nevertheless believed that the universe has meaning, if only one has the eyes to see.

Please don't think I'm ranting and raving at you, friend. I simply point out that the integrity of a "whole" poem must not be overlooked by focusing on one little passage of apparent negativity...

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-25-2008   #87
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Quote Originally Posted by Steve Dekorte View Post
But the point here (as I understand it) is to express a certain emotion, which I think this passage does as beautifully as any I've seen in this thread.

I could only agree if Blake had written:

"ALL are born to endless night."

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 05-25-2008   #88
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

Oh, why was I born with a different face?
Why was I not born like the rest of my race?
When I look, each one starts.
When I speak, I offend.
Then I'm silent and passive and lose every friend.

- William Blake

"The failed magician waves his wand, and in an instant the laughter is gone." - Martin Gore
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Old 05-26-2008   #89
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

It sometimes happens -- and it always happens to me in a single rush -- that in the midst of my sensations there arises within me a tiredness of life so terrible I can't even formulate a hypothesis for some action that might dominate it. As a remedy to this situation, suicide seems uncertain; death, even supposing it entailed a loss of awareness, is still not absolute. This fatigue does not inspire ceasing to exist -- which may or may not be possible -- but something much more horrible and profound, the ceasing to exist of something that in no way can exist.

In the generally confused speculations of the Indians, I think I occasionally glimpse something of this ambition, which is more negative than nothingness. But either those speculations lack the sharpness of sensation to be able to tell what they think or they lack the acuity of thought to feel what they feel in that way. The fact is that I think I'm the first to put into words the sinister absurdity of this sensation for which there is no cure.

--Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (trans. Alfred Mac Adam)
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Old 05-26-2008   #90
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Re: Pessimistic Passage of the Day...

A passage from Edgar Saltus's The Philosophy of Disenchatment (1885), a flawed but stylish work:
The immense nausea that is spreading through all lands and literature is at work on the simple faith, the contended lives, and joyous goodfellowship of earlier days, and in its results it brings with it the signs and portents of a forthcoming though undetermined upheaval. Jean Paul said that we care for life, not because it is beautiful, but because we should care for it; whence follows the oft repeated yet hollow reasoning,—since we love life it must be beautiful; and it is from a series of deductions not dissimilar that the majority of those who are as yet unaffected by that which after all may be but a passing change still cling resolutely to the possibility of earthly happiness.

[...]

The question, then, as to whether life is valuable, valueless, or an affliction can, with regard to the individual, be answered only after a consideration of the different circumstances attendant on each particular case; but, broadly speaking, life may be said to be always valuable to the obtuse, often valueless to the sensitive; while to him who commiserates with all mankind, and sympathesizes with everything that is, life never appears otherwise than as an immense and terrible affliction.
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