Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My wrists are covered with rosebush scratches. Roses are such mean bushes, and I don't really know anything about pruning them except to cut the canes far-enough back so that they don't rip out my hair while I'm digging in the garden, which I will be doing for the next several weeks. Once I borrowed a tiller, but it was loud and lurching and smelled bad; so I decided I'd rather hand-dig everything. I find it soothing to dig, actually--to wander out into the garden at dusk and turn over a few neat black rows. The robins sing. The evening sky recedes into that beautiful deep blue, like the ink on a Blake print. 

I'm reading here and there in Thomas Carlyle's Essay on Burns; and this is what Carlyle says about poets:

A true Poet, a man in whose heart resides some effluence of Wisdom, some tone of the "Eternal Melodies," is the most precious gift that can be bestowed on a generation: we see in him a freer, purer development of whatever is noblest in ourselves; his life is a rich lesson to us; and we mourn his death as that of a benefactor who loved and taught us.

On the one hand, this statement could read as ridiculous hyperbole, given Carlyle's reputation as a cynical, sour-faced crank. On the other hand, I think it's immensely touching to watch a cynical, sour-faced crank suddenly drop that pose so entirely. Whatever the truth or merits of his claims about poets, I believe the writer's vulnerable, innocent trust in the ideal of the poet, even if that innocence is only temporary, does matter enormously. I'm not sure why I think this, but I suspect such trust is rather like real, deep religious belief, which I don't have but which I respect. We risk a great deal to believe in anything so profoundly, be it God or words.

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