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this need to kneel

December 5, 2008

Levertov, Denise, 1923-1997:
from The Stream and the Sapphire (1997) , New Directions

Of Being

   I know this happiness 
   is provisional: 

   the looming presences— 
   great suffering, great fear— 

   withdraw only 
   into peripheral vision: 

   but ineluctable this shimmering 
   of wind in the blue leaves: 

   this flood of stillness 
   widening the lake of sky: 

   this need to dance, 
   this need to kneel: 
   this mystery:

 

“ineluctable this shimmering”, it reminds me of Dickinson and “the old — old sophistries of June –” and what does it mean to be the one, not to paint a picture, instead “its bright impossibility / to dwell — delicious — on –”

not deceived, but still seduced . . .

what else is it to be alive?

 

These are the days when Birds come back —
A very few — a Bird or two —
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old — old sophistries of June —
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee —
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear —
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze —
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake —
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

The days of Indian summer are those warm, summer-like days after the first frost but before the coming of winter. Indian summer presages fall, and it is therefore a truer image of the human condition than June, when the verdancy of nature gives us the illusion that its beautiful objects are immortal. June is the image of the Eden from which we have fallen; the first frost is like man’s fall from that para­dise; and Indian summer is therefore the moment when we first realize this fall, even though we still see around us the beautiful, though stricken, objects of natural beauty.

–Journal article by T. S. Eliot, Robert L. Berner; The Explicator, Vol. 30, 1972

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