Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Louis MacNeice and Henri Bergson

This is a republication of an earlier post with an addition and proper tags:

Louis MacNeice


The shutter of time darkening ceaselessly
Has whisked away the foam of may and elder
And I realise how now, as every year before,
Once again the gay months have eluded me.

For the mind by nature stagey, welds its frame
Tomb-like around each little world of a day;
We jump from picture to picture and cannot follow
The living curve that is breathlessly the same.

While the lawn-mower sings moving up and down
Spirting its little fountain of vivid green,
I, like Poussin, make a still-bound fete of us
Suspending every noise, of insect or machine.

Garlands at a set angle that do not slip,
Theatrically (and as if for ever) grace
You and me and the stone god in the garden
And Time who also is shown with a stone face

But all this is a dilettante’s lie,
Time’s face is not stone nor still his wings
Our mind, being dead, wishes to have time, die,
For we being ghosts cannot catch hold of things.

Was Louis MacNeice a Bergsonian? In Creative Evolution I find:

“Such is the contrivance of the cinematograph. And such is also that of our knowledge. Instead of attaching ourselves to the inner becoming of things, we place ourselves outside them in order to recompose their becoming artificially. We take snapshots, as it were, of the passing reality, as these are characteristic of the reality, we have only to string them on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisible, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself. Perception, intellection, language so proceed in general.”
(pg.332, Mod.Library edn.)

Poems enact duration in such a way as to bring us into the reality of what makes knowledge possible, what Aquinas called connaturality. We find our way into the being of things through such artefacts.

Addiition: The spatialization of time, its mathematization, is an example of a useful fiction that becomes taken for reality. (cf.Matter and Memory) We ‘catch hold of things’ by freezing the flow. In an interesting speculation that has mythic dimensions Bergson envisages godlike duration:

And would not the whole of history be contained in a very short time for a consciousness at a higher degree of tension than our own, which should watch the development of humanity while contracting it, so to speak, into the great phases of its evolution? In short, then, to perceive consists in condensing enormous periods of an infinitely diluted existence into a few more differentiated moments of an intenser life, and in thus summing up a very long history. To perceive means to immobilize.
(from Matter and Memory)

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