Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Miscellaneous Hotchpotch

I have nothing to say, apart from that my head has been filled with a suffocating tension. I've been doing what I often do when in that state: read, read, read. If words are like wet concrete, then hopefully they will smother and weigh down that quiver in the grey matter.

It is nothing out of the ordinary, especially for the time of year. I'm content enough, if feeling weird. Anyway, here are some snippets I've come across recently.

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Two Quotations Regarding Visions

"Toward midnight on the 18th of July, Byron recited the lines in "Christabel" about the lady's breast; when Shelley suddenly started up, shrieked, and fled from the room. He had seen a vision of a woman with eyes instead of nipples. At this time he was writing notes upon the phenomena of sleep to be inserted in his "Speculations on Metaphysics", and Mrs. Shelley informs us that the mere effort to remember dreams of thrilling or mysterious import so disturbed his nervous system that he had to relinquish the task. At no period of his life was he wholly free from visions which had the reality of facts. Sometimes they occurred in sleep, and were prolonged with painful vividness into his waking moments. Sometimes they seemed to grow out of his intense meditation, or to present themselves before his eyes as the projection of a powerful inner impression. All his sensations were abnormally acute, and his ever-active imagination confused the border-lands of the actual and the visionary."

From Percy Bysshe Shelley, by John Addington Symonds.

The first notice I had of any important change going on in this part of my physical economy was from the reawakening of a state of eye generally incident to childhood, or exalted states of irritability. I know not whether my reader is aware that many children, perhaps most, have a power of painting, as it were upon the darkness, all sorts of phantoms. In some that power is simply a mechanical affection of the eye; others have a voluntary or semi-voluntary power to dismiss or to summon them; or, as a child once said to me when I questioned him on this matter, “I can tell them to go, and they go ---, but sometimes they come when I don’t tell them to come.” Whereupon I told him that he had almost as unlimited a command over apparitions as a Roman centurion over his soldiers.—In the middle of 1817, I think it was, that this faculty became positively distressing to me: at night, when I lay awake in bed, vast processions passed along in mournful pomp; friezes of never-ending stories, that to my feelings were as sad and solemn as if they were stories drawn from times before Œdipus or Priam, before Tyre, before Memphis. And at the same time a corresponding change took place in my dreams; a theatre seemed suddenly opened and lighted up within my brain, which presented nightly spectacles of more than earthly splendour. And the four following facts may be mentioned as noticeable at this time:

1. That as the creative state of the eye increased, a sympathy seemed to arise between the waking and the dreaming states of the brain in one point—that whatsoever I happened to call up and to trace by a voluntary act upon the darkness was very apt to transfer itself to my dreams, so that I feared to exercise this faculty; for, as Midas turned all things to gold that yet baffled his hopes and defrauded his human desires, so whatsoever things capable of being visually represented I did but think of in the darkness, immediately shaped themselves into phantoms of the eye; and by a process apparently no less inevitable, when thus once traced in faint and visionary colours, like writings in sympathetic ink, they were drawn out by the fierce chemistry of my dreams into insufferable splendour that fretted my heart.

2. For this and all other changes in my dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words. I seemed every night to descend, not metaphorically, but literally to descend, into chasms and sunless abysses, depths below depths, from which it seemed hopeless that I could ever reascend. Nor did I, by waking, feel that I had reascended. This I do not dwell upon; because the state of gloom which attended these gorgeous spectacles, amounting at last to utter darkness, as of some suicidal despondency, cannot be approached by words.

3. The sense of space, and in the end the sense of time, were both powerfully affected. Buildings, landscapes, &c., were exhibited in proportions so vast as the bodily eye is not fitted to receive. Space swelled, and was amplified to an extent of unutterable infinity. This, however, did not disturb me so much as the vast expansion of time; I sometimes seemed to have lived for 70 or 100 years in one night—nay, sometimes had feelings representative of a millennium passed in that time, or, however, of a duration far beyond the limits of any human experience.

4. The minutest incidents of childhood, or forgotten scenes of later years, were often revived: I could not be said to recollect them, for if I had been told of them when waking, I should not have been able to acknowledge them as parts of my past experience. But placed as they were before me, in dreams like intuitions, and clothed in all their evanescent circumstances and accompanying feelings, I recognised them instantaneously. I was once told by a near relative of mine, that having in her childhood fallen into a river, and being on the very verge of death but for the critical assistance which reached her, she saw in a moment her whole life, in its minutest incidents, arrayed before her simultaneously as in a mirror; and she had a faculty developed as suddenly for comprehending the whole and every part. This, from some opium experiences of mine, I can believe; I have indeed seen the same thing asserted twice in modern books, and accompanied by a remark which I am convinced is true; viz., that the dread book of account which the Scriptures speak of is in fact the mind itself of each individual. Of this at least I feel assured, that there is no such thing as forgetting possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever, just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas in fact we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are waiting to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn.

From Thomas de Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

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A Limerick

There was an old fellow named Sidney
Who drank til he ruined a kidney,
It shrivelled and shrank,
But he drank and he drank
But he had fun while doing it didn't he?

(from Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend

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Two Poems By Shelley (found in an old volume owned once by one James Pepler, 15th January, 1918)

Mutability

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world's delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright.

Virtue, how frail it is!
Friendship how rare!
Love, how it sells poor bliss
For proud despair!
But we, though soon they fall,
Survive their joy, and all
Which ours we call.

Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day;
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou -- and from thy sleep
Then wake to weep.
(1821)

Lines

The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
Beneath the sinking moon.

The wintry hedge was black;
The green grass was not seen;
The birds did rest
On the bare thorn’s breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack
Which the frost had made between.

Thine eyes glow’d in the glare
Of the moon’s dying light;
As a fen-fire’s beam
On a sluggish stream
Gleams dimly—so the moon shone there,
And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair,
That shook in the wind of night.

The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
The wind made thy bosom chill;
The night did shed
On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
Might visit thee at will.

(1815)

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And finally:

"Brevity is the soul of lingerie" - Dorothy Parker, allegedly.

Keep safe all. Off to smoke.

4 comments:

Scream said...

I can't read when I'm tense, I find it interesting that you can. I draw, take pictures, ride my bike and hike when tense.

Take Care

David said...

I don't know - I'd say I'm lucky in having it as a coping mechanism. I've always had the knack of processing text by the chunk rather than in a linear fashion. When I'm reading in this state I find that the unscrambling process doesn't work so well, so am left with an incoherent mass of impressions - an avalanche of stuff that seems to slow me down.

In fact reading is a strange one. I can use it to pull myself out of a hole, by forcing myself to read fast, and also to weigh myself down, by inevitably reading faster than I can properly process. Like a regulator on an old-fashioned engine - the arm moves out further the faster the engine spins, thereby slowing it. Or something. That isn't the best analogy.

I try to avoid exercise when I'm going up - I find it fatal - sends me skywards.

Take care, Dx

David said...

Scrap that, it's just reappeared. Silly blogger!

David said...

p.s. How did you make your comment invisible? Very clever! Unless it's just blogger playing up.