Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right.
Belloc, “The Pacifist”.
PAGANISM see ANIMISM 12/84; COSMOS, 2/02
… I saw that pain itself was the only food of memory, for pleasure ends in itself.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 197.
It was clear to me then that my version of pleasure was inextricable from pain and they existed side by side and were interdependent like the two forces of an electric current.
O’Brien, Edna, Returning, (Penguin, 1982), 143.
In writing you have to contend with the world; in painting, you have only to carry on a friendly strife with nature. You sit down to your task, and are happy. From the moment you take up the pencil, and look nature in the face, you are at peace with your own heart… I have not much pleasure in writing these Essays, or in reading them afterwards; though I own I now and then meet with a phrase that I like. … But one is never tired of painting, because you have to set down not what you knew already, but what you have just discovered. In the former case, you translate feelings into words; in the latter, names into things. There is a continual creation out of nothing going on.
Hazlitt, William, Table Talk (?), quoted by Ronald Blythe, Independent Magazine, 5 October 1991, 70.
Your pen will be worn out before you can fully describe what the painter can demonstrate forthwith by the aid of his science, and your tongue will be parched with thirst and your body overcome by sleep and hunger before you can describe with words what the painter is able to show you in an instant.
Da Vinci, Leonardo, in Paragon: A Comparison of the Arts by Leonardo Da Vinci (Richter, translator, Oxford, 1959, quoted by E H Gombrich, New York Review of Books, 20 January 2000), 8.
… why do I squander my life-time painting? Because when I am painting I know myself in the midst of something living.
Kokoscha, quoted or paraphrased by Kenneth White, in The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989), 52.
PAINTING see SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, 5/87; DIFFERENCE, 7/94
PARADISE see HEAVEN, 5/98; HEAVEN, 6/98
I wake up asleep:
I don’t look at the objects and the objects look at me; …
I go to the window and I am opened…
[etc., etc. – two pages of striking ‘paradoxes’.]
Handke, Peter, a poem in Theatre of Sleep, by G Almasi and C Beguin (Picador, 1987), 306-8.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.
Eliot, T S, “East Coker”, Four Quartets (1944).
PARADOX see CHARACTER, 7/11
Few of those whose job it is to define madness have put themselves out to understand figurative language or the power of symbols. They have often diagnosed imaginative people as separated from reality, and therefore both ill and wrong. But the paranoid themselves also misunderstand metaphor. Their state depends on a tendency to concretise intimations, to solidify the pervasive unease that sometimes invades our life; it depends less on irrationality than a failure to tolerate ambiguity, a desire to find an explanation at all costs for phenomena that perhaps do not have one and perhaps do not need one.
Mantel, Hilary, Guardian Review, 13/10/07.
PARENTING AS SELFISH
In theory, of course, having a child should connect you to the world like nothing else. At last, you have a tangible, flesh-and-blood stake in all that happens and all that we cause to happen to us as a species. …What greater motivation could there possibly be to start caring passionately about humanity?
Alas, like most economic theories, what should happen, what works beautifully in rationally conceived and ordered principle, breaks down at first contact with the collection of irrational, disordered synaptic misfires that constitutes the average real-life human. And parents are worse. They are emotional Molotov cocktails, and their children not so much inviolable connections reaching through time and space to unite all homo sapiens, as ever-sparking flints ready to set them aflame.
When I look at my son, I am inwardly prostrated by love and weakened by fear. These are not ideal states in which to try to change the world, only to shrink it. To excise from it anything or anyone that could possibly imperil him or me in any way (even his father doesn’t get a look-in). If I could, I’d bombproof his cot, crawl in with him and stay there – enduring a silent, static, meaningless but safe existence – until the end of time.
If I were a better person, of course, I would be able to take all this love and fear and do what you are supposed to do – turn it outwards and use it to fuel a ceaseless quest for change and improvement for the world, his world, out there.
But I’m not, and neither are a great many of the rest of you. Having a child is, if we are honest with ourselves, a selfish thing. “I want a baby,” we say. Not, “I should have a baby for the greater good”, because clearly that is nonsense, especially in our overpopulated, overburdened times. And that selfishness remains and hardens as your child gets older, as your love for him or her increases and overwhelms finer, better, nobler impulses. They eat your heart until you have none left for others.
Mangan, Lucy, Guardian Weekend, 11/05/13, 10.
PART see INTERDEPENDENCE, 7/94
PARTIALITY see LOVE (EXCLUSIVE), 10/86
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together. [Joe the blacksmith speaking.]
Dickens, Great Expectations (Penguin), 246.
A passion so intense
One would think that it well
Might drown all life in the eye.
Tennyson, Maud, II, II, verse VIII.
Eugene [de Rastignac] did not wish to see too clearly, he was ready to sacrifice his conscience to his mistress. Within the last few days his whole life had undergone a change. Woman had entered into his world and thrown it into chaos, family claims dwindled away before her, she had appropriated all his being to her uses. Rastignac and Delphine found each other at a crisis in their lives when their union gave them the most poignant bliss. Their passion, so long tested, had only gained in strength by the gratified desire that often extinguished passion. This woman was his, and Eugene recognised that not until then had he loved her. Perhaps love is only gratitude for pleasure. This woman, vile or sublime, he adored for the pleasure she had brought as her dower, and Delphine loved Rastignac as Tantalus would have loved some angel who had satisfied his hunger and quenched the burning thirst in his parched throat.
Balzac, Pere Goriot (Airmont edition), 197.
It is in the nature of all human passion, the lowest as well as the highest, that there is a point where it ceases to be properly egoistic, and is like a fire kindled within our being to which everything else in us is mere fuel.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 338.
PASSIONS see UN-INTEGRATION, 4/98
Most people lie and let life play upon them like the tepid discharges of a douche-bag.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 93.
PAST, LEARNING FROM
Take from the Altars of the past the fire — not the ashes.
Jaurés, J, (French Socialist), quoted by Geoffrey Ashe, Camelot and the Vision of Albion (Heinemann, 1971), 103.
PAST, LIVING IN
Do diddle di do,
Poor Jim Jay
Got stuck fast
de la Mare, Walter, ‘Jim Jay’.
PAST, LIVING IN see SELF-CONCERN, 3/2000
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE
Tell me, tell me, smiling child
What the past is like to thee,
– An Autumn evening soft and mild
With a wind that sighs mournfully.
Tell me what is the present hour.
– A green and flowery spray,
Where the young bird sits gathering its power
To mount and fly away.
And what is the future, happy one?
– A sea beneath a cloudless sun:
A mighty glorious dazzling sea
Stretching into infinity.
PAST, SHADOW OF
But day by day about the marge
Of this slow-brooding dreaminess,
The shadow of the past lay large,
And brooded low and lustreless.
Then vanished as I looked on it,
Yet back returned with wider sweep,
And broad upon my soul would sit,
Like a storm-cloud above the deep.
Dixon, R W, “The Wanderer”, Christ’s Comp., 65 (in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, No 342).
PATH OF NO STEPS see DEATH, 4/98
Patriotism is the conviction that your country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.
Shaw, G B, quoted John Grigg, The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).
PATRIOTISM see NATIONALISM, 1/97; ENGLAND, 9/97
Correct English is the slang of prigs.
Eliot, George, Middlemarch.
PEDANTRY see DEATH, 2/87
His icy indifference, his constant irritability, his inability to adapt to reality and take what it had to offer, his wearisome, obsessive craving for what did not and never could exist on earth… Chekhov (Unsourced)
To predict the behavior of ordinary people in advance, you only have to assume that they will always try to escape a disagreeable situation with the smallest possible expenditure of intelligence.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1947), 18ff.
Say what some poets will, Nature is not so much her own ever-sweet interpreter, as the mere supplier of that cunning alphabet, whereby selecting and combining as he pleases, each man reads his own peculiar lesson according to his own peculiar mind and mood.
Melville, Herman, Pierre, 476.
Since our eyes are educated from childhood on by the objects around us, the Venetian painter is bound to see the world as a brighter and gayer place than most people see it. We Northerners who spend our lives in a drab and, because of the dirt and the dust, an uglier country, where even reflected light is subdued, and who have, most of us, to live in cramped rooms – we cannot instinctively develop an eye which looks like [sic] such delight at the world.
Goethe, Italian Journey, W H Auden and E Mayer translation (Penguin), 8 October.
Picking up perceptions of the right size, in infinitely small detail or in broad panoramas, is an art, the basis of all art and of all achievement. This book has tried to show how great a difference to the conduct of daily life the ability to alter the focus of one’s perceptions can make.
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 440.
That – “open your eyes”—entered in at the doors of Rush [narrator]. … quick as ever it found and ran along the old path which such things had taken countless times before. Only this time, as though it were a light, it was able to see the path, infinitely long, which it took. The path was Rush… I was nothing, but when Zhinsinura said that, “open your eyes”, I uncurled outward from some tiny centre of not-being and built Rush to receive it… The words watched me watch myself make a place that held a path which the words took… And I opened my eyes. // … Zhinsinura said “Can you go? We’ll go now.” // The whole great place I had built to hold Open Your Eyes vanished like a cloud, and … I built a new Rush with a new path to receive these new words. And I knew then … that I had built oh how many millions before, and lost each, changed from each, they were less real than clouds, I was less changeless than a banner in the wind, and I knew that I would build a million others… I tried to grasp at something to Be, some house to Be in, and could not; and Dread came chasing out through all the spangled spheres of Rush, and I felt myself building a house for it to live in, and as soon forgetting I had ever lived in any other thing than Dread….// But sunlight happened then, for Zhinsinura led me out. // And the house of Dread was less than a memory because Sun took up all my room. // I almost wept and almost laughed to think how I must build a house not just for every word, but for every thing that has a name. …
Crowley, John, Engine Summer (1979), in his Otherwise (Harper Collins, 1994), 506-7.
PERCEPTION AND REALITY
If there is a reality beyond our perception, we must increase the power and coherence of our perception, for we shall never reach reality in any other way. If the reality turned out to be infinite, perception must be infinite too. To visualise, therefore, is to realise. The artist is par excellence the man who struggles to develop his perception into creation, his sight into vision; and art is a technique of realising, through an ordering of sense experience by the mind, a higher reality than linear unselected experience or a second-hand evocation of it can give.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1947), 26.
PERCEPTION see VISION, 7/85; ART, 12/85; OBSERVATION, 12/87; DIFFERENCE, 7/94; SPACE (AKASHA), 7/98
PERFECTIBILITY OF MAN
Man is incapable of self-completion, and therefore never wholly precictable; fallible, a complex combination of opposites, some reconcilable, others incapable of being resolved or harmonised; unable to cease from his search for truth, happiness, novelty, freedom but with no guarantee of being able to attain them, a free, imperfect being capable of determining his own destiny in circumstances favourable to the developmnet of his reason and his gifts.
Berlin, Isaiah, Political Ideas in the Romantic Age, quoted Independent on Sunday ABC, 27/08/06, 28.
It would seem that perfection is attained not when no more can be added, but when no more can be removed.
St Exupery, Wind Sand and Stars (Ch III, L’Avion).
PERFECTION AND POWER
The Greeks chose perfection as opposed to power. Power dreams of indefinite expansion, perfection cannot. The perfect is only one of the innumerable points in the process that is ceaselessly transforming existence. But this point has a hidden flaw, which terrifies the Greeks: the point of perfection is the moment that closes the circle, that brings death.
Calasso, Roberto, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (Vintage, 1994, translated by Tim Parks), 243-4.
PERSECUTION see OPPOSITION, 12/91
PERSONAL SPACE see PRIVACY, 4/97
PERSONAL, THE see COSMOS, 2/02
And as for human characters, whether real or invented, there are really no such animals. Each psyche is really an anthill of opposing predispositions. Personality as something with fixed attributes is an illusion – but a necessary illusion, if we are to love.
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 12.
Nothing influences our ability to cope with the difficulties of existence so much as the context in which we view them. The more contexts we can choose between the less do the difficulties appear to be inevitable and insurmountable. The fact that the world has become fuller than ever of complexity of every kind may suggest first that it is harder to find a way out of our dilemmas, but in reality the more complexities, the more crevices there are through which we can crawl. I am searching for the gaps people have not spotted for the clues they may have missed.
I start with the present and work backwards, just as I start with the personal and move to the universal. Whenever I have come across an impasse in present-day ambitions, as revealed in the case studies of people have met, I have sought a way out by placing them against the background of all human experience in all centuries, asking how they might have behaved if, instead of relying only on their own memories, they had been able to use those of the whole of humanity. (p 13)
Anybody who values freedom needs to remember how people with no particular constitutional predisposition to cheerfulness have cultivated hope nonetheless. The most important method they have used has been to widen their horizons. … [Leibnitz’s] intelligent optimism… is not a belief that everything is perfect, but a willingness to admit that there is more than the eye can see, good or bad; there is always a glimmer of light, however dark its may seem, because life is inconceivable without hope. Optimism is awareness that despite nastiness and stupidity, there is something else too. Pessimism is resignation, an inability to find a way out. (p 290)
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995).
PERSPECTIVE see PERCEPTION, 4/99
… how desirous people are to reach their object in their own way; what need there often is of enforcing on them truths which are self-evident; and how difficult it may be to reduce the man, who aims at effecting something, to admit the primary conditions under which alone his enterprise is possible.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 293.
the Cambridge ladies do not care, above
Cambridge if sometimes in its box of
sky lavender and cornerless, the
moon rattles like a fragment of angry candy. [Presumably Cambridge Massachusetts.]
Cummings, e e, 1923.
Do not, I beg you, look for anything behind the phenomena. They are themselves their own lesson.
Goethe, ‘Maxims and Reflections’, in Douglas Miller, tr., Scientific Studies, vol. 12, (Suhrkamp, 1987), 307
A present-day teacher of philosophy does not select food for his pupil with the aim of flattering his taste, but with the aim of changing it.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 17e.
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language…[Its mission is] to shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.
Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trs. G.E.M. Anscombe (Macmillan, 1953), paras 109, 309.
Groys argues that the difference between philosophy and theology is the difference between the future and the past: the philosopher desires the truth which is just out of reach, while the theologian commemorates and repeats the transformative event which is becoming more and more distant.
Groys, Boris, paraphrased in review by Stuart Kelly of Introduction to Antiphilosophy (Guardian Review, 12/5/12).
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
Observation and experiment are what count, not opinion and introspection. Few working scientists have much respect for those who try to interpret nature in metaphysical terms. For most wearers of white coats, philosophy is to science as pornography is to sex: it is cheaper, easier, and some people seem, bafflingly, to prefer it. Outside of psychology it plays almost no part in the functions of the research machine.
Jones, Steve, from review of Pinker, How the Mind Works, New York Review of Books, 6/11/97, 13-14.
I photograph to find out what something looks like photographed.
Winograd, Garry, quoted by Susan Sontag in On Photography (1977).
PHYSICAL AND INTELLECTUAL
… he studied the horny old hands of the Greek with admiring envy as he thought of the time they had killed for him, of the thinking they had saved him. He read into them years of healthy bodily activity which imprisoned thought, neutralised reflection.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 165.
PHYSICS AS AESTHETIC
[As a theoretical physicist] one’s life is being spent in pursuit of a kind of mystical experience that few of one’s fellow humans share. I’m sure that most scientists of all kinds are inspired by a kind of worship of nature, but what makes theoretical physicists peculiar is that our sense of connection with nature has nothing to do with any direct encounter with it. Unlike biologists or experimental physicists, what we confront in our daily work is not usually any concrete phenomena. Most of the time we wrestle not with reality but with mathematical representations of it.
Artists are aware that the highest beauty they can achieve comes not from reproducing nature, but from representing it. Theoretical physicists and mathematicians, more than other kinds of scientist, share in this essentially aesthetic mode of working, for like artists we fashion constructions that, when they succeed, capture something about the real world, while at the same time remaining completely products of the human imagination. But perhaps even artists do not get to share with us the expectation that our greatest creations may capture the deep and permanent reality behind mere transient experience.
This mysticism of the mathematical, the belief that at its deepest level reality may be captured by an equation or geometrical construction, is the private religion of the theoretical physicist. Like other true mysticisms, it is something that cannot be communicated in words, but must be experienced. One must feel wordlessly the possibility that a piece of mathematics that one comprehends could also be the world.
Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 222.
Long journeys in search of truth are not commanded. Truth, such as is necessary to the regulation of life, is always found where it is honestly sought. Change of place is no natural cause of the increase of piety, for it inevitably produces dissipation of mind. Yet … some places may operate upon our own minds in an uncommon manner.
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas (Penguin, 1976, 1st ed. 1759), 64.
PITY see COMPASSION, 4/98
… man depends for the furniture of the will upon his location in place… [followed by more on the same.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 112.
The abstract reasoner cannot see a tree without dragging its shadow off to the cave of his own mind… and the attitude of the natural or ‘cave’ man to his wife is not greatly different. [To his emanation.]
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton University press, 1969, second edition), 72.
Let us enjoy the playthings of this clever man but let us, so far as in us lies, forbear to cloy them with our explanations.
Chapman, John Jay, quoted by Gore Vidal, New York Review of Books, 16 December 1999, 39.
PLATO see SIN, 3/89
Who pursues means of enjoyment contradictory, irreconcilable and self-destructive is a fool, or what is called a sinner – sin and destruction of order are the same.
Lavater, Aphorism 8.
[Dying of thirst in the desert, St.-Exupery finds an orange.] The certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling [eating it]. … Here I was, for one minute, infinitely happy. [Nobody can know anything of the world in which the individual moves and has his being.] … For the first time, I understood the cigarette and glass of rum that are handed to a criminal about to be executed. [– He smiled not from courage, but pleasure.]
St.-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars (Heineman, 1939), 198-9.
Pleasure is like a cordial, a little of it is not injurious, but too much destroys.
Blessington, Countess of (1789-1841), in L and M Cowan, The Wit of Women.
PLEASURE PRINCIPLE VERSUS IDEAL PRINCIPLE see QUESTS, TWO, 5/98
PLEASURE see PAIN, 5/87
PLEASURE, VITIATED BY IMPERMANENCE see IMPERMANENCE, 10/09
PLEASURES, DANGER IN
It is still to be examined what pleasures are harmless. The evil of any pleasure … is not in the act itself, but in its consequences. Pleasure, in itself harmless, may become mischievous, by endearing to us a state which we know to be transient and probatory [testing], and withdrawing our thoughts from [the afterlife]. … Mortification … has [no] other use, but that it disengages us from the allurements of sense. In the state of future perfection, to which we all aspire, there will be pleasure without danger, and security without restraint.
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas (Penguin, 1976, 1st ed. 1759), 144-5.
[Baudelaire describes the ungainly albatross when caught and mocked by sailors.]
The poet’s like the monarch of the clouds
Who haunts the tempest, scorns the bows and slings;
Exiled on earth amid the shouting crowds,
He cannot walk, for he has giant’s wings.
[I think that this is a sorry state of affairs.]
Baudelaire, “The Albatross”, (Richardson translation, Penguin).
On the poet’s lips I slept
Dreaming like a love adept
In the sound his breathing kept:
Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses
But feeds on the aereal kisses
Of shapes that haunt thought’s wildernesses.
He will watch from dawn till gloom
The lake-reflected sun illume
The yellow bees in the ivy bloom
Nor heed nor see what things they be;
But from these create he can
Forms more real than living man,
Nurselings of immortality.
One of these awakened me
And I sped to succour thee.
Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me.
Freud, Sigmund, quoted in Marcus Mendez’ quotes pamphlet, Out of the Blue, December 1992.
Poetry implies either a happy gift of nature or a strain of madness. In the one case a man can take the mould of any character; in the other, he is lifted out of his proper self.
Aristotle, Poetics (Dover, New York, 1997, Butcher’s 1895 translation), 32.
POET see INSPIRATION, 12/2000
Allegory addressed to the Intellectual powers, while it is altogether hidden from the Corporeal Understanding, is My Definition of the Most Sublime Poetry: it is also somewhat in the same manner defined by Plato.
Blake, letter to Butts, 6 July 1803.
Shelley, Defence of Poetry (extract in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, No 86).
Science is the poetry of the intellect and poetry the science of the heart’s affections.
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 210.
Nature’s… world is brazen, the poet only delivers a golden. (p 24)
It is that feigning notable images of virtues, vices or what else, with that delightful teaching, which must be the right describing note to know a poet by. [Whether in verse or not.] (p 27)
[Sidney’s ‘excuse’ for writing poems:] Overmastered by some thoughts, I yielded inky tribute to them. (p 63)
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University press, 1966, first edition 1595, dates 1554-86).
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 91-2.
The assertion [that poetry should speak the language of the street] is quite absurd. It is the people who should speak the language of literature.
Brodsky, Joseph, On Grief and Reason, quoted Independent on Sunday, 24 November 1996, 34.
Poetry makes nothing happen.
Auden, W H (quoted by Seamus Heaney, Radio 3 talk, January 1999).
[A poem is] a great human system of belief or ethical behaviour.
Murray, Lez (a poet, quoted by Seamus Heaney, Radio 3 talk, January 1999).
… for the question is always
out of all the chances and changes
the textures of real significance
so as to make
of the welter
a world that will last
and how to order
the signs and the symbols
so they will continue
to form new patterns
new harmonic wholes
so to keep life alive
with all of being —
there is only poetry. [Arrangement of lines lost.] [From ‘Walking the Coast’, 42.]
Many images blur the mind
the highest poetry
with poverty of image
when the white light
gleams at its blindingest
all objects disappear
the skull like a sun. [From ‘Cape Breton Uplight’, 97.]
I must enter this birch-world
and speak from within it//
I must enter into/this lighted silence//
contemplation is not enough//
never fully realised/without the necessary words///
Without the necessary words//
but the most needful words
are the rarest//
and how can we come to them
maimed as we are//
except through/a power that wings us//
out of the maze and the din of unknowing
and enables us//
to quickly/penetrate the reality –//
this is no question/of industry…
(… the plenitude felt by me earlier… which I maintain now deep in the dark, protecting it as it were with this prose periphery, like a bark… ‘No people knows now the sensual language’, writes Jakob Boehme. Victims of concept and model, our subtle life flattened under the weight of the general, we move in sterile worlds, doing violence to everything, including ourselves. Before we can ever say anything, anything at all, we must link ourselves, by a long silent process, to the reality. Only long hours of silence can lead us to our language, only long miles of strangeness can lead us to our home.) [From ‘Valley of Birches’, 158-160.]
I hazarded some more names/…//
but still no name for the whole
I was willing to name the parts
but not the whole
a man needs to fix his knowledge
but he also needs an emptiness
in which to move [From ‘Labrador’, 184-5.]
White, Kenneth, The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989),
… a poem can come to feel like a pre-natal possession, a guarantee of inwardness and a link to origin. It can become the eye of a verbal needle through which the growing person can pass again and again until it is known by heart, and becomes a path between heart and mind, a path by which the individual can enter, repeatedly, into the kingdom of rightness.
Heaney, Seamus, ‘Bags of Enlightenment’, in Guardian Review, 25/10/03, 6.
[The only thing that distinguishes what we call poetry from the other literary arts was that it arrived from] the place of ultimate suffering and decision in us.
Hughes, Ted, quoted by Seamus Heaney, Observer Magazine, 19 July 2009, 22.
Any poem repays study, but if it is only to be heard once and without detailed exposition, then a poem should be understandable at first hearing. …// The more a poet is read, the less he is written about. Criticism prefers an enigma…
Bennett, Alan, ‘Joining the literature club’, Guardian Review. 4/10/14.
POETRY AND PROSE see IDEALS, 1/97
POETRY see MECHANISM AND MATERIALISM, 5/87; QUARREL, 4/93; VISION OF CHAOS, AND POETRY, 2/02; WORDS IN POETRY, 2/05
POETRY, AND REASON
Poetry doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind; whereas reason doth buckle and bow the mind unto the nature of things.
Bacon, Francis, The Advancement of Learning, II, 4 (2).
A little poison now and then: that produces pleasant dreams. And a lot of poison at last, for a pleasant death. [The practice of the contemptible ‘last men’.]
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 5.
POLYTHEISM see MONOTHEISM, 11/90
Pornographic literature vividly colours the mind and clouds the spirit.
Guinness, Alec, A Commonplace Book (Hamish Hamilton, 2001), 44.
POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE see VALUE, 9/87
So often it happens that with possession the vast poetry of desire must end, and the thing possessed is seldom the thing that we dreamt of.
Balzac, “Melmoth Reconciled”, in Christ in Flanders (Everyman) 92.
Take nothing, to say: I have it! For you can possess nothing, not even peace.
Nought is possessible, neither gold, nor land nor love, nor life, nor peace, nor even sorrow nor death, nor yet salvation.
Say of nothing: It is mine.
Say only: It is with me.
Lawrence, D H, ‘Lords of the Day and Night’, from The Plumed Serpent,.
The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions.
Butler, Samuel, quoted in Alec Guinness, A Commonplace Book (Hamish Hamilton, 2001), 69.
He seems to think that posterity is a pack-horse, always ready to be loaded.
Disraeli, Isaac, speech, 1862.
We recognise that we and our world are the outcome of more than four billion years of evolution. Most of us, however, tend to think that humans are the endpoint — even the culmination — of this process. Yet cosmologists know that the Sun and Earth are less than halfway through their life — and the entire galaxy has a future that could be infinite. So there is more than enough time for ‘post-human’ evolution to lead to creatures as different from us as we are from one-celled protozoa from which we evolved billions of years ago.
Rees, Martin, Daily Mail, 18 August 2005.
If the goal of modernism in art was to burn the old house down, all that postmodernism has been doing is playing with little charred pieces that are left, which is a pretty puerile thing to be doing considering that winter is coming.
Cemin, St. Clair, quoted in Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 367.
POTENTIAL see TRANSCENDENCE, SELF-, 5/98; WORLD, 11/01
Romola had had contact with no mind that could stir the larger possibilities of her nature; they lay folded and crushed like embryonic wings, making no element in her consciousness beyond an occasional vague uneasiness.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 311.
Poverty is not the absence of goods, but rather the overabundance of desire.
Plato, quoted in Marcus Mendez’ quotes pamphlet, Out of the Blue, December 1992.
We forced them to see that reason prevails, not force.
Slater, Jim (industrialist), quoted in Private Eye’s Colemanballs 2, ed. Fantoni (Private Eye, 1984)
Practice and habit must, in every art, fill up the voids which genius and temper in their fluctuations will so often leave.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 307.
PRAIRIE see IMAGINATION, 10/93
You must forbid yourself utterly all such silly, childish thoughts during your exercise. … give yourself up to the words, filling yourself, and letting them penetrate, just as though you were singing or playing a lute. If you sang or played you would not let your mind go hunting after clever thoughts and speculations, but would strive to give out each tone and fingering as clearly and perfectly as you could. When we sing we don’t hinder ourselves with asking if our singing is really a waste of time. We sing, and that is all! That is how you must pray.
Hesse, Herman, Narziss and Goldmund (Penguin, 1971, Geoffrey Dunlop translation), 276.
PRAYER OF SOCRATES
Dear Pan and the other gods who inhabit here [a spring], grant that I may become fair within, and that my external circumstances may be such as to favour my inward health. May I esteem the wise man rich, and allow me no more wealth than a man of moderation can bear and manage.
Plato, Phaedrus, Socrates’ closing prayer, Walter Hamilton translation (Penguin Classics).
PRECEPT see EXAMPLE 4/14
Persevere, ye perfect men,
Ever keep the precepts ten.
[Example of an univocalic, using only the vowel E.]
Dobson, W T, Literary Frivolities (1880), quoted in Oxford Guide to Word Games, 112.
PRE-CONSCIOUS HARMONY see HARMONY, PRE-CONSCIOUS, 11/88
Self-love is better than any gilding to make that seem gorgeous wherein ourselves be parties.
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University press, 1966, first edition 1595, dates 1554-86), 17.
Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep men apart.
Blessington, Countess of (1789-1841), in L and M Cowan, The Wit of Women.
The present, like a note of music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come.
Landor, Walter Savage, “Aesop and Rhodyce”, Imaginary Conversations, 1824-9, quoted Partridge, Usage and Abusage, 319.
The decisive moment in human development is a continous one. For this reason the revolutionary movements which declare everything before them null and void are in the right, for nothing has yet happened.
Kafka, Franz, from ‘Reflections on sin, pain, hope and the true way’, in The Great Wall of (translated by W. and E. Muir, 1933).
The more the personality disappears in the twilight of mood, so much the more is the individual in the moment. Kierkegaard, Søren, Either/Or, quoted Guardian, 23/2/11.
PRESENT, LIVING IN
Who can act or perform as if each work or action were the first, the last, and only one in his life, is great in his sphere.
Lavater, Aphorism 272.
PRESENT, LIVING IN
Still, thou [mouse] art blest, compared wi’ me,
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e
On prospects drear!
And forward, though I canna see,
I guess and fear!
Burns, R, from “To a Mouse”.
PRESENT, LIVING IN
To judge rightly of the present, we must oppose it to the past; for all judgement is comparative, and of the future nothing can be known. The truth is, that no mind is much employed upon the present: recollection and anticipation fill up almost all our moments. Our passions are joy and grief, love and hatred, hope and fear. Of joy and grief the past is the object, and the future of hope and fear; even love and hatred respect the past, for the cause must have been before the effect.
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas (Penguin, 1976, 1st ed. 1759), 104.
PRESENT, LIVING IN
The only strength for me is to be found in the sense of a personal presence everywhere, it scarcely matters whether it be called human or divine; a presence which only makes itself felt at first in this and that particular form and feature… Into this presence we come, not by leaving behind what are usually called earthly things, or by loving them less, but by living more intensely in them, and loving more what is really lovable in them; for it is literally true that this world is everything to us, if only we choose to make it so, if only we “live in the present” because it is eternity…
Nettleship, R L, from a letter quoted by Robert Bridges, The Spirit of Man (Longmans, 1929).
PRESENT, LIVING IN
We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand… and melting like a snowflake. Let us use it before it is too late.
Ray, Marie Beynon (unsourced; similar ascribed to Francis Bacon).
PRESENT, LIVING IN see FUTURE 9/85, TIME, 12/87
PRESENT, NOT LIVING IN see WAITING, 8/99; SENSES, TRANSCENDING, 8/99
My Ego taught me a new pride, I teach it to men: No longer to bury the head in the sand of heavenly things, but to carry it freely, an earthly head which creates meaning for the earth!
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Afterworldsmen”.
The barbarian loves his own pride, and hates, or disbelieves in, the pride of others. I will be a civilised being. I will love the pride of my adversaries, of my servants, and my lover… pride is the faith in the idea that God had, when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realise it. He does not strive towards happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him … the proud man finds his happiness in the fulfilment of his fate.
People who have no pride… have got to accept as success what others warrant to be so, and to take their happiness, and even themselves, and the quotation of the day. They tremble, with reason, before their fate.
Blixen, Karen, Out Of Africa (Penguin, 1984, first edition 1937), 184.
PRIDE AND MEMORY
‘I have done that,’ says my memory. ‘I cannot have done that,’ says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually, memory yields.
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil.
PRISON see CHAIN, 8/87
Some thirty inches from my nose
The frontier of my Person goes,
And all the untilled air between
Is private pagus or demesne.
Stranger, unless with bedroom eyes
I beckon you to fraternize,
Beware of rudely crossing it:
I have no gun, but I can spit.
Auden, W H, quoted in Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse (1971), 277.
PRIVACY see FREEDOM, PRIVATE, 1/03
We never know what’s hidden in each other’s breasts; and if we had glass winders there, we’d need keep the shutters up, some of us, I do assure you. [Mrs Gamp.]
Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit, Chapter 29.
PRIVATE THOUGHTS see LAUGHTER, 10/96
The way to solve the problems you see in life is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear… a man who lives rightly won’t experience the problem as sorrow, so for him it will not be a problem, but a joy rather… a bright halo round his life, not a dubious background.
[And, later] if we clothe ourselves in a new form of expression, the old problems are discarded along with the old garment.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 27 and 48e.
PROBLEMS IN COMMUNICATION see DISSATISFACTION, 5/94
PROBLEMS see TENSIONS, PROBLEMS AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, 5/89
Life will always insist on begetting life.
Hepworth, Barbara, unsourced.
What a Copernicus or a Darwin really achieved was not the discovery of a true theory but of a fertile new point of view.
[And] Our civilisation is characterised by the word ‘progress’. Progress is its form rather than making progress being one of its features. Typically it constructs. It is occupied with building an ever more complicated structure. And even clarity is sought only as a means to this end, not as an end in itself. For me on the contrary clarity, perspicuity, are valuable in themselves.
I am not interested in constructing a building, so much as having a perspicuous view of the foundations of possible buildings.
So I am not aiming at the same target as scientists and my way of thinking is different from theirs.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 18 and 7e.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour.
Thoreau, H D, quoted by Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.
‘Pass in, pass in,’ the angels say
‘In to the upper doors,
Nor count compartments of the floors,
But mount to paradise
By the stairway of surprise’.
Emerson, Poems (Works, III, 130-4, 1897).
Progress? It was the cry of the patient who constantly changes his position thinking each new one will bring relief. [Naptha speaking.]
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 690.
All rising to great place is by a winding stair.
Bacon, Francis, Essays.
PROGRESS IN HISTORY
Human beings… detect something like their own mortality in the whole condition of the species, with the inference that the pattern of closing in and defiance, rather than direct progress, must always be the real shape of history.
Ashe, Geoffrey, Camelot and the Vision of Albion (Heinemann, 1971), 172.
PROGRESS IN HISTORY
While the natural Luddites merely rail, the scientists get on with the business of improving the material conditions of life [claimed C.P. Snow]. The existence of the individual, Snow had added, expansively, ends in death and may therefore be considered tragic, but progress represents the onward sweep of humanity collectively: as individuals, “each of us dies alone”, but “there is social hope”. Yet what, Leavis asks pressingly, “is the ‘social hope’ that transcends, cancels, or makes indifferent the inescapable tragic condition of each individual?” Where is such “hope” to be found except in the lives lived by particular persons?
The target is the implicit assumption that a social goal could be specified in aggregate terms, such as measures of a rising standard of living, without asking about the quality of the individual experiences that such measures presume to aggregate. Leavis’s language at this point is almost a direct echo of Ruskin’s famous maxim, used as part of a similar argument (against political economy in his case): “there is no wealth but life”. In resorting to such language, Leavis and Ruskin (and others) come up against one of the recurring internal contradictions of cultural criticism: quantitative or instrumental descriptions of the goals of life need to be shown up as inadequate and reductive, yet the character of the alternative ends up being merely gestured to by unsatisfactory phrases about “life”.
Leavis’s preferred strategy is to suggest that although an adequate characterisation of the goals of human life cannot, without descending into vacuous abstraction, be given in propositional form, great novels can embody such a vision. They ask the question: “What for? What ultimately for? What ultimately do men live by?” Leavis immediately and pre-emptively rules that “Of course to such questions there can’t be, in any ordinary sense of the word, answers.” In their place, and simply as a shorthand description of a more adequate conception of human life, Leavis points to the work of some of his cherished novelists, such as Conrad and, in particular, DH Lawrence.
Collini, Stefan, ‘ Leavis v Snow: the two-cultures bust-up 50 years on’, in Guardian Review, 17/8/13.
PROGRESS see TENSIONS, PROBLEMS AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, 5/89
There can be no progress — real moral progress, I mean — except within an individual person and by the individual himself.
Baudelaire, quoted and translated (from Oeuvres Complètes (1967), 1362) by Ian Stephenson, Children Who Remember Previous Lives (University Press of Virginia, 1987), 234.
Every age of the world has increased, and still increases the real wealth, the happiness, the knowledge, and perhaps the virtue, of the human race.
Gibbon, Edward, ‘General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West’, in Decline and Fall (1788).
‘Tis the blot upon the brain
That will show itself without.
[Speaking of an anguished memory of Maud, appearing as a phantom.]
Tennyson, Maud, II, IV, verse VIII.
… cafés sweet with the trilling of singing birds whose cages were full of mirrors to give them the illusion of company. The love songs of birds to companions they imagined – which were only reflections of themselves! How heartbreakingly they sang, these illustrations of human love! [Describing the Arab quarter of Alexandria.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Mountolive (Faber), 286.
All of us, I suppose, when we think we are talking most intimately to someone else, are actually addressing an image we have of the person to whom we believe we speak.
Wolfe, Gene, The Sword of the Lictor (Arrow/Hutchinson, London, 1982), 78.
The god to whom a man proves devout, that is his own soul turned inside out.
Goethe, “Conversation with Riemer”, quoted Bruno Snell, The Discovery of the Mind (Dover), 31.
PROJECTION see OBSERVATION, 12/87
… Ere Babylon was dust
The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,
Met his own image walking in the garden.
That apparition, sole of men, he saw.
For know there are two worlds of life and death:
One that which you beholdest: but the other
Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit
The shadows of all forms that think and live
Till death unites them and they part no more;
Dreams and the light imaginings of men,
And all that faith creates or love desires,
Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes.
Shelley, “Prometheus Unbound”, I, 191.
Prophecies are sometimes made so that they may not come to pass – as a spell, indeed, against their fulfilment. Prophecies of this kind mock the future: saying to it how it should shape itself, to the end that it shall shame to be so shaped.
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 349.
PROSE AND POETRY see IDEALS, 1/97
PROTECTION see DUHKHA & PROTECTION, 2/05
The fabric of our life is formed of necessity and chance; the reason of man takes its station between them, and may rule them both; its treats the necessary as the groundwork of its being; the accidental it can direct and guide, and employ for its own purposes; and only while this principle of reason stands firm and inexpugnable, does man deserve to be named the god of this lower world. But woe to him who, from his youth, has used himself to search in necessity for something of arbitrary will; to ascribe to chance a sort of reason which it is a matter of religion to obey. Is conduct like this aught else than to renounce one’s understanding, and give unrestricted scope to one’s inclinations? We think it is a kind of piety to move along without consideration, to let accidents that please us determine our conduct; and, finally, to bestow on the results of such a vacillating life the name of providential guidance.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 82.
In a way having oneself psychoanalysed is like eating from the tree of knowledge. The knowledge acquired sets us (new) ethical problems; but contributes nothing to their solution.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 34.
If anatomy pre-supposes a corpse, then psychology pre-supposes a world of corpses. Personalities, which mean personal criticism and analysis, presupposes a whole world-laboratory of human psyches waiting to be vivisected. If you cut a thing up, of course it will smell. Hence, nothing raises such an infernal stink, at last, as human psychology.
Lawrence, D H, St Mawr.
As to the judgement of society a just indignation would be felt against a writer who brought forward, wantonly, the weaknesses of a great man, though the whole world knew they exist. No one is at liberty to speak ill of another without a justifiable reason, even though he knows he is speaking the truth, and the public knows it too.
Newman, Cardinal, Apologia pro Vita Sua, quoted in Alec Guinness, A Commonplace Book (Hamish Hamilton, 2001), 15.
PUNISHMENT see FORGIVENESS, 12/85
[See description of the youth’s experience of the “Blue Flower”, in]
Novalis, Henry von Ofterdingen, quoted in The Theatre of Sleep by G Almasi and C Beguin (Picador, 1987), 314-15.
He served his God so faithfully and well
That now he sees him face-to-face, in hell.
Belloc, “On a Puritan”.
A Puritan is someone who hates bullfighting not because it gives pain to the bull, but because it gives pleasure to the spectators.
Macaulay, Thomas, quoted by John Grigg, The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).