Monday, June 24, 2013

Baudelaire: Le Voyage

À Maxime du Camp

I
Pour l'enfant, amoureux de cartes et d'estampes,
L'univers est égal à son vaste appétit.
Ah! que le monde est grand à la clarté des lampes!
Aux yeux du souvenir que le monde est petit!

Un matin nous partons, le cerveau plein de flamme,
Le coeur gros de rancune et de désirs amers,
Et nous allons, suivant le rythme de la lame,
Berçant notre infini sur le fini des mers:

Les uns, joyeux de fuir une patrie infâme;
D'autres, l'horreur de leurs berceaux, et quelques-uns,
Astrologues noyés dans les yeux d'une femme,
La Circé tyrannique aux dangereux parfums.

Pour n'être pas changés en bêtes, ils s'enivrent
D'espace et de lumière et de cieux embrasés;
La glace qui les mord, les soleils qui les cuivrent,
Effacent lentement la marque des baisers.

Mais les vrais voyageurs sont ceux-là seuls qui partent
Pour partir; coeurs légers, semblables aux ballons,
De leur fatalité jamais ils ne s'écartent,
Et, sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!

Ceux-là dont les désirs ont la forme des nues,
Et qui rêvent, ainsi qu'un conscrit le canon,
De vastes voluptés, changeantes, inconnues,
Et dont l'esprit humain n'a jamais su le nom!

II
Nous imitons, horreur! la toupie et la boule
Dans leur valse et leurs bonds; même dans nos sommeils
La Curiosité nous tourmente et nous roule
Comme un Ange cruel qui fouette des soleils.

Singulière fortune où le but se déplace,
Et, n'étant nulle part, peut être n'importe où!
Où l'Homme, dont jamais l'espérance n'est lasse,
Pour trouver le repos court toujours comme un fou!

Notre âme est un trois-mâts cherchant son Icarie;
Une voix retentit sur le pont: «Ouvre l'oeil!»
Une voix de la hune, ardente et folle, crie:
«Amour... gloire... bonheur!» Enfer! c'est un écueil!

Chaque îlot signalé par l'homme de vigie
Est un Eldorado promis par le Destin;
L'Imagination qui dresse son orgie
Ne trouve qu'un récif aux clartés du matin.

Ô le pauvre amoureux des pays chimériques!
Faut-il le mettre aux fers, le jeter à la mer,
Ce matelot ivrogne, inventeur d'Amériques
Dont le mirage rend le gouffre plus amer?

Tel le vieux vagabond, piétinant dans la boue,
Rêve, le nez en l'air, de brillants paradis;
Son oeil ensorcelé découvre une Capoue
Partout où la chandelle illumine un taudis.

III
Etonnants voyageurs! quelles nobles histoires
Nous lisons dans vos yeux profonds comme les mers!
Montrez-nous les écrins de vos riches mémoires,
Ces bijoux merveilleux, faits d'astres et d'éthers.

Nous voulons voyager sans vapeur et sans voile!
Faites, pour égayer l'ennui de nos prisons,
Passer sur nos esprits, tendus comme une toile,
Vos souvenirs avec leurs cadres d'horizons.

Dites, qu'avez-vous vu?

IV
«Nous avons vu des astres
Et des flots, nous avons vu des sables aussi;
Et, malgré bien des chocs et d'imprévus désastres,
Nous nous sommes souvent ennuyés, comme ici.

La gloire du soleil sur la mer violette,
La gloire des cités dans le soleil couchant,
Allumaient dans nos coeurs une ardeur inquiète
De plonger dans un ciel au reflet alléchant.

Les plus riches cités, les plus grands paysages,
Jamais ne contenaient l'attrait mystérieux
De ceux que le hasard fait avec les nuages.
Et toujours le désir nous rendait soucieux!

— La jouissance ajoute au désir de la force.
Désir, vieil arbre à qui le plaisir sert d'engrais,
Cependant que grossit et durcit ton écorce,
Tes branches veulent voir le soleil de plus près!

Grandiras-tu toujours, grand arbre plus vivace
Que le cyprès? — Pourtant nous avons, avec soin,
Cueilli quelques croquis pour votre album vorace
Frères qui trouvez beau tout ce qui vient de loin!

Nous avons salué des idoles à trompe;
Des trônes constellés de joyaux lumineux;
Des palais ouvragés dont la féerique pompe
Serait pour vos banquiers un rêve ruineux;

Des costumes qui sont pour les yeux une ivresse;
Des femmes dont les dents et les ongles sont teints,
Et des jongleurs savants que le serpent caresse.»

V
Et puis, et puis encore?

VI
«Ô cerveaux enfantins!
Pour ne pas oublier la chose capitale,
Nous avons vu partout, et sans l'avoir cherché,
Du haut jusques en bas de l'échelle fatale,

Le spectacle ennuyeux de l'immortel péché:
La femme, esclave vile, orgueilleuse et stupide,
Sans rire s'adorant et s'aimant sans dégoût;
L'homme, tyran goulu, paillard, dur et cupide,

Esclave de l'esclave et ruisseau dans l'égout;
Le bourreau qui jouit, le martyr qui sanglote;
La fête qu'assaisonne et parfume le sang;
Le poison du pouvoir énervant le despote,

Et le peuple amoureux du fouet abrutissant;
Plusieurs religions semblables à la nôtre,
Toutes escaladant le ciel; la Sainteté,
Comme en un lit de plume un délicat se vautre,

Dans les clous et le crin cherchant la volupté;
L'Humanité bavarde, ivre de son génie,
Et, folle maintenant comme elle était jadis,
Criant à Dieu, dans sa furibonde agonie:

»Ô mon semblable, mon maître, je te maudis!«
Et les moins sots, hardis amants de la Démence,
Fuyant le grand troupeau parqué par le Destin,
Et se réfugiant dans l'opium immense!

— Tel est du globe entier l'éternel bulletin.»

VII
Amer savoir, celui qu'on tire du voyage!
Le monde, monotone et petit, aujourd'hui,
Hier, demain, toujours, nous fait voir notre image:
Une oasis d'horreur dans un désert d'ennui!

Faut-il partir? rester? Si tu peux rester, reste;
Pars, s'il le faut. L'un court, et l'autre se tapit
Pour tromper l'ennemi vigilant et funeste,
Le Temps! Il est, hélas! des coureurs sans répit,

Comme le Juif errant et comme les apôtres,
À qui rien ne suffit, ni wagon ni vaisseau,
Pour fuir ce rétiaire infâme; il en est d'autres
Qui savent le tuer sans quitter leur berceau.

Lorsque enfin il mettra le pied sur notre échine,
Nous pourrons espérer et crier: En avant!
De même qu'autrefois nous partions pour la Chine,
Les yeux fixés au large et les cheveux au vent,

Nous nous embarquerons sur la mer des Ténèbres
Avec le coeur joyeux d'un jeune passager.
Entendez-vous ces voix charmantes et funèbres,
Qui chantent: «Par ici vous qui voulez manger

Le Lotus parfumé! c'est ici qu'on vendange
Les fruits miraculeux dont votre coeur a faim;
Venez vous enivrer de la douceur étrange
De cette après-midi qui n'a jamais de fin!»

À l'accent familier nous devinons le spectre;
Nos Pylades là-bas tendent leurs bras vers nous.
«Pour rafraîchir ton coeur nage vers ton Electre!»
Dit celle dont jadis nous baisions les genoux.

VIII
Ô Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps! levons l'ancre!
Ce pays nous ennuie, ô Mort! Appareillons!
Si le ciel et la mer sont noirs comme de l'encre,
Nos coeurs que tu connais sont remplis de rayons!

Verse-nous ton poison pour qu'il nous réconforte!
Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brûle le cerveau,
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu'importe?
Au fond de l'Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau!

— Charles Baudelaire

Sunday, June 23, 2013

He didn't understand it at all (Knut Hamsun, The Queen of Sheba)


 
…………………………………………..

Ha, he asked me what class! Clearly the man didn't recognize me and hadn't read any of my books. I gave him the answer he deserved:
'First class.'
I paid and took my seat.
Night came and my unpleasant fellow-passenger had stretched out on his seat, eyes closed, in complete silence, without even a glance in my direction. How was I supposed to pass the time? I couldn't sleep, I was on my feet constantly, checking the doors, opening and closing the windows, freezing, yawning, keeping an eye out for the queen. Inwardly I began cursing her.
Finally, finally morning came. My fellow-passenger sat up and looked out of the window. Shortly afterwards, wide awake, he began reading again, still without looking at me. His book seemed to be endless. He annoyed me. I began singing and whistling to irritate him, but he declined to be irritated. I wished with all my heart I was back with the foot and mouth disease again rather than this unresponsive and stuck-up bastard.
Finally I couldn't stand him any more. I said:
'Excuse me, might I enquire, how far are you travelling?'
'Oh,' he said. 'Quite a way.'
That was all.
'We ran over a cow yesterday,' I said.
'I beg your pardon?'
'We ran over a cow yesterday.'
'Really?'
And he read on.
'Will you sell me that book?' I blurted out in desperation.
'This book? No.'
'No?'
'No.'
There the matter rested. He didn't even permit himself a sideways glance. In the face of such obstinacy I gave up. Actually it was all that damn queen's fault that I had been forced into the company of such a person, she really had caused me no end of bother. But all would be forgotten when I met her, and oh I'd tell her all the troubles I'd had, I'd tell her about my article in the paper, about the person waiting and waiting for me in Malmo, about my journey first on the Stockholm line and then on the Kalmar line—dear lady! I would make a really big impression on her again. And not the slightest hint of a reference to those 0re surcharges and the 118 kroner.
And the train rolls on.
In my boredom I begin looking out of the window. The view is always and ever the same: trees, fields, plains, dancing houses, tele­graph poles along the line and at every station the usual empty goods wagons. Each wagon was marked Golfyta. What was Golfyta? It was not a number, not a person. Maybe Golfyta was a great river in Skane. Or a brand name. Or even a religious sect. Then I remembered: the Golfyta was a unit of weight. Unless I was very much mistaken there were 132 pounds in one Golfyta. But these were the old-fashioned pounds, so there would be nearer 133 of them to the Golfyta . . .
And the train rolled on.
How could that dumb idiot sit there in his seat hour after hour and just read? I could have read through a crummy little book like that three times in the time he took, but he was utterly shameless, puffed up with his own importance, podgy with learning. Finally his stupidity became utterly intolerable. I leaned forward, looked at him and said:
'I beg your pardon?'
He raised his eyes and gazed at me in astonishment.
'I'm sorry?' he said.
'I beg your pardon?'
He didn't understand it at all.
'What do you want?' he asked angrily.
'What do / want? What do you want?'
'Me? I don't want anything.'
'No. Neither do I.'
'I see. Then why are you speaking to me?'
'Me? Was I speaking to you?'
'I see,' he said, and turned away in anger.
After that we fell silent again.
And the hours pass, until finally the whistle blows for Kalmar.
Now for it. Now for the great battle! I stroke my chin, naturally I'm unshaven, as usual. A lack of foresight there, not having at stations along the line places where people could get themselves a shave in order to look half-decent for that important occasion. I wasn't demanding a permanent barber at every station, but surely one at every fiftieth station wasn't an unreasonable demand? With that I rested my case.

………………………………………………..


Knut Hamsun , «The Queen of Sheba», Tales of Love & Loss, A Condor Book, Souvenir Press, 2001, translated by Robert Ferguson

Eyvind Alnaes: Two songs (Sne, Ruten)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ernst Bloch: The Muse of Restitution


 
It turned out that the old violinist lived and played after a fashion, for better or worse. Friends the recluse had none; unhappily married, he kept to himself at home as well. To his chair at the opera house he would still return somewhat punctually, but utterly morosely. More often he would drift far away during rehearsals, distracted and as though listening to something else. At his part he would saw away the more unwillingly, the more trivial some cliche or other seemed to him, which at that time— the story is from about 1750, and takes place at the court opera of a Ger­man capital—would have been Italianate. So the old musician, who promised to reform yet always showed renewed discontent, was repri­manded and demoted; his salary hardly still sufficed to keep his wife and his young daughter from hunger.

Only his wife's entreaties to the orchestra master momentarily prevented his dismissal. That his already unsuitable wife thereby became ever more quarrelsome is no surprise; perhaps only that she provoked even the girl against him, whom he had loved and once instructed in simpler songs; she even forbade her to speak with their shabby breadwinner.

After rehearsals, after an evening performance, the musician now locked himself completely in his room—unnoticed, so he imagined. There he cut his lonely capers, improvising on the violin, singing too, howling, shout­ing, stamping deep into the night. The daughter, who had slowly begun to blossom but remained timid, he would occasionally encounter on the stairs and assailed her. Clearly she was in league with that old rat bag of a wife, was spying at her behest in order to search his room tor money.

There he actually found her one evening too, as he came home early, upstairs; trembling, she sprang from his desk, with its drawers open. The night before had just borne a strange fruit of which he alone knew, and which he kept more secret than his missing money. The second act of a completely inaccessible, unmarketable, hopeless opera was finished; it was titled Siren.

The girl became even more cautious, staying in his chamber only when there was certain to be a performance, for many weeks on the lookout for the unhappy man. Until one day the musician was finally dismissed; he had refused to play along at rehearsals for the new opera by one of the fashionable composers he despised. Indeed he had fallen out so badly with the world that it cheered him not in the least to hear that his own daugh­ter had been discovered as the new vocal sensation, and would be trained as a future prima donna on the cardinal's orders. On the contrary, the sacked violinist now railed against himself too, the closer the new singer's debut approached. After all, his own flesh and blood was supposed to pre­sent the opera of the composer of the day for baptism. Completely barred in his chamber, he no longer heard all the rumors circulating outside: about the young star's moods, about the endless rehearsals for the new opera, about open scandals and intervention by the prince himself.

The evening of the premier arrived. The recluse had even draped the windows of his sanctuary. A stranger comes through the door, presenting himself as the emissary of the artistic director himself: His Excellency's coach is standing before the house to take him to the opera. Even now the man resists. They arrive at the theater; the opera has begun. Wild, jagged, deeply familiar music bursts from the hall; the old musician hastens for­ward—his daughter, as siren, is singing to the sea.

Such a story is rare, yet it does happen, and still moves us afterward. If I love you, how does that concern you? — This statement is not only inso­lent; it can be daughterly too. Certainly the nasty old man left the maiden no choice but not to ask about his love. On the other hand, though, her father concerned her extraordinarily much; no love could be more selfless. The girl, as she took the score to herself, copied it, always trembling for fear of discovery, and kept herself secret and inaccessible until the last mo­ment. Hardly any beloved could be so maidenly, in the most beautiful sense, no one so incognito and yet so strong.

As beloved, woman has always been celebrated fervently; as good wife, proudly and gratefully; as mother, reverently. But about daughters there are fewer good songs than familiar, stale ones. Yet the girl in this story is a spe­cial muse to the man, not one who brings fire from Parnassus, certainly, but one who is thoughtful, path-breaking, thereby hidden. It's already like a loyal posterity, not like a present, in this girl, and as one who has the right to be called posterity. An Italian saying goes: tempo é gentiluomo, meaning, time rights every wrong, even misrecognition. This noble daughter per­formed her office so graciously that the gentleman isn't even needed.

Ernst Bloch, Traces, Stanford University Press, 2006 translation by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University

Saturday, June 08, 2013

To say and to do

You know how much Wittgenstein wanted to know “what does it mean to say something”.  I have the same preoccupation, but I am not a philosopher. Sometimes the best way to answer a question is not exactly to keep thinking about it. Knowing that and inspired by some crazy characters in Knut Hamsun’s novels I have my own method of research. I from time to time write or talk to people that I don’t know very well but showed some sympathy - or interest or even friendship - for example, and tell them about my supposed life or about some episode that I imagine may surprise them or leave them a bit curious or embarrassed. I do that in trains and in planes too, not just when I am in town. In a way I am always trying to communicate in those circumstances with people at a deep level, even if it doesn’t look so. What I say is not the most important thing to be considered in such cases. What is relevant is that I dared to talk, that I dared to say it, whatever it was that I said. Then, in a very relaxed mood, aware of my game, I wait for an answer or look at their faces, trying to understand what they feel and what they think. I have to confess that the results are not encouraging. To “hear something” seems to be a disturbing experience, apparently. And if to hear something may be disturbing, I have to conclude that to say something is somewhat risky. More risky when you talk to people you vaguely know, for sure, because even when you don’t say anything particularly important it seems that words may look and may be felt as intimidating. There is a syntax of behavior that is in fact very similar to the syntax that regulates our use of words. Language, we have to conclude, is without any doubt a form of behavior (Wittgenstein says that it is a “form of life”, if I remember well). So, to say something is in every circumstance the same as to do something. That’s why when you do something but people don’t want to have anything to do with you, you are left alone talking to yourself and asking yourself questions about “what is a person”, “what does it mean to be a human being”? I will keep you informed of my research. It gives me so much pleasure to tease and embarrass people that I will most probably progress in a near future a bit more in my understanding of the problem.   


Johannes Edward Soice

György Ligeti - Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet (I & II)