Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sailing towards Byzantium

"Once out of nature, I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make"

Maybe I say something controversial here, something overly romantic: but as far as art is concerned I think we are always sailing towards Byzantium and are out of nature with such forms as Grecian goldsmiths make... This is an aesthetic view or an oldfashioned view of aesthetics: art as beauty and art as otherhood. What we are in "real life" is something different - art is not a mirror. For me the interesting thing, the aesthetic thing (also) is this conflict between experience and art, in that sense I want to reach beyond it, beyond art. (I wonder if this formulation makes any sense.)

Of course, I wanted to talk about Yeats here, but reading those lines for the quotation, that poem, brought very naturally, self-evidently back these thoughts. If you speak about Yeats, you speak about art - he is the quintensessial artist, craftsman. In many ways especially his later poetry exemplifies my thinking of art, of the beauty of art and also its conflicts. Yeats is almost beyond comparison in his language and skill. Maybe Wallace Stevens and T.S.Eliot can reach where he reaches. But such follies! Such idiocies: his "thinking" was silly beyond words, his experience so far from his poetic mythologization of it. Yeats is I think a good illustration of Plato's well known disdain of literature, his follies are the follies of an artist, or of art. But this said: who reaches further, Plato or Yeats? What can philosophy do without art, what can it be without art? My answer would be: very, very little. Maybe art in itself is not enough, but without it we would barely be alive, barely be human.

But this is the last day of a week's holiday for me, have to go through my emails, to prepare for the dreary Monday morning. Maybe more of Yeats later, but these words to end the post, the beauty and the folly of art:

"I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind,
In balance with this life, this death."

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