Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Not Qute Here, but Yet at Hand

In Hermann Broch's novel, The Death of Virgil, the dying poet and the Emperor Augustus enter a prolonged dialog, an argument on statecraft and poetry, on duty, and--what is ultimately at stake here, the survival of the Aeneid. Their discussion turns on Virgil's claim to the right to his own work, the right even to destroy if it does not fulfill what he believes to be his more profound duty to it, to the duty of art.

There is a mild earthquake in progress...

Without comment:

Caesar paced back and forth over the swaying floor; with every dip of the wave he turned round so that he was always walking up-hill; but now he must have reached the top for he stopped--yet maybe he did feel the Poseidonian movement--and held on to the candelabrum: "Again you speak of things that cannot be proved."

"In art we are everywhere imitating the Greek forms, in the conduct of the state you are forging a new path. You are fulfilling the task of your time, not I."

"That proves nothing; the newness of my path may be argued, but eternal form remains eternal forms."

"Aye, Augustus, you simply do not want to see, you do not want it to be true, that the poetical task no longer exists."

"No longer exists? No longer? You sound as though we were standing at the end of something..."

"Perhaps it would be better to say, not yet! for we may assume that a time for artistic tasks will dawn again."

"No longer and not yet," --Caesar, much dismayed, was weighing these words--"and between them yawns an empty space."

Yes, no longer and not yet; that is how it sounded, how it had to sound, lost in nothingness, the lost, passed-away inter-realm of dream...

... isn't this where we always find ourselves ?

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