Monday, December 21, 2009

Rabbi Ishmael and William Blake in Blake's Garden

Excerts from an old short story:
The layout of the pages in the traditional volumes, the illustrated cover plates, the architectural gateways and arches, the promise of hidden gardens beyond; the grave and authoritative blocks of print that centered each page, set within a labyrinth of commentary, beckoned like a latticed balustrade around a shuttered window. The sages twined their questions over the margins, prying open the secrets of the text, shooting out a tendril to pluck a phrase here, a word there; a single letter in the darshan's hands could strike a spark like flint on glass, to light new meaning in the text, or ignite and turn to ash an older one. In his own mind, he reinvented the sages. Before his eyes, they shattered the Biblical stories as one shatters a mirror, then gathering the remnants, the gleaming splinters, arranged them in shifting mosaics, kaleidoscopes of words, letters that sounded one off the other like wind chimes, cantilations in the holy of holies of the imagination. [. . .]

Words! Words that were at once song and speech, indecipherable, inexhaustible as wind. Words, incomprehensible, whose meaning and power seemed, to the young Mark, to lie beyond language. Words, the hazen bent into music as a blacksmith bends iron to his will, as a goldsmith beats gold into grape clusters, date palms, pomegranates; he chanted, and the air was filled with silver--the burnished jewels of intelligible emotion.

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