Monday, December 17, 2007

revision, better and better, treats,

My friend, the journalist who shelters behind the nom de plume of the fictional mariner, Barret Bonden, is right (see my post two days ago): "The reflex of a star" is much more powerful than the "image of a star". This was one of the real improvements ,which Wordsworth made in his revision of The Prelude. But are all revisions better than the original in work of art? Sometimes you lose freshness and simplicity. Here's an instance where Wordsworth did just that in The Prelude. His final version of the lines, which describe how, with his sister, he lay on the battlements of Brougham Castle

... Catching from tufts of grass and hare bell flowers
Their faintest whisper from the passing breeze,
Given out while mid day heat oppressed the plain.."

seems tired and unduly complex beside the original

...lay listening to the wild flowers and the grass
As they gave out their whispers to the wind.

It's not often that you hear the name of the French psychologist and best selling author (from the 1920s), Emil Coué nowadays. In my childhood, I remember my father regularly quoting the slogan behind Coué's system of optimistic auto suggesion: "Every day, in every way I get better and better." That was what you were supposed to tell yourself to speed your recovery from an illness or a spell of bad luck, or simply to keep on top of things. During Heidi's recovery from her hip operation, I find myself repeating the words to her. But it is a surprise when a neighbour, having enquired after the hip, and heard me say, she gets better every day, says "... every day, in every way." And adds "Coué!" I express surprise. "My housemaster made us repeat it when we were recovering from flu. We had to sit up in bed and beat our chests and say, 'every day, in everyway I get better and better'. He was a fanatic, a real fanatic!"

A woman walks briskly along the pavement holding a brightly wrapped present in her hand. She approaches a front door and knocks loudly. Her face is set in a grim rictus, one hopes because of the icy wind rather than because she feels she is performing a burdensome duty.


Lucy said...

My father's sister who eventually converted and became a nun, was for a time taken up with Coue.
My father always pronounced it 'Cooie-ism', with a smile.

'soulless' said...

I've heard about auto-suggestion, but never tried it. Yet. I think I'll give Coue's a try. (As an aside, whenever I'm sick, I just tell myself to get up and get things done, everything is temporary. That seems to work. I haven't been hospitalized for the past decade or so.) Thank you for sharing this. Cheers!

Plutarch said...

I don't know much about Coue, but his slogan has always seemed to make sense.