Friday, July 09, 2010

seaside, astilbe, symbols


Posted by PicasaI do like to be beside the seaside,
I do like to be beside the sea.

The astilbe, which I planted the other day with its cream coloured, feathery panicles, is called astilbe Deutschland, a fact which I forgot to mention when I referred to it a few days ago. The name comes back to me the day after Germany is defeated by Spain in the World Cup semi-finals, and I notice that  this fine and healthy plant is looking sorry for itself; its leaves drooping, it is leaning sideways as though  it is tired of hanging around. It might  be the match result of course  but more likely, as a  plant recently transferred from pot to bed, it needs water. So water it gets by the can full  whereupon it is quickly restored to its perky self. It could still have been the football, though.

Wallace Stevens comes up in conversation when my brother Ken visits us yesterday. He's difficult to understand, he says, and so he is. He is described as a symbolist and that to some extent explains the obscurity. The images make their own sense in a world of their own and move forward within their own logic.  At one level it is hard to grasp,
"...Let be be the finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream."
But at another level the poem from which these lines come,  makes its own considered sense. It is the same with an earlier symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé . His poem Brise Marine begins:
"La chair est triste hélas! et j'ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir! là- bas fuir! Je sense que des oiseaux sont ivres
D'être parmi lécume inconnue et les cieux".
Which literally translated is:
"The flesh is sad, alas! I have read all the books.
To escape! To escape far away. I feel that the birds are drunk
To be amid unknown foam and the skies".
I have known both these poems for many years and would find it hard to explain what they mean. But I only know that I love them for their images as well as their sound and the way the lead my thoughts.

3 comments:

The Crow said...

Another sign-reading gull, probably trying to figure out how to pass as a dog!

"But," it muses, "what's a lead?"

Do birds get sunburned beaks and legs, do you suppose? (Silly question, I suppose, but I do wonder.)

Lucy said...

There's much to be said for a magical universe, with prophetic octopi and grieving astilbe, over the other kind. And a white astilbe bowed in grief is a rather fetching image.

I like your thoughts on the symbols. I somehow imagine the Mallarmé being recited rather flatly in the background of a grainy film installation in an old chateau somewhere. Which it probably has been. It also comes back round rather nicely to your seagull at the beginning, to which it could also be an accompaniment. Yes, a grainy film installation of the seagull by the sea, with the Mallarmé being recited and somewhere, rather faint dissonant, the strains of 'Beside the Seaside'...

I think I've missed my vocation. Probably just as well.

Plutarch said...

Crow As a bird, you should know about sun tan lotion made specially for seagulls. Crows, on account of their colour, have no need of it, I imagine.

Lucy

You have missed your vocation, I think, but not, certainly not just as well. Your installation demands to be installed.