Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

19 June 2010

Apollinaire ...and Death

Some fabulous excerpts from Guillaume Apollinaire for this sunny Saturday. I will be very brief. This is from "La Bestiaire (The Bestiary)":
Lovely days, the mice of time,
You slowly gnaw my life away.
O God! I shall be twenty-eight,
Years poorly spent, I am afraid.

As an elephant grows ivory
I bear in my mouth a precious gift.
O purple death!... I buy my fame
At the expense of tuneful words.
Another. This is from "Le Pont Mirabeau":
Love leaves us like this flowing stream
Love flows away
How slow life is and mild
And oh how hope can suddenly run wild
And perhaps my favorite couple of phrases that I've read so far are from "Les Fiançailles (Betrothals)":
I have had the courage to look behind me
At the corpses of my days
Which strew my path and I mourn them
Forgive my ignorance
Forgive me for no longer knowing the old game of riming
I know nothing any more and I can only love
It will not, I suppose, surprise those of you who know me that I am thinking about my friend Andrew as I read Apollinaire's words today. He was twenty-eight when he died last year around this time.

I have been thinking a lot about death lately, to be totally honest. I have only told a couple of people about this, but death feels very present to me just now. I am positive that I know why this is.

I have been spending an inordinate amount of time reading about Modernist artists—Stephane Mallarmé, Maurice Maeterlinck, Apollinaire, Alfred Jarry, Erik Satie, Henri Rousseau, Rachilde, Paul Fort, Lugné-Poe, Joséphin Péladan—and, well, all of these men and women are dead. (I am going to move forward to the Dadas quite soon, and, of course, all of them will be dead, as well.) It feels odd to me to spend so much time with the dead. Perhaps, too, it is that their art—the art of the Parisian avant-garde—is so personal, so bound up with their actual lives, that makes their deaths seem so present. And so I think about mortality: about my own of course, but mostly about mortality in general. There is a mourning, I think, that I am doing, for these artists for whom I have such affection, these artists whom I study so carefully but whom I never met.