September 17, 2009

Renovating Virtues

This is one of the best quotes about the relationship of art to life....
The relation of art to life is of the first importance especially in a skeptical age since, in the absence of a belief in God, the mind turns to its own creations and examines them, not alone from the aesthetic point of view, but for what they reveal, for what they validate and invalidate, for the support that they give." - Wallace Stevens (Opus Posthumous, page 159)
I suppose the quote particularly vibed with me since I, being an athiest, have sought strength, solace, and the lovely company of music and poetry in a difficult period of my life. So, be it music, poetry, paintings, or any other art, I have seen that art that can connect and move you can rejuvenate you from the tedium of life. These are the renovating virtues through which "our minds are nourished and invisibly repaired" [1].

As the critic Robert Pack writes in the Introduction to his 1968 book on Wallace Stevens and his poetry and thought:
To say that all things are potentially beautiful, for there is nothing beyond the touch of the artist, may not be the last reach in the paradox of human understanding, but at least it indicates the kind of paradise that may be lost if the prophetic voice is right. This paradise, rich with the transformation the imagination makes of ordinary experience, is what Wallace Stevens envisions and evolves, it is the treasure most accessible to our modest lives, and for many it would define the sum of human loss were it to be relinquished.
Leave you with a lovely poem by Wallace Stevens titled "Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour."

Light the first light of evening
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough. 
[1] The words "renovating virtues" I borrow from this lovely excerpt from William Wordsworth's The Prelude.

    There are in our existence spots of time,
    That with distinct pre-eminence retain
    A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
    By false opinion and contentious thought,
    Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
    In trivial occupations, and the round
    Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
    Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
    A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
    That penetrates, enables us to mount,
    When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.

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