Sunday, September 23, 2007

The quiet of the sky

In his chapter on 'The Picturesque Environment' in The Song of the Earth, Jonathan Bate quotes Adorno: 'If you exclaim "what a sight!" in some natural setting, you detract from the beauty by violating the silence of its language'.

For Bate, 'the impossible task of the ecopoet is to speak the silence of the place'. He thinks Wordsworth got close in 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey' which goes 'beyond the enumeration of picturesque beauties to a wholly felt, but perforce not fully describable sense of 'the indeterminate quality of things.'' (The last phrase is Valery's, quoted by Adorno: 'the beautiful may require the slavish imitation of the indeterminable quality of things.') In the lines below, Wordsworth sees the landscape but connects it to the silence of the sky:

Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

As Jonathan Bate says, 'the picturesque looks, the ecopoetic connects.'

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