Sunday, July 4, 2010

No Escape, Part Seven: "The Bliss Which Dreams And Blackbirds' Voices Promise, Of Which The Waves Whisper"

I wish to thank the erudite and generous Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti (which I highly recommend) for introducing me to Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946).  Smith -- in his wry, tongue-in-cheek fashion -- recognized our (and his own) tendency to pine for an ideal land that harbors our long-sought happiness.


I, who move and breathe and place one foot before the other, who watch the Moon wax and wane, and put off answering my letters, where shall I find the Bliss which dreams and blackbirds' voices promise, of which the waves whisper, and hand-organs in streets near Paddington faintly sing?

Does it dwell in some island of the South Seas, or far oasis among deserts and gaunt mountains; or only in those immortal gardens pictured by Chinese poets beyond the great, cold palaces of the Moon?

               Poussin, "Landscape with Orpheus and Eurydice" (1650)


Cricketers on village greens, hay-makers in the evening sunshine, small boats that sail before the wind -- all these create in me the illusion of Happiness, as if a land of cloudless pleasure, a piece of the old Golden World, were hidden, not (as poets have fancied) in far seas or beyond inaccessible mountains, but here close at hand, if one could find it, in some undiscovered valley.  Certain grassy lanes seem to lead through the copses thither; the wild pigeons talk of it behind the woods.

               Poussin, "Landscape with Saint John on Patmos" (1640)


Somewhere, far below the horizon, there is a City; some day I shall sail to find its harbour; by what star I shall steer, or where the seaport lies, I do not know; but somehow or other through calms and storms and the sea-noises I shall voyage, until at last some mountain peak shall rise, telling me I am near my destination; or I shall see, at dusk, a lighthouse, twinkling at its port.

                           Poussin, "Landscape with Diogenes" (1647)

These short "pieces of moral prose" (as Smith described them) come from Smith's Trivia (1917) and More Trivia (1921).  Again, I thank Michael Gilleland for introducing me to Smith and his work.

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