Sunday, May 24, 2009

She has composed, so long, a self...

J'ai passe trop de temps a travailler mon violon, a voyager. Mais l'exercice essentiel du compositeur -- la meditation -- rien ne la jamais suspendu en moi...Je vis un reve permanent, qui ne s'arrete ne nuit ni jour.
This quote from the famed Romanian violinist and composer Georges Enescu is the epigraph for Wallace Stevens' poem The World As Meditation. I translate:
I spent too much time working at my violin, in traveling. But the essential exercise of the composer -- meditation -- nothing suspended this in me...I saw a permanent dream which didn't stop night and day.
The poem is one of Stevens' last, so we can take it that he understood meditation to be the essential work of the poet too. The central metaphor of the poem is Penelope awaiting Ulysses, the long imagining of his returning, her faithfulness to a consummation that may or may not come.

Meditation. I'm not sure I know what that means. It is a difficult word that would seem to take its meaning only through its object. I would rather say "attention." Paying attention to what is given, here, now, in this world of flesh and blood, night and day. Not knowing whether there is some greater meaning to it all, but living as if every moment matters. A permanent dream? Not quite. I am not disciplined enough for that, or dreamy enough. But I keep my binoculars and my magnifier ready at hand. I walk wary. I wait and watch. And Ulysses? That thing I set out fifty years ago to find? Has it drawn nearer? I think what the poem suggests is that it doesn't matter, that it is the composing of a self that is important, that Penelope is not completed by Ulysses' arrival but by her own imaginings of his coming.