Friday, June 12, 2009

Fifth anniversary

Tom tells me that we have reached the fifth anniversary of this blog. Millions of words, more words perhaps here in retirement than in all of my books together, more words than during those twenty years with the Boston Globe. To what end?

Not to entertain, surely, although those of you who visit here have been a blessing and a treasure.

Nor because I am flattered by the sound of my own voice; it is too late in the game for that.

Then why?

I mentioned here a few weeks ago playing ,as a young man, Ariel in Shakespeare's The Tempest. At my present age, it is lines by Caliban I think of:
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight, and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices,
That, if I then had wak'd after a long sleep,
Will make me sleep again.
Now, in my nodding retirement, I have time to attend the sounds and sweet airs that fill this wondrous isle we call Earth, the glimmerings and whisperings that give delight and hurt not, the strange noises -- the chirping of crickets and the cosmic microwave background radiation, the language of Shakespeare and the rumble of distant thunder. And out of those glimmerings and whisperings and strange noises to compose, such as it is, a soul.

Yes, that's what I have been doing here: soul building. In his third sonnet to Opheus, Rilke uses the phrase Gesang ist Dasein, singing is being. And so I sing. Not to entertain, or for applause, or for lucre; those days are past. I sing to be.

And say with Yeats:
Now shall I make my soul,
Compelling it it study
In a learned school
Till the wreck of body,
Slow decay of blood,
Testy delirium
Or dull decrepitude,
Or what worse evil come --
The death of friends, or death
Of every brilliant eye
That made a catch in the breath --
Seem but the clouds of the sky
When the horizon fades;
Or a bird's sleepy cry
Among the deepening shades.