Monday, August 22, 2011

Seeing

There was a moment yesterday evening when the elements conspired to evoke these few lines, spoken by Macbeth:
        Light thickens,
And the crow makes wing to the rooky woods,
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse.
The fading light. The crows gliding down the fields to the trees in Ballybeg. :
        Light thickens,
And the crow makes wing to the rooky woods,
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse.
It's all there, in those few lines -- the mysterious power of poetry to infuse the world with meaning, to anoint the world with a transforming grace.

One could spend an hour picking those lines apart, syntax and sound, sense and alliteration. The t's of light thickening, tongue against the teeth. The alar w's making wing. The owl eyes of the double o's. The d's nodding into slumber -- day, droop, drowse.

The poet Howard Nemerov says of poetry that it "works on the very surface of the eye, that thin, unyielding wall of liquid between mind and world, where somehow, mysteriously, the patterns formed by electrical storms assaulting the retina become things and the thought of things and the names of things and the relations supposed between thing." It works too in the mouth, in the physical act of speech -- tongue, teeth, those d's gliding deeper into the darkness of the throat.

I stand in the gloaming garden and the black birds glide, down, down to Ballybeg, and I marvel that with so few syllables Shakespeare can -- across the centuries -- teach me how to see.