Monday, August 19, 2013

the birds of the air

There was a Young Lady in White,
Who looked out at the depths of the Night;
But the birds of the air
Filled her heart with despair,
And oppressed that Young Lady in White.

Edward Lear


  1. for me this is irony, such a holy and healing site twinned with Lear's lyric. but perhaps this is only my prejudice with birds and fields. the horizon askew and man's presence in the form of progress does speak a dizzying malady. but i refuse, only wanting the healing of the rise of a murmur. in this way i wonder if i can see at all, or if i only ever see what i choose.

    i want to leave behind the world of man and go to the place where these birds might rush through me wavering between form and formlessness.


  2. Replies
    1. erin: you won't be surprised if i say that my feeling for birds and fields is much like yours, and i would usually be inclined toward an image like this as soothing, rather than unsettling ...

      but this limerick of lear's has been under my skin like a splinter for twenty years or so (he's really one of my favorite writers -- one of the few writers of "children'literature" to respect children enough to write for them!) consider what it means to be a "Young Lady in White," with all its associations of purity and innocence and perhaps victorian restriction, and to "look out" -- from a window? -- at the birds ... i think it is exactly this "wavering between form and formlessness" that oppresses her, the inhuman and dizzying fecundity of nature -- perhaps as she stands at the verge of the possibility of her own transformation, unsettled equally by fear and attraction, and must choose the combined threat and freedom of formlessness, or turn away from the window into a safe but very circumscribed and formal social existence ...

      at least, i read the poem in this way (for the moment), though i don't think i would have ever been able to articulate any of it without your resistance :-)) i placed it with this image more as an instinctive gesture and to get lear off my back ...

      love :-))


  3. you provoke:) now i hover between wanting to punch you playfully in the shoulder or spin you around in joy.

    i read it again though from the perspective of Victorian restriction (giving up my resistance and travelling away from my self) and it is a mass of confusion rising on the horizon, the internal conflict made external, as well as the natural world providing provocation to the viewer. perfection:) and a good exercise for me. how i cleave to my own sensibilities is narrowing. and while i knew this upon first viewing, i was unprepared to see otherwise, although i tried:)

    yes, love))))

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    2. erin: the undeniable physicality of birds, their teeming, warm, voracious bodies and always-pulsing sexuality, their life in natural cycles that are nothing more than birth, copulation, and death -- and ultimately meaningless ... as opposed to the calm, restraint, and meaningfulness of being a victorian Young Lady in White ... and she stands in a place of transition, liminal, before a window and at night, poised at the point of change and perhaps both attracted and repelled ... in white, could she be a bride facing the unknown on her wedding night? an even younger Lady on the verge of menstruation? ... even if neither of those specific situations apply, this is, i think, her sensibility, the moment feels like the dread before one of those transitions, an existential dread ...