The author of this text must warn that he is a dilettante writer and, in the words of someone more gifted than him, “un sombre raseur”. He understands very little about poetry and less and less about wisdom, which counts so many acquaintances and so few true friends. However, having been invited by his own friends the masters in the art of philosophy and the science of poetry to contribute to their enterprise, for which he is grateful, he has, unaccustomedly, laid on paper a series of reflections, intended less to stimulate reflection themselves than to amuse and be forgotten afterwards. The author hopes that these few lines, written without pretention, will be pleasant to his reader – if he is allowed to believe that he will have one – and entertain him the space of a few moments.
Poiesis, in Greek, means “creation”. God was a poet when He created the world. Let us hope that He was inspired.
Does this entail that inspiration pre-exists God, that she is more primordial than Him? Yet is it not said that it is God who grants inspiration, the breath of life, the soul, which some Greeks call psyche and some others call pneuma? Conclusion, somersault: God is the creative inspiration. Besides, if inspiration were exterior to Him, as she is to us, she could never have accompanied Him during the six days that lasted His labour. Inspiration is an untameable mistress that visits her lovers according to her own wants and never spends much time with either of them; she gleans hither and thither, the bohemian youngest sibling of the Erinyes, coming and going according to her whim, which is the logic of women and of the gods; sword of Damocles that rejoices those it slays – for in the same manner as the ones that die see their life flash before them in a single instant that is both life and death, those that are pierced by its blade are vivified in the blink of an eye by a hundred new impressions of which only a few, for lack of time, they will be able to seize in their flight. The beloved child of the muses, their slave, must find solace in that, in the world of spirit, value is not a function of quantity, therefore that what is precious is so even when there is little of it.
It can be said of inspiration that she is fickle; it can also be said of her that she is cruel. For when she is here, when she finally deigned to torment her suitor by according him her favours, she takes away by that very motion his rest and forbids him from laying down the feather until, without the maniac even noticing, she has forsaken him anew. But the poets prefer this torture infinitely more to this other one, alas more frequent, that consists in her absence, for the mind is an ass and the days drag their feet when she is not there to crack the whip.
I asked her to hold meCOHEN, Leonard: Lady Midnight. In: Songs from a Room, 1969.
I said: ‘Lady, unfold me’,
But she scorned me and she told me
I was dead and I could never return
God is inspiration, the world is His poetry. A critic could make the remark that the world is far from being as succeeded as it could be: that it is horribly long, that certain parts are clumsily composed, that truthfully it is in a number of ways merely ugly and that it does not offer much in the way of either heads or tails; yes that this poem, epic, tragic, comedic, absurd, brilliant piece of amateur ambition, that this creature, this chimera, contains simultaneously the best and the worst the human mind could imagine. This critic could continue his evaluation by conceding that the work has potential and even showcases traces of true genius – mad genius perhaps, but genius nonetheless – but that it merits to be reworked, edited, censored. The appreciation, should no one have asked for it, is nevertheless accurate; the advice, however, relies perhaps more on good faith than on good judgement. Because style, as Buffon (1) says, is the man himself – his personal way of relating to a thought, his own flick of the wrist when it comes to forming an idea so that it may be presented to the outside, short: that unintelligible part of interiority which he struggles to not express when communicating. Style is first and foremost the imperfections, the grooves and kinks in an writer’s mind. Style is what makes him stand out, for the best and for the worst. And the least one can say about this extravagant bit of poetry that is the world is that it is indeed remarkable.
God is inspiration, the world His poetry. This is why the poets find their matter in the contemplation of nature, understood broadly as the things of the world. A fertile mind always finds a spur in what has sprung from another. This principle of emulation can be observed between men, the same process must be at work between them and the world (let us remember that for Bishop Berkeley everything exists in the mind of God and that Spinoza says that there is only one substance which is: “Deus sive Natura”). This is also why, however, nothing created by men is ever perfectly new.
(1) Georges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon. No relation to the goalkeeper.