Existence is a gadfly to the poet, sometimes a burden. It is fitting here to recognise that existing is to each of us our lot and the cross of the individual, task which weighs upon him more imperiously than the sky on Atlas’ shoulders, for the latter had the luxury of being freed from it, even if it was by chance and for a few hours only. The poet does not have the privilege of life, nor of the pain or the rage of living: he is man and in that he is no stranger to what is human. At most are there people who seem more adapted to the weight of existence, so that one could say of them, along the image given by Baudelaire, that they are on its stage more akin to rude-armed sailors than to albatrosses entangled in their wings like in a straightjacket. One could also say that if the world is a cosmos of perfect proportions, then the poet is like a grain of sand in a Swiss clockwork; he is an incongruity, an atom of chaos, irreconcilable; a sort of rebel despite himself, a shipwrecked, without a country so without a shore to sigh after:
Ne suis-je pas un faux accordBAUDELAIRE, Charles: L’Héautontimorouménos. In: Les Fleurs du Mal, 1861.
Dans la divine symphonie
What remains of Ulysses after one has abstracted Ithaca? Not very much, I would say – a man of twists and turns and an endless sea the colour of wine … “Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage”. (2) Notice, please, how the verb in the verse is in the past tense: the journey is over, the hero has returned. – Blissful Ulysses, happiest of men! Your ecstasy after twenty years of yearning is a taste of Elysium to come, but will you still weep for the soul that roams the living world like a defunct the meadows of Asphodel and that will never be home, even if it erred for a thousand years? Will you only be able to understand its disquiet? – And is it really pity that it deserves? …
Que faut-il faire de mes joursARAGON, Louis: Bierstube Magie allemande. In: Le Roman inachevé, 1956.
Que faut-il faire de mes nuits
Je n’avais amour ni demeure
Nulle part où je vive ou meure
Je passais comme la rumeur
Je m’endormais comme le bruit
The myth of Leto strikes me in this context as an aestheticised representation of the poet’s existence, as a staging modo poetico of his inner turmoil. Leto was the lover of Zeus and expectant when Hera learned about her husband’s unfaithfulness; irate, she ordered all earth to shun the parturient and sent the serpent Python to track her down. (Whoever is acquainted with Greek legends will know that this is a laughably common plot: the reason for this is perhaps that the Greeks knew well that contact with the divine curses those very same it blesses – a fact brought to its frightening summit in the great monotheisms and which one can also argue is at play in the domain of aesthetics when one sees that madness often accompanies genius like the shadow cast by its brilliance.) Rejected and pursued, tired and in pain, ostracised by every city and every country, with nowhere to go, Leto experienced absolute alienation, her drifting only finding an end when she reached an island as uprooted as her, unconcerned by Hera’s decree, where she found the respite to give birth to Artemis and Apollo. To thank the island, Zeus gave it a fixed location between sky and sea and named it Delos: “the manifest”.
(2) DU BELLAY, Joachim: Sonnet XXXI. In: Les Regrets, 1558.