O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

P.B. Shelley, Mont Blanc


Percy Bysshe Shelley

1792- 1822

major English Romantic poet
(2nd generation)

'Mont Blanc:
Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni”  

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls in rapid waves,
Now dark — now glittering — now reflecting gloom —
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tributes brings
Of waters, — with a sound but half its own.
Such a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap forever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.
Thus thou, Ravine of Arve — dark, deep Ravine —
Thou many-coloured, many-voiced vale,
Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
Fast cloud shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
From the ice gulphs that gird his secret throne,
Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame
Of lightning through the tempest; — thou dost lie,
Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,
Children of elder time, in whose devotion
The chainless winds still come and ever came
To drink their odours, and their mighty swinging
To hear — an old and solemn harmony;
Thine earthly rainbows stretched across the sweep
Of the etherial waterfall, whose veil
Robes some unsculptured image; the strange sleep
Which when the voices of the desart fail
Wraps all in its own deep eternity; —
Thy caverns echoing to the Avre's commotion,
A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame;
Thou art the path of that unresting sound —
Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee
I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy,
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencings,
Holding an unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around;
One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings
Now float above thy darkness, and now rest
Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,
In the still cave of the witch Poesy,
Seeking among the shadows that pass by
Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,
Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast
From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!
Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep, — that death is slumber,
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake and live — I look on high;
Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
The veil of life and death? or do I lie
In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
Spread far around and inaccessibly
Its circles? For the very spirit fails,
Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
That vanishes among the viewless gales!
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears, — still, snowy, and serene —
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
And wind among the accumulated steeps;
A desart peopled by the storms alone,
Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
And the wolf tracts her there — how hideously
Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,
Ghastly and scarred, and riven. — is this the scene
Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young
Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea
Of fire, envelope once this silent snow?
None can reply — all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be
But for such faith with nature reconciled;
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, of deeply feel.
The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
Within the dædal earth; lightning, and rain,
Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,
The torpor of the year when feeble dreams
Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
Holds every future leaf and flower; — the bound
With which from that detested trance they leap;
The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
And that of him and all that his may be;
All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
Are born and die; revolve , subside and swell.
Power dwells apart in its tranquillity
Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
And this, the naked countenance of earth,
On which I gaze, even these primæval mountains
Teach the adverting mind. The glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
Slow rolling on; there, many a precipice,
Frost and the Sun in scorn of mortal power
Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,
A city of death, distinct with many a tower
And wall impregnable of beaming ice.
Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin
Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
Rolls its perpetual stream; vast pines are stewing
Its destined path, or in the mangles soil
Branchless and shattered stand: the rocks, drawn down
From yon remotest waste, have overthrown
The limits of the dead and living world,
Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place
Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil;
Their food and their retreat for ever gone,
So much of life and joy is lost. The race
OF man, flies far in dread; his work and dwelling
Vanish, like smoke before the tempest's stream,
And their place is not known. Below, vast caves
Shine is the rushing torrents' restless gleam,
Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
The breath and blood of distant lands, for ever
Rolls its loud waters to the ocean waves,
Breathes its swifts vapours to the circling air.
                     Mont Blanc yet gleams on high: — the power is there,
                     The still and solemn power of many sights,
                     And many sounds, and much of life and death.
                     In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
                     In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
                     Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
                     Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
                     Or the star-beams dart through them: — Winds contend
                     Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
                     Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
                     The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
                     Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
                     Over the snow. The secret strength of things
                     Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
                     Of heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
                     And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
                     If to the human mind's imaginings
                     Silence and solitude were vacancy?

"Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni”  is an ode by the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The poem was composed between the end of July 1816 and the end of August 1816 when, along with Mary Godwin (who soon after became his wife) and Claire Clairmont (Mary Godwin's half-sister) Percy Shelley toured the Chamonix Valley and visited Mont Blanc.
The poem was first published in 1817 in Percy Shelley and Mary Shelley's History of a Six Weeks’ Tour through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland’.
After Percy Shelley's early death in 1822, Mary Shelley published two collected editions of her husband's poetry, both of which included "Mont Blanc".
In the composition of the poem, Percy Shelley was inspired by the scenery surrounding a bridge over the Arve River in the Valley of Chamonix in Savoy, near Geneva, and decided to set his poem in a similar landscape. In his Preface to his History of a Six Weeks’ Tour through a Part of France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland, he wrote that his verse was "composed under the immediate impression of the deep and powerful feelings excited by the objects which it attempts to describe; and, as an undisciplined overflowing of the soul, rests its claim to approbation on an attempt to imitate the untamable wilderness and inaccessible solemnity from which those feeling sprang".
In "Mont Blanc",  P. B. Shelley compares the power of the mountain against the power of human imagination and emphasises the ability of the human imagination to uncover truth through the study of nature. In the poem the power of the mountain, of Mont Blanc, symbolises the universe (= and so the author is examining the relationship between the human mind and the universe).
In particular the poem discusses the influence of perception on the mind, and how the world can become a reflection of the operation of the mind. Although Shelley believed that the human mind should be free of restraints, he also recognized that nothing in the universe is truly free as he believes that there is a force in it to which the human mind is connected and by which it is influenced.
The author concludes that only a select few can truly understand the secrets of the universe. Moreover, this privileged few, seeing nature as it really is, can express its benevolence and malevolence through the device of poetry. Thus the importance of the poet who can use the truth found in nature (he interprets the mountain’s ‘voice’) to guide humanity through his composition.
Although nature can teach one about the imagination and offer truths about the universe, the poem denies the existence of natural religion.

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