Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I celebrate my Thanksgiving birthday with Keats--

I give thanks for a conflagration of cake with yet another birthday with an excerpt from a document written on November 22nd in 1817--a letter from John Keats to his friend Benjamin Bailey that is full of dear concern for a friend, bright musings, and the ideal. He may have despaired that his name was "writ in water," but it was the kind of water that splits rocks or springs up as new life...

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of Imagination - What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth - whether it existed before or not - for I have the same idea of all our passions as of love: they are all, in their sublime, creative of essential beauty. In a word, you may know my favorite speculation by my first book, and the little song I send in my last, which is a representation from the fancy of the probable mode of operating in these matters. The imagination may be compared to Adam's dream, - he awoke and found it truth. I am more zealous in this affair because I have never yet been able to perceive how anything can be known for truth by consecutive reasoning - and yet it must be. Can it be that even the greatest philosopher ever arrived at his goal without putting aside numerous objections? However it may be, O for a life of sensation rather than of thoughts! It is a 'Vision in the form of Youth,' a shadow of reality to come. And this consideration has further convinced me, - for it has come as auxiliary to another favorite speculation of mine, - that we shall enjoy ourselves hereafter by having what we called happiness on earth repeated in a finer tone and so repeated. And yet such a fate can only befall those who delight in sensation, rather than hunger as you do after truth. Adam's dream will do here, and seems to be a conviction that imagination and its empyreal reflection is the same as human life and its spiritual repetition. But, as I was saying, the simple imaginative mind may have its rewards in the repetition of its own silent working coming continually on the spirit with a fine suddenness - to compare great things with small - have you never by being Surprised with an old Melody - in a delicious place - by a delicious voice, felt over again your very Speculations and Surmises at the time it first operated on your Soul - do you not remember forming to yourself the singer's face more beautiful than it was possible and yet with the elevation of the Moment you did not think so - even then you were mounted on the Wings of Imagination so high - that the Protrotype must be here after - that delicius face you will see. What a time! I am continually running away from the subject - sure this cannot be exactly the case with a complex Mind - one that is imaginative and at the same time careful of its fruits - who would exist partly on Sensation partly on thought - to whom it is necessary that years should bring the philosophic Mind - such an one I consider your's and therefore it is necessary to your eternal Happiness that you not only drink this old Wine of Heaven, which I shall call the redigestion of our most ethereal Musings on Earth; but also increase in knowledge and know all things.

4 comments:

  1. Oh, happy happy birthday, dear Marly! May the Wings of Imagination always carry you forth.

    And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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  2. Oh, thank you, Marja Leena--a lovely wish!

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  3. I can't top Marja Leena's wish, but I wish you much more of the same, with a cherry on top! How rude of me to lose track of your birthday! Hope it's a happy one, with nary a dish to wash, as you say in FB.

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  4. Ah, yes, not a dish! The children are washing...

    Facebook is rather stunning, isn't it, these days, on a birthday? The deluge of good wishes could float an ark.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.