Wednesday, March 03, 2010

`Not to Work But to Be Worked Upon'

Nige’s mother, age 88, suffered a double stroke Sunday and remains, at last report, “in a very bad way.” Our thoughts turn to her and her family. The day she was stricken, Feb. 28, was the 477th anniversary of Montaigne’s birth. I reread the great “Apology to Raymond Sebond,” an essay I first read thirty-seven summers ago in Chambéry, 400 miles east of Montaigne’s native Bordeaux. I also reread Emerson’s “Montaigne; or, the Skeptic” (from Representative Men, 1850). His final sentences seem pertinent:

“Let a man learn to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting; let him learn to bear the disappearance of things he was wont to reverence without losing his reverence; let him learn that he is here, not to work but to be worked upon; and that, though abyss open under abyss, and opinion displace opinion, all are at last contained in the Eternal Cause:-

“`If my bark sink, 'tis to another sea.’”

Nige and I share admiration for his country’s Geoffrey Hill. I offer his “Offertorium: December 2002,” from Without Title (2006):

“For rain-sprigged yew trees, blockish as they guard
admonitory sparse berries, atrorubent
stone holt of darkness, no, of claustral light:
for late distortions lodged by first mistakes;
for all departing, as our selves, from time;
for random justice held with things half-known,
with restitution if things come to that.”

1 comment:

Nige said...

Thank you, Patrick. And I've been very touched by the responses on the blog. The sympathy of our little community of feeling is very sustaining.