Weekly ZiNgers! Renascence of the soul

February 25, 2019

 

"The soul can split the sky in two,

 And let the face of God shine through."

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay svoju je reputaciju vrhunske poete stekla veličanstvenom poemom Renascence, koja joj je osigurala književnu slavu i označila početak njene spisateljske karijere. U ovotjednom ćemo Zingeru pobliže proučiti život i djelo književnice koja se smatra jednom od najboljih američkih pjesnikinja dvadesetog stoljeća.

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay (22. veljače 1892. - 19. listopada 1950.) bila je američka lirska pjesnikinja i dramatičarka. 1923. godine dobila je Pulitzerovu nagradu za poeziju, postavši tako treća žena koja je osvojila nagradu za poeziju do tada. Njena opera The King's Henchman bila je najpopularnija opera svog vremena, a nakon što je objavljena u tiskanom izdanju, polučila je jednak uspjeh. Osim po književnim dostignućima, Edna je bila poznata i po svom burnom privatnom životu. 

 

Rođena je u Rocklandu, u Maineu. Njena majka Cora Lounella Buzelle razvela se od njenog oca, Henryja Tolmana Millaya kad je Edna imala dvanaest godina, te se Edna nakon toga s majkom i sestrama selila iz grada u grad, živeći u siromaštvu. Cora je bila odlučna u tome da kćerima osigura dobru edukaciju i gdje god se obitelj selila sa sobom je uvijek nosila kovčeg prepun književnih klasika poput Shakespearea i Miltona, koje je čitala kćerima. Također ih je poticala da pišu poeme i priče. Obitelj se na kraju smjestila u Camdenu, u Maineu i tu je Edna krenula u srednju školu i počela razvijati svoje književne talente, počevši od školskog književnog časopisa. S četrnaest godina osvojila je nagradu za poeziju, a do petnaeste godine objavila je poeziju u dječjim književnim časopisima i antologiji Current Literature

 

Kad je imala devetnaest godina majka ju je nagovorila da se prijavi na književni natječaj te se Edna prijavila s poemom Renascence za koju je dobila inspiraciju gledajući s vrha Mt. Battie u Camdenu (gdje sad stoji plaketa koja obilježava njeno pisanje pjesme). Premda je poema smatrana jednom od najboljih, osvojila je tek četvrto mjesto što je izazvalo pravi skandal, a jedan je od pobjednika čak ponudio svoju novčanu nagradu Edni, smatrajući kako ona zaslužuje pobjedu. Upravo je zahvaljujući poemi Renascence Edna dobila stipendiju za Vassar College, koji je potom upisala s dvadeset i jednu godinu i završila četiri godine kasnije s diplomom iz umjetnosti. Nakon diplomiranja, 1917. godine objavila je svoju prvu knjigu, Renascence and Other Poems. Uslijedile su jednako uspješne zbirke A Few Figs From Thistles i Second April, a autoričina popularnost nastavila je rasti. Uskoro su došla i prva priznanja; za zbirku The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver dobila je Pulitzerovu nagradu i upravo je u toj zbirci Edna skovala popularnu frazu "My candle burns at both ends".

 

First Fig 

 

My candle burns at both ends; 

It will not last the night; 

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light. 

 

"Pjesnikinja jazz-doba" bila je poznata po svom burnom privatnom životu, ovisnosti o alkoholu i morfiju te aferama s muškarcima i ženama (bez obzira na njen bračni status). Imala je mnogo udvarača, neki od njih bili su pjesnici Floyd Dell i Arthur Davison Ficke te urednici magazina Vanity Fair ; John Peale Bishop i Edmund Wilson. Wilson je Ednu čak i zaprosio, no ona ga je odbila. Po svemu sudeći Arthur Davison Ficke bio je onaj koji je osvojio njeno srce. Iz njihove korespondencije vidljivo je da je Edna gajila jake emocije za američkog pjesnika (https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/02/22/edna-st-vincent-millay-polyamory-love-letters/) : 

 

"Arthur, my dearest,

 

I must write you, or you will think I did not get your letters. But when I start to write you all I can think of to say to you is — Why aren’t you here? Oh, why aren’t you here? — And I have written that to you before… I have nothing to say but that I long to see you. — I take the photograph with me everywhere, the big one. I love it."

 

"Do you remember that poem in Second of April which says, “Life is a quest & love a quarrel, Here is a place for me to lie!”? — That is what I want of you — out of the sight & sound of other people, to lie close to you & let the world rush by. To watch with you suns rising & moons rising in that purple edge outside most people’s vision — to hear high music that only birds can hear — oh, my dearest, dearest, would it not be wonderful, just once to be together again for a little while?"

 

"Arthur, I am glad that you love me. Your letters have hurt me & healed me. Such sweetness, to be loved like that. But to be loved like that by you — how shaking & terrible besides… You were the first man I ever kissed without first thinking that I should be sorry about it afterwards… Arthur, it is wicked & useless, — all these months & months apart from you, all these years with only a glimpse of you in the face of everybody."

 

Njihov odnos započeo je i završio s korespondencijom, a rastegnuo se na period od preko tri desetljeća. Upoznali su se šest godina nakon prvog dopisivanja i bila je to ljubav na prvi pogled, no ubrzo su bili razdvojeni jer je Arthur morao otići u rat. Za to vrijeme pjesnik je Edni pisao mnogo soneta, što je nju potaklo da napiše neke od svojih najljepših soneta u zbirci Second April. Arthur je pred kraj života bolovao od raka i u svojim zadnjim trenutcima uputio je Edni posljednje pismo (https://blog.oup.com/2009/04/millay/) : 

 

“I like to think that your and my very strange, very fluctuant, profound love for each other has, in all these many years, been evocative of the very finest things in each of us, many a time.”  

 

Nakon što je Arthur preminuo, Edna je na pogrebu pročitala sonet koji je napisala za njega trideset godina prije: 

 

And You as Well Must Die, Beloved Dust

 

 

And you as well must die, beloved dust,

 

And all your beauty stand you in no stead;

 

This flawless, vital hand, this perfect head,

 

This body of flame and steel, before the gust

 

Of Death, or under his autumnal frost,

 

Shall be as any leaf, be no less dead

 

Than the first leaf that fell,—this wonder fled.

 

Altered, estranged, disintegrated, lost.

 

Nor shall my love avail you in your hour.

 

In spite of all my love, you will arise

 

Upon that day and wander down the air

 

Obscurely as the unattended flower,

 

It mattering not how beautiful you were,

 

Or how beloved above all else that dies.

 

Smatra se da je njihov odnos bio lišen intimnog aspekta, za razliku od ostalih Edninih odnosa s muškarcima za vrijeme njenog braka s Eugenom Janom Boissevainom. Edna i Eugen bili su u braku dvadeset i šest godina, sve do Eugenove smrti 1949. godine. Eugen je bio brižan suprug koji je skrbio za Ednu te joj opraštao njene afere s drugim muškarcima. Kad je Edna doživjela živčani slom i nije bila u stanju pisati dvije godine, Eugen se brinuo za nju cijelo vrijeme. Njihova ljubav, kao i sve ostalo u Edninom životu, nije bila klasična, ali bila je postojana, a nakon njegove smrti Edna je bila neutješna.

 

Sorrow

 

Sorrow like a ceaseless rain

Beats upon my heart.

People twist and scream in pain,—

Dawn will find them still again;

This has neither wax nor wane,

Neither stop nor start.

 

People dress and go to town;

I sit in my chair.

All my thoughts are slow and brown:

Standing up or sitting down

Little matters, or what gown

Or what shoes I wear.

 

Preminula je godinu dana nakon njega, 19. listopada 1950., od srčanog udara, sama na stepeništu njihove kuće u Austerlitzu, nazvane Steepletop.

 

Wild swans

 

I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.

And what did I see I had not seen before?

Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.

Only a question less or a question more;

Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,

Wild swans, come over the town, come over

House without air, I leave you and lock your door.

The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

 

Nakon njene smrti, Ednina sestra Norma i njen suprug, slikar i glumac Charles Frederick Ellis, preselili su se u Steepletop i osnovali Millay Colony for the Arts. Zanimljiva je činjenica da je pjesnikinja Mary Oliver posjetila kuću Steepletop sa sedamnaest godina i postala bliska prijateljica s Normom te se na kraju preselila u kuću na period od sedam godina i za to vrijeme pomagala Normi s organizacijom Edninih papira. Mary Oliver je i sama osvojila Pulitzerovu nagradu te je uvelike bila inspirirana Edninom poezijom, što je vidljivo iz sljedeće pjesme :

 

The legends

 

I have sat in the circle of the storyteller,

Spellbound by the legends,

Grieving for every ill-starred name

Defeated in battle, defeated in love,—

 

Yet I leave as hopeful as I came.

 

History has no counsel for the wanting blood;

Among the syllables of the storyteller’s voice

I hear the tick of the clock in the hall;

 

And quickly, my love, ride to me, over

This landscape where the heroes fall and fall.

  

Ednin život bio je dramatičan, a njeno ponašanje izazivalo je sablazan javnosti, no na kraju, ono što je uistinu bitno su poeme koje je ova darovita pjesnikinja ostavila svijetu. Od svega što je napisala Renascence je njeno najbolje djelo, a nakon čitanja te poeme čitalac ostaje s osjećajem da je nekim slučajem ta poema bila jedino što je ikad napisala, bila bi sama po sebi dovoljna da joj priskrbi titulu jedne od najboljih pjesnikinja. Ovu uistinu veličanstvenu poemu donosimo vam u cijelosti:

 

Renascence 

 

All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;

I turned and looked another way,

And saw three islands in a bay.

So with my eyes I traced the line 

Of the horizon, thin and fine,

Straight around till I was come

Back to where I'd started from; 

And all I saw from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood.

 

Over these things I could not see;

These were the things that bounded me;

And I could touch them with my hand,

Almost, I thought, from where I stand.

And all at once things seemed so small

My breath came short, and scarce at all.

 

But, sure, the sky is big, I said;

Miles and miles above my head;

So here upon my back I'll lie

And look my fill into the sky.

And so I looked, and, after all,

The sky was not so very tall.

The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,

And—sure enough!—I see the top! 

The sky, I thought, is not so grand;

I 'most could touch it with my hand!

And reaching up my hand to try,

I screamed to feel it touch the sky.

 

I screamed, and—lo!—Infinity

Came down and settled over me;

Forced back my scream into my chest,

Bent back my arm upon my breast,

And, pressing of the Undefined

The definition on my mind,

Held up before my eyes a glass

Through which my shrinking sight did pass

Until it seemed I must behold

Immensity made manifold;

Whispered to me a word whose sound

Deafened the air for worlds around,

And brought unmuffled to my ears

The gossiping of friendly spheres,

The creaking of the tented sky,

The ticking of Eternity.

 

I saw and heard, and knew at last

The How and Why of all things, past,

And present, and forevermore.

The Universe, cleft to the core,

Lay open to my probing sense

That, sick'ning, I would fain pluck thence

But could not,—nay! But needs must suck

At the great wound, and could not pluck

My lips away till I had drawn

All venom out.—Ah, fearful pawn!

For my omniscience paid I toll

In infinite remorse of soul.

 

All sin was of my sinning, all

Atoning mine, and mine the gall

Of all regret. Mine was the weight 

Of every brooded wrong, the hate

That stood behind each envious thrust,

Mine every greed, mine every lust.

 

And all the while for every grief,

Each suffering, I craved relief

With individual desire,—

Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire

About a thousand people crawl;

Perished with each,—then mourned for all!

 

A man was starving in Capri;

He moved his eyes and looked at me;

I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,

And knew his hunger as my own.

I saw at sea a great fog bank

Between two ships that struck and sank;

A thousand screams the heavens smote;

And every scream tore through my throat.

 

No hurt I did not feel, no death

That was not mine; mine each last breath

That, crying, met an answering cry

From the compassion that was I.

All suffering mine, and mine its rod;

Mine, pity like the pity of God.

 

Ah, awful weight! Infinity

Pressed down upon the finite Me!

My anguished spirit, like a bird,

Beating against my lips I heard;

Yet lay the weight so close about

There was no room for it without.

And so beneath the weight lay I

And suffered death, but could not die.

 

Long had I lain thus, craving death,

When quietly the earth beneath

Gave way, and inch by inch, so great

At last had grown the crushing weight,

Into the earth I sank till I

Full six feet under ground did lie,

And sank no more,—there is no weight

Can follow here, however great.

From off my breast I felt it roll,

And as it went my tortured soul

Burst forth and fled in such a gust

That all about me swirled the dust.

 

Deep in the earth I rested now;

Cool is its hand upon the brow

And soft its breast beneath the head

Of one who is so gladly dead.

And all at once, and over all

The pitying rain began to fall;

I lay and heard each pattering hoof

Upon my lowly, thatched roof,

And seemed to love the sound far more

Than ever I had done before.

For rain it hath a friendly sound

To one who's six feet underground;

And scarce the friendly voice or face:

A grave is such a quiet place.

 

The rain, I said, is kind to come

And speak to me in my new home.

I would I were alive again

To kiss the fingers of the rain,

To drink into my eyes the shine

Of every slanting silver line,

To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze

From drenched and dripping apple-trees.

For soon the shower will be done,

And then the broad face of the sun

Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth

Until the world with answering mirth

Shakes joyously, and each round drop

Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.

 

How can I bear it; buried here,

While overhead the sky grows clear

And blue again after the storm?

O, multi-colored, multiform,

Beloved beauty over me,

That I shall never, never see

Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,

That I shall never more behold!

Sleeping your myriad magics through,

Close-sepulchred away from you!

O God, I cried, give me new birth,

And put me back upon the earth!

Upset each cloud's gigantic gourd

And let the heavy rain, down-poured

In one big torrent, set me free,

Washing my grave away from me!

 

I ceased; and through the breathless hush

That answered me, the far-off rush

Of herald wings came whispering

Like music down the vibrant string

Of my ascending prayer, and—crash!

Before the wild wind's whistling lash

The startled storm-clouds reared on high

And plunged in terror down the sky,

And the big rain in one black wave

Fell from the sky and struck my grave.

 

I know not how such things can be;

I only know there came to me

A fragrance such as never clings

To aught save happy living things;

A sound as of some joyous elf

Singing sweet songs to please himself,

And, through and over everything,

A sense of glad awakening.

The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,

Whispering to me I could hear;

I felt the rain's cool finger-tips

Brushed tenderly across my lips,

Laid gently on my sealed sight,

And all at once the heavy night

Fell from my eyes and I could see,—

A drenched and dripping apple-tree,

A last long line of silver rain,

A sky grown clear and blue again.

And as I looked a quickening gust

Of wind blew up to me and thrust

Into my face a miracle

Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,—

I know not how such things can be!—

I breathed my soul back into me.

 

Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I

And hailed the earth with such a cry

As is not heard save from a man

Who has been dead, and lives again.

About the trees my arms I wound;

 

Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;

I raised my quivering arms on high;

I laughed and laughed into the sky,

Till at my throat a strangling sob

Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb

Sent instant tears into my eyes;

O God, I cried, no dark disguise

Can e'er hereafter hide from me

Thy radiant identity!

 

Thou canst not move across the grass

But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,

Nor speak, however silently,

But my hushed voice will answer Thee.

I know the path that tells Thy way

Through the cool eve of every day;

God, I can push the grass apart

And lay my finger on Thy heart!

 

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide;

Above the world is stretched the sky,—

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two,

And let the face of God shine through.

But East and West will pinch the heart

That can not keep them pushed apart;

And he whose soul is flat—the sky

Will cave in on him by and by. 

 

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