Bibliotherapy

Roberto Calasso-‘Nature Loves To Hide’

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) ~ Sketch for The Unveiling of Truth, Charcoal and graphite pencil, 1922-25.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is a quote from Roberto Calasso’s ‘The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony’, Vintage International_1993 for the English translation by Tim Parks.

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‘Nature Loves to Hide’, Heraclitus

“The sublime author of ‘The Sublime'(see link in the comment section) traced literature back to ‘megalophyia’, a greatness of nature in the mind of the reader. But how can nature, which ‘loves to hide’, accept the cumbersome conspicuousness of the rhetorical machine? How escape the ostentatiousness of the ‘techne’? The ‘chasse-croise’ between Nature and Art, which was to generate comment for two millennia and would be condensed in seventeenth-century capitals, was executed in a single sentence way back at the height of classical decadence: ‘Only then is art perfect, when it looks like nature, while nature strikes home when it conceals art within itself’.

Perfection, any kind of perfection, always demands some kind of concealment. Without something hiding itself, or remaining hidden, there is no perfection. But how can the writer conceal the obviousness of the words and its figures of speech? With the light. The anonymous author writes: ‘And how did the rhetoricians conceal the trope he was using? Its clear that he hid it with light itself.’ To conceal with light: the Greek specialty. Zeus never stopped using the light to conceal. Which is why the light that comes after the Greek is of another kind, and much less intense. That other light aims to winkle out what has been hidden. While the Greek light protects it. Allows it to show itself as hidden even in the light of the day. And even manages to hide what is evident, made black by the light, the way the rhetorical trope becomes unrecognizable when inundated by splendor and submerged by a ‘greatness that pours forth from every side.’ Such was the conclusion the anonymous author’s literary analysis brought him to. So, he highly claimed that ‘judgment about literature is the perfect result of great experience’.

Old and blind, Homer spent the winter on Samos. When May came he went from door to door followed by a swarm of children. They each carried an ‘eiresione’, an olive branch with stripes of white and purple wool attached and the first fruits of the season. Homer made his rounds submerged in a buzz of nursery rhymes. They spoke of the ‘eresione’, of dry figs and plump bread rolls swinging back and forth, honey and wine. They carried them around, they said, so that the ‘eresione’ could ‘fall asleep, drunk’.

But why did they have to put this decorated branch to sleep? What kept it so obsessively awake? Followed by the children, Homer went to the houses of the rich Samians. He announced that their doors were about to open of their own accord, that where there was wealth, more wealth would enter, and with it ‘the blithe spirit and the gift of peace’.

The bard sang, the wealthy owners appeared and gave something to the old man and his troop of children. And, even if they gave nothing, it didn’t matter. Homer would be back, like the swallows. But now it was time to leave the island, because he was a wanderer with no fixed home. One day he left and never returned, and on Apollo’s feast days the children of Samos went on acting out his beggar’s song outside the houses of the rich.”

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