Saturday, April 7, 2018

R. J. Davey writes


The streetlights stretch downward
long into the rain-slicked tarmac
a mirror world, a shadow world
the neverwhere world of
long autumn nights

illuminated silver and bronze
city street manuscripts

a palimpsest of human endeavour
and the passage of time.

-- Eduard Gordeev

1 comment:

  1. A palimpsest is a manuscript page from a scroll or book that has been scraped off and used again, or a geographical feature composed of superimposed structures created at different times. Gore Vidal entitled his memoir "Palimpsest" in 1995, which he claimed was a technique which involves "erasing some but not all of the original while writing something new over the first layer of text." In the opening chapter he wrote, "By choice and luck, my life has been spent reading other people's books and making sentences for my own. More to the point, if you have known one person you have known them all. Of course, I am not so sure that I have known even one person well, but, as the Greeks sensibly believed, should you get to know yourself, you will have penetrated as much of the human mystery as anyone need ever know." A similar concept is "pentimento," an underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting or original draft that is revealed usually when the top layer of paint becomes transparent with age. Lillian Hellman called her 1973 memoir "Pentimento: A Book of Portraits" abd wrote in the introduction, "When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a child makes way for a dog, a large boat is no longer on an open sea. That is called pentimento because the painter ‘repented,’ changed his mind. Perhaps it would be as well to say that the old conception, replaced by a later choice, is a way of seeing and then seeing again. That is all I mean about the people in this book. The paint has aged and I wanted to see what was there for me once, what is there for me now.” Even earlier, in 1845, in the essay "The Palimpsest of the Human Brain," Thomas De Quincy proclaimed, "What else than a natural and mighty palimpsest is the human brain? Such a palimpsest is my brain; such a palimpsest, oh reader! is yours. Everlasting layers of ideas, images, feelings, have fallen upon your brain softly as light. Each succession has seemed to bury all that went before. And yet, in reality, not one has been extinguished.... The fleeting accidents of a man’s life, and its external shows, may indeed be irrelate and incongruous; but the organising principles which fuse into harmony, and gather about fixed predetermined centres, whatever heterogeneous elements life may have accumulated from without, will not permit the grandeur of human unity greatly to be violated, or its ultimate repose to be troubled, in the retrospect from dying moments, or from other great convulsions."


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