Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Now I feel they really work...


"I was so touched that Iona (my goddaughter) liked my banners! Now I feel they really work." I was looking for my address book and found a Christmas card from the artist, Thetis Blacker, that opened with these words. She was referring to an exhibition of hers at Grey College in Durham and their seeing by a child. I was reminded of a remark by the Russian film director, Andrei Tarkovsky, that his work presented no difficulties to children, who saw.

I am off home to England to give a talk on the poet, Edwin Muir, who, likewise, honoured the seeing of a child because children see with the eyes of Eden (when allowed to).

To quote Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:

...
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,  60
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar:
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come  65
        From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
...

In many, in most, it is lost, except in the moments that matter, but in Thetis it was carried in felt remembrance and her art shone forth in its wonder.


She had, in the words of the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, discovered her 'second innocence' that has seen through the complexities of the world and restored it to its simplicity, one that costs not less than everything but which is our inheritance.

She was a painter of transfigured vision where the world was seen aright - the Kingdom of Heaven that children see - or to quote that great poetic visionary of a never lost childhood, Thomas Traherne:

"The corn was orient and immortal wheat, which never should be reaped, nor was ever sown. I thought it had stood from everlasting to everlasting. The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them first through one of the gates transported and ravished me, their sweetness and unusual beauty made my heart to leap, and almost mad with ecstasy, they were such strange and wonderful things: The Men! O what venerable and reverend creatures did the aged seem! Immortal Cherubims! And young men glittering and sparkling Angels, and maids strange seraphic pieces of life and beauty! Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; But all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places. Eternity was manifest in the Light of the Day, and something infinite behind everything appeared which talked with my expectation and moved my desire. The city seemed to stand in Eden, or to be built in Heaven. The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the World was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties, nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties* and divisions were mine: all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world. Which now I unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child again that I may enter into the Kingdom of God." 

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