The Grapevine Art & Soul Salon

Reflections

This is the place for reflections, as in thoughtful contemplation of images and text and as in text and images that reflect or echo other material on the website. We begin with two images that reflect the same theme (the color blue) in highly individualized ways, little poems made by little people when they were freshly embarked on their adventures into the world, and we conclude with Leonard Cohen's and Rainer Maria Rilke's reflections on the other end of the spectrum of age.

Below are two poems on the color blue, both responses to fourth-grade assignments: the first is by Kelly Law, age 10 in 2008, and the second is by Jonathan Knott, age 10 in 1983. They are second cousins.

KELLY LAW
JONATHAN KNOTT

Here are the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's song mentioned in the review of Sea Vigil by R. Cary Bynum:

Anthem

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

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From Wolfgang Leppman's Rilke: A Life, New York: International Publishing Corporation, 1984, pp. 184-5, an elaboration of Rilke's idea of individual death mentioned in the review of R. Cary Bynum's Sea Vigil (see also Anne Lovett's poem in Presentations for another angle on this passage):

Death ought to be the logical culmination of life, not something invading it with hostile step. The "individual" death that Rilke postulates in the Book of Hours and takes up again in later works ... is only the final link in the chain of the preceding life. It is not alien but placed in us even at birth, ripening inside us like an organ:

For we are only leaf and skin.
The mighty death which each one bears within,
That is the core around which all revolves.

Although the idea of an individual death is one of the best known of Rilke's concepts, he used it most sparingly and was careful not to apply it to historical figures. Also we do not know to what extent this death follows from one's profession and calling, such as the soldier's supreme sacrifice or the saint's martyrdom, or from a combination of destiny and personality .... Indeed, his own death in Muzot was [uniquely his own], for he died in the manner of Niels Lyhne, with his eyes open and "on his feet" as it were, without sedatives to blunt his pain and fear. The refusal to heed medical advice, however--or more precisely, the dying person's decision to let the doctors think what they will--is only one characteristic of such a death. More important is the fact that an individual death, while implying a denial of everything beyond this life, represents the only civilized alternative to the sort of death that is tagged with the name of one illness or another and meted out to people in the anonymity of the hospital. Such "ready-made" deaths bear no relation at all to the lives they bring to an end:

For that makes dying alien and hard,
that it is not our death (having failed
to grow our own) which calls on us to part.

Copyright 2008 Barbara Knott. All Rights Reserved
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