Monday, March 17, 2008

Karl goes off...on beauty.

At this point in my life I have come to the conclusion that all creativity is an emulation of nature and a display for others. With this in mind I feel that a Muse is a figure central to the inspiration and fixation of another. A person may create without the focus of a Muse but perhaps not to their potential. "Muse" as a word and concept with its mythological underpinnings is sacred to me. The daughters of Zeus and others from lesser known lineages were said to inspire and spawn creation in mortals with their beauty and purity. Not only did this bring humans closer to the gods but the iconoclastic ideal of the Muses alone would ensure their influence for generations.

I do not believe that this has changed even today, as I too am prone to these trappings. Art and invention is not created out of the mired pain of human existence
(as many would have us believe); rather out of the want for beauty in its corporeal form. A Muse. All creation is for that figure and is a display of devotion. So...we burn and we seek.

In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story called "Ligeia"... I always felt that this piece of literature best expressed how I perceive the world and how beauty plays the central role in my life. In the past I have made several attempts to push this story on to others but in the end I realized I should keep it to myself, close by and use it to shape my own life. If you care to read on... here is an excerpt from Ligeia:

"There is one dear topic, however, on which my memory falls me not. It is the person of Ligeia. In stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and, in her latter days, even emaciated. I would in vain attempt to portray the majesty, the quiet ease, of her demeanor, or the incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her footfall. She came and departed as a shadow. I was never made aware of her entrance into my closed study save by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as she placed her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face no maiden ever equaled her. It was the radiance of an opium-dream -- an airy and spirit-lifting vision more wildly divine than the fantasies which hovered vision about the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos. Yet her features were not of that regular mould which we have been falsely taught to worship in the classical labors of the heathen.

"There is no exquisite beauty," says Bacon, Lord Verulam, speaking truly of all the forms and genera of beauty, without some strangeness in the proportion. Yet, although I saw that the features of Ligeia were not of a classic regularity -- although I perceived that her loveliness was indeed "exquisite," and felt that there was much of "strangeness" pervading it, yet I have tried in vain to detect the irregularity and to trace home my own perception of "the strange." I examined the contour of the lofty and pale forehead -- it was faultless -- how cold indeed that word when applied to a majesty so divine! -- the skin rivaling the purest ivory, the commanding extent and repose, the gentle prominence of the regions above the temples; and then the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and naturally-curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric epithet, "hyacinthine!" I looked at the delicate outlines of the nose -- and nowhere but in the graceful medallions of the Hebrews had I beheld a similar perfection.

"There were the same luxurious smoothness of surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to the aquiline, the same harmoniously curved nostrils speaking the free spirit. I regarded the sweet mouth. Here was indeed the triumph of all things heavenly -- the magnificent turn of the short upper lip -- the soft, voluptuous slumber of the under -- the dimples which sported, and the color which spoke -- the teeth glancing back, with a brilliancy almost startling, every ray of the holy light which fell upon them in her serene and placid, yet most exultingly radiant of all smiles. I scrutinized the formation of the chin -- and here, too, I found the gentleness of breadth, the softness and the majesty, the fullness and the spirituality, of the Greek -- the contour which the god Apollo revealed but in a dream, to Cleomenes, the son of the Athenian. And then I peered into the large eves of Ligeia.

"For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. It might have been, too, that in these eves of my beloved lay the secret to which Lord Verulam alludes. They were, I must believe, far larger than the ordinary eyes of our own race. They were even fuller than the fullest of the gazelle eyes of the tribe of the valley of Nourjahad. Yet it was only at intervals -- in moments of intense excitement -- that this peculiarity became more than slightly noticeable in Ligeia. And at such moments was her beauty -- in my heated fancy thus it appeared perhaps -- the beauty of beings either above or apart from the earth -- the beauty of the fabulous Houri of the Turk. The hue of the orbs was the most brilliant of black, and, far over them, hung jetty lashes of great length. The brows, slightly irregular in outline, had the same tint. The "strangeness," however, which I found in the eyes, was of a nature distinct from the formation, or the color, or the brilliancy of the features, and must, after all, be referred to the expression.

"Ah, word of no meaning! behind whose vast latitude of mere sound we entrench our ignorance of so much of the spiritual. The expression of the eyes of Ligeia! How for long hours have I pondered upon it! How have I, through the whole of a midsummer night, struggled to fathom it! What was it -- that something more profound than the well of Democritus -- which lay far within the pupils of my beloved? What was it? I was possessed with a passion to discover. Those eyes! Those large, those shining, those divine orbs! They became to me twin stars of Leda, and I to them devoutest of astrologers.

"There is no point, among the many incomprehensible anomalies of the science of mind, more thrillingly exciting than the fact -- never, I believe, noticed in the schools -- that, in our endeavors to recall to memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves upon the very verge of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember. And thus how frequently, in my intense scrutiny of Ligeia's eyes, have I felt approaching the full knowledge of their expression -- felt it approaching -- yet not quite be mine -- and so at length entirely depart! And (strange, oh strangest mystery of all!) I found, in the commonest objects of the universe, a circle of analogies to that expression.

"I mean to say that, subsequently to the period when Ligeia's beauty passed into my spirit, there dwelling as in a shrine, I derived, from many existences in the material world, a sentiment such as I felt always aroused within me by her large and luminous orbs. Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or analyze, or even steadily view it. I recognized it, let me repeat, sometimes in the survey of a rapidly-growing vine -- in the contemplation of a moth, a butterfly, a chrysalis, a stream of running water. I have felt it in the ocean; in the falling of a meteor. I have felt it in the glances of unusually aged people. And there are one or two stars in heaven -- (one especially, a star of the sixth magnitude, double and changeable, to be found near the large star in Lyra) in a telescopic scrutiny of which I have been made aware of the feeling. I have been filled with it by certain sounds from stringed instruments, and not infrequently by passages from books. Among innumerable other instances, I well remember something in a volume of Joseph Glanvill, which (perhaps merely from its quaintness -- who shall say?) never failed to inspire me with the sentiment; -- "And the will therein lieth, which dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, with its vigor? For God is but a great will pervading all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.""


- Karl