Machines

June 28th, 2015 § 1 comment

Alex has an uncanny ability to find things that grab my emotions. Most recently, this poem, about which I can’t say anything other than that I love it:

Dearest, note how these two are alike:
This harpsichord pavane by Purcell
And the racer’s twelve-speed bike.

The machinery of grace is always simple.
This chrome trapezoid, one wheel connected
To another of concentric gears,
Which Ptolemy dreamt of and Schwinn perfected,
Is gone. The cyclist, not the cycle, steers.
And in the playing, Purcell’s chords are played away.

So this talk, or touch if I were there,
Should work its effortless gadgetry of love,
Like Dante’s heaven, and melt into the air.

If it doesn’t, of course, I’ve fallen. So much is chance,
So much agility, desire, and feverish care,
As bicyclists and harpsichordists prove

Who only by moving can balance,
Only by balancing move.

Michael Donaghy

  • Mike

    Have your read much John Donne? I imagine you have, being meticulously well-read. If not, you might like the Songs and Sonnets, to which this poem is (I think?) paying homage, sharing the metaphysicals’ delight in absurd and beautiful comparisons. My favourite is Donne’s comparison of love and taxes, which is a lovely counterpart to “death and taxes” (and also a fine example of the ‘sinews of power’ thesis about the military roots of fiscal statebuilding, obvs…)

    ***

    I scarce believe my love to be so pure
    As I had thought it was,
    Because it doth endure
    Vicissitude, and season, as the grass;
    Methinks I lied all winter, when I swore
    My love was infinite, if spring make it more.

    But if this medicine, love, which cures all sorrow
    With more, not only be no quintessence,
    But mixed of all stuffs, vexing soul, or sense,
    And of the sun his active vigour borrow,
    Love’s not so pure, and abstract as they use
    To say, which have no mistress but their Muse;
    But as all else, being elemented too,
    Love sometimes would contemplate, sometimes do.

    And yet no greater, but more eminent,
    Love by the spring is grown;
    As in the firmament
    Stars by the sun are not enlarged, but shown,
    Gentle love deeds, as blossoms on a bough,
    From love’s awakened root do bud out now.

    If, as in water stirred more circles be
    Produced by one, love such additions take,
    Those like so many spheres but one heaven make,
    And though each spring do add to love new heat,
    As princes do in times of action get
    New taxes, and remit them not in peace,
    No winter shall abate this spring’s increase.

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