Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/31/2010

Seized by the gods.

Hermes (Mercury) and His Lyre

Hermes (Mercury) and His Lyre

from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet,” from Essays: Second Series (1844):

The Universe is the externisation of the soul. Wherever the life is, that bursts into appearance around it. Our science is sensual, and therefore superficial. The earth, and the heavenly bodies, physics, and chemistry, we sensually treat, as if they were self-existent; but these are the retinue of that Being we have. “The mighty heaven,” said Proclus, “exhibits, in its transfigurations, clear images of the splendor of intellectual perceptions; being moved in conjunction with the unapparent periods of intellectual natures.” Therefore, science always goes abreast with the just elevation of the man, keeping step with religion and metaphysics; or, the state of science is an index of our self-knowledge. Since everything in nature answers to a moral power, if any phenomenon remains brute and dark, it is that the corresponding faculty in the observer is not yet active.

No wonder, then, if these waters be so deep, that we hover over them with a religious regard. The beauty of the fable proves the importance of the sense; to the poet, and to all others; or, if you please, every man is so far a poet as to be susceptible of these enchantments of nature: for all men have the thoughts whereof the universe is the celebration.

The Planet

The Planet

I don’t understand poetry. Most of the time I just don’t get it. Unless I wrote it. Then I understand it perfectly well. Should anyone have to explain his poetry? Only if he is not a poet.

I’ve been playing with words the past few days (weeks), playing in private, playing to drown out the cacophony of  the political disaster in the making (what is wrong with the American people, anyway?). Playing with words to drown the cacophony of my own mind—a cacophony I cannot share. Playing with words to drown the cacophony of technological gadgetry in which I am (we all are) being submerged, and which I do not understand. So I run to words.  My words don’t have to make sense to anyone but me. I will, however, share a few of them.

All you need to know to understand this poem, or whatever it is—recently resurrected and rewritten from some time in the murky past after my diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy—is that incandescent lights (I learned this years ago when I realized light—which is not to say “enlightenment” –is a problem for me) operate on the principle of blackbody radiation, and fluorescent lights operate by exciting a vapor of mercury (Hg) with an electrical charge which becomes phosphorescent.

Quicksilver

Quicksilver

This will mark my first sharing of one of my poems with anyone other than a few select friends. Ever. It’s likely that I will never do it again. Why this one? I don’t know.

Seized by the Gods

And God said, “Let there be light,”
The first order of creation.
And there was light—
Blackbody radiation, burning,
Bright, steady, absorbing,
Emitting a spectrum from red to blue,
from black to white,
from nothing to everything,
Thermal equilibrium—
“emissivity equals absorptivity”
(was Kirchhoff god?)
in the instant of creation.
Let there be light,
And there was incandescent, comforting light,
Current, filament, heat, light.

And God said, “Let there be light,”
the second order of creation—
Mercury excited,
Mercury darting unbridled, unchecked,
Mercury of the wingéd shoes,
Mercury of the net to catch a nymph,
Mercury, psychopomp of the gods,
Leading life to death
In the blinking of an eye,
Leading phosphors to fluoresce,
Leading darkness to a blue
so fleet only the blesséd can see.
Mercury of light and lyre.
Mercury’s lyre—in the miracle,
Fluorescence gives way to music,
Higher than the ear can hear
but rising and rising
to the same dangerous pitch,
as Mercury’s lyre explodes
and white noise,
the noise of light,
brings darkness.

—© Harold Knight, 2010

Let there be light.

Let there be light.

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