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Archive for April 7th, 2011

Learn O Voyager to Walk

 From 1999 to 2000 my wife Linda devoted every joule of her creative energies to a project she titled Cosmologia. She selected thirty sayings about human perception and the nature of the universe, from Aristotle to the Bible and Einstein to Archibald MacLeish. She then illustrated each passage with drawings magical and transcendent – today, paging again through the entire collection, I feel me feet threading sporangia into the earth and the tendrils of my brain entangling the stars. I take again my first step into the cosmos.

And aren’t we all wanderers in a vastness at once inexplicable and primal? Are we ever really at home? Can we ever really be apart? One of the passages Linda selected has shaken me with new awareness every time I’ve read it, and I’ve read it a thousand times: the first stanza of Seafarer by MacLeish.

And learn O voyager to walk
The roll of earth, the pitch and fall
That swings across these trees those stars:
That swings the sunlight up the wall.

Most days I sit at my desk or walk to my car and take for granted that everything will remain perfectly solid beneath my feet. But once in a while a tremor of poetry enters in. Suddenly the earth is revolving and the galaxy wheels; I see for a moment the shadows racing up the wall, the moon arcing through the night branches. It is all movement. It is all embrace. Welcome.

 

Wake Robin, Reynolda gardens 2011

 

Seafarer
 
And learn O voyager to walk
The roll of earth, the pitch and fall
That swings across these trees those stars:
That swings the sunlight up the wall.

And learn upon these narrow beds
To sleep in spite of sea, in spite
Of sound the rushing planet makes:
And learn to sleep against this ground.

Archibald MacLeish, Copyright © 2003 The World War II Lecture Institute. All rights reserved.

 

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