One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne "Clips"

Tried two other Melville novels (couldn't get into them). Will attempt The Whale (read some of it years ago but never finished) some other day. Moved to Hawthorne: Travel Journals and a few short stories that supposedly zoom in on the sin-factor.

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Travel Journals: From one of Hawthorne's visits to St. Peter's (I remember this mosaic):

To-day I walked out along the Pincian Hill. . . . . As the clouds still threatened rain, I deemed it my safest course to go to St. Peter's for refuge. Heavy and dull as the day was, the effect of this great world of a church was still brilliant in the interior, as if it had a sunshine of its own, as well as its own temperature; and, by and by, the sunshine of the outward world came through the windows, hundreds of feet aloft, and fell upon the beautiful inlaid pavement. . . . . Against a pillar, on one side of the nave, is a mosaic copy of Raphael's Transfiguration, fitly framed within a great arch of gorgeous marble; and, no doubt, the indestructible mosaic has preserved it far more completely than the fading and darkening tints in which the artist painted it. At any rate, it seemed to me the one glorious picture that I have ever seen.

Toward the end of "Earth's Holocaust":

"Poh, poh, my good fellows!" said a dark-complexioned personage, who now joined the group--his complexion was indeed fearfully dark, and his eyes glowed with a redder light than that of the bonfire--"Be not so cast down, my dear friends; you shall see good days yet. There is one thing that these wiseacres have forgotten to throw into the fire, and without which all the rest of the conflagration is just nothing at all--yes; though they had burnt the earth itself to a cinder!"
"And what may that be?" eagerly demanded the Last Murderer.
"What but the human heart itself!" said the dark-visaged stranger, with a portentous grin. "And, unless they hit upon some method of purifying that foul cavern, forth from it will re-issue all the shapes of wrong and misery--the same old shapes, or worse ones--which they have taken such a vast deal of trouble to consume to ashes. I have stood by, this live-long night, and laughed in my sleeve at the whole business. Oh, take my word for it, it will be the old world yet!"  
This brief conversation supplied me with a theme for lengthened thought. How sad a truth--if true it were--that Man's age-long endeavor for perfection had served only to render him the mockery of the Evil Principle, from the fatal circumstance of an error at the very root of the matter! The Heart--the Heart--there was the little yet boundless sphere, wherein existed the original wrong, of which the crime and misery of this outward world were merely types. Purify that inner sphere; and the many shapes of evil that haunt the outward, and which now seem almost our only realities, will turn to shadowy phantoms, and vanish of their own accord. But, if we go no deeper than the Intellect, and strive, with merely that feeble instrument, to discern and rectify what is wrong, our whole accomplishment will be a dream; so unsubstantial, that it matters little whether the bonfire, which I have so faithfully described, were what we choose to call a real event, and a flame that would scorch the finger--or only a phosphoric radiance, and a parable of my own brain!
 
 

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