Monday, October 05, 2009

The cracked cauldron

More Madame Bovary:
He was unable to see, this man so full of experience, the variety of feelings hidden within the same expressions. Since libertine or venal lips had murmured similar phrases, he only faintly believed in the candor of Emma’s; he thought one should beware of exaggerated declarations which only serve to cloak a tepid love; as though the abundance of one’s soul did not sometimes overflow with empty metaphors, since no one ever has been able to give the exact measure of his needs, his concepts, or his sorrows. The human tongue is like a cracked cauldron on which we beat out tunes to set a bear dancing when we would make the stars weep with our melodies.

Il ne distinguait pas, cet homme si plein de pratique, la dissemblance des sentiments sous la parité des expressions. Parce que des lèvres libertines ou vénales lui avaient murmuré des phrases pareilles, il ne croyait que faiblement à la candeur de celles-là; on en devait rabattre, pensait-il, les discours exagérés cachant les affections médiocres: comme si la plénitude de l’âme ne débordait pas quelquefois par les métaphores les plus vides, puisque personne, jamais, ne peut donner l’exacte mesure de ses besoins, ni de ses conceptions ni de ses douleurs, et que la parole humaine est comme un chaudron fêlé où nous battons des mélodies ã faire danser les ours, quand on voudrait attendrir les étoiles.
I am reminded of an aphorism that Harold Bloom used to utter regularly during the seminar on Shakespeare I took with him at Yale in the mid-90s (a famous pronouncement of Nietzsche's):
That for which we can find words is something already dead in our hearts; there is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.


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