W.H. Auden: Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
Victor Hugo: Great grief is a divine and terrible radiance

Oscar Wilde: Time seems to circle round one centre of pain

Man_of_sorrow_by_pesi_flickr

De Profundis

Suffering is one very long moment. We cannot divide it by seasons.We can only record its moods, and chronicle their return.  With us time itself does not progress. It revolves. It seems to circle round one centre of pain....

For us there is only one season, the season of sorrow.  The very sun and moon seem taken from us....And in the sphere of thought, no less than in the sphere of time, motion is no more....

There is nothing that stirs in the whole world of thought to which sorrow does not vibrate in terrible and exquisite pulsation....It is a wound that bleeds when any hand but that of love touches it, and even then must bleed again, though not in pain.....

Where there is sorrow there is holy ground.  Some day people will realise what that means.  They will know nothing of life till they do....

Out of my nature has come wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb.  I have passed through every possible mood of suffering.  Better than Wordsworth himself I know what Wordsworth meant when he said,

"Suffering is permanent, obscure, and dark
And has the nature of infinity."

But while there were times when I rejoiced in the idea that my sufferings were to be endless, I could not bear them to be without meaning.  Now I find hidden somewhere away in my nature something that tells me that nothing in the whole world is meaningless, and suffering least of all.  That something hidden away in my nature, like a treasure in a field, is Humility....One cannot acquire it, except by surrendering everything that one has.  It is only when one has lost all things, that one knows that one possesses it....

Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world....

My mother, who knew life as a whole, used often to quote to me Goethe's lines - written by Carlyle in a book he had given her years ago, and translated by him, I fancy, also:-

"Who never ate his bread in sorrow,
Who never spent the midnight hours
Weeping and waiting for the morrow,
--He knows you not, ye heavenly powers."

They were the lines which that noble Queen of Prussia, whom Napoleon treated with such coarse brutality, used to quote in her humiliation and exile; they were the lines my mother often quoted in the troubles of her later life.  I absolutely declined to accept or admit the enormous truth hidden in them.  I could not understand it.  I remember quite well how I used to tell her that I did not want to eat my bread in sorrow, or to pass any night weeping and watching for a more bitter dawn.

I had no idea that it was one of the special things that the Fates had in store for me....

...during the last few months I have, after terrible difficulties and struggles, been able to comprehend some of the lessons hidden in the heart of pain....people who use phrases without wisdom sometimes talk of suffering as a mystery.  It is really a revelation.  One discerns things one never discerned before.  One approaches the whole of history from a different standpoint....

I now see that sorrow, being the supreme emotion of which man is capable, is at once the type and test of all great art....

Behind joy and laughter there may be a temperament, coarse, hard and callous.  But behind sorrow there is always sorrow.  Pain, unlike pleasure, wears no mask...There are times when sorrow seems to me to be the only truth.  Other things may be illusions of the eye or the appetite, made to blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain.

More than this, there is about sorrow an intense, an extraordinary reality....For the secret of life is suffering.  It is what is hidden behind everything....

...it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world.  I cannot conceive of any other explanation.  I am convinced that there is no other, and that if the world has indeed, as I have said, been built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love, because in no other way could the soul of man, for whom the world was made, reach the full stature of its perfection.

[He makes plans to go to a seaside village.]

...The sea, as Euripides says in one of his plays about Iphigeneia, washes away the stains and wounds of the world....I have a strange longing for the great simple primeval things, such as the sea, to me no less of a mother than the Earth.  It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little....

I am conscious now that behind all this beauty, satisfying though it may be, there is some spirit hidden..., and it is with this spirit that I desire to become in harmony....

Nature...will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed.  She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints...:  she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.

        --Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.