M

Stolen moments have

              left me unable to breathe.

                              Our bodies entwined.

 

The only witness

                are painted yet barren walls.

                                Static; unaware.

 

Stolen moments have

                left me wanting more of you.

                                Don’t ever let go.

 

Narcissus & Goldmund – The Duality of the Soul in Hermann Hesse

Right after tweeting something profane with a hint of complaining about the need to post a new blog entry, I got a reply from this dude saying, “Perhaps, ‘The Duality of the Soul in Hermann Hesse’ …”

I would never have thought of that myself. I’ve been reading quite a lot lately; but none ever piqued my interest the way James Luchte’s (guy on Twitter) genius idea did. For a guy to pitch in quite a subject, it’s only natural to think that he knows a whole fucking lot – he can probably shut me up and tell me 100 things I know nothing of – as seen on his blog (follow him; he’s like the needle through your veins).

And so, having read Narcissus & Goldmund by the great Hermann Hesse myself, it was easy for me to seek inspiration. For Hesse enthusiasts, you already know that he’s keen on the turmoil and duality of the human soul. That is, according to my research. For the unfortunate souls who haven’t had the life-changing encounter yet, well… this might help – I pray.

herman hesse

In Narcissus & Goldmund, Hesse takes two young men – one devoted to the hermetic religious life and another more into the decadent artistic life – and follows them through adulthood. It is obvious that Hesse wants to examine the spiritual/cerebral approach to existence versus the more artistic/physical approach to life, and to find them both wanting.

Narcissus and Goldmund simultaneously seek for life’s meaning through the sacred and the profane. They offer a binary of opposing beliefs, depicted with few successes and mortal failures. Goldmund, the wayward wayfarer, understands the demand for atonement on his life. But this burden can only temporarily bind — not transform — his spirit of rebellion. Narcissus, accepts the joyless labor of his calling because he needs the security and order within the Church.

The pervasive theme in Narcissus and Goldmund depicts the human longing to find lasting contentment. Goldmund lost his soul in the search for purpose and fulfillment while Narcissus’ secure but joyless life of drudgery (masquerading as devotion) was demolished. Although Narcissus acknowledges “a man may abide by the Commandments and be far from God,” he never grasps this truth in his experiential knowledge of God. He serves without love or thought. He, like Goldmund is a slave, abject in existence.

This novel is a philosophical and allegorical story of the friendship between two exact opposites, one staying in the medieval monastery to pursue his career of deprivation, intellectualism, scholarship and logic; the other becoming a vagabond who wanders from landscape to landscape, trouble to trouble, love affair to love affair. The two are almost personifications of opposites, but this only strengthens their friendship built on differences and ensures that despite years of separation, they continually think of each other and enrich each other’s life through a different worldview.

This conflict between flesh and spirit, between an emotional and a contemplative man, was a life study for Hesse. It is a theme that transcends all time. I haven’t read all of Hesse’s major works yet, but next on my list is Steppenwolf, the theme of which describes the conflict between bourgeois acceptance and spiritual self-realization in a middle-aged man, and then The Glass Bead Game – the dualism of the contemplative and the active life.

P.S.

Sorry if some points are scattered – I write like a maniac. I recommend you read the book for you to understand better, and maybe you’ll find this post somewhat enlightening.

Again, my eternal gratitude to Mr. James Luchte. Your brain is bad-ass, sir.

The Flea

Whenever viewing erotic paintings, John Donne’s The Flea springs to my mind. In this intriguingly lusty poem, a flea engineers a consummation between a clandestine couple by mingling their blood it sucks in its own body.

I feel like that sneaky flea, serving as an intermediary between the fateful lovers, and being complicit in the sexual affair whilst not actively engaging in it. Then I check the distance between the painting and me – the discreet distance that prevents any hypnotized ones from absorbing too further and caressing the painting without noticing.

It is safe to consider myself a very ‘sexual’ person, and so this poem has become one of my ultimate favorites. The thing is, any poetry lover would easily notice how Donne evoked eroticism in The Flea without explicitly referring to sex. That’s more than what my mind can take or make.

John Donne and his pointy beard. Portrait by Isaac Oliver

John Donne and his pointy beard.
Portrait by Isaac Oliver

Metaphysical poets such as John Donne tend to be more concerned with analyzing their feelings than actually expressing them. They use bold and elaborate metaphors, paradox, a mixture of subtle and complex thought, and direct language filled with the dramatic overtones one would find in everyday speech. Donne is famous for being very present in his poetry, giving the illusion that he is standing behind the speaker directing him what to say. The speaker in his poems is always amid intense emotions; so the poem tends to flow the way a person would feel as they are experiencing some event.

The Flea

Marke but this flea, and marke in this,
How little that which thou deny’st me is;
Me it suck’d first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled bee;
Confesse it, this cannot be said
A sinne, or shame, or losse of maidenhead,

Yet this enjoyes before it wooe,
And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two,
And this, alas, is more than wee would doe.

Oh stay, three lives in one flea spare,
When we almost, nay more than maryed are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is;
Though parents grudge, and you, w’are met,
And cloysterd in these living walls of Jet.

Though use make thee apt to kill me,
Let not to this, selfe murder added bee,
And sacrilege, three sinnes in killing three.

Cruell and sodaine, has thou since
Purpled thy naile, in blood of innocence?
In what could this flea guilty bee,
Except in that drop which it suckt from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and saist that thou
Find’st not thyself, nor mee the weaker now;

‘Tis true, then learne how false, feares bee;
Just so much honor, when thou yeeld’st to mee,
Will wast, as this flea’s death tooke life from thee.

 

 

So how have fleas been incorporated into poetry?

No one really knows when the first sensual flea showed up in a poem. But one of the early flea poems, which some believe was written by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-17 AD), was described as a widely popular, ribald Latin poem on fleas. Apparently, the poem was a trendsetter for fleas and sexual innuendo, because a number of poems from medieval times follow that general theme… and so the flea was seen as an erotic insect in the medieval times.

John Donne’s The Flea is outright lustful – and I love it. It is remarkable for its emotional intensity. In short, The Flea, is a remarkable lyric; remarkable for its realism, for its emotional intensity and for the ingenuity with which Donne has argued the case for physical union without any social inhibitions.