19 November 2006

H.D. : HAVEN / HEAVEN

Here are the last eight lines of HD's "The Walls Do Not Fall," the first book of Trilogy.
we know no rule
of procedure,

we are voyagers, discoverers
of the not-known,

the unrecorded;
we have no map;

possibly we will reach haven,
heaven.


I have been looking at these lines over and over lately, but it was not until a few days ago, after students left a class I was teaching, that I wrote the lines on a blackboard (size is a tool in allowing sight) and started thinking about similarities, dissimilarites, and connections between and among words.

There are five words (or parts of words) that either directly, or in context, are negatives: "no," "not-," "un," "no" again, and in this instance, "possibly," at least in the sense that it casts doubt.

There are six words (or parts of words) that I associate with markers of the known: "know," "rule," "procedure," "-known," "-recorded," and "map."

To know seems devalued here, and to have suffers a similar fate, leaving as positives only the assertion "we are voyagers, discoverers," but finally leaving perhaps the only true value at the end of the poem, the only thing that can be trusted, as uncertainty. Possibly we will reach a "haven / heaven," whose very being is also uncertain, although what controls the uncertainty there is a single letter, the lower-case "e," which, as any typographer will tell you, is the most frequenly used letter in the English language.

This may be HD's somber paean to negative capability, the ability to exist among doubts and confusions, without reaching after the known, the rules of procedure. The poem "Trilogy" is one of the finest demonstrations we have of that capability