A White, Blank Page
Post #1588 • January 23, 2013, 4:09 PM • 1 Comment
Paul Valéry recalls his life as a young poet.
When one looks back to the youth of that epoch, to that time more charged with intellect than the present, and to the way in which we faced life and the knowledge of life, one can see that all the conditions were present for some development or creation almost religious in character. Indeed, there reigned at that moment a kind of disillusion with philosophic theories, a contempt for the promises of science, that had been very ill interpreted by our predecessors and elders, the realist and naturalist writers. The religions had experienced the assault of philological and philosophical criticism. Metaphysics seemed to have been destroyed by Kant's analyses. Before us was a white, blank page, and we could inscribe on it only a single affirmation. This seemed to us indisputable, being founded neither on a tradition, which can always be contested, nor on a science, whose generalizations can always be criticized, nor on texts, which can be interpreted at will, nor on philosophical reasoning, which lives only on hypotheses. Our certainty was in our emotion and our feeling for beauty; and when we met on Sundays at the Lamoureux concerts, where the young and their masters came together, when we listened to the whole series of Beethoven's symphonies or dazzling fragments of Wagner's dramas, an extraordinary atmosphere arose. We left of the hall as fanatics, devotees, proselytes of art; for there was no subterfuge, doubt, or obstruction between us and our vision. We had felt; and what we had felt gave us the strength to resist all waste of our powers and all the nonsense and malice of life. ... We met together with souls enlightened and intellects filled with faith; what we had heard appeared to us as a kind of personal revelation and a truth essentially our own.