[ilds] gnomic aorist

Charles Sligh Charles-Sligh at utc.edu
Wed Jun 2 11:21:03 PDT 2010

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Durrell, however, definitely likes /gnomic;/ he advocates a gnomic 
> style somewhere. Whether he was influenced by Classical or possibly 
> Modern Greek is a very interesting question, which could fall under 
> that rubric of Durrell's diction, previously discussed.

Cf. /The Black Book/:

> Not even the phenomenon of Grace disturbed my life as much as that 
> glimpse of the social mysteries. Horses
> sweat, but Grace perspires; very delicately on the smooth flesh, on 
> the thin flanks, under the tiny
> undernourished breasts. The blue−veined phthisic fingers are moist and 
> languorous. But why the present
> tense? For Grace is no more; no more the street girl who sat, hugging 
> her knees, and staring at the empty
> wallpaper. Shall we write of her in the gnomic aorist? Shall we invest 
> her with an epitaph? She would not
> understand it. She understood nothing. She seemed not to hear. You 
> could speak to her, sing to her, dance
> before her, and the distances she contemplated were not diminished by 
> one inch.

> Here, it is real enough the stage on which I re−create this chronicle 
> of the English death. There is Bach
> playing in the roars of the wind, the piercing slatterns of the rain. 
> There is you dancing, and the million yous
> who persist in matter, echo, weep, cry, exult in flower powder, 
> smaragd, Italy, moon, veins of rock. There is
> the cadenza of flesh here naked, and the you who run to the conclusion 
> of autumn, selfless and melancholy, or
> smolder on the beach savagely. in all particulars of the body you are 
> working, in the dark sump of the vagina,
> brewing vegetable history, sowing continents in whom I am the reaper; 
> in the dusty sandals or the naked toes.
> It is forced upon me to write of you always in the gnomic aorist. For 
> this is the new vocabulary which I am
> learning with ease. I am beginning my agony in the garden and there 
> are too many words, and too many things to put into words. in the 
> fantastic proscenium of the ego, when I begin my soliloquy, I shall 
> not choose as
> Gregory chose. To be or not to be. It is in your capacity as Judas 
> that you have chosen for me. The question
> has been decided. Art must no longer exist to depict man, but to 
> invoke God. It is on the face of this chaos that
> I brood. And on the same chaos printed, across the faces of these 
> hideous mimes of mine, your pale glyph.
> The white illusion of bone and tissue, the firm cheekbones set in soft 
> plates of flesh, the pouting mouth, the
> soft jawless head of the snake, the lips as delicate as the biscuit. 
> Lubra in the dark, and when the swords grow
> up from Constantinople, marmoreal, caryatid, pupa of flesh growing 
> upward among the bones, carrying them
> upward from the hip, irresistible leaven. The hills snooze on with the 
> liths of your fingers laid over them: the
> sensitive calyx of the pelvis like the dish of land which holds our 
> sea, silent outside the house. All that is
> dying in me in this fatal landscape, your mine among active things, 
> stone, shards, language, meteors, butter.
> Nothing but the punic body, our essential traitor, which stifles me 
> with its pollens. Snore on, you winter sea,
> there is no more in here than the seven hectic elements can offer me: 
> more than the fantasy of the third ocean,
> dipping its brush among the molten colors, leaking down to the hot 
> magma of things. More. More.

Charles L. Sligh
Assistant Professor
Department of English
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
charles-sligh at utc.edu

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