Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The California of the Jealous Gods

I rise through pools of silver to a glimpse of sky, a fading sky, a dislocation of blue.

Was there ever a young man who so narrowly missed so many targets, as Heinrich von Kleist? Poor soul. But I haven't read his plays yet. 

I keep my mind on a short leash these days. Speak sternly to it when it pauses to sniff. The right way to live, maybe, but not the right way to create things. 

I could eat ten packages of girl scout cookies without drawing a breath, right now, and reach for an eleventh.

A breeze stirs the maple tree branches, and their leaves tap the sky.

I have done the state some service, and they know't.
No more of that.

(I, on the other hand, have done the state no service at all, but here I am, withering out its revenue.)


     "I'll go in search of Athos by myself," he said. "Take care of yourself, dear friend!"
     "You're a man of steel," said Aramis.
     "No; I'm lucky, nothing more. But how will you kill the time, waiting for me? I suppose you're done with the thesis, and with theological explications of fingers and blessings?"
     Aramis smiled. "I'll compose verses."
     "Ah, verses bearing the scent of the billet-doux of Lady Whoever-She-Is. Why don't you teach versification to Bazin? It will console him."

Bizarre as von Kleist is, he can't hold a candle to Dumas, who opens wider vistas of the ungodded landscape. Dumas is astonishing in his amorality. The side of the musketeers is the right side because it is the side of our friends: no other moral superiority is claimed or wanted. Pretty girls, fast horses, jeweled swords: this is the pinnacle of life, and all the rest is stuff: feeble consolations for those who have lost the real game. 

Dumas does not make it into Harold Bloom's register of the immortals. Not highbrow enough, I suppose. Nevertheless, people will be reading Dumas when half of Bloom's classics are forgotten footnotes. 

More surprising than Dumas' popularity, I think, is the nostalgia he inspires. Were this merely cape-and-sword porn, I don't think it would leave so deep a trace. People come back to the Musketeers again and again. The gusto of youth and the bleakness of age are perfectly counterpoised: this is the eternal Spring, the California of the Jealous Gods.

Their hearts have not grown old. 
Passion or conquest, wander where they will 
Attend upon them still.

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