Op die weblog Slate het Robert Plinsky onlangs ‘n interessante bydrae gelewer oor die skoonheid wat opgesluit lê in onpretensieuse eenvoud. Reeds met sy inleidende betoog maak Plinsky ‘n enorme stelling: “Sometimes, the most plain surfaces demand mastering the most extreme nuances. In a building or a garment, sometimes ornament and elaboration can conceal imperfect seams. Simplicity can demand perfection.” Ook noem hy Wallace Stevens se gedigte “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm” en “The Comedian as the Letter C.” as voorbeelde van gedigte wat in hul “plainness or simplicity” deel uitmaak van ‘n “satisfying range”. Mmmm …
Dit is egter wanneer hy hierna uitgebreid begin skryf oor Anne Bradstreet (foto) wat hy my aandag vasvang; veral omrede Bradstreet Amerika se heel eerste vrouedigter was wat in Engels geskryf het en myns insiens haar tydgenote elders in die wêreld ietwat oorskadu het … (Bedoelende vrouedigters, uiteraard.) Bradstreet is in 1612 in Engeland gebore, maar het kort hierna saam met haar familie na Massachusetts verhuis waar sy in in 1672 gesterf het. (‘n Tydgenoot van John Milton, dus.)
Nietemin – Plinsky beskryf Bradstreet se digkuns soos volg: “Her work is plain in a way that might tempt some readers to condescension, but she knew the Latin poets and writes fluently within the conventions she chose, reaching considerable intensity of emotion and idea. Sometimes, her poems enter the interesting zone where plain truth testifies to the strange extremes of life itself.”
Die gedig wat hy as toonbeeld hiervan uitsonder is die gedig “Before the Birth of One of Her Children“. Hiervan sê Plinsky die volgende: “The poem proceeds from dignified, slightly stiff acknowledgements of the great, generic truths of mortality. The application of those truths to the risks of childbirth in the 17th century gains force from the poet’s quiet, in a way pragmatic manner of dealing with the known and the unknown. And her poem ends with a striking, frank imagination of loss. In 14 well-turned couplets, Bradstreet goes from the general, traditional wisdom of her first line to the immediacy of tears and paper.”
Vanoggend dan twee gedigte: Wallace Stevens se “The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm“, gevolg deur Anne Bradstreet se “Before the Birth of One of Her Children“.
The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much to be
The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.
© Wallace Stevens
Before the Birth of One of Her Children
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death’s parting blow are sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,
How soon’t may be thy lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when the knot’s untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that’s due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know I have
Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel’st no grief, as I no harmes,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms,
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved’st me,
These O protect from stepdame’s injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honor my absent hearse;
And kiss this paper for thy dear love’s sake,
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.
Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672)