Friday, April 15, 2011

Only One Coin

“Because beauty, Phaedo, is the only thing that is divine and visible at the same time, and so it is the way of the artist to the soul.But do you believe, my dear Phaedo, that the one who reaches the intellectual through the senses can ever achieve wisdom and human dignity?Or do you believe (and I am leaving this to you) that it is a lovely but dangerous road that leads nowhere?Because you have to realize that we artists cannot take the path of beauty without Eros joining us and becoming our leader; we may be heroes in our own way, but we are still like women, because passion is what elevates us, and our desire is love—that is our lust and our disgrace.Do you see that poets can be neither sage nor dignified?That we always stray, adventurer in our emotions?The appearance of mastery in our style is a lie and foolishness, our fame a falsehood, the trust the public places in us is highly ridiculous, education of the young through art something that should be forbidden.Because how can someone be a good teacher when he has an inborn drive towards the abyss?We may deny it and gain dignity, but it still attracts us.We do not like final knowledge, because knowledge, Phaedo, has no dignity or severity:it knows, understands, forgives, without attitude; it is sympathetic to the abyss, itis the abyss.Therefore we deny it and instead seek beauty, simplicity, greatness and severity, of objectivity and form.But form and objectivity, Phaedo, lead the noble one to intoxication and desire, to horrible emotional transgressions rejected by his beautiful severity, lead to the abyss.Us poets, I say, it leads there, for we are unable to elevate ourselves, instead we can only transgress.And now I am leaving you, Phaedo; stay here until you no longer see me, then leave also.”

---Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (translation found online)

I am really not sure what to think of the fact that I fell in love with this at fifteen.

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