Not to Be Tolerated

« Je n’accepte pas que l’on me tolère. Cela blesse mon amour de l’amour et de la liberté. »

(“I will not agree to be tolerated. This damages my love of love and liberty.”)

Jean Cocteau

 

Jean Cocteau with Man-Horse on the set of Testament d’Orphée. Photo by Lucien Clergue. Les Baux de Provence, 1959

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Anything Out of The Ordinary

“My misfortunes are due to a society which condemns anything out of the ordinary as a crime and forces us to reform our natural inclinations.”

Jean Cocteau

 

The Conscripts, Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, 1889

 

The Candlelight Vigil for Matthew Shepard (NYC Oct. 19, 1998), Sandow Birk

Orpheus Alone

La douleur d’Orphée (Orpheus’ Sorrow), Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, 1876

 

“It was an adventure much could be made of: a walk
On the shores of the darkest known river,
Among the hooded, shoving crowds, by steaming rocks
And rows of ruined huts half buried in the muck;
Then to the great court with its marble yard
Whose emptiness gave him the creeps, and to sit there
In the sunken silence of the place and speak
Of what he had lost, what he still possessed of his loss,
And, then, pulling out all the stops, describing her eyes,
Her forehead where the golden light of evening spread,
The curve of her neck, the slope of her shoulders, everything
Down to her thighs and calves, letting the words come,
As if lifted from sleep, to drift upstream,
Against the water’s will, where all the condemned
And pointless labor, stunned by his voice’s cadence,
Would come to a halt, and even the crazed, disheveled
Furies, for the first time, would weep, and the soot-filled
Air would clear just enough for her, the lost bride,
To step through the image of herself and be seen in the light.
As everyone knows, this was the first great poem,
Which was followed by days of sitting around
In the houses of friends, with his head back, his eyes
Closed, trying to will her return, but finding
Only himself, again and again, trapped
In the chill of his loss, and, finally,
Without a word, taking off to wander the hills
Outside of town, where he stayed until he had shaken
The image of love and put in its place the world
As he wished it would be, urging its shape and measure
Into speech of such newness that the world was swayed,
And trees suddenly appeared in the bare place
Where he spoke and lifted their limbs and swept
The tender grass with the gowns of their shade,
And stones, weightless for once, came and set themselves there,
And small animals lay in the miraculous fields of grain
And aisles of corn, and slept. The voice of light
Had come forth from the body of fire, and each thing
Rose from its depths and shone as it never had.
And that was the second great poem,
Which no one recalls anymore. The third and greatest
Came into the world as the world, out of the unsayable,
Invisible source of all longing to be; it came
As things come that will perish, to be seen or heard
Awhile, like the coating of frost or the movement
Of wind, and then no more; it came in the middle of sleep
Like a door to the infinite, and, circled by flame,
Came again at the moment of waking, and, sometimes,
Remote and small, it came as a vision with trees
By a weaving stream, brushing the bank
With their violet shade, with somebody’s limbs
Scattered among the matted, mildewed leaves nearby,
With his severed head rolling under the waves,
Breaking the shifting columns of light into a swirl
Of slivers and flecks; it came in a language
Untouched by pity, in lines, lavish and dark,
Where death is reborn and sent into the world as a gift,
So the future, with no voice of its own, nor hope
Of ever becoming more than it will be, might mourn.”

Mark Strand
From The Continuous Life: Poems

Awakening

Sailors, by George Platt-Lynes

“Grave mouths of lions
Sinuous smiling of young crocodiles
Along the river’s water conveying millions
Isles of spice
How lovely he is, the son
Of the widowed queen
And the sailor
The handsome sailor abandons a siren,
Her widow’s lament at the south of the islet
It’s Diana of the barracks yard
Too short a dream
Dawn and lanterns barely extinguished
We are awakening
A tattered fanfare”

Jean Cocteau

There Rose a Tree

Photo by George Platt-Lynes

 

I,1

„Da stieg ein Baum. O reine Übersteigung!
O Orpheus singt! O hoher Baum im Ohr.
Und alles schwieg. Doch selbst in der verschweigung
ging neuer Anfang, Wink und Wandlung vor.

Tiere aus Stille drangen aus dem klaren
gelösten wald von Lager und Genist;
und da ergab sich, daß sie nicht aus List
und nicht aus Angst in sich so leise waren,

sondern aus Hören. Brüllen, Schrei, Geröhr
schien klein in ihren Herzen. Und wo eben
kaum eine Hütte war, dies zu empfangen,

ein Unterschlupf aus dunkelstem Verlangen
mit einem Zugang, dessen Pfosten beben, –
da schufst du ihnen Tempel im Gehör.“

Rainer Maria Rilke

Die Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus)

 

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FIRST SONNET

“There rose a tree. O pure transcendence!
O Orpheus sings! O tall tree in the ear!
And all was silent. Yet still in this silence
proceeded new beginning, sign and transformation.

Creatures of stillness pressed out of the clear
unravelled forest from lair and nest;
and it came to pass, that not by cunning
and not out of fear were they made so quiet,

but simply out of hearing. Bellow, scream, roar
seemed small in their hearts. And just where
there was scarcely a hut to receive this,

a shelter of darkest longing
with an entrance, whose posts shook, –
you built for them a temple in hearing.”