samedi, avril 05, 2014

The Midge (1)

The MIDGE (1)
by Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh
(Being the English translation of “A’ Mheanbhchuileag”, first published by Gairm 1980. 
English first published in quarterly magazine “Cencrastus”, Autumn 1982)

Gàidhlig AN SEO  |  Gaeilge ANSEO RÉAMHRÁ

I was sitting once reading at a table 
when I noticed a spider's web 
outside the window 
and a midge struggling in it.

I watched as the spider appeared. 
I went back to my book. 
Was that not the way of nature? 
A midge and a spider on a web. 
Vulnerability and power woven together. 
But it troubled me.

It troubles me 
that most of the world is under sea, 
and half the day under darkness, 
and the foliage of the two Poles under ice, 
and Macchu Picchu a ruin, 
and the dodo extinct, 
and gravity fighting against us, 
and a third of our lives spent in sleep, 
and two thirds of our brain out of use, 
and the mask of the universe having slipped 
so there is no correlation between beauty and truth, 
and lies riddling our planet 
like maggots in a cat’s corpse, 
and there is such a thing as that which is called death, 
so that bones are more durable than brain 
and plastic than love.

I'll tell you this- 
I'm not Atlas; 
I cannot bear the world. 
I am only an atom on the surface of the globe, 
struggling between fission and fusion.

It troubles me too 
to see a country sink 
like a sand-castle beneath the tide, 
and a language thrown from us 
like a faded paper flag, 
and a weltanschauung forgotten 
like an empty daydream, 
and history disappear without a trace
like a child's footprint on the beach.

I'll tell you this- 
I'm not Fionn; 
I cannot bear my country. 
I am only a cell in Scotland's body, 
struggling to be a brain-cell.
I am small and fear small things: 
the cancer cell that destroys a body, 
the stupid word that destroys love, 
the coin that sells a kingdom, 
the split atom that destroys Hiroshima, 
the poisonous virus, the enemy bullet, 
a mistake in the mind of a philosopher.

I learned something- 
I am mortal; 
maybe tomorrow will come without me.

I would like to be like Moses, 
inscribing the words of God; 
but a stone tablet would break my plastic pen.

And besides 
I have no burning bush 
for a candle.

I would like to be like Argus, 
gazing on the world with a hundred eyes; 
but the universe is too vast for me. 
Though if I don't see everything 
how will I be certain of anything? 
Doesn't a brain have to swallow the universe 
before it can be sane?

Sometimes objects appear 
to disappear; 

Listen to the atoms buzz!

Are they there where they were? 
Will they remain where they are?
Are you sure who you'll be in the morning?

How solid is iron? 
How stable is mind?

Do you cast a shadow in the sun?

I'll tell you this - 
the only certainty is in a burning bush.

Will I be alive tomorrow? 
Was I ever alive? 
I am thankful 
to have caressed a cat.

Giacometti said once 
that if there were a fire in an art gallery 
he would rescue a cat before a Rembrandt. 
A wise man. 
A painting will not scream in the flames.

We ourselves had a cat which died.

Of course it isn't proper to lament a cat 
when there are earthquakes in China, 
and floods in Bangla Desh, 
and famine throughout half the world.

But we had a cat which died; 
and we loved him.

C S Lewis said once 
because of the pain of a frog 
that it had been better 
if there were no universe. 
A humane man. 
But there is a universe, 
and there are flames, 
and there is vulnerability, 
and we must flee from the burning.

A year or two back 
an American artist 
had a travelling exhibition in Germany.
Somewhere between galleries 
the van containing the pictures went off the road 
and the paintings were destroyed amongst the flames. 
Ten years work. Lost.

Another painter, an Englishman, 
did a picture a day for a year to illustrate Dante's Inferno
They were almost incinerated 
by a fire in the store-room.

'Und Alles Sein ist flammend Leid'
- thus the painter Franz Marc 
wrote on the back of a canvas. 
'And all Being is flaming agony'.

Have you never seen those many metal birds 
hovering over the horizon, 
womb-full of many metal eggs? 
Pregnant with poison they wait for the impulse to lay.

It is so difficult to avoid the flames.

Why, do you think is it so much more easy 
to destroy things than to build a little civilization? 
Iona was so vulnerable before the Vikings. 
Flames. Flames.

Moses was right. 
A writer ought to write on stone!

Maybe all artists should work in stone. 
That is if they are after immortality.

Is it not odd how many mediaeval artists 
didn't sign their work? 
Is it simply that they were not working for their own glory 
but only for Truth? 
Is it also perhaps that they had no doubt 
about their immortality? 
God knew their names and that was enough. 
Who knows, but it seems 
they were working for the betterment of mankind 
instead of self-conceit.

It irritates me sometimes 
if someone visits 
when I am busy with my precious writing. 
But what is the raison d’etre of art 
if it is not to enrich people? 
Isn't this the biggest sin of all – 
to worship what our own hands have made, 
and to make human sacrifice to our god?

In a way, I suppose, those old artists died 
for their own communities. 
They were alive for ever in their work.

But what if I die before I achieve anything? 
I am no Buddhist. 
When I enter the water 
I want to cause a ripple or two!
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