Marginalia, no.120

The beauty of the garden was a torture because I could not find the words in which to describe it… I would be seized by a breathless sensation for a moment or two when something real – that is to say some definable vision – would seem to be there, but the moment passed; I would fall into the dreamer’s exhaustion and ennui and a feeling of meaninglessness.

~ V.S. Pritchett, A Cab at the Door

It’s said that newborns and victims of stroke are sometimes unable to distinguish between objects.  The tree, the grass, the fence and the walker melt into a single entity or atomize to a multitude.  A syntax of the eyes needs to be learned.  Moments of aesthetic perception can leave us similarly disoriented.  Until words come as palliatives for the pain of beauty, we stagger like Adam in Eden before he named the other creatures: “The beauty of the garden was a torture because I could not find the words in which to describe it.”


Filed under Marginalia

2 responses to “Marginalia, no.120

  1. This recalls a quote from an old friend: “If I don’t know the name of that tree, isn’t it still beautiful?”

  2. Dave Lull

    ‘Thoreau understood the pleasures and importance of naming. For him it signified knowledge and the possibility of communicating it. In his journal for Aug. 29, 1858, he writes:

    ‘“How hard one must work in order to acquire his language, — words by which to express himself! I have known a particular rush, for instance, for at least twenty years, but have ever been prevented from describing some [of] its peculiarities, because I did not know its name nor anyone in the neighborhood who could tell me it. With the knowledge of the name comes a distincter recognition and knowledge of the thing….My knowledge was cramped and confined before, and grew rusty because not used, — for it could not be used. My knowledge now becomes communicable and grows by communication. I can now learn what others know about the same thing.”’

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