Monday, 6 June 2011

Gravelly Run

A. R. Ammons' 'Gravelly Run' begins with a fairly straightforwardly updated Wordsworthianism:
I don’t know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming and going is,
losing the self to the victory
of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:

for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:
J. T. Barbarese ('Theology for Atheists: Reading Ammons', Journal of Modern Literature 2003, 80) considers this 'one of the most beautiful passages in late twentieth-century American poetry'; but I think the truer beauty, and the more piercing moment, in the poem comes later, the shift from the emphasis on the holy passivity of self in nature, to the realisation of the chill indifference of nature to us, and indeed of the cosmos to nature:
so I look and reflect, but the air’s glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:

no use to make any philosophies here:
I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines: the sunlight has never
heard of trees: surrendered self among
unwelcoming forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.
The sunlight, indeed, has never heard of trees.

No comments: