W.B. Yeats, Dante, and the Primum Mobile
I was reading an Essay W.B. Yeats wrote called The Holy Places (1906). It is in his book The Cutting of an Agate.
In the book he writes, “One of the means of loftiness, or marmorean stillness has been the choice of strange and far-away places, for the scenery of art. . .”
I had to google ‘marmorean’ because i didn’t know what it meant — it means “of, relating to, or suggestive of marble or a marble statue especially in coldness or aloofness.”
He goes on to say, “. . .this choice has grown bitter to me, and t here are moments when I cannot believe in the reality of imaginations that are not inset with minute life of long familiar things and symbols and places.”
i like this idea. I like the idea that instead of trying to find truth or beauty in Science Fiction, or Fantasy, or unrealistic chase Dramas, that we should find truth and beauty in “familiar things” historical places. Places from our own countries. Our own lands. Things we know about. We try to find beauty in new things when old things are left undiscovered.
This idea feeds into my reasoning for telling the story of early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of telling the story of the Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Why create new things to analyze when old things go unanalyzed.
Yeats ends this little essay by saying:
I am orthodox and pray for a resurrection of the body, and am certain that man should find his Holy Land where he first crept upon the floor, and that familiar woods and rivers should fade into symbol with so gradual a change that he never discover, no, not even in ecstasy itself, that he is beyond space, and that time alone keeps him from Primum Mobile, the Supernal Eden, and the White Rose over all.”
Primum Mobile is, in Dante’s Paradiso, the 9th circle of heaven before one gets to actual heaven, where God dwells, Empyrean. Yeats also references it in his poem “Meditations in Time of Civil War, IV My Descendants”.
The White Rose is Dante’s description of heaven. It is the title of the print at the top of this blog post by Gustave Dore taken from Dante’s Paradiso.
The fact that poetry and art has always been so self-referential makes me honestly question the validity of a “Post-Modern” era of art and literature.