Saturday, November 7, 2009

Distances made swiftly

Distances
Philippe Jaccottet


Swifts turn in the heights of the air;
higher still turn the invisible stars.
When day withdraws to the ends of the earth
their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand.

We live in a world of motion and distance.
The heart flies from tree to bird,
from bird to distant star,

from star to love; and love grows
in the quiet house, turning and working,
servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand.




The compactness in "Distances" here serves Jaccottet's purpose elegantly, conveying motion and emotion, a natural phenomenon with an internal stirring with a sweet and , carefully construed twining. The poem works with an analogy that treats us to a moral of the story, normally something that would come off us preachy , didactic, dry in our time of shying away from universal declarations, but the poet doesn't gush, doesn't exclaim or otherwise rattle his cup, Whitman style. The indirect reference to Diogenese, looking for an honest man

The heart flies from tree to bird,
from bird to distant star,

from star to love; and love grows
in the quiet house, turning and working,
servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand.


is swift and firmly applied to the underlying idea that life is a journey for that essence, that ephemeral something in the ether that will it meaning and purpose, a light of hope as our lamp. This is a poem by a writer who had fully gathered his thoughts on that inexpessable thing he wanted to get across.