In "Leda," Aldous Huxley is back in the old smooth, mythological world, consecrated by a thousand poets. He pays occasional tribute to ugly fact in the course of this poem, but he is at home while describing Leda with her maids bathing in Eurotas, her shining body, and the clear deep pools! The
In "Leda," Aldous Huxley is back in the old smooth, mythological world, consecrated by a thousand poets. He pays occasional tribute to ugly fact in the course of this poem, but he is at home while describing Leda with her maids bathing in Eurotas, her shining body, and the clear deep pools! The modern terror of the too-perfect world makes him dwell longer, and more humorously, than his predecessors would have done, upon Jove tossing on his Olympian couch, tortured by his continence, and sending the searchlight of his glowing eye traveling over the earth below to find some object worthy of his god-like lust....
There is imaginative intensity in the poet's description of the effects of that burning, searching eye-beam, traveling over the world; and listen, the verse, too, is fine:
Like a beam of light,
His intent glances touch the mountain height
With passing flame and probe the valleys deep,
Rift the dense forest and the age-old sleep.
But the beings that beam reveals are far from pleasing to the god, until it lights on Leda; other disgusting or insipid creatures offer the poet opportunities for paying passing homage to the ugly; for descriptions in which his morose delectation can revel, not only of scenes in which
Dryads with star-flowers in their woolly hair
Dance to the flaccid clapping of their own
Black dangling dugs through forests overgrown,
but descriptions of flowers, carrying suggestions, in the manner of Huysmans, of loathsome, terrifying, fleshly diseases. Then the clouds of morbid morphology clear away and the blue heaven of Lempriere, Keats, and Chapman is once more above us. The description of Jove's descent as a swan from heaven, pursued in sport by Venus in the form of an eagle, is magnificent in movement.
The sailing, swift approach of the swan towards her is equally fine, and the close of the poem, which reminds one of Hero and Leander in its sensual rapture:
Closer he nestled, mingling with the slim
Austerity of virginal flank and limb
His curved and florid beauty, till she felt
That downy warmth strike through her flesh and melt.
* * * * *
In the centre of the book the reader will come across a preface, composed of separate reflections, in which the poet's aims and perplexities are obscurely set forth; where by means of an irritatingly allusive and imaged prose, for which Mallarme's Divagations are a precedent, he asks himself what the task of the poet is. The first answer is: 'Let us abandon ourselves to Time, which is beauty's essence' - that is to say, dwell pensively on the imperfection and the passing of happiness and all beautiful things....
What, then, is the common measure, he asks? What is true poetry? He replies in a series of metaphors: 'It is not the far-fetched, dear-bought gem; no pomander to be smelt only when the crowd becomes too stinkingly insistent.' He wants poets to be 'rather a rosy Brotherhood of Common Life, eating, drinking; marrying and giving in marriage; taking and taken in adultery; reading, thinking, and when thinking fails, feeling immeasurably more subtly, sometimes perhaps creating.... "Ventre a terre," head in air - your centaurs are your only poets. Their hoofs strike sparks from the flints and they see both very near and immensely far.'
-"The Living Age," Volume 307.
- Category: Classic
- Binding: Paperback
- Language of Text: English
- Author(s): Aldous Huxley
- Publisher: Createspace
- ISBN: 9781511801935
- Number of Pages: 88
- Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.18 inches