Good morning. Today is Easter Sunday. Lance and I ran into Nancy and Renny on our walk along the bayou. She wore large pink and white fuzzy rabbit ears . . . and sunglasses. “He is risen,” Nancy said, by way of greeting. And then: “He did die for our sins, after all.” That considered, we agreed the least we could do was wear funny bunny ears in tribute to our savior.
The pealing bells of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary fill the sky. Trilling birdsong drifts down from my neighbor’s rain gutter where some loudmouth has built a nest. I have a vague atavistic notion that I should be in church today. There is a distinct sense of uplift in the air. Everywhere I went on my walk this morning, people called out, “Happy Easter!” Does this happen so consistently elsewhere?
I also saw Diane walking her Jack Russell Terrorist, who happens to be named Grace—of all things. I mentioned Easter Mass in passing. Diane shook her head, no. “I’m in church, right here,” she said, as she passed beneath the arms of a giant oak. That’s the spirit. I’m not going to church. I’m staying on the porch with my coffee and Lance and Emily.
Random Chance tossed out the perfect Easter poem.
#712, c. 1863
Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —
Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —
We paused before a House that seemed
A swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —
Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —
I’ve been trying to avoid the poems on Emily’s Hit Parade, but this one wanted to jump out today. I’ll try to treat it as though I have never read it before.
Her sense of Death here is a radical restructuring, unheard of before or since. Death is not the enemy or the terrifying, scythe-wielding skeleton. He is a gentleman. The soul of kindness, and nothing if not civil. Here, Emily finally meets her perfect consort. Her courtier. Death pauses in his carriage to bring Emily to their wedding feast. This is not their first date. They have been long acquainted and proceed toward the consummation of a mutually agreed-upon contract.
She goes to him gently, discreetly, as to her lover whom she would have as her husband. He escorts her with the unhurried courtesy of a mature, thoughtful man about to take a wife, not the passionate, rock-and-roll boyfriend. The two of them move carefully toward their sacred union, crossing the threshold by slowly attending to all the relevant details. She soaks in the gradual pace of this journey, as she leaves her father’s house, so that her new husband may bring her to the house he has made for the two of them.
This is the courtship of Emily. No other man would do for her. Any earthly marriage would just be a preamble, and she doesn’t have the patience for that. She was born to wed Death. That means radical honesty, accepting that her life is a trajectory toward that union with death. For her the honesty is the lure, the attraction to Death. All the love affairs in the world are just a shadow play before the main event. All the lovers are merely straw men, stand-ins for the one true mate she knows is waiting for her.
I can see Emily freeze and choke at the prospect of an ordinary, human love. She has to save herself for the real thing, if for no other reason than she just doesn’t have the stomach for pretending. Perhaps Emily is not entirely human herself. Or too human?
Last night Geoff and I read The Marriage of Heaven and Hell aloud, alternating each section in the manner of our “slow reading” of The Symposium. Among Blake’s many trippy insights, the one I held most dear was an observation his speaker made in one of the sections titled: “The Voice of the Devil”. The speaker offers an essential truth that contradicts the incorrect belief promulgated by scripture, chiefly that we must expunge the false notion that Body and Soul are separate. Body is simply an aspect of Soul that can be perceived with the five senses. How New Age, really. This physical life is not fundamentally divided from the life of the spirit, rather it is the concretized portion of it. Whatever we touch we receive through our hands some aspect of an immortal force. Continuing from there, when we depart our bodies, this so-called death is not an end, but a re-working of a thing that remains fundamentally whole. Neither created nor destroyed, but simply changed in form. And a happy Easter to you!
Then we read the best part of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell which are the Proverbs of Hell. My favorite: “Shame is Prides cloke.” Also: “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.” Geoff’s favorite: “The nakedness of woman is the work of God.” Or maybe it was: “Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.” So many to choose from. In any case, you can see where this was going.
Next Week: Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. Do stop in.