Gaston Bachelard


French Philosopher

Author Quotes

And for a dreamer of words, what calm there is in the word round. How peacefully it makes one's mouth, lips, and the being of breath become round. Because this too should be spoken by a philosopher who believes in the poetic substance of speech.

If we were to study these fragments by Baudelaire according to the normal methods of psychology, we might conclude that when the poet left behind him the settings of the world, to experience the single setting of immensity, he could only have knowledge of an abstraction come true. Intimate space elaborated in this way by a poet, would be merely the pendant of the outside space of geometricians, who seek infinite space with no other sign than infinity itself.

Read, read always mellifluous passion of the anima. But when, after reading it, we give ourselves to the task, with daydreams, to make a book, the effort is up to the animus. And always a hard mister, that of writing a book. We are always tempted to limit ourselves to dream.

And when a philosopher looks to poets, to a great poet like Milosz, for lessons in how to individualize the world, he soon becomes convinced that the world is not so much a noun as an adjective.

Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immense is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.

Still, imagine will be larger than life.

As I stood in contemplation of the garden of the wonders of space, Milosz writes, I had the feeling that I was looking into the ultimate depths, the most secret regions of my own being; and I smiled, because it had never occurred to me that I could be so pure, so great, so fair! My heart burst into singing with the song of grace of the universe. All these constellations are yours, they exist in you; outside your love they have no reality! How terrible the world seems to those who do not know themselves! When you felt so alone and abandoned in the presence of the sea, imagine what solitude the waters must have felt in the night, or the night's own solitude in a universe without end! And the poet continues this love duet between dreamer and world, making man and the world into two wedded creatures that are paradoxically united in the dialogue of their solitude.

In Leonardo da Vinci's Notebooks, we read: An oyster opens wide at full moon. When the crab sees this, it throws a pebble or a twig at the oyster to keep it from closing and thus have it to feed upon. Da Vinci adds the following suitable moral to this fable: Like the mouth that, in telling its secret, places itself at the mercy of an indiscreet listener.

The geometry of a peacock's tail is more aerial: The eyes in a peacock's spread tail are situated at the intersecting point of a double cluster of spirals, that are apparently Archimedean spirals.

But each poetic world is not a pure invention, it is a possibility of nature. Imagination is itself immanent in the real. It is not a state. It is human existence itself.

In my book entitled 'L'eau et les reves, I collected many other literary images in which the pond is the very eye of the landscape, the reflection in water the first view that the universe has of itself, and the heightened beauty of a reflected landscape presented as the very root of cosmic narcissism.

The intellectualist philosopher who wants to hold words to their precise meaning, and uses them as the countless little tools of clear thinking, is bound to be surprised by the poet's daring. And yet a syncretism of sensitivity keeps words from crystallizing into perfect solids. Unexpected adjectives collect about the focal meaning of the noun. A new environment allows the word to enter not only into one's thoughts, but also into one's daydreams. Language dreams.

But shall I have the strength to write this book? For there is a great distance between the words we speak uninhibitedly to a friendly audience and the discipline needed to write a book. When we are lecturing, we become animated by the joy of teaching and, at times, our words think for us. But to write a book requires really serious reflection.

In my opinion, for Baudelaire, the word vast is a vocal value. It is a word that is pronounced, never only read, never only seen in the objects to which it is attached. It is one of those words that a writer always speaks softly while he is writing it. Whether in verse or in prose, it has a poetic effect, which is also an effect of vocal poetry. This word immediately stands out from the words that surround it, from the images, and perhaps, even, from the thought. It is a power of the word. Indeed, whenever we read this word in the measure of one of Baudelaire's verses, or in the periods of his prose poems, we have the impression that he forces us to pronounce it. The word vast, then, is a vocable of breath. It is placed on our breathing, which must be slow and calm. And the fact is that always, in Baudelaire's poetics, the word vast evokes calm, peace and serenity. It expresses a vital, intimate conviction. It transmits to our ears the echo of the secret recesses of our being. For this word bears the mark of gravity, it is the enemy of turmoil, opposed to the vocal exaggerations of declamation. In diction enslaved to strict measure, it would be shattered. The word vast must reign over the peaceful silence of being.

The lock doesn?t exist that could resist absolute violence, and all locks are an invitation to thieves. A lock is a psychological threshold.

Consciousness rejuvenates everything, giving a quality of beginning to the most everyday actions.

In other words, since immense is not an object, a phenomenology of immense would refer us directly to our imagining consciousness. In analyzing images of immensity, we should realize within ourselves the pure being of pure imagination. It then becomes clear that works of art are the by-products of this existentialism of the imagining being. In this direction of daydreams of immensity, the real product is consciousness of enlargement. We fell that we have been promoted to the dignity of the admiring being.

The numerous commentaries that have been made on Baudelaire's correspondences seem to have forgotten this sixth sense that seeks to model and modulate the voice. This delicate little Aeolian harp that natures has set at the entrance to our breathing is really a sixth sense, which followed and surpassed the others. It quivers at the merest movement of metaphor; it permits human thought to sing. And when I let my nonconformist philosopher's daydreams go unchecked, I begin to think that the vowel a is the vowel of immensity. It is a sound area that starts with a sigh and extends beyond all limits.

For Baudelaire, man's poetic fate is to be the mirror of immensity; or even more exactly, immensity becomes conscious of itself, through man. Man for Baudelaire is a vast being.

In the Fragments from an intimate diary that precede a French collection of Rilke's letters, we find the following scene: one very dark night, Rilke and two friends perceive the lighted casement of a distant hut, the hut that stands quite alone on the horizon before one comes to fields and marshlands. This image of solitude symbolized by a single light moves the poet's heart in so personal a way that it isolates him from his companions. Speaking of this group of three friends, Rilke adds: Despite the fact that we were very close to one another, we remained three isolated individuals, seeing night for the first time. This expression can never be meditated upon enough, for here the most commonplace image, one that the poet had certainly seen hundreds of time, is suddenly marked with the sign of the first time, and it transmits this sign to the familiar night. One might even say that light emanating from a lone watcher, who is also a determined watcher, attains to the power of hypnosis. We are hypnotized by solitude, hypnotized by the gaze of the solitary house; and the tie that binds us to it is so strong that we begin to dream of nothing but a solitary house in the night.

To mount and descend in the words themselves-this is a poet's life. To mount too high or descend too low, is allowed in the case of poets, who bring earth and sky together. Must the philosopher alone be condemned by his peers always to live on the ground floor?

Great images have both a history and a prehistory; they are always a blend of memory and legend, with the result that we never experience an image directly. Indeed, every great image has an unfathomable oneiric depth to which the personal past adds special color. Consequently it is not until late in life that we really revere an image, when we discover that its roots plunge well beyond the history that is fixed in our memories. In the realm of absolute imagination, we remain young late in life. But we must lose our earthly Paradise in order to actually live in it, to experience it in the reality of its images, in the absolute sublimation that transcends all passion. A poet meditating upon the life of a great poet, that is Victor-Emile Michelet meditating upon the life of Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, wrote: Alas! we have to grow old to conquer youth, to free it from its fetters and live according to its original impulse.

In the word vast, the vowel a retains all the virtues of an enlarging vocal agent. Considered vocally, therefore, this word is no longer merely dimensional. Like some soft substance, it receives the balsamic powers of infinite calm. With it, we take infinity into our lungs, and through it, we breathe, cosmically, far from human anguish. Some may find these minor considerations. But no factor, however slight, should be neglected in the estimation of poetic values. And indeed, everything that contributes to giving poetry its decisive psychic action should be included in a philosophy of the dynamic imagination. Sometimes, the most varied, most delicate perceptive values relay one another, in order to dynamize and expand a poem. Long research devoted to Baudelaire's correspondences should elucidate the correspondence of each sense with the spoken word.

Tree always in the middle of everything that surrounds tree savoring the vault of heaven (tree always in the center of all that surrounds it tree feasting upon heaven's great dome)

He ended by confining himself to one room until he could breathe the parched air that was necessary to him.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

French Philosopher