Gaston Bachelard


French Philosopher

Author Quotes

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.

In this dynamic rivalry between house and universe, we are far removed from any reference to simple geometrical forms. A house that has been experienced is not an inert box. Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.

We are suffering through dreams. We heal by dreams.

Heaven in no doubt, is a huge library.

Inhabited space transcends geometrical space.

What a concentration of images in Pasternak's swallow's nest! And, in reality, why should we stop building and molding the world's clay about our own shelters? Mankind's nest, like his world, is never finished. And imagination helps us to continue it. A poet cannot leave such a great image as this, nor, to be more exact, can such an image leave its poet. Boris Pasternak also wrote Man himself is mute, and it is the image that speaks. For it is obvious that the image alone can keep pace with nature.

How much philosophers would learn, if they would consent to read the poets!

Like friendship, words sometimes swell, at the dreamer's will, in the loop of a syllable.

What benefits new books bring us! I would like a basket full of books telling the youth of images which fall from heaven for me every day. This desire is natural. This prodigy is easy. For, up there, in heaven, isn't paradise an immense library? But it is not sufficient to receive; one must welcome. One must, say the pedagogue and the dietician in the same voice, ?assimilate.? In order to do that, we are advised not to read too fast and to be careful not to swallow too large a bite. We are told to divide each difficulty into as many parts as possible, the better to solve them. Yes, chew well, drink a little at a time, savor poems line by line. All these precepts are well and good. But one precept orders them. One first needs a good desire to eat, drink and read. One must want to read a lot, read more, always read. Thus, in the morning, before the books piled high on my table, to the god of reading, I say my prayer of the devouring reader: ?Give us this day our daily hunger.?

I shall never find a better document for a phenomenology of a being which is at once established in its roundness and developing in it. Rilke's tree propagates in green spheres a roundness that is a victory over accidents of form and the capricious events of mobility. Here becoming has countless forms, countless leaves, but being is subject to no dispersion: If I could ever succeed in grouping together all the images of being, all the multiple, changing images that, in spite of everything, illustrate permanence of being, Rilke's tree would open an important chapter in my album of concrete metaphysics.

Needless to say, all the poet really sees is a tree in a meadow; he is not thinking of a legendary Yggdrasill that would concentrate the entire cosmos, uniting heaven and earth, within itself. But the imagination of round being follows its own law: since, as the poet says, the walnut tree is proudly rounded, it can feast upon heaven's great dome. The world is round around the round being. And from verse to verse, the poem grows, increases its being. The tree is alive, reflective, straining toward God. (One day it will see God and so, to be sure, it develops its being in roundness and holds out ripe arms to Him. Tree that perhaps thinks innerly tree that dominates self slowly giving itself the form that eliminates hazards of wind!

When the two feathers spits .. I think about a mistake, who can bring me inkwell childhood?.

Reveries of idealization develop, not by letting oneself be taken in by memories, but by constantly dreaming the values of a being whom one would love. And that is the way a great dreamer dreams his double. His magnified double sustains him.

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French Philosopher