7 oktober 2009


Hier staat niets (English text)

From dr. Samuel Johnson, Lives of the Poets:
                   Life of Rochester
Lord Rochester was eminent for the vigour of his colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare of his general character diffused itself upon his writings; the compositions of a man whose name was heard so often, were certain of attention, and from many readers certain of applause. This blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished; and his poetry still retains some splendour beyond that which genius has bestowed.
The strongest effort of his muse is his poem upon Nothing.
In all his works there is sprightliness and vigour, and every where may be found tokens of a mind, which study might have carried to excellence. What more can be expected from a life spent in ostentatious contempt of regularity, and ended, before the abilities of many other men began to be displayed?

Having and being me I am not as well as could be, and having little to say - or as you can tell, not the force to say it well - I'll show you another wit at play:

Upon Nothing

    Nothing, thou elder brother even to shade,
    That hadst a being ere the world was made,
    And (well fixed) art alone of ending not afraid.
    Ere time and place were, time and place were not,
    When primitive Nothing Something straight begot,
    Then all proceeded from the great united--What?
    Something, the general attribute of all,
    Severed from thee, its sole original,
    Into thy boundless self must undistinguished fall.
    Yet Something did thy mighty power command,
    And from thy fruitful emptiness's hand,
    Snatched men, beasts, birds, fire, air, and land.
    Matter, the wickedest offspring of thy race,
    By Form assisted, flew from thy embrace,
    And rebel Light obscured thy reverend dusky face.
    With Form and Matter, Time and Place did join,
    Body, thy foe, with these did leagues combine
    To spoil thy peaceful realm, and ruin all thy line.
    But turncoat Time assists the foe in vain,
    And, bribed by thee, assists thy short-lived reign,
    And to thy hungry womb drives back thy slaves again.
    Though mysteries are barred from laic eyes,
    And the Divine alone with warrant pries
    Into thy bosom, where thy truth in private lies,
    Yet this of thee the wise may freely say,
    Thou from the virtuous nothing takest away,
    And to be part of thee the wicked wisely pray.
    Great Negative, how vainly would the wise
    Inquire, define, distinguish, teach, devise?
    Didst thou not stand to point their dull philosophies.
    Is, or is not, the two great ends of Fate,
    And true or false, the subject of debate,
    That perfects, or destroys, the vast designs of Fate,
    When they have racked the politician's breast,
    Within thy bosom most securely rest,
    And, when reduced to thee, are least unsafe and best.
    But Nothing, why does Something still permit
    That sacred monarchs should at council sit
    With persons highly thought at best for nothing fit?
    While weighty Something modestly abstains
    From princes' coffers, and from statesmen's brains,
    And Nothing there like stately Nothing reigns,
    Nothing, who dwellest with fools in grave disguise,
    For whom they reverend shapes and forms devise,
    Lawn sleeves, and furs, and gowns, when they like thee look wise.
    French truth, Dutch prowess, British policy,
    Hibernian learning, Scotch civility,
    Spaniard's dispatch, Dane's wit are mainly seen in thee.
    The great man's gratitude to his best friend,
    King's promises, whore's vows, towards thee they bend,
    Flow swiftly to thee, and in thee never end.
    John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

As I showed before, in Dutch, I like Rochester much, and have known this rhyme for quite a long time, and his above poem is the probable cause I know him. The link about nothing may explain something, and indeed dr. Johnson's Life of this wit contains some interesting observations upon it, also in a Latin (by another author) subtle like satin:

  Invenit mea musa NIHIL; ne despice munus:
  Nam NIHIL est gemmis, NIHIL est pretiosius auro.
  Immortale NIHIL, NIHIL omni parte beatum.
  Quod si hinc majestas et vis divina probatur,
  Num quid honore dem, num quid dignabimur aris?
  Conspectu lucis NIHIL est jucundius almae,
  Vere NIHIL, NIHIL irriguo formosius horto,
  Floridius pratis, Zephyri clementius aura;
  In bello sanctum NIHIL est, Martisque tumultu:
  Justum in pace NIHIL, NIHIL est in foedere tutum.
Since it has been just 40 years ago, that Monty Python had Heidegger do nothing in soccer in their first show, maybe the time and my present condition are fit, to show nothing nothings a blatherer better than a far better wit.

P.S. You may not know that Heidegger - rather fairly described as an obscure Nazi Kraut phoney philosopher - got (in)famous in philosophical circles by profundities like "The Nothing nothings".

Anyway - today I have little to say, or at least am not fit to do it with wit, and therefore borrowed some bits of wit of two who had a surfeit of it.

Maarten Maartensz

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