Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yet another "I am one cultured muthafucka" moment...

The barbarians do in fact arrive near the end of Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians" (aka "Expecting the Barbarians," not exactly the same thing; you pays for your translation and you takes your chances), but they are merely "people...from the frontiers," recognizable and nonthreatening because an historical process, fossilized by reactionary fear in the city, has been continuing on the margins, in the outlands, transforming the 'barbarians' into 'civilized' peoples--much like those in the city who define their lifestyles in opposition to a 'barbarism' that exists only in their xenophobic fantasies. (Or as a T-shirt seen at a biology conference once put it, "If you outlaw evolution, only outlaws will evolve.")

I'm reading Cavafy and listening to Donizetti's Elixir of Love while paperwhite moths flit above the grass in a luminous Van Gogh landscape of lawn and field and trees framed in my western Ohio window. It's a beautiful day, a day like a Monet. The bel canto is silly, the poetry sublime, the natural world green, glistening and glowing after a gentle morning rain. Summer nears, and the world is in the midst of life. If a mind of summer wasn't good enough for Wallace Stevens, that was his problem.