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Monday, 15 July 2013

Blindman's Buff


Blindman's Buff (detail): Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1775-80, oil on canvas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)

The mind, which Voluntary doubts molest
Asks but its own permission to be blest.

Samuel Johnson: Lines contributed to Hawkesworth's 'The Rival', 1777




"Mean while the Mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness"

Fragonard's game in a splendid garden, perhaps Johnson's lines an echo of Marvell?


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

views of slopes, from which
“between perspectives”

disclosure of object, thing
not then itself, what

grey white of fog reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

Wooden Boy said...

One of those perfect circles in thought. Could these lines have been written in any other Century before the 18th?

Blindman's bluff; no bit of rag but the plethora of images to shut our eyes up.

Unknown said...

Such soothing lines

So many blind men pursuing so many bluffs, so many buffs

The sense that what was a very dangerous game has now spun out of control

Is that man in the bathysphere the most powerful individual on earth?

One little buff may have waded in too deeply

But right you are there Wooden Boy, covering my eyes with layers of images, looking away, returning to the soothing blessing of the verse


TC said...

The Johnson couplet is surely a thing to think upon.

Source of the thought may be Romans 14:22.

"Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth." (King James Version)

This commentary from John Durham Peters: Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition:

"Emancipation from inhibition is a central theme in Milton's Areopagitica that also resounds in later thinking about freedom of expression, with its love of strong-minded assertion without self-consciousness. Samuel Johnson's couplet captures one possible reading of Paul's text:

The mind, which Voluntary doubts molest

Asks but its own permission to be blest.

"Paul makes the conscience the battlefield of liberty. Our minds, and other minds, go around staining the world. Being held responsible for the entire universe was a major burden for the German and British Romantics, who were certainly later inheritors of Paul's problem of the role of consciousness in shaping the universe. 'One wandering thought,' said Shelley, 'Pollutes the day'. [Mutability, l. 10]

"Whatever Paul meant, a long antinomian tradition says, blessed are those whose conscience is not afflicted with self-doubts, who are strong enough to defy their own inhibitions. That impurity or sanctity depends on the input of the beholder is an option Paul opens up to later thinkers...

"It was after all Milton's Satan and not God who said:

The mind is its own place, and of itself

Can make a heav'n of hell or a hell of heav'n.

Paradise Lost I. 254-5

"The problem is that the mind does not always cooperate..."

John Durham Peters: Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition

Robb said...

Taping this to the desk

TC said...

I've had it taped to my forehead (non-stick, though).