online: 17 january 2005
modified: 16, 17 january 2005

14 january 2005 the unbounded whole

14:33 ...after browsing in a review of the literature of Wales* i realise that i've never studied the form of any book, or the way it is constructed, or the story and its continuity ... not the whole of any book but just its thoughts, ideas, its enhancement of life, the imagined world it creates or recreates... those are the things that i notice.

Is that it?

Sitting to write this by the ivy covered back wall of the outdoor cafe next to a man to whom i spoke as he is also writing something...

...i recall my walk here in cold dry air beneath pale blue sky with thin cloud in the stratosphere... this is the weather i like, it's good for thinking... the sunken road i saw some kind of finch with blue and white flecks on its breast** - are finches usually to be seen in january? I doubt it...

...and just now a new variety of robin (new to me at least) came close to my feet to peck some crumbs. There are large blue patches on each side of its red breast - is that also a sign of the changing climate?.

...the man with books and papers has gone and as he went he said 'Goodbye Sir'... (he sounds as if he is from the USA)... people quite often call me Sir or Captain and i must admit that i quite like it!

So now, to study wholes (as well as to inhabit, enjoy or suffer them), the wholes of novels, plays, long poems, epics, woods and wilds, and seas and cities, lives, and even theories and wars and nature, universe yes yes to study (and then to recreate, or reimagine) all kinds of... of... (is there a generic word for it?)... all kinds of holistic (as a noun?)... that's not the word... what i mean is perhaps the structure of any entity ...given that all entities with names are parts of an unnameable whole... 'presupposed by its parts' as S T Coleridge*** puts it.

...two pigeons arrive as the wind grows strong and the plastic container of the butter i just ate with soup and bread is blown off the table... so I go inside the indoor cafe, noisy now with many voices reflected from brick walls and stone floor... the wholes about me here are those of lives, of families, of careers, jobs, generations... the themes, i suppose, of many novels - but they do not attract me, i tend to flee or disavow them, not liking fixity!

...but what of the book i've brought with me today, The Mabinogion**** what kind of a whole is that, what kind of a writing?

Its most respected translators say this of it:

the final redactor, the 'author' of Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan and Mathin their present form ... achieved that effect of illumination and extension of time and space which lies beyond the reach of all save the world's greatest writers...

from the introduction (pages xix to xx) in which they refer to the story of Branwen of which the following is a fragment :

...two doors they saw open; the third door was closed, that towards Cornwall. 'See yonder,' said Manawydan, 'the door we must not open.' ... And notwithstanding all the sorrows they had seen before their eyes, and notwithstanding that they had themselves suffered, there came to them no remembrance either of that or of any sorrow in the world... (page 39)...

and here is a fragment selected by random number from all of 'the four branches of The Mabinogion':

...'I will enhance thy reparation still further,' said Bedigeidfran. 'I will give thee a cauldron, and the virtue of the cauldron is this: a man of thine slain to-day, cast him into the cauldron, and by to-morrow he will be as well as he was at his best, save that he will not have the power of speech.' And he gave thanks for that, and felt exceeding great joy because of it (also from Branwen, page 29)
but what are my own impressions?

I perceive it as an imaginative whole, knowingly unreal or invented, an evident fiction, more extensive than the visible world, and more human, reflective of mind, thought, and all kinds of dream, or unboundedness...

17 january 2005
Slowly editing this today (finding the quotations and somehow fitting them into what i wrote on the handheld) i await that flow of theme and poetry in which 'the whole' (as we misname and narrow it) is both released and anchored into the current of connected words and images that i hope will one day come forth in this writing place...

* Dafydd Johnston, The Literature of Wales, University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1994 (selected by random number from my bookshelves).

**It appears to be a chaffinch - an online guide for bird watchers states that chaffinches are plentiful in winter (when some additional ones come here from the European mainland)... so i was not seeing sign of global warming - just responding to a perceptual fashion.

***'a whole which is presupposed by all its parts.' S T Coleridge as several times quoted by Sir Charles Sherrington, particularly in Man on His Nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, second edition 1951, page 143.

****The Mabinogion, translated and with an introduction by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, J M Dent and Sons, London, and Charles E Tuttle Co Inc, New York, revised edition 1989.

(these pages are designed to be read with the window set to two-thirds of the screen width)

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