|H. D. [Poetry Foundation]|
from H. D.'s Asphodel:
The world's good word, the institute, — that's the Institut de France. The Institute. Carl and Bertrand Gart getting books, pamphlets from the Institute, French Binomial Theorems. Mathematics is a language common to all people — dots and dashes — why don't we all speak a common language of dots and dashes and colours? Why must we be divided, hating each other, never understanding? There ought to be a sort of Spiritual Esperanto, all understanding each other but then how tiresome because French things are French. French things are more French obviously than anything American could ever be American. What is American? That's just it. Asking us to be something that has never yet been defined. I am a Frenchman. O yes then go die for it, for that visible, embodied thing you call la patrie. La patrie is visible. It has made those peonies on that cart shine with that luminous rose in alabaster light. France. France has made those peonies different from any other and our flowers at home were always Dutch tulips, English roses, O la France rose had to have a name, a tag to get really across to us, to make us really love it. The Seine. This is the Seine. Fancy calling the little built up island the Ile de France. Of France. Of all of France. The island of France. Islands. The island in the river where we had picnics, called Calypso's island and I asked my dear old Bert who Calypso was and he said a goddess out of a Greek poem. That was the first time I had ever heard of a goddess. "Who was she? What is one?" "What is what, Bird?" (They call me Bird.) "Why that, what you said, something about less God." "O ho, ho." Bert didn't laugh like that but how do you think of people when they laugh? It's a sort of cringing, a sort of crinkling, a sort of twisting. It's letting go. Bert let go, leaned against the rail of the bridge. (We were on our way up what we called, the mountains, for what we called, pansy violets.) O ho, ho. That is no sound for laughter. But how write laughter? Bertrand laughed. He was always immensely thin, immensely tall. Laughing. "How kind of your big brother to take you, such a little girl up the mountains." "Yes to get pansy violets." Bert laughing. "A goddess as a — god — less, a God — less. Less what, Birdlet?" "It was you who said it, not me. I didn't say anything about any less." "You did, oracle. You said a goddess —" And he was at it again. Twisting a long leg around another long leg. What was he about then. But here we are, not there. Here we are standing on a bridge over the Seine, the galleries of the Louvre to the left ladies and gentlemen and the famous Notre Dame across a little in the distance. Here we are in France. How ever did we get here? What is France? What is French? A sort of (obviously) Esperanto of the Spirit.