Poetry: Gate of Lilacs 2: The Population of the Velodromes | clivejames.com
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Gate of Lilacs 2 :  The Population of the Velodromes

Years later, that colossal bore Norpois
Recalls that Marcel almost kissed his hand
When he, Norpois, promised to mention him
To Gilberte and Odette. But to remember,
Norpois must first forget. Proust often speaks
About the incalculable proportions
Of recollection and forgetfulness
That make our minds up. Hence the anti-matter
To his matter is included in his book:
Famous for seeing how we bring to mind
The past, he also sees how we do not,
And so he parallels the universe,
Where nebulae as lovely as the jewels
At the throat of the Duchesse de Guermantes
Are balanced by dark blots we know are there
Only because of how they do not shine —
Or so the theory goes, which well might have
The truth of poetry and nothing more,
Like phlogiston, or the globe held up by Atlas.
The past is real but marbled by beliefs
That turned to myth as time eroded them.
Proust sees a great share of the stirring way,
In all this interchange of then and now,
The future forms. Posterity, for him,
Belongs to works of art. A late quartet
Of Beethoven creates its listeners:
Of that, we are the proof. We see advance,
He says, if not the quality of artists,
Then at least the community of minds.
Bergotte, the writer Marcel so admires —
And all the more because the dolt Norpois
Calls him a delinquent mandarin —
Began as the disciple of a speaker
Of brilliance, but who never wrote a word,
And Elstir, though believing painters should
Learn from experience and not example,
Can’t talk of Venice, or even about water,
Without the filter of his memories
Of Veronese or Carpaccio.
The individual talent, none the less,
Must underlie the historical group effort.
Artists are made, but first they must be born.
Proust traces talent to its origin
In the awkward age, when almost anything
We do is something we will wish undone
One day, though what we rightly should regret
Is having lost the spontaneity
With which we blundered. In our later lives
We are practical, conforming to the laws
Of good society, but adolescence
Is the only time in which we truly learn.
Three aphorisms in a row, and each
Of the second and the third emerging from
The one before it, deepening the discussion:
The muscle and the sinew of his style
Which carry the fine skin of his assertions
About, say, love: those summaries that sparkle
Even when wrong. Along the esplanade
The little band, the population of
The velodromes, progress as if they were
A human comet. But just one of them
Has eyes of mica. His desire for those
Two discs is proof that it was her whole life
That made him long for her, though in the end —
At the far end of his endless mirror hall —
The eyes, like clocks marked for astronomy
Cut from an opal, of the Princess Nassau,
Arouse a lust for nothing but more time
To catch them with his pen and place them in
His fabric, while untouched by any passion
Beyond the deathless urge to shape the phrase
By which he sends her running to her tomb.