A few nights ago, I was asked to write something, either prose or poetry, using as many of the following words as possible: palimpsest, raven, gnosis, anticipation, rebirth, sapphire, and gravel. Muddy might also have been on the list.
The time limit was 10 minutes, but I ended up having only about five. Here’s what I came up with.
A palimpsest in raven ink
Commands a scholar’s study
In anticipation of a semantic link
Deciphered from those muddy
Letters set upon each other
Close as gravel, or clutter’d sink—
From this confused compounding,
A rebirth of sense—I think.
“Where strictness of grammar does not weaken expression, it should be attended to in complaisance to the purists of New England. But where by small grammatical negligences the energy of an idea is condensed, or a word stands for a sentence, I hold grammatical rigor in contempt.”
quoted in American Sphinx (p. 229)
by Joseph B. Ellis
Anyone who believes that earthly objects are all composed of the same group of substances, and that transformations are accomplished only through mechanical means, will naturally perceive the voice of God in the filthy fingernails—nails that are of this world, a part of history—of Caravaggio’s saints and virgins. The voice of a god more brilliant than capricious; a god unlike God, remote and uninterested in revealing himself in miracles beyond combustion or the balance of forces; a trust god for everyone: the poor, the wicked, the politicians, the rent boys, and the millionaires.
Caravaggio was to painting what Galileo was to physics: someone who took a second look and said what he was seeing; someone who discovered that forms in space aren’t allegories of anything but themselves, and that’s enough; someone who understood that the true mystery of the forces that control how we inhabit the earth is not how lofty they are, but how elemental. (p. 89)
For those of you weary of officialese:
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