The Enchafèd Flood - Part Two - W. H. Auden


The Stone and the Shell

The Non-Limited is the original material of existing things; further, the source from which existing things derive their existence is also that to which they return at their destruction, according to necessity for they give justice and make reparation to one another for their injustice, according to the arrangement of Time.
(Anaximander of Miletus)

The nature of Number and Harmony admits of no Falsehood; for this is unrelated to them. Falsehood and Envy belong to the nature of the Non-Limited and the Unintelligent and the Irrational.
(Philolaus of Tarentum)

The desert knight of Wordsworth's dream was hurrying away to hide two treasures, a stone and a shell, and the poet is quite explicit as to their significance. The stone is a geometric truth, which holds acquaintance with the stars and eads man to man

- by purest bond
Of nature undisturbed by space or time.

For it is -
an image, not unworthy of the one
Surpassing life which out of space and time
Nor touched by weltering of passion is
And has the name of God.

And the shell is Poetic Truth, the truth built by -

- passion which itself
Is highest reason in a soul sublime

for it is -
a god, yea, many gods

has -
voices, more than all the winds

and is -
a joy, a consolation and a hope

Further he says quite definitely that the shell is of more worth than the stone.

As symbolic object, the stone is related to the desert, which like the Ancient Mariner's situation is a becalmed state when the distress is caused by lack of passion, good or bad, and the shell is related to the sea, to powers, that is, which, though preferable to aridity, are nevertheless more dangerous; the shell is a consolation yet what it says is a prophecy of destruction by the weltering flood; and only a sublime soul can ride the storm.

The poet himself indeed is often endangered by his shell, and in the Seventh Book Wordsworth speaks of his interest in geometry in the following terms -

Mighty is the charm
Of these abstractions to a mind beset
With images and haunted by itself

and then compares himself with a shipwrecked mariner who passed the time on a desert island drawing diagrams with a stick, escaping from the distress of his corporal situation into

- an independent world
Created out of pure intelligence.

The Whale of Truth is "for salamander giants only to encounter," and thinking can be as dangerous as feeling. He who is merely provincial, one of those "romantic, melancholy, and absent-minded young men, disgusted with the carking cares of earth" must beware of gazing too long at the sea or the fire, for even as he takes "the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul pervading mankind and nature" he is hovering over Descartian vortices

- and perhaps at midday, in the fairest weather, with one half-throttled shriek you drop through that transparent air into the summer sea, no more to rise for ever.
(Moby Dick, chapter XXXV)

the fate, for instance, of the timid child Pip, who against his own will was cast into the sea, saw "God's foot upon the treadle of the loom" and went mad, the fate of the over-sensitive Cowper:

No voice divine the storm allay'd
No light propitious shone,
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea
And whelmed in deeper gulphs than he.
("The Castaway")

When the preself-conscious savage Tashtego falls into the cistern of the sperm-whale head and is nearly drowned, Ishmael remarks, "How many, think ye, have likewise fallen into Plato's honey head, and sweetly perished there?" Even the hero may perish: the baker for all his courage vanishes when he encounters the Boojum; and tough Baudelaire notes in his journal, "I have cultivated my hysteria with delight and terror. Now I suffer continually from vertigo, and today, the
-->23rd of January 1862, I have received a singular warning. I have felt the wind of the wing of madness pass over me."

The Stone, The Shell And The City

(1) The stone and the sell are alike in that they both signify Truth. They are also opposites. The stone is valuable because it stands for freedom from disorder and passion. The shell is valuable because it stands for life-giving power. Incidentally, also, the stone stands for the Divine Unity, the shell for the Divine Multiplicity.

(2) Both are the means through which the True City is built. Men become brothers through the recognition of a common truth in their several minds, and through the experience of a common hope and joy in their several hearts. But at the same time both are dangers to the city. The truths of abstraction are unrelated to the historical reality of the human moment and distract from the historical task. The truths of feeling may overwhelm individual identity and social order in an anarchic deluge.

The Polemical Situation of Romanticism

For every individual the present moment is a polemical situation, and his battle is always on two fronts: he has to fight against his own past, not only his personal past but also those elements in the previous generation with which he is personally involved - in the case of a poet, for instance, the poetic tradition and attitudes of the preceding generation - and simultaneously he has to fight against the present of others who are a threat to him, against the beliefs and attitudes of the society in which he lives which are hostile to his conception of art. In order to plunge straight away into this question, let us take a few statements by that highly polemical writer William Blake.

- Cowper came to me and said: O that I were insane always. . . . Can you not make me truly insane? I will never rest until I am so. O that in the bosom of God I was hid. You claim health and yet are as mad as any of us all . . . mad as a refuge from unbelief - from Bacon, Newton and Locke.

Mock on, Mock on Voltaire, Rousseau:
Mock on, Mock on: 'tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again. . . .

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newton's Particles of light
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israel's tents do shine bright.

The bounded is loathed by its possessor. The same dull round, even of a universe, would soon become a mill with complicated wheels.

Doctor Thornton's Tory Translation, Translated out of its disguise in the Classical & Scotch languages into the vulgar English.

"Our Father Augustus Caesar, who are in these thy Substantial Astronomical Telescopic Heavens, Holiness to thy Name or Title, & reverence to thy Shadow. Thy Kingship come upon Earth firs and then in Heaven. Give us day by day our Real Taxed Substantial Money brought Bread; deliver from the Holy Ghost whatever cannot be Taxed; for all is debts & Taxes between Caesar & us & one another; lead us not to read the Bible, but let our Bible be Virgil & Shakespeare; & deliver us from Poverty in Jesus, that Evil One. For thine is the Kingship, (or) Allegorical Godship, & the Power, or War, & the Glory, or Law, Ages after Ages in thy descendants; for God is only an Allegory of Kings & nothing Else. Amen."

and finally

That God is Colouring Newton does shew,
And the devil is a Black outline, all of us know.

To Blake, then, the Enemy was the sort of conception of the universe which he associates with Newton, which he regards as having disastrous psychological, religious, political and artistic consequences.

Professor Whitehead has lucidly summarized the essential features of the Newtonian cosmology a follows:
(1) The universe consists of ultimate things, whose character is private, with simple location in space.
(2) On these is imposed the necessity of entering into relationships with each other. This imposition is the work of God.
(3) These imposed behavior patterns are the laws of Nature.
(4) You cannot discover the natures so related by any study of the laws.
(5) You cannot discover the laws by inspection of the natures.

Associated with this conception there was also that of the Great Chain of Being, i.e. creation was complete, every kind of thing which could possibly exist was already there without room for the admission of any extra novelty, and arranged in an orderly and rationally comprehensible hierarchy of being.

Such a cosmology has important theological consequences. Like the orthodox Christian God and unlike the God of Plato and Aristotle, He is the creator of the world; but unlike the Christian God, and like that of Plato and Aristotle, God and the World have no real mutual relation. While the Greek Universe loves and tries to model itself on the unconscious self-sufficient god, the Newtonian Universe is the passive neutral stuff. God imposes rational order,which it obeys, but to which it does not respond, for the natural world is no longer thought of as an organism.

At first such a concept was not altogether unwelcome to theologians. To an age exhausted by religious wars, weary of unending dogmatic disputes and exasperated by fanatic individual interpretations of Scripture, here at last the possibility of peaceful consent seemed to open up. Here was a god the existence and nature of whom could be ascertained by the use of the human reason which in all sane men comes to the same conclusion, when freed from personal passion and prejudice.

Indeed through the latter half of the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth there is an attempt in every field, religion, politics, art, etc., to do for that time what their medieval predecessors had done for the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, i.e. to construct a new catholic church, catholic society, and catholic art, to found a new Good City on the basis of sound reason, common sense, and good taste.

If the Enlightenment was the precursor of the French Revolution, nothing could have been further from its intentions, which were profoundly conservative and pacifist. The Encyclopaedists did not dream of a new world arising out of the ashes of an old one, but of substituting reason for unreason in the ordering of a human nature and society which was permanently the same at all times. The only necessary change was to substitute for he magic-loving priest or irrational king the rational man of esprit a the leader of the good world society. As Figaro says in Beaumarchais' play:

Par le sort de la naissance
L'un est roi, l'autre est berger;
Le hasard fit leur distance;
L'esprit seul peut tout changer.
De vingt rois que l'on encense
Le trépas brise l'autel
Et Voltaire est immortel.

By the fate of birth
One is king, another shepherd;
Chance made their distance;
Spirit alone can change all.
Twenty kings are praised
Their death breaks the altar
And Voltaire is immortal.

The attempt failed, but the history of the preceding two hundred years shows that, insufficient for an ultimate basis as reason, sense and taste turned out to be, they were qualities of which the time stood very much in need.

It is difficult to be quite fair to deist theologians like Toland, the author of Christianity Not Mysterious, to to hymn-writers like Addison:

What though in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though not real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine.

or to the rather cheap sneers of Gibbon or Voltaire, unless we remember the actual horrors of persecution, witch-hunting, and provincial superstition from which they were trying to deliver mankind. Further, the reaction of the Romantics against them is a proof that up to a point they had succeeded. If the final result of their labors was a desert, they had at least drained some very putrid marshes.

However, as Whitehead wittily remarks, such a world view is very easy to understand and extremely easy to believe.

A transcendent God of Nature of the Newtonian type can be related to the human reason by his intelligibility, and to matter by his power to command exact obedience; the trouble begins when the question is raised of his relation to the human heart, which can and does suffer, and to the human will, which can and does obey.

Such a Supreme Being could be completely indifferent to human joy or misery, but then he cannot possibly be identified with the Christian God who cares for men and demands their love, worship, and obedience. The attempt so to identify them must result in the purely authoritarian Judge who decrees the moral law and impartially punishes the offender, in fact, the Jehovah, God of This World, whom Blake so detested.

If the moral law is to be completely rational there can be no contradiction between virtue and practical utility, there cannot be a kingdom of heaven whose values are other than the kingdom of this world. In teaching the recalcitrant to resist temptation, it becomes almost inevitable that the reason given will be that virtue succeeds and that vice fails, the Parables offered will be, in fact, the progress of the Virtuous Apprentice who finally marries the master's daughter and the progress of the Rake who ends in Bedlam. Children will be made to pay special attention to such verses as:

Like some fair tree which, fed by streams
With timely fruit doth bend;
He still shall flourish, and success
All his designs attend.

Ungodly men in their attempts
No lasting roots shall find
Untimely, withered and dispersed
Like chaff before the wind.
(Tate and Brady, Psalm 1)

With his usual unerring insight Blake saw that the crucial points at issue were the Incarnation of Christ and the Forgiveness of Sins. A Supreme Architect cannot incarnate as an individual, only as the whole building; and a pure Judge cannot forgive; he can only condemn or acquit.

Blake and the other romantics along with him tried in their reaction, not to overcome the dualism, but to stand it on its head i.e. to make God purely immanent, so that to Blake God only acts and is in existing beings and men, or is pantheistically diffused through physical nature, not to be perceived by any exercise of the reason, but only through vision and feeling.

So Coleridge writes:

In the Hebrew poets each thing has a life of its own and yet they are all one life. In God they move and live and have their own being; not had, as the cold system of Newtonian Theology represents, but have.

As to the Great Chain of Being, it is retained but in a quite different spirit. The fullness of the universe is felt to be irrational but that is its charm. Thus Schiller writes:

Every kind of perfection must attain existence in the fullness of the world . . . in the infinite chasm of nature no activity could be omitted, no grade of enjoyment be wanting in the universal happiness . . . the Great Inventor could not permit even error to remain unutilized in his great design . . . It is a provision of the supreme wisdom that erring reason should people even the chaotic land of dreams and should cultivate even the barren land of contradiction . . . Life and Liberty to the greatest possible extent are the glory of the divine creation; nowhere is it more sublime than where it seems to have departed most widely from its ideal.

So too with the problem of evil and suffering. The attempt to explain either in rational terms alone, i.e. as if the question "Why do they exist?" were one primarily raised by the intellect, the substitution for Providence and Wisdom of Economy and Utility, created mysteries more fantastic than any which it replaced, e.g. the suggestion of Soame Jenyns that there might be higher beings who torment us for their pleasure ad utility in the same way that we hunt animals, in reply to which Dr. Johnson composed a famous passage:

As we drown whelps and kittens, they amuse themselves now and then with sinking a ship, and stand round the fields of Blenheim or the walls of Prague, as we encircle a cock-pit. As we shoot a bird flying, they take a man in the midst of his business or pleasure, and knock him down with an apoplexy. Some of them, perhaps, are virtuosi, and delight in the operations of asthma, as a human philosopher in the effects of the air-pump. To swell a man with a tympany is as good a sport as to blow a frog. Many a merry bout have these frolick beings at the vicissitudes of an ague, and good sport is it to see a man tumble with an epilepsy, and revive and tumble again, and this he knows not why. As they are wiser and more powerful than we, they have more exquisite diversions, for we have no way of procuring any sport so brisk and so lasting, as the paroxysms of the gout and stone, which undoubtedly must make high mirth, especially if the play be a little diversified with the blunders and puzzles of the blind and deaf.

If such were true, then the only decent human reaction can bethat of Captain Ahab, defiance till death.

The Romantic reaction to this is twofold. When they are objecting to the moralist legalism which is thought in terms of objective infractions of the moral law and its appropriate penalities, they produce the figure of the Prelapsarian savage (Queequeg), the innocent sailor (Budd), or the child of the Immortality Ode, whose heart is good enough though he does not consciously understand or even keep the moral law of the Pharisee. When, on the other hand, they are objecting to the rationalistic optimism which attributes evil to mental ignorance curable by education, they reassert the fallen nature of men and the necessity for conversion.

To the Deists, who thought, like John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham:

While in dark Ignorance we lay afraid
Of Fancies, ghosts in every empty shade,
Great Hobbes appeared and by plain Reason's light
Put such phantastick Forms to shameful Flight.
Fond is their Fear who thinks Man needs must be
To Vice enslaved, if from vain Terrors free:
The Wise and Good, Morality shall guide
And Superstition all the World beside.

Blake retorts:

Man is born a Spectre or Satan and is altogether an Evil, and requires a New Selfhood continually, and must continually be changed into his direct contrary. But your Greek Philosophy (which is a remnant of Druidism) teaches that Man is Righteous in his Vegetated Spectre . . . Voltaire Rousseau . . . you are Pharisees and Hypocrites, for you are constantly talking of the Virtues of the Human Heart and particularly of your own, that you may accuse others.

And Baudelaire to the disciples of Voltaire:

Belief in Progress is a doctrine of idlers and Belgians. . . . True civilization is not to be found in gas or steam or table-turning. It consists in the diminution of the traces of original sin.
(Mon Coeur Mis à Nu)

Politics and Individualism

Just as it had sought to escape from sectarian fanaticism by establishing a catholic reign of the One Engineer, so the eighteenth century sought to escape from the arbitrariness of absolute monarchy by establishing a catholic society in which all men were equal because they all possessed a body and a mind which obeyed and recognized the same laws. But this over-simplified the nature of man; by denying him an individual soul or by identifying soul with mind, it did indeed make men equal, but with the equality of billiard-balls, not of individual persons. To such a doctrine of a natural law which self-interest guided by common sense will of course accept, the proper answer is that of the hero of Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground:

You will scream at me (that is if you condescend to do so) that no one is touching my free will, that all they are concerned with is that my will should of itself, or its own free will, coincide with my own normal interests, with the laws of nature and arithmetic. Good heavens, gentlemen, what sort of free will is left when we come to tabulation and arithmetic, when it will all be a case of twice two makes four? Twice two makes four without my will. As if free will meant that.

Hence the Romantic reaction stressed the soul and its uniqueness. Herder propounds the uniqueness of the soul of a nation; Schlegel writes: "It is precisely individuality that is the original and eternal theory in men." Novalis declares: "The more personal, local, peculiar, of its own time a poem is, the nearer it stands to the center of poetry."

Minds may be similar, but they are not the whole or even the chief element in a human being. "I would rather," says Ishmael, "feel your spine than your skull, whoever you are."

The Deist religion of reason had a catholic myth, that of the Goddess of reason, but no cultus, no specifically religious acts; all rational acts were worship of the Goddess.

The romantic reaction replaced the Goddess by a protestant variety of individual myths; but it, too, lacked a cult in which all men could take part. Instead, it substituted imagination for reason, and in place of the man of esprit the artist as the priest-magician.

Art is the tree of life. Art is Christianity.
says Blake.

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
says Shelley.

And when Baudelaire says:
There are no great men save the poet, the priest, and the soldier . . . the rest are born for the whip.
(Mon Coeur Mis à Nu)
One is not convinced that he cares as much about the last two as about the first.

Romantic Aesthetic Theory

Cartesian metaphysics, Newtonian physics and eighteenth-century theories of perception divided the body from the mind, and the primary objects of perception form their secondary qualities, so that physical nature became, as Professor Collingwood says, "matter, infinite in extent, permeated by movement, devoid of ultimate qualitative differences, and moved by uniform and purely quantitative forces," the colorless desert from which Melville recoils:

All deified nature absolutely paints like a harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel house within; and when we proceed further, the palsied universe lies before us like a leper.
(Moby Dick, chapter XLII)

Such a view must naturally affect the theory of artistic composition, for it involves a similar division between the thing to be expressed and the medium in which it is expressed.

Memory [writes Hobbes] is the World in which the Judgement, the severer sister, busieth herself in a grave and rigid examination of all the parts of nature and in registering by letters their order, causes, uses, differences, and resemblances; whereby the Fancy, when any work of Art is to be performed, finding her materials at hand and prepared for use, needs no more than a swift motion over them, that what she wants and is there to be had, may not lie too long unespied.

And Dryden:

Expression and all that belongs to words is that in a poem which coloring is in a picture . . . Expression is, in plain English the bawd of her sister, the design . . . she clothes, she dresses her up, she paints her, she makes her appear more lovely than she is.
(Poetry and Painting)

This makes artistic creation an entirely conscious process, and here again we shall not understand its appeal to such great poets as Dryden and Pope unless we understand their wish to escape from chaotic idiosyncrasies, their hope of establishing catholic and objective canons of good taste recognizable by poets and public alike. Given the subjects with which these poets were passionately concerned - e.g. Dryden was as moved by the play of dialectic as Wordsworth was by Nature. Pope saw in Dulness as great a threat to the City as Dante saw in Sin - the theory did no harm; indeed it did good, for there is a conscious side of creation, and it made the poets take pains at a time when such pains were needed.

A poem where we all perfections find
Is not the work of a Fantastick mind:
There must be Care, and Time, and Skill, and Pains;
Not the first heat of inexperienced brains

is sound advice.

It was only when poems continued working on the same themes as Dryden and Pope but without their passion, or attempted other kinds of themes to which this diction and treatment were unsuited that the deficiencies of the theory became apparent.

The Romantic reaction, naturally, was to stress imagination and vision; i.e. the less conscious side of artistic creation, the uniqueness of the poet's individual experience, and the symbolic rather than the decorative or descriptive value of images. "What is the modern conception of Art?" asks Baudelaire. "To create a suggestive magic including at the same time object and subject, the world outside the artist and the artist himself." "What is a poet if not a translator, a decipherer?"

The Romantic Use of Symbols

To understand the romantic conception of the relation between objective and subjective experience, Moby Dick is perhaps the best work to study, partly because in certain aspects it includes pre-romantic attitudes and treatments which show off the former more clearly than a purely romantic work like The Ancient Mariner or Gordon Pym.

If we omit the White Whale itself, the whole book is an elaborate synecdoche, i.e. it takes a particular way of life, that of whale-fishing, which men actually lead to earn their livelihood and of which Melville had firsthand experience and makes it a case of any man's life in general. This literary device is an old one and can be found at all periods; indeed almost all literature does this.

(1) Whalemen kill for their living. so in one way or another must we all.
(2) The proprietors of the Pequod are Quakers, i.e. they profess the purest doctrine of non-violence, yet see no incongruity in this; though perhaps Peleg recognizes the paradox indirectly when he says: "Pious Harpooners never make good voyages. It takes the shark out of them." So always in every life, except that of the saint or the villain, there is a vast difference between what a man professes and how he acts.
(3) The crew are involved in each other's actions and characters. so every world is a world of social relations.
(4) In their attitude towards their job of killing whales, they reveal their different characters. Thus Starbuck is a professional who takes no risks unless he has to and will have no man in his boat who is not afraid of the whale. Stubb is a reckless gambler who enjoys risks. Flask follows the fish just for the fun of it.

Insofar as the book is this, any other form of action or society which Melville happened to know well would have served his purpose.

Then Moby Dick is full of parable and typology, i.e. as X is in one field of experience, so is Y in another. E.g.

All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the soft, sudden turn of death that mortals realize the silent subtle ever-present perils of life.
(Chapter LX)


O men, admire - model thyself after the whale. Do thou too remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the Equator, keep thy blood flow at the Pole and retain in all seasons a temperature of thine own.
(Chapter LXVIII)

or again the characters and names of the nine ships (the number is symbol not allegory) which the Pequod encounters are, in their relations to Moby Dick, types of the relation of human individuals and societies in the tragic mystery of existence. I.e.

The Goney : The aged who may have experienced the mystery but cannot tell others. (The captain's trumpet falls into the sea.)

The Town-Ho : Those who have knowledge of the mystery but keep it secret. (No one tells Ahab the story of Radney and Steelkilt.)

The Jeroboam : Those who make a superstitious idolatry of the mystery or whom the mystery has driven crazy.

The Jungfrau and the Rosebud : Those who out of sloth and avarice respectively will never become aware of the mystery.

The Enderby : Those who are aware of the mystery but face it with rational common sense and stoicism. ("What you take for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness.")

The Bachelor : The frivolous and fortunate who deny the existence of the mystery. ("Have heard of Moby Dick but don't believe in him at all.")

The Rachel : Those who have without their understanding of choice become involved in the mystery as the innocents massacred by Herod were involved in the birth of Christ.

The Delight : Those whose encounter with the mystery has turned their joy into sorrow.

This analogical method was practiced by the Church Fathers in their interpretation of Scripture, and analogies fro nature have been common ever since, for example in the Mediaeval Bestiaries of Jonathon Edwards' Images or Shadows of Divine Things. It is a conscious process, calling for Judgment and Fancy rather than Imagination, and the one-to-one correspondence asserted is grasped by the reader's reason.

Lastly, in his treatment of the White Whale, Melville uses symbols in the real sense.

A symbol is felt to be such before any possible meaning is consciously recognized; i.e. an object or event which is felt to be more important than the reason can immediately explain is symbolic. Secondly, a symbolic correspondence is never one to one but always multiple, and different persons perceive different meanings. Thus to Ahab "All visible objects, man, are but pasteboard masks. To me the white white whale is that wall shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. I see in him outrageous strength with an insatiable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate."

To Gabriel, the mad demagogue who terrorizes the Jeroboam, its qualities are similar, but his attitude is one of positive idolization. He worships it as an incarnation of the Shaker God. To Steelkit of the Town-Ho it is the justice and mercy of God, saving him from becoming a murderer and slaying the unjust Radney. To Melville-Ishmael it is neither evil nor good but simply numinous, a declaration of the power and majesty of God which transcends any human standard of ethics. To Starbuck it signifies death or his fatal reaction to his captain, the duty which tells him he cannot depart his office to obey, intending open war, yet to have a touch of pity.

The Ship as Symbol

If thought of as isolated in the midst of the ocean, a ship can stand for mankind and human society moving through time and struggling with its destiny. If thought of as leaving the land for the ocean, it stands for a particular kind of man and society as contrasted with the average, land-dwelling kind. The Hunting of the Snark is a pure example of the first use, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea of the second. In Melville's books, and this is one of the reasons for their fascination, there is a constant interplay between both.

The Ship as Mankind

A constant aesthetic problem for the writer is how to reconcile his desire to include everything, not to leave anything important out, with his desire for an aesthetic whole, that there shall be no irrelevances and loose ends. The picture has to be both complete and framed. The more society becomes differentiated through division of labor, the more it becomes atomized through urbanization and through greater ease of communication, the harder it becomes for the artist to find a satisfactory solution.

For, of the traditional wholes, the family becomes representative of one class only, the village the exceptional way of life instead of the typical. The ship is one of the few possible devices left, because, while it is most emphatically a frame - no one can get off or board once the ship has started - yet it permits a great deal of variety and interpretation.

(1) The people on board can show every variety of character as individuals, and every age of man from fourteen to seventy. "Wrecked on a desert shore, a man of war's crew could quickly form an Alexandria for themselves."

(2) There are a number of social grades: Captain - Mates - Harpooners - Seamen, so that the role of authority in human society and of its dialectical relation to character can be portrayed.

(3) A ship has a function to perform, to hunt whales, to fight battles, etc., and each member of the crew has his specialized function. The carpenter must carpenter, the boatswain must flog, the chaplain must preach, the master at arms must spy, etc., which allows the exhibition of all the relations between functions, given or chosen, and the character which willingly or unwillingly performs it.

There can even be passengers without a function.

(4) Life on a ship exhibits the distinction and relation between society, i.e. human beings associated for an end, and community, human beings associated by a tie of a common love or interest. Thus on the Neversink there are a number of antagonistic communities within the common society, for instance, the officers versus the common seamen, the rulers whose orders cannot be questioned and the ruled who feel like Melville:

I was a Roman Jew of the Middle Ages confined to the Jewish quarter of the town and forbidden to stray beyond its limits.

By far the majority of the common sailors of the Neversink were plainly concerned at the prospect of war and were plainly averse to it. But with the officers of the quarterdeck it was just the reverse . . . Because, though war would equally jeopardize the lives of both, yet, while it held out to the sailor no promise of promotion, and what is called glory, these things fired the heart of his officers.
(White Jacket)

In the case of the Pequod, the situation at the beginning is this: All of the crew with the exception of the captain are a community in that they all want to hunt whales and make money; Ahab stands outside, having no wish to hunt any whale except Moby Dick. He is so far from wishing to make a profitable voyage that, when the barrels begin leaking he would prefer to let then leak rather than delay his quest and only yields to Starbuck's demand to "up Burtons" because he is afraid of mutiny. At the end, however, Ahab has so infected the crew with his passion that they have ceased to care what happens and are made one community with him:

They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; though it was put together of all contrasting things - oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp - yet all these ran into each other in the one concrete hull, which shot on its way, both balanced and directed by the long central keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man's valor, that man's fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and keel did point to.
(Moby Dick, chapter CXXXIV)

(5) As a society which, once you are in (the question of how you get in is only raised when the ship is used in the second symbolic sense of a special kind of life) you cannot get out of, whether you like it or not, whether you approve of it or not, a ship can represent either:
(a) The state of being human as decreed by God. Mutiny then is a symbol of the original rebellion of Lucifer and Adam, the refusal to accept finitude and dependence.
(b) The civitas terrena, created by self-love, inherited and repeated, into which all men since Adam are born, yet where they have never totally lost their knowledge of and longing for the Civitas Dei and the Law of Love. From this arise absurd contradictions, like the chaplain on a man-of-war who is paid a share of the reward for sinking a ship and cannot condemn war of flogging, or the devout Baptist who earns his bread as captain of a gun.\
To be like Christ, to obey the law of love absolutely, is possible only for the saint, for Billy Budd, and even for him the consequence is the same as for Christ, crucifixion. The rest of us cannot avoid disingenuous compliances. Thus, in his dissertation on Chronometricals and Horologicals in Pierre, Melville writes:

Bacon's brains were mere watchmaker's brains; but Christ was a chronometer . . . And the reason why His teachings seemed folly to the Jews, was because he carried that Heaven's time in Jerusalem, while the Jews carried Jerusalem time there . . . as the China watches are right as to China, so the Greenwich chronometers must be wrong as to China. Besides, of what use to the Chinaman would a Greenwich chronometer, keeping Greenwich time, be? Were he thereby to regulate his daily actions, he would be guilty of all manner of absurdities: - going to bed at noon, say, when his neighbors would be sitting down to dinner.
. . . one thing is to be especially observed. Though Christ encountered woe in both the precept and the practice of His chronometricals, yet did He remain throughout entirely without folly or sin. Whereas, almost invariably, with inferior beings, the absolute effort to live in this world according to the strict letter of the chronometricals is, somehow, apt to involve those inferior beings eventually in strange, unique follies and sins, unimagined before.

The Ship Versus the City

In so far as a ship and its crew sail, whether gladly or sadly, away from the land, where all were born, and leave the majority, whether friends or foes, behind on shore, the mariner image has a different constellation of meanings.

(1) The Search for Possibility and the Escape from Necessity
- Land is the place where people are born, marry, and have children, the world where the changing seasons create a round of different duties and feelings, and the ocean, by contrast, is the place where there are no ties of home or sex, only of duty to the end for which the voyage is undertaken, the world where the change of seasons makes no difference to what the crew must do and where there is no visible life other than theirs, so that to leave land and put out to sea can signify the freeing of the spirit from finite nature, its ascetic denial of the flesh, the determination to live in one-directional historical time rather than in cyclical nature.

E.g. -
Verse-nous ton poison pour qu'il nous reconforté!
Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brûle le cerveau
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Ciel, qu'importe
Au fond de l'Inconnu pour trouver du nouveau.
(Le Voyage)

Pour into us your poison that it may comfort us! This fire blazes so hot in our brains that we want to plunge to the bottom of the chasm, Hell or Heaven, what does it matter? To the depths of the unknown to find something new.

i.e. the flight from infinite repetition to infinite novelty.

Plus douce qu'aux infants la chair des pommes sures,
L'eau verte pénétra ma coque de sapin
Et des taches de vins bleus et des vomissures
Me lava depersant gouvernail et grapin.
(Le Bâutea Ivre)

Sweeter for children the flesh of bitter apples,
Green water penetrated my pinewood jull
And washed me clean of the spots of blue wine
And vomit, dispersing rudder and grappling iron.

Pour n'être pas changés et betes, ils s'envirent
D'espace dt de lumière et de cieux embrasés;
La glace qui les mord, les soleils qui lew cuivrent,
Effacent lentement la marque des baisers.
(Le Voyage)

Not to be changed to beasts, they have their fling
With space, and splendour, and the burning sky;
The suns that bronze them and the frosts that sting
Efface the mark of kisses by and by.

i.e. the purification from debauchery and sex.

The Nautilus is a place of refuge from those who, like its commander, have broken every tie upon earth.

i.e. the flight from injustice.

"Come hither, broken-hearted; here is another life without the guilt of intermediate death; here are wonders supernatural, without dying for them. Come hither! bury thyself in a life which, to your now equally abhorred and abhorring, landed world, is more oblivious than death. Come hither! put up thy gravestone, too, within the churchyard, and come hither, till we marry thee!"
(Moby Dick, chapter CXII)

i.e. the flight from memory.

Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers - haul out - shake every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovel'd here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken'd and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me.
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go.
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.
(Passage to India)

i.e. the rejection of conventional habit.

(2) The Search for Necessity and the Escape from Possibility
- The fact that a ship is a stictly disciplined and authoritarian society as compared with normal life, and that a ship has a purpose for a voyage, means that a ship and city can have almost exactly the opposite significance to the above, i.e. the land can be thought of as the
noir océan de l'immonde cité

the place of purposelessness, of the ennui that comes from being confronted with infinite possibilities without the necessity to choose one.

So, for instance, in Ishmael's case, or in Melville's enlistment on the Neversink, their going to sea is a commitment to a necessity which, however unpleasant, is at least certain and preferable to the melancholia and accidie induced by the meaningless freedom on shore.

The Environment of the Ship

The ship, i.e. the human, individual or social, is related to two pairs of contrasting symbols, i.e.
A.) The sky and its creatures, birds
The water and its creatures, fish, whales, octopi, etc.
B.) The day and the sun
The night and the moon

and to two scales of weather,

The visibility from very clear to thick fog.
The velocity of the wind from typhoon to dead calm.

The symbolism is easier to grasp in the purely imaginary voyages like those of Coleridge, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud than in the work of Melville and Hopkins, where there is the extra complication of the relation of objective reality to subjective meaning.


Sky as contrasted with water = Spirit as contrasted with Nature.
What comes from the sky is a spiritual or supernatural visitation.
What lies hidden in the water is the unknown powers of nature.
E.g. - the angelic spirits sent by the Moon, or Master of the sea, who move the Ancient Mariner's ship by removing the air in front of it, and the avenging spirit from the land of ice and snow which dwells nine fathoms below the surface and at their command unwillingly moves the ship up to the line.
- the Albatross which is related to the Dove of the Holy Spirit, and through him to the innocent victim, Christ, and the water-snakes which are that in nature, whether outside man or within himself, for which he feels aversion, because he cannot understand them aesthetically, or intellectually, and despises because he cannot make use of them. But for the Fall (the shooting of the Albatross), Adam (The Ancient Mariner) would never have consciously learned through suffering the meaning of Agapé, i.e. to love one's neighbor as oneself without comparisons or greed (the blessing of the snakes), so that the Ancient Mariner might well say in the end, O felix culpa.
Similarly the hawk in Moby Dick is the messenger bird of Zeus who warns Prometheus = Ahab of his heroic crown, but whom in its last death-defiance the Pequod drags down with it. Contrasted with him is the great squid, messenger of the underworld, whose appearance frightens Starbuck more than the whale itself.

In Un Voyage à Cythère, the doves of Venus have been metamorphosed into ferocious crows who devour the male corpse.


Day and the Sun = Consciousness and the Paternal Principle as contrasted with
Night and the Moon = Unconsciousness and the Maternal Principle.

In his excellent essay on ,The Ancient Mariner, Mr. Robert Penn Warren has pointed out how all the events of salvation take place under the influence of the moon, and that the sun is the hostile judge of conscience.

The Father Sun can appear at night in the form of lightning.

The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The Moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.

Here the Ancient Mariner, so afraid of the Father, is comforted by knowing the Mother is still present. Again when Captain Ahab addresses the lightning, on a night without a moon, he says:

Thou art my fiery father; my sweet mother I know not. What hast thou done with her?

And Hopkins, addressing God:

I did say yes
O at lightning and lashed rod;
Thou heardst me truer than tongue confess
Thy terror, O Christ, O God;
Thou knowest the walls, altar and hour and night;
The swoon of a heart that the sweep and the hurt of thee trod
Hard down with a horror of height:
And the midriff astrain with leaning of, laced with fire of stress.


The degree of visibility = the degree of conscious knowledge.
I.e. fog and mist mean doubt and self-delusion, a clear day knowing where one is going or exactly what one has done.

The Wind

The wind is always a force which the conscious will cannot cause or control.
In the works we are considering which were written before the advent of the steamship, it is also the source, good or bad, of all the movements of life.
In the Ancient Mariner there are four winds described.

(1) The tyrannous strong wind which chases the ship down to the dangerous land of icebergs, mist and snow, against her will.

With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.

Man, that is, is driven on by an irresistible rush of creative powers which he did not expect and which frighten him because he does not know where they are carrying him except that he it is probably into a state of dread. The powers, however, are not necessarily evil. They only, as it turns out, drive him into temptation, for the icebergs represent that state of dread which Kierkegaard describes at the necessary precondition for the Fall.

- Dread is a desire for what one fears, a sympathetic antipathy; dread is an alien power which takes hold of the individual, and yet one cannot extricate oneself from it, does not wish to, because one is afraid, but what one fears attracts one. Dread renders the individual powerless, and the first sin always happens in a moment of weakness; it therefore lacks any accountableness, but that want is the real snare.*
(The Concept of Dread)
* The Voyage of Maeldune begins with a similar violent wind which does just the opposite; it takes the hero intent on vengeance away from opportunity to become guilty.

(2) The good south wind which extricates them from the ice. This is not frightening because it takes the ego where the ego thinks it wants to go. In fact, it turns out to be, like the first elation of Adam and Eve after eating the apple, a delusion, for it disappears and leaves them in the absolute calm of guilt and despair, bereft of all power.

(3) The roaring wind which is only heard and never touches the Mariner or the ship, but brings rain, and at the sound of which angelic spirits occupy the bodies of the dead crew. To hear and not feel, means to intuit the possibility and hope for the coming of the new life which one still does not know as an actuality.

(4) Finally, when his repentance is complete, so that he can even look away from the dead men (the proof of his sin), then comes the gentle wind which fans his cheek and leads the ship back home, i.e. the powers of grace and blessing.

In Bateau Ivre, the wind is usually violent and inevitable, but the point is that the hero of the poem deliberately surrenders to it. He enjoys defiantly its irrationality and disorder, and speaks of

- tohus-bohus . . . triomphants
La tempête a béni mes éveils maritimes.

J'ai suive, des mois pleins, parreille aux vacheries
Hystériques, la houle à l'assaut des récifs,
Sans songer que les pieds lumineux des Maries
Pussent forcer le mufle aux Océans poussifs.

Des écumes de fleurs ont béni mes dérades
Et d'ineffables vents m'ont ailé par instants.

- chaos . . . triumphant
The storm blessed my sea-borne awakenings.

I have followed for months on end, like hysterical cattle in their pen, the swell storming the reefs, never dreaiming that the shining feet of the Marys could wrench around the muzzle of the wheezing oceans.

Foam of flowers cradled my wanderings and innefable winds gave me wings now and then.

The final result, however, is exhaustion, the state of all-too-real calm, and lack of relation.

Mais, vrai, j'ai trop pleuré. Les aubes sont navrantes,
Toute lune est atroce et tout soleil amer . . .

Je ne puis plus, baigné de vos langueurs, ô lames,
Enlever leur sillage aux porteurs de cotons.

But truly, I have wept too much. The dawns are heartbreaking, every moon is cruel and every sun is bitter . . .

No longer can I, bathed in your languors, O waves, follow in the wake of the carriers of cotton.
(Bateau Ivre)

In Moby Dick, where the weather is real weather in nature, the point is the relation of human nature to non-human nature, i.e. the kind of importance that the human characters attribute to it. E.g. the typhoon is significant to two of he characters, Starbuck and Ahab.

"Here!" cried Starbuck, seizing Stubb by the shoulder, and pointing his hand toward the weather bow, "markest thou not that the gale comes from the eastward, the very course Ahab is to run for Moby Dick? . . . The gale that now hammers at us to stave us, we can turn it into a fair wind that will drive us towards home."
(Chapter CXIX)

His disapproval of Ahab's quest is strengthened by this omen to the point where he goes down to Ahab's cabin with the intention of killing him as a madman. Ahab, on the other hand, is tempted precisely because the Typhoon is in opposition to the way he has sworn to go.

"I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional unnatural mastery in me . . . Come in thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at they highest, come as mere supernal power; and though thou launches navies of full-freighted worlds, there's that in here that still remains indifferent."
(Chapter CXIX)

A calm, such as the beautiful day, before the final chase begins, which offers no outside opposition, makes him think of wife and child, and nearly wins him over to Starbuck's side and to giving up the quest.

The use of the tempest in The Wreck of the Deutschland is still more complicated. We have the physical contrasted situation of Hopkins, the Jesuit novice

Away in the lovable west,
On a pastoral forehead of Wales,
I was under a roof here, I was at rest,

and of the nuns

- And they the prey of the gales

and in the counterpoint to this is the subjective contrast of their inner peace in the face of death:

Ah! there was a heart right!
There was single eye!
Read the unshapeable shock night
And knew the who and the why;
Wording it how but by him that present and past,
Heaven and earth are word of, worded by?
The Simon Peter of a soul! to the blast
Tarpeian-fast, but a blown beacon of light

with his inner tempest in his struggle to submit his self-will to the will of God, on the necessity of which St. Ignatius lays so much importance.

The fromn of his facce
Before me, the hurtle of hell
Behind, where, where was a, where was a place?

Both kinds of tempest are related as forms of suffering, but also carefully differentiated. The suffering that arises out of the relation of the soul to God only arises because of the human sin of which the climax was the Crucifixion:

The dense and the driven Passion, and frightful sweat;
Thence the discharge of it, there its swelling to be,
Though felt before, though in high flood yet -
What none would have known of it, only the heart, being hard at bay.

The relation was intended to by one of joy, and the intensity of the struggle is a direct indication of the amount of self-will to be overcome, i.e. spiritual suffering is to be treated as purgatorial, i.e. the sufferer must embrace it, saying, "I say pain but ought to say solice."

External suffering, on the other hand is something different. No one who is shipwrecked or diseased is to be considered as more or less sinful that fortunate people. Nevertheless, nature is the handiwork of God.

- They fought with God's cold.

All that the individual can do is accept it as he or she must accept every other event pleasant or unpleasant that happens to him, as a challenge, not to despair like Starbuck, not to defy like Ahab, but as an occasion to ask what in this actual situation sent by God God requires.

In this case the nuns who are innocent exiles -

Loathed for a love men knew in them,
Banned by the land of their birth,
Rhine refused them. Thames would ruin them.

- by their conduct in this disaster are a witness to their faith which in the very moment of physical destruction may have saved some souls from spiritual death.

Well, she has thee for the pain, for the
Patience; but pity for the rest of them!
Heart, go and bleed at a bitterer vein for the
Comfortless unconfessed of them -
No not uncomforted: lovely-felicitous Providence
Finger of a tender of, O of a feathery delicacy, the breast of the
Maiden could obey so, be a bell to, ring of it, and
Startle the poor sheep back! is the shipwreck then a harvest, does
tempest carry the grain for thee?

The Stone: The Romantics and Mathematics

Whereas the Noeclassical writers had been taught to observe particular objects carefully and accurately and then abstract the general from them, the Romantics reverse this process. Thus Blake says: "All goodness resides in the minute particulars" but "Natural objects always did and now do weaken, deaden and obliterate imagination in me" and Colerige writes in a letter:

The further I ascend from animated Nature (i.e. in the embracements of rocks and hills), from men and cattle, and the common birds of the woods and fields, the greater becomes in me the intensity of the feeling of life. Life seems to me then a universal spirit that neither has nor can have an opposite.

As long as images derived from observation of nature had a utility value for decorating the thoughts of the mind, nature could be simply enjoyed, for Nature was not very important by comparison with human reason. But if there is a mysterious relation between them, if

La Nature est un temple où de vivants piliers
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles;
L'homme y passe à travers des forêts de symboles
Qui l'observent avec des regards familiers.

Comme de longs échos qui de loin se confondent
Dans une ténébreuse et profonde unité,
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarté,
Les parfums, les couleurs et les son se répondent.

Nature is a temple in which living pillars
Sometimes give voice to confused words;
Man passes there through forests of symbols
Which look at him with understanding eyes.

Like prolonged echos mingling in the distance
In a deep and tenebrous unity,
Vast as the dark of night and as the light of day,
Perfumes, sounds, and colors correspond.
(Baudelaire, Correspondances)

then the merely visual perception is not the important act, but the intuitive vision of the meaning of the object, and also Nature becomes a much more formidable creature, charged with all the joys, griefs, hopes and terrors of the human soul, and therefore arousing very mixed feelings of love and hatred.

On the one hand, the poets long to immerse in the sea of Nature, to enjoy its endless mystery and novelty; on the other, they long to come to port in some transcendent eternal and unchanging reality from which the unexpected is excluded. Nature and Passion are powerful, but they are also full of grief. True happiness would have the calm and order of bourgeois routine without its utilitarian ingnobility and boredom.

Thus the same Baudelaire who writes:

Why is the spectacle of the sea so infinitely and eternally agreeable?

Because the sea presents at once the idea of immensity and of movement . . . Twelve or fourteen leagues of liquid in movement are enough to convey to man the highest expression of beauty which he can counter in his transient abode.
(Mon Coeur Mis à Nu)

and identifies human nature with the sea:

Vous êtes tous les deux ténébreux et discrets:
Homme, nul n'a sondé le fond de tes abîmes,
O mer, nul ne connaît les richesses intimes
Tant vous êtes jaloux de garder vos secrets?
(L'Homme et la Mer)

Both of you are gloomy and reticent:
Man, no one has sounded the depths of your being,
O sea, no person knows your most hidden riches,
So zealously do you keep your secrets!

also exclaims

Ah! ne jamais sortir des Nombres et des Etres
(Le Gouffre)

Ah! never to go out from numbers and beings

and likens Beauty to a dream of stone (cp. the stone of Wordsworth's dream):

Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.
(La Beaute)

I hate movement for it displaces lines,
And never do I weep and never do I laugh.

And the amorous Henry Beyle who cannot live without a grand passion writes:

I used to imagine that the higher mathematics dealt with all, or almost all, aspects of things, and that, by proceeding to their study, I should arrive at a knowledge of all things that were certain, irrefutable, and demonstrable at will. I said to myself, "mathematics will get me out of Grenoble, out of that sickening morass."

So too in The Hunting of the Snark the Beaver and the Butcher, romantic explorers though they are, who have chosen to enter a desolate valley, where the Jub-Jub bird screams in passion overheard, and the creatures from The Temptation of St. Anthony surround them, escape from the destructive power of sex, sublimating it into arithmetical calculations based on the number 3.

And Melville, despite his love of physical beauty, in nature and in man, of

- our Pantheistic ports:
Marquesas and glenned isles that be
Authentic Edens in a Pagan sea.

can also note in revulsion:

Found a family, build a state,
The pledged event is the same:
Matter in end will never abate
His ancient brutal claim.

Baudelaire's ideal man, the Dandy, is, from the point of view of the bourgeois, a wild figure who indulges in every kind of excell, but, from his own, he is a fastidious ascetic who despises the bourgeois because they are "natural."

- Woman is the opposite of the Dandy. Therefore she should inspire horror. Woman is hungry and she wants to eat, thirsty and she wants to drink. She is in rut and she wants to be possessed. Woman is natural, that is to say, abominable.

The Dandy should aspire to be uninterruptedly sublime. He should live and sleep in front of a mirror.

The more a man cultivates the arts, the less he fornicates. A more and more apparent cleavage occurs between the spirit and the brute.
(Mon Coeur, Mis à Nu)

The Euclidean stone, the transcendent stable reality desired as a haven for the storm-tossed mariner, is not, however, the Transcendental Newtonian God but rather the Platonic Ideas. Geometry does not judge or interfere but is beyond good and evil; it demands nothing but what the mind cares to give it; moreover, it cannot be made use of, it is not one of those ignoble social snarks, you cannot fetch it home and serve it with greens: it is not for striking a light, it is simply itself, and to be oneself is the aim of every romantic.

When Peter Gynt visits the land of the Trolls, the king puts him through a catechism:

King: What is the difference between Trolls and Men?
Peter: There isn't any, as far as I can gather;
big trolls would roast and little ones would claw you -
Just as with us if only we dared do it.
K: True, we're alike in that and other things too.
Still, just as morning's different from evening,
So there's a real difference between us,
And I will tell you what it is. Out yonder
Under the skies men have a common saying:
"Man, to thyself be true!" But here, 'mongst Trolls
"Troll, to thyself be - enough."
(Peer Gynt, II.6)

To be enough to oneself means to have no conscious ego standing over against the self, to be unable to say no to oneself, or to distinguish fantasy from reality, not to be able to lie, to have no name and answer to Hi or to any loud cry. The siren voice of the poetic shell calls men to the sea, the double kingdom, to put off their human nature and be Trolls. The prospect is alluring to every man as it was to Faust:

Here do I plant my foot! Realities are here,
Here strife with spirits may the spirit dare,
And for itself the great twin-realm prepare.
Though she was far, how can she nearer be?
I'll save her and then doubly mine is she.
(Faust, Part II, 1.5)

yet every man makes his reservations like Peer Gynt -

I've taken a tail, it is true; but then
I can undo the knots that our friend has tied,
And take the thing off. I have shed my breeches;
They were old and patched; but that won't prevent me
From putting them on if I have a mind to.
I shall probably find it just as easy
To deal with your Trollish way of living.
I can easily swear that a cow's a maiden;
An oath's not a difficult thing to swallow.
But to know that one can never get one's freedom -
Not even to die as a human being -
To end one's days as a Troll of the mountains -
Never go back, as you tell me plainly -
That is a thing I will not submit to.
(Peer Gynt, II, 6)

For to submit would be to be swallowed up in the waters, to be drowned in the deluge.

On the other side, the Euclidean stone speaks of a world of pure truth, the image to the weary mariner of all that is true to itself. It is, however, not truth wiich is enough to itself, and no man can be as a triangle any more than he can be as a troll, for he would have to lose his self and become a purely self-conscious ego whose motto would be "I to I be enough." This is the dilemma of the romantic hero.