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Pater

Posted 1/13/2014 5:15pm by Eugene Wyatt.

You look at sheep to see how they are; the more often you look at them the more you can see—you get to know them—what you're looking for is a sheep who is not quite right or not as well as they were a week ago. It could be something as simple as a foot problem—the sheep favors it—requiring a foot-bath or something more serious such as an electric fence that is down: an entrance for coyotes.

Generally when looking at sheep we notice nothing—but you never know—you always look when you haven't been around them for a while—it's your responsibility—and good for you and good for the sheep.

Apuleius speaking to Marius, outside of Rome about 150 AD,

What then? Has nature connected itself together by no bond, allowed itself to be thus crippled, and split into the divine and human elements? And you will say to me: If so it be, that man is thus entirely exiled from the immortal gods, that all communication is denied him, that not one of them occasionally visits us, as a shepherd his sheep—to whom shall I address my prayers? Whom, shall I invoke as the helper of the unfortunate, the protector of the good?

Marius the Epicurean 1885, Walter Horatio Pater

Posted 8/26/2012 2:03pm by Eugene Wyatt.

This brief 'Conclusion' (to The Renaissance: Studies of Art and Poetry) was to be Pater's most influential – and controversial – publication. It asserts that our physical lives are made up of scientific processes and elemental forces in perpetual motion, "renewed from moment to moment but parting sooner or later on their ways". In the mind "the whirlpool is still more rapid": a drift of perceptions, feelings, thoughts and memories, reduced to impressions "unstable, flickering, inconstant", "ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality"; and "with the passage and dissolution of impressions ... [there is a] continual vanishing away, that strange, perpetual weaving and unweaving of ourselves".

Since all is in flux, to get the most from life we must learn to discriminate through "sharp and eager observation": for "every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us, – for that moment only". Through such discrimination we may "get as many pulsations as possible into the given time": "To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life."

Forming habits means failure on our part, for habit connotes the stereotypical. "While all melts under our feet," Pater wrote, "we may well catch at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, or work of the artist’s hands. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us in the brilliancy of their gifts is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening." The resulting "quickened, multiplied consciousness" counters our insecurity in the face of the flux. Moments of vision may come from simple natural effects, as Pater notes elsewhere in the book: "A sudden light transfigures a trivial thing, a weathervane, a windmill, a winnowing flail, the dust in the barn door; a moment – and the thing has vanished, because it was pure effect; but it leaves a relish behind it, a longing that the accident may happen again."  

Or they may come from "intellectual excitement", from philosophy, science and the arts. Here we should "be for ever testing new opinions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy"; and of these, a passion for the arts, "a desire of beauty", has (in the summary of one of Pater's editors) "the greatest potential for staving off the sense of transience, because in the arts the perceptions of highly sensitive minds are already ordered; we are confronted with a reality already refined and we are able to reach the personality behind the work".

Walter Pater Wikipedia

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Posted 8/26/2012 8:06am by Eugene Wyatt.

It was the very day–some day probably in the year 1482–on which Ficino had finished his famous translation of Plato into Latin, the work to which he had been dedicated from childhood by Cosmo de’ Medici, in furtherance of his desire to resuscitate the knowledge of Plato among his fellow-citizens. Florence indeed, as M. Renan has pointed out, had always had an affinity for the mystic and dreamy philosophy of Plato, while the colder and more practical philosophy of Aristotle had flourished in Padua, and other cities of the north; and the Florentines, though they knew perhaps very little about him, had had the name of the great idealist often on their lips.

From Pico Della Mirandola 1871 in The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry.

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Posted 8/23/2012 6:41am by Eugene Wyatt.

“Let me briefly remind the reader"–says Heine, in the Gods in Exile, an essay full of that strange blending of sentiment which is characteristic of the traditions of the middle age concerning the pagan religions–"how the gods of the older world, at the time of the definite triumph of Christianity, that is, in the third century, fell into painful embarrassments, which greatly resembled certain tragical situations of their earlier life. 

They now found themselves beset by the same troublesome necessities to which they had once before been exposed during the primitive ages, in that revolutionary epoch when the Titans broke out of the custody of Orcus, and, piling Pelion on Ossa, scaled Olympus. Unfortunate gods! They had then to take flight ignominiously, and hide themselves among us here on earth, under all sorts of disguises. The larger number betook themselves to Egypt, where for greater security they assumed the forms of animals, as is generally known. Just in the same way, they had to take flight again, and seek entertainment in remote hiding-places, when those iconoclastic zealots, the black brood of monks, broke down all the temples, and pursued the gods with fire and curses. Many of these unfortunate emigrants, now entirely deprived of shelter and ambrosia, must needs take to vulgar handicrafts, as a means of earning their bread. Under these circumstances, many whose sacred groves had been confiscated, let themselves out for hire as wood-cutters in Germany, and were forced to drink beer instead of nectar. Apollo seems to have been content to take service under graziers, and as he had once kept the cows of Admetus, so he lived now as a shepherd in Lower Austria. Here, however, having become suspected on account of his beautiful singing, he was recognised by a learned monk as one of the old pagan gods, and handed over to the spiritual tribunal. On the rack he confessed that he was the god Apollo; and before his execution he begged that he might be suffered to play once more upon the lyre, and to sing a song. And he played so touchingly, and sang with such magic, and was withal so beautiful in form and feature, that all the women wept, and many of them were so deeply impressed that they shortly afterwards fell sick. Some time afterwards the people wished to drag him from the grave again, that a stake might be driven through his body, in the belief that he had been a vampire, and that the sick women would by this means recover. But they found the grave empty.”

Heinrich Heine 1853, quoted by Walter Pater in Pico Della Mirandola from The Renaissance, Studies in Art and Poetry 1873.

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Posted 5/29/2012 6:25am by Eugene Wyatt.

And the very perfection of such poetry often appears to depend, in part, on a certain suppression or vagueness of mere subject, so that the meaning reaches us through ways not distinctly traceable by the understanding, as in some of the most imaginative compositions of William Blake, and often in Shakespeare’s songs, as preeminently in that song of Mariana’s page in Measure for Measure, in which the kindling force and poetry of the whole play seems to pass for a moment into an actual strain of music.

And this principle holds good of all things that partake in any degree of artistic qualities, of the furniture of our houses, and of dress, for instance, of life itself, of gesture and speech, and the details of daily intercourse; these also, for the wise, being susceptible of a suavity and charm, caught from the way in which they are done, which gives them a worth in themselves. 

Herein, again, lies what is valuable and justly attractive, in what is called the fashion of a time, which elevates the trivialities of speech, and manner, and dress, into “ends in themselves,” and gives them a mysterious grace and attractiveness in the doing of them.

The School of Giorgione, 1877 from The Renaissance, Studies in Art and Poetry. Walter Pater

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Posted 5/20/2012 8:33am by Eugene Wyatt.
The Venetian landscape, on the other hand, has in its material conditions much which is hard, or harshly definite; but the masters of the Venetian school have shown themselves little burdened by them.
 
Of its Alpine background they retain certain abstracted elements only, of cool colour and tranquillising line; and they use its actual details, the brown windy turrets, the straw-coloured fields, the forest arabesques, but as the notes of a music which duly accompanies the presence of their men and women, presenting us with the spirit or essence only of a certain sort of landscape–a country of the pure reason or half-imaginative memory.

The School of Giorgione, 1877 from The Renaissance, Studies in Art and Poetry. Walter Pater.

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Posted 5/20/2012 8:06am by Eugene Wyatt.

But although each art has thus its own specific order of impressions, and an untranslatable charm, while a just apprehension of the ultimate differences of the arts is the beginning of aesthetic criticism; yet it is noticeable that, in its special mode of handling its given material, each art may be observed to pass into the condition of some other art, by what German critics term an Anders-streben–a partial alienation from its own limitations, through which the arts are able, not indeed to supply the place of each other, but reciprocally to lend each other new forces.

The School of Giorgione, 1877 from The Renaissance, Studies in Art and Poetry. Walter Pater.

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Posted 3/13/2012 10:21pm by Eugene Wyatt.

 
La Gioconda is, in the truest sense, Leonardo’s masterpiece, the revealing instance of his mode of thought and work...no crude symbolism disturbs the effect of its subdued and graceful mystery...
 
The presence that rose thus so strangely beside the waters, is expressive of what in the ways of a thousand years men had come to desire.

Hers is the head upon which all “the ends of the world are come,” and the eyelids are a little weary.

It is a beauty wrought out from within upon the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions.

Set it for a moment beside one of those white Greek goddesses or beautiful women of antiquity, and how would they be troubled by this beauty, into which the soul with all its maladies has passed!

All the thoughts and experience of the world have etched and moulded there, in that which they have of power to refine and make expressive the outward form, the animalism of Greece, the lust of Rome, the mysticism of the middle age with its spiritual ambition and imaginative loves, the return of the Pagan world, the sins of the Borgias.

She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants; and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.

The fancy of a perpetual life, sweeping together ten thousand experiences, is an old one; and modern philosophy has conceived the idea of humanity as wrought upon by, and summing up in itself, all modes of thought and life.

Certainly Lady Lisa might stand as the embodiment of the old fancy, the symbol of the modern idea.

The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry from the essay, Leonardo Da Vinci HOMO MINISTER ET INTERPRES NATURAE by Walter Pater 1869

"...probably still the most famous piece of writing about any picture in the world." Michael Levey, The Case of Walter Pater: a Biography 1974 

Posted 3/13/2012 10:00pm by Eugene Wyatt.

This the is second* time I've come across this usage.

On the other hand, those who have dwelt most emphatically on the distinction between prose and verse, prose and poetry, may sometimes have been tempted to limit the proper functions of prose too narrowly; and this again is at least false economy, as being, in effect, the renunciation of a certain means or faculty, in a world where after all we must needs make the most of things.

Style, Walter Pater from Appreciations 1889

Needs adv 

(preceded by must) of necessity; we must needs go we will go, if needs must

From The Free Dictionary

*a third occurs later in the essay.

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