George Steiner: In Bluebeard's Castle. Somes Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture (Notes)

  1. Nothing is as interminable as those limping days / When, beneath the heavy flakes of snowbound years / Ennui, fruit of dreary apathy, / Takes on dimensions of everlastingness. / Henceforth, oh living form, you are nothing more / Than a block of granite surrounded by an aura of indistinct terror, / Drowsing in the deeps of a misty Sahara; / You are nothing more than an old sphinx disregarded by a careless world, / Forgot on the map, an old sphinx whose fierce temperament / Gives echoing reverberation only to the rays of the setting sun.

  2. Flesh is sad, alas! and I have read all books. / To flee! To flee to that far place! I sense that the birds are joy-drunk finding themselves amid the unknown spume and skies! / Nothing, oh nights! shall hold back this heart, which soaks itself in the sea. / Neither the lone brightness of my desk lamp / Over the blank paper which a whiteness guards, / Nor the young woman nursing her child. / I shall leave! Steamer under your swinging masts and spars, / Raise anchor, bound towards an exotic world! /An Ennui, made desolate by cruel hopes, / Has faith still in the supreme adieu of waving handkerchiefs!

  3. Inconceivable because invisible; / because immeasurable; / because ever-lasting; / because eternal; / because omnipresent; / because omnipotent.

  4. "Whereto has God gone?" he cried. I shall tell you! "We have slain him -- you and I! All of us are his murderers! But how have we done this? How had we the means to drink the sea dry? Who gave us a sponge to efface the entire horizon? What were we about when we uncoupled this earth from its sun? Where is the earth moving to now? Where are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we failing continuously? And backward and sideways and forward in all directions? Is there still an above and a below? Are we not wandering lost as through an unending void? Does vacant space not breathe at as? Has it not grown colder? Is there not perpetual nightfall and more night? Must we not light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Is there no smell of divine putrefaction? -- the gods also decompose! God is dead! God stays dead! And we have killed him! How shall we comfort ourselves, who are killers above all killers? The holiest and mightiest that the world had hitherto possessed has bled to death under our knives-who shall wipe that blood off us?"

  5. The very weeping there forbids to weep, / And grief finding eyes blocked with tears / Turns inward to make agony greater.

  6. In the immense shadow of the Caucasus, / Since centuries, as in a dream, / Led by ecstatic men, / The human race marches ahead. / It marches over the earth; it passes on, / It moves forward in the night, through space, / Through boundless and through enclosed regions, / In the azure of the skies, across the roused seas. / Mankind moves forward by The light of Prometheus, / The chained liberator!

  7. You may understand, therefore, / That all our knowledge shall he a dead thing from that moment on / When the door of the future is shut.

  8. Hail to you, oh wearied races of men! / Everything passes, and nothing can die. / We have hated and borne too much. Love one another: / The world is beauteous and the future is holy.

  9. Perhaps he would produce our features / With Paphian myrtle or Parnassian laurel / Twining our hair. . . .

  10. Raised to the status of an autonomous idol, the fact is an absolute tyrant before whom thought can do nothing but bow down in silent worship.

  11. The thrust towards the positive is a fatal temptation for culture.

  12. In the name of experience, itself diminished to a mere figment, man's very capacity for personal, subjective innovation is condemned as being no more than an empty fantasy.

  13. Shied of Necessity, / Highest constellation of Being! / Which no desire can attain, / Which no negation can taint, / Eternal Yes of Being, / I am your lasting Affirmation: / For I love you, oh Eternity!