As new endeavors should be marked with a bit of ceremony, but shouldn’t roll eyeballs, I’m opening this place up with a poem, but not a painfully earnest and hopeful one.
Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “The Alchemist in the City” is as much about ambivalence as ambition–to my admittedly uninformed ear, anyway–and seems (thus) to capture a bit of the experience of Los Angeles. It’s about inaction and awe and failure, but also about the seemingly instinctual stance we take against them (yes, yes, while also contemplating giving in and and dying–like I said, ambivalent).
The Alchemist in the City
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
My window shews the travelling clouds,
Leaves spent, new seasons, alter’d sky,
The making and the melting crowds:
The whole world passes; I stand by.
They do not waste their meted hours,
But men and masters plan and build:
I see the crowning of their towers,
And happy promises fulfill’d.
And I – perhaps if my intent
Could count on prediluvian age,
The labours I should then have spent
Might so attain their heritage,
But now before the pot can glow
With not to be discover’d gold,
At length the bellows shall not blow,
The furnace shall at last be cold.
Yet it is now too late to heal
The incapable and cumbrous shame
Which makes me when with men I deal
More powerless than the blind or lame.
No, I should love the city less
Even than this my thankless lore;
But I desire the wilderness
Or weeded landslips of the shore.
I walk my breezy belvedere
To watch the low or levant sun,
I see the city pigeons veer,
I mark the tower swallows run
Between the tower-top and the ground
Below me in the bearing air;
Then find in the horizon-round
One spot and hunger to be there.
And then I hate the most that lore
That holds no promise of success;
Then sweetest seems the houseless shore,
Then free and kind the wilderness,
Or ancient mounds that cover bones,
Or rocks where rockdoves do repair
And trees of terebinth and stones
And silence and a gulf of air.
There on a long and squared height
After the sunset I would lie,
And pierce the yellow waxen light
With free long looking, ere I die.