Mr Cogito and the Imagination

Wyndham Lewis: Indian Dance (1912)

Mr Cogito and the Imagination
Zbigniew Herbert
(Trans. Alissa Valles)

Mr Cogito has never trusted
the tricks of his imagination

the piano at the top of the Alps
played concerts false to the ear

he had no regard for labyrinths
the Sphinx filled him with disgust

he lived in a cellarless house
without mirror or dialectics

jungles of tangled images
were never his homeland

he rarely got carried away
on the wings of a metaphor
he then plunged like Icarus
into the arms of the Great Mother

he adored tautologies
idem per idem

a bird is a bird
slavery slavery
a knife a knife
death is death

he loved
a flat horizon
a straight line
earth’s gravity

Mr Cogito
will be counted
among the species minores

he will receive indifferently
the verdict of men of letters

he employed the imagination
for wholly different purposes

he wanted to make of it
an instrument of compassion

he longed to understand fully

-Pascal’s night
-the nature of a diamond
-the prophets’ melancholy
-the wrath of Achilles
-the fury of mass murderers
-the dreams of Mary Stuart
-the fear of Neanderthals
-the last Aztecs’ despair
-Nietzsche’s long dying
-the Lascaux painter’s joy
-the rise and fall of an oak
-the rise and fall of Rome

in order to revive the dead
and maintain the covenant

Mr Cogito’s imagination
moves like a pendulum

it runs with great precision
from suffering to suffering

there is no place in it
for poetry’s artificial fires

he wants to be true
to uncertain clarity

“Long Live the Vortex”

We are against the glorification of “the People,” as we are against snobbery. It is not necessary to be an outcast bohemian, to be unkempt or poor, any more than it is necessary to be rich or handsome, to be an artist. Art is nothing to do with the coat you wear. A top-hat can well hold the Sixtine. A cheap cap could hide the image of Kephren.

Read more [PDF] of author and artist Wyndham Lewis‘s inaugural issue of Blast. Launched in June 1914 it survived for only two editions.