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Maya Analysis

Author: Poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson Type: Poetry Views: 248

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Through an ascending emptiness of night,

Leaving the flesh and complacent mind

Together in their suffciencybehind,

The soul of man went up to a far height;

And where those others would have had no sight

Or sense of else than terror for the blind,

Soul met the Will, and was again consigned

To the surpreme illusion which is right."And what goes on up there," the Mind inquired,

"That I know not already to be true?"-

"More than enough, but not enough for you,"

Said the descending Soul: "Here in the dark,

Where you are least revealed when most admired,

You may still be the bellows and the spark."


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This poem is an existential query. The polar components of man, -- the Will and the Mind, the Passions and Reason, the Heart and the Brain, Nietzsche\'s Dionysius and Apollo, -- wage constant war for the soul of man, that essence which defines us all.
What to be! That is the eternal question which haunts us in our dreams. That is the awareness that drives us to seek fulfillment through knowledge or intoxicants. Camus, Sartre, even Schopenhauer, would tell us that pursuit of the arts or the sciences are mere distractions that we hide within to avoid the ultimate questions of our pitiful lives. And yet these are vexatious questions which life keeps delivering to our doorstep in myriad ways, unsatiated by the appetites of either the senses or the intellect.
And what one truly is, regardless of the fates, is indeed, -- if one chooses it to be – merely a decision; it is all a matter of simple choice. Should it be a sweet surrender to the passions? Should we choose a more disciplined path, declaring a legitimate sovereignty of the mind over the passions? Should one indeed, “… suffer the slings and arrows… or take arms against a sea of troubles”. It is all choice. Which then, will define the soul, master it, guide it, defend it and even define it?
One might ask, “Can we choose?” The biological determinists of science say, \"No! For we are merely a bag of organized protoplasm, a mere sack of chemicals\". The Cartesian body-mind duality is a myth, a concocted balm for existential angst. This poem says, “No, the body’s “…flesh and complacent mind together in their sufficiency…” acknowledge that duality.
And the mind, having intellectual wisdom, notes that the Soul in its exercise in freedom, ascends into the “dark” realm of transcendent inquiry, where others cannot see or where the blind (intellectually) would find terror (existential angst)
And then the Soul descends from its transcendent liaison with the Will. The soul returns, perhaps wiser and even contrite, to the interrogatories of the Mind. What have you seen there that I do not already know? “The Mind asks, almost like a condescending master.
For the mind knows that all is consciousness. And that we are, (as Epictetus taught us for the first three generations after Christ) what we choose to be, e.g. slave to the will of others or our environs, or in the alternative, masters of our own essence, our soul. The soul sneaks upstairs to transcendence seeking a master. Seeking to travel above like an unfaithful lover, perhaps to be seduced by the will. But then upon questioning, confesses that ultimately it is the Mind to which the Soul is faithful for the “right” of the Will is x soul tells us that it is the Mind to whom the Soul seeks refuge from the dark, and it is the Mind from which the Soul seeks all the keys to the doors of doubt. In this regard the Mind, the Intellect, weighs all empirical and sensuous opportunity against chance and consequence. The Mind seems, through the Soul’s confession, to be indeed the holder of all keys. The Mind is -- in the caldron of destiny which we call existence -- that which separates us from the animals and serves us as a faithful companion. The Mind is indeed both the sustainer and, indeed the very creator of the Soul, its “…bellows and the spark…”
Still the Soul demurs to give the reader pause. For as the Soul tells us where it has been the Mind is “least revealed/most admired”. But, further in its rejoinder to the Mind the Soul reveals there is \'\"more than enough”, that is, there is a kind of is sufficiency. But the Soul also says, noting that for the Mind, with its insatiable curiosity, \"up there\" in transcendence, there is not \"more than enough for you.\" Kant, Kierkegaard and others have indeed told us that reasoning of the mind can take us only so far in our perceptions, our full comprehension of ourselves and of existence. Camus and Sartre say beyond reason there is nothingness and that is the damnation for the soul. In contrast, Kierkegaard, ever the Christian optimist, advises us that once reason fails us –as it often will - we must decide to take (or as St. Paul said, “surrender to…”) a “leap of faith” to understand existence, …and God.
It is only there, that we shall find “more than enough”. That is the message of the poem.
What think you, reader? Quo vadis?

| Posted on 2011-07-03 | by a guest

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