ennui-793865

Laten we dus met een grapje beginnen.
Een leuke grap, helemaal in de stijl van het Victoriaanse ennui dat je verkeerdelijk met ‘verveling’ zou vertalen.

De grote denker Matthew Arnold, prof literatuur in Oxford, schreef daarover:

‘Depression and ennui as characteristics stamped on how many of the representative works of modern times!

They were symptoms of the disease of the most modern societies, the most advanced civilizations.”

“On the modern element in literature, essays by Matthew Arnold, London, 1914, p.468

En Pater schreef in ‘Coleridge”, Appreciations:

Ennui and doubt were that inexhaustible discontent, languor and home-sickness, that endless regret, the chords of wich ring all through our modern literature.’

Je zou het de ‘mood’ kunnen noemen van Werther en René, van Obermann en Lélia, van Childe Harold en al de Byronese helden, zelfs van Carlyles figuur ‘Teugelsdröckh’.
Je ziet die mood verschijnen in Browning’s Pauline en in heel wat van de vroege gedichten van Tennyson.

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IN MEMORIAM A. H. H

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.
1849

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En deze stemming sloeg over op Arnold en Clough, en voor kortere of langere tijd op Sterling, Maurice, Robertson, Kingsley en Mill.

Die ziekte werd heel scherp geannalyseerd door Arnold’s nichtje, Mrs. Humphry Ward, in een passage in Robert Elsmere

Mr. Langham geeft een schets van zijn leven in de hij-persoon:

It was at college that he first became aware “of something cold”, impotent, and baffling in himself, which was to stand for ever between him and action, between him and human affection; the growth of the critical pessimist sense which laid the axe to the root of enthusiasme after enthusiasme, friendship after friendship – which made other men feel inhuman, intangible, a skeleton at the feast; and the persistence through it all of a kind of hunger for life and its satisfactions, which the will was more and more powerless to satisfy.”

Het was dat gevoel dat J.A. Symonds ‘the maladie du siècle’ zou gaan noemen, en ik wil u zijn bepaling niet onthouden al zal het even goed opletten zijn:

“The nondescript cachery in which aspiration mingles with disenchantement, satire and scepticism with a childlike desire for the tranquility of reverence and belief- in which self-analysis has been pushed to the verge of monomania and all springs of action are clogged and impeded by the cobwebs of speculation.”

Novels of the Eighteen-Forties pp 131-4

Zeg dit zachtjes en daarna luidop, en je zult merken dat het Engels toch nog een zeer muzikale taal is!

En Carlyle (volgende week meer over hem) sprak vaak over ‘the fatal misery of languor and paralysis’.

Ja, zei Bulwer Lytton, we leven in een tijd van zichtbare overgang, een tijd van onrust en twijfel.

En daar kunnen we een paar dagen over nadenken, en je zult de lijnen zien die als rails (evenwijdigen) die onrustige verre tijd met de onze verbinden.

Maar vanwaar dan die angst en twijfel, dat ennui, dat mal du siècle?
En wat heeft de ronde van Frankrijk met Carlyle te maken?

Goede vrienden van de negentiende eeuw, ik laat u met vele vragen achter.
Laat de hersenen vonken.

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