Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time



Finitude

The ticking of time is to me odd.
Minute and moods mingle in ways
That seldom make sense. Did we select
A way for a why, or a why for a way?


I wrote that in high school for an assignment that had something to do with Beowulf and caesuras, if I remember correctly. I remember a couple of points were docked because "w" and "wh" are not really the same sound, and the accent does not fall properly in the first line, but my teacher (my beloved teacher, Mr. Wright, written about long ago on this blog, who would not be pleased with this long and awkward parenthetical interruption) liked it, and I did, too.

I wish I could remember things now as well as I remember so many things from long ago! I hadn't thought of that little poem in a long, long time, but it came to mind tonight. I found a book, a collection of essays, with the title What God Knows: Time and the Question of Divine Knowledge, and started reading it tonight.

The first essay looks at Hebrew conceptions of time as contrasted to Greek, and looks at how modernity cemented and further developed the Greek way of looking at time. Which is a problem when you're reading things written originally in a culture steeped in the Hebrew constructs. The author, Harry Lee Poe, spends a good bit of time in Genesis 1 and Revelation, and looks at cultural time differences, linguistic differences, and even a bit of physics.

The part that called up my little poem was this:

John receives a glimpse of human affairs from the perspective of eternity, but through the lens of fantastic imagery. John is shown a variety of tableaus cloaked in vivid imagery. All of the colors, numbers, gems, creatures, events, and objects have a symbolic, metaphorical, sometimes allegorical, and poetic meaning; and this kind of meaning applies to conventional time constructions like days, months, and years as well. Both Revelation and the Genesis 1 account of creation suggest the problem of confusing the measurement of time with time itself. The measurement of time (seconds, minutes, hours, days, years) is a human construction. Just as some people measure space by feet and inches and other people measure the same space by meters and centimeters, some people measure time by the moon and some by the sun. Either one of these methods is strange when you come to think of it, but no less strange than the method of measuring time by the vibration of atoms!

So maybe I was onto something with that little poem way back when. (After reading this, it just doesn't seem important to figure out how many years ago it was.)

If anyone can shed light (ha, no pun intended) on the photo below, I will be grateful. It is from San Gimignano, and I took a picture of it just so I could try to understand it. I've had no luck finding any information about it. It seems to be a sundial of sorts, or at least a representation of one. The words, I'm convinced, must be French, though I can't make literal sense of it. You can see them clearly if you click and enlarge it.

From my Italian, my guess is that it's saying something like "everything holds itself [together]." Can anyone help me? (Maybe my reader in France?)

(And the clock above is the Astronomical Clock in Old Town Prague. I did not take that picture.)

3 comments:

Lucy said...

What an interesting, seeking kind of post... and I like that Anglo-Saxon poem very much! You should put more poems here.

'Tout se tient'='it all hangs together', that's to say, I suppose, everything makes sense, but it doesn't quite explain the intriguing lines and ellipses and whatnot on the face. It's oddly beautiful, isn't it, perhaps partly because it's mysterious!

Sheila said...

Thanks, Lucy! I'm glad to know my Italian-French was somewhere in the ballpark.

And thanks for the compliment on my little poemetta. Maybe I will put more out there, but only if everyone promises to like them. :-) Or at least not to say so if they don't!

Lawrence Underwood said...

My guess is that the 'clock' has something to do with the orbit of a celestial body within our solar system. I base that on the observation that their are nine 'circuits' inscribed upon its face.

Just my thought.