Nox Oculis

George Bradley (1953- )

George Bradley est né à Roslyn, dans l'État de New York. Il a reçu un BA de l'Université Yale (1975) et étudia à l'Université de Virginie en 1977-78. Depuis 1982, Bradley est rédacteur à New York City. Il vit maintenant à Chester, dans le Connecticut.

Bradley a fait paraître ses textes dans plusieurs revues de renom : The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New Republic, et Poetry. Parmi les ditinctions honorifiques qui lui ont attribuées, notons : le Witter Bynner Prize de l'American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, le Yale's Cook Prize (1975), le Peter I. B. Lavan Award de l'Academy of American Poets (1978), ainsi qu'une subvention du National Endowment for the Arts.

James Merrill, dans son introduction au volume de Bradley, Terms to be Met, affirme que le poète « appartient à une tradition de poètes philosophiques qui incluent Lucrèce et Wallace Stevens. Ses vers sont longs, légers, qui nous amènent facilement dans des endroits distants, et nous enseignent à écouter le son du soleil ».

About Planck Time

    Once upon a time, way back in the infinitesimal
    First fraction of a second attending our creation.
    A tiny drop containing all of it, all energy
    And all its guises, burst upon the scene.
    Exploding out of nothing into everything
    Virtually instantaneously, the way our thoughts
    Leap eagerly to occupy the abhorrent void.
    Once, say ten or twenty billion years ago
    In Planck time, in no time at all, the veil
    Available to our perceptions was flung out
    Over space at such a rate the mere imagination
    Cannot keep up, so rapidly the speed of light
    Lags miraculously behind, producing a series
    Of incongruities that has led our curiosity,
    Like Ariadne's thread. through the dim labyrinth
    Of our conclusions to the Place of our beginning.
    In Planck time, everything that is was spread so thin
    That all distance is enormous, between each star,
    Between subatomic particles, so that we are composed
    Almost entirely of emptiness, so that what separates
    This world, bright ball floating in its midnight blue,
    From the irrefutable logic of no world at all
    Has no more substance than the traveller's dream,
    So that nothing can be said for certain except
    That sometime, call it Planck time, it will all just
    Disappear, a parlor trick, a rabbit back in its hat,
    Will all go up in a flash of light, abracadabra,
    An idea that isn't being had anymore.

    George Bradley, tiré de Terms to be Met (1985)

At the Other End of the Telescope

    the people are very small and shrink,
    dwarves on the way to netsuke hell
    bound for a flea circus in full
    retreat toward sub-atomic particles --
    difficult to keep in focus, the figures
    at that end are nearly indistinguishable,
    generals at the heads of minute armies
    differing little from fishwives,
    emperors the same as eskimos
    huddled under improvisations of snow --
    eskimos, though, now have the advantage,
    for it seems to be freezing there, a climate
    which might explain the population's
    outré dress, their period costumes
    of felt and silk and eiderdown,
    their fur concoctions stuffed with straw
    held in place with flexible strips of bark,
    and all to no avail, the midgets forever
    stamping their match-stick feet,
    blowing on the numb flagella of their fingers --
    but wait, bring a light, clean the lens...
    can it be those shivering arms are waving,
    are trying to attract attention, hailing you ?
    seen from the other end of the telescope,
    your eye must appear enormous,
    must fill the sky like a sun,
    and as you occupy their tiny heads
    naturally they wish to communicate,
    to tell you of their diminishing perspective --
    yes, look again, their hands are cupped
    around the pinholes of their mouths,
    their faces are swollen, red with effort;
    why, they're screaming fit to burst,
    though what they say is anybody's guess,
    it is next to impossible to hear them,
    and most of them speak languages
    for which no Rosetta stone can be found --
    but listen harder, use your imagination...
    the people at the other end of the telescope,
    are they trying to tell you their names ?
    yes, surely that must be it, their names
    and those of those they love, and possibly
    something else, some of them... listen...
    the largest are struggling to explain
    what befell them, how it happened
    that they woke one morning as if adrift,
    their moorings cut in the night,
    and were swept out over the horizon,
    borne on an ebbing tide and soon
    to be discernible only as distance,
    collapsed into mirage, made to become
    legendary creatures now off every map.

    George Bradley, tiré de The Partisan Review, Fall 2000, 67(4)

E Pur Si Muove

    Of course it had been madness even to bring it up,
    Sheer madness, like the sighting of sea serpents
    Or the discovery of strange lights in the sky ;
    And plainly it had been worse than madness to insist,
    To devote entire treatises and a lifetime to the subject,
    To a thing of great implication but no immediate use,
    A thing that could not be conceived without study,
    Without years of training and the aid of instruments,
    And especially the instrument of an open mind ;
    It had been stubbornness, foolishness, you see that now,
    And so when the time comes you are ready to acquiesce,
    When you have had your say, told the truth one last time,
    You are ready to give the matter over and say no more.
    When the time comes, you will take back your words,
    But not because you fear the consequences of refusal
    (Who looks into the night sky and imagines a new order
    Has already seen the instruments of torture many times),
    Though this is the conclusion your inquisitors will draw
    And it is true you are not a brave man ;
    And not because you are made indifferent in your contempt
    (You take their point, agree with it even, that there is
    Nothing so dangerous as a new way of seeing the world) ;
    Rather, you accept the conditions lightly, the recantation,
    Lightly you accept their offer of a villa with a view,
    Because you have grown old and contention makes you weary,
    Because you like the idea of raising vines and tomatoes,
    And because, whatever you might have said or suffered,
    It is in motion still, cutting a great arc through nothingness,
    Sweeping through space according to a design so grand
    It remains, just as they would have it, a matter of faith,
    Because, whether you say yea, whether you say nay,
    Nevertheless it moves.

    George Bradley, tiré de Terms to be Met (1985)

The Sound of the Sun

    It makes one all right, though you hadn't thought of it,
    A sound like the sound of the sky on fire, like Armageddon,
    Whistling and crackling, the explosions of sunlight booming
    As the huge mass of gas rages into the emptiness around it.
    It isn't the sound you are often aware of, though the light speeds
    To us in seconds, each dawn leaping easily across a chasm
    Of space that swallows the sound of that sphere, but
    If you listen closely some morning, when the sun swells
    Over the horizon and the world is still and still asleep,
    You might hear it, a faint noise so far inside your mind
    That it must come from somewhere, from light rushing to darkness,
    Energy burning toward entropy, toward a peaceful solution,
    Burning brilliantly, spontaneously, in the middle of nowhere,
    And you, too, must make a sound that is somewhat like it,
    Though that, of course, you have no way of hearing at all.

    George Bradley, tiré de Terms to be Met (1985)

The Year of the Comet

    Appearing like a "blowtorch in the sky,"
    It lit the night, and thus the naked eye
    At that time had no trouble in discerning
    What seemed for all the world to be a burning
    Bit of heaven, a rending of the veil
    Of the firmament, though in fact the tail,
    Composed of meteoric dust and gas,
    Held little to combust, so that it was
    Merely one more reflection of sunlight
    Arriving out of darkness to ignite
    Quick imaginations of idle men,
    Seventy-six years past, in 1910.
    For some, the comet heralded an age
    Of science, in which mankind would engage
    Ultimate questions and prevail, in which
    Technical advances would enrich
    Our lives and a benighted populace,
    As seeing means belief, rise to embrace
    The light of reason lately come in view ;
    For others, as belief is seeing, too,
    The visitation meant apocalypse,
    Wherein the comet's orbital ellipse
    Had brought it back on an appointed round
    To signal that the earth would soon be drowned
    In blood, the seals be broken, the sky catch
    Fire, that helpless sinners would soon watch
    A hapless world destroyed and kingdom come,
    For if the biblical millenium
    Was winding down, then judgment day was due.
    Well, we were ripe for change, that much was true,
    And both persuations, in a sense, have been
    Vindicated, as modern medicine
    Works new miracles to extend our years,
    While modern warfare brings this vale of seers
    To the point of prophecies that have gone
    Before the wildest visions of St. John ;
    Yet aren't they both evasions of the present,
    Utopia and doom, predictions pleasant
    Or otherwise, but easy answers to
    The daily mix-ups we must muddle through ?
    So men still mire in misery every day,
    While earth still spins along its merry way,
    Through days of bliss and seasons of distress
    And eons of redundant emptiness.
    The brightest memories occasioned by
    Such hours pass in the twinkling of an I,
    And once again the average life transpires
    Amidst the sort of era that acquires
    Historians but leaves the bard non-plussed,
    Three quarters of a century that must
    Like every other in its time, appear
    to its inhabitants as the nadir
    Of human kindness and the height of sense ;
    Meanwhile, a dirty "snowball" circumvents
    An end in space, accelerating through
    Our solar system toward its rendevous
    With sunshine, with the spectacles of men,
    And Halley's comet has come back again.
    I went out to look for it late last night ;
    You would have laughted to see me, for in light
    Of nearby towns and in my ignorance
    Of stars, I didn't stand a snowball's chance
    In Dante's hottest hell, where lost souls sigh
    Because they cannot see the nighttime sky.
    Oh, I may have seen something, I suppose,
    An unimpressive squib of light that rose
    In the southwest with Pegasus and might,
    If it wasn't a plane, or satellite,
    Or weather baloon, or simply a spot
    On my binoculars, as like as not
    Have been a comet ; that's the tale I plan
    To tell the children of an aged man,
    At any rate, how once, blazoned above,
    Me, I beheld the very sign that wove
    Its way into the Bayeaux tapestry
    When, waiting on the tide of history,
    Norman troops stood by the channel, how I
    Witnessed the same sight seen by the Magi.
    As Giotto pictured them in 1301,
    Making their augured journey to the Son,
    How light observed in Aristotle's time,
    And subsequently hailed as the sublime
    In the Philosopher's philosophy,
    Has showered down its countenance on me,
    Who have, I think, as much right as these
    To light streaming like "long hair in the breeze,"
    As the phrase goes whence "comet" is derived.
    But truth to tell, what notions had survived
    In me to the grave age of thirty-three
    Of some grand cosmic continuity
    Stretching across generations of men
    And offering a type of order when
    Life here on earth is at its most confused
    Died in thirty seconds, and disabused
    Of superstition, I went back inside
    To soothe chagrin with thoughts that I had tried
    To see it, that the world had grown too old
    For auguries, and that my toes were cold.
    Indoors, warming myself in the bright glow
    And cold comfort cast by a picture show,
    I switched the channel to the late-night news,
    Where, among speeches, sports and interviews,
    The audience was treated to the sight
    Of footage filmed aboard a plane in flight,
    Featuring what resembled a small comma
    In space that punctuated the ring drama
    Of its recurrence with a mild display
    Of radience enhanced by cathode ray ;
    And so I saw the object after all,
    If not first hand, then in a crystal ball,
    The second sight of this dim century,
    That dispiriting medium, TV.
    I watched awhile and then shut off the set,
    Stood up, let the dog in, and went to get
    A drink before I let the cat out, locked
    The house up and turned in ; the ice-cubes rocked
    In my glass, clucking sympathy, while framed
    Within a windowpane, tiny stars flamed
    Enormously in the immense inane ;
    It seemed whatever musings might explain
    The disconcerting music of the spheres
    Had ceased to matter much, as no one hears
    Anything like harmony in the skies
    And comets are snuffed out before our eyes.
    Somewhere that misplaced punctuation mark
    Awaited faint distinctions in the dark,
    But I had vigils of my own to keep
    And made my way upstairs and so to sleep.
    Leaving the melting remnant of my drink
    To come to nothing at the kitchen sink
    And wishing other viewers more success
    When the next comet comes from emptiness
    (If it does come, if our poor atmosphere
    Is not pure smog, if we are even here)
    To set its blazing match-head to the straw
    Of human intellect and then withdraw,
    Wheeling around its perihelion
    And disappearing with the tail it spun.

    George Bradley, tiré de Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (1992)

Oeuvres poétiques :

  • Terms to Be Met (1985)
  • Of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (1991)
  • Fire Fetched Down (1996)
  • Some Assembly Required (2001)

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