Nox Oculis


John Hollander (1929- )

Poète et critique américain. Né à New York en 1919. Il a écrit près d'une vingtaine de volumes de poésie, une dizaine de volumes de critiques littéraires et a édité plusieurs anthologies importantes. Il a également rédigé des livres pour enfants et collaboré à des oeuvres lyriques avec des composeurs tels que Milton Babbitt, George Perle, et Hugo Weisgall.

Hollander a remporté plusieurs prix et récompenses honorifiques, dont le Bollingen Prize, le Levinson Prize, le MLA Shaughnessy Medal. Il est actuellement professeur de littérature anglaise à Yale.


The Great Bear

    Even on clear nights, lead the most supple children
    Out onto hilltops, and by no means will
    They make it out. Neither the gruff round image
    From a remembered page nor the uncertain
    Finger tracing that image out can manage
    To mark the lines of what ought to be there,
    Passing through certain bounding stars, until
    The whole massive expanse of bear appear
    Swinging, across the ecliptic ; and, although
    The littlest ones say nothing, others respond,
    Making us thankful in varying degrees
    For what we would have shown them. "'T'here it is !"
    "I see it now !" Even "Very like a bear !"
    Would make us grateful. Because there is no bear

    We blame our memory of the picture : trudging
    Up the dark, starlit path, stooping to clutch
    An anxious hand, perhaps the outline faded
    Then ; perhaps could we have retained the thing
    In mind ourselves, with it we might have staged
    Something convincing. We easily forget
    The huge, clear, homely dipper that is such
    An event to reckon with, an object set
    Across the space the bear should occupy;
    But even so, the trouble lies in pointing
    At any stars. For one's own finger aims
    Always elsewhere: the man beside one seems
    Never to get the point. "No ! The bright star
    Just above my fingertip." The star,

    If any, that he sees beyond one's finger
    Will never be the intended one. To bring
    Another's eye to bear in such a fashion
    On any single star seems to require

    Something very like a constellation
    That both habitually see at night ;
    Not in the stars themselves, but in among
    Their scatter, perhaps, some old familiar sight
    Is always there to take a bearing from.
    And if the smallest child of all should cry
    Out on the wet, black grass because he sees
    Nothing but stars, though claiming that there is
    Some bear not there that frightens him, we need
    Only reflect that we ourselves have need

    Of what is fearful (being really nothing)
    With which to find our way about the path
    That leads back down the hill again, and with
    Which to enable the older children standing
    By us to follow what we mean by "This
    Star," "That one," or "The other one beyond it."
    But what of the tiny, scared ones ? -- Such a bear,
    Who needs it ? We can still make do with both
    The dipper that we always knew was there
    And the bright, simple shapes that suddenly
    Emerge on certain nights. To understand
    'I'he signs that stars compose, we need depend
    Only on stars that are entirely there
    And the apparent space between them. There
    Never need be lines between them, puzzling
    Our sense of what is what. What a star does
    Is never to surprise us as it covers
    'I'he center of its patch of darkness, sparkling
    Always, a point in one of many figures.
    One solitary star would be quite useless,
    A frigid conjecture, true but trifling;
    And any single sign is meaningless
    If unnecessary. Crab, bull, and ram,
    Or frosty, irregular polygons of our own
    Devising, or finally the Great Dark Bear
    'I'hat we can never quite believe is there -
    Having the others, any one of them
    Can be dispensed with. The bear, of all of them,

    Is somehow most like any one, taken
    At random, in that we always tend to say
    That just because it might be there ; because
    Some Ancients really traced it out, a broken
    And complicated line, webbing bright stars
    And fainter ones together; because a bear
    Habitually appeared -- then even by day
    It is for us a thing that should be there.
    We should not want to train ourselves to see it.
    The world is everything that happens to
    Be true. The stars at night seem to suggest
    The shapes of what might be. If it were best,
    Even, to have it there (such a great bear !
    All hung with stars !), there still would be no bear.

    John Hollander, 1958, dans Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1988)


Références :


Oeuvres poétiques :


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