Nox Oculis

George Meredith (1828-1909)

Poète et romancier britannique au style très travaillé et assez obscur, qui fit preuve dans ses œuvres d'une compréhension remarquable de la psychologie humaine et d'un grand sens humoristique.

Issu d'un milieu modeste, George Meredith naquit le 12 février 1828 à Portsmouth dans le Hampshire. Il fit ses études à l'école morave de Newied en Allemagne (1842-1844). Il renonça par la suite à une carrière juridique pour se consacrer au journalisme et à la littérature ; il fut aussi éditeur et correspondant de guerre en Italie, en 1866. L'échec de son premier mariage, contracté avec la fille de l'écrivain Thomas Peacock, le marqua profondément et lui inspira un recueil de poèmes, l'Amour moderne (1862), et un roman, Richard Feverel (1859). George Meredith s'éteignit le 18 mai 1909 à Box Hill, dans le Surrey.

En 1851, Meredith publia son premier recueil de poésie, qui fut très apprécié par lord Alfred Tennyson, mais, en 1859, son roman Richard Feverel fut censuré pour cause d'immoralité. Parmi ses romans, tous caractérisés par un style très rhétorique, voire ampoulé, mais sans pédanterie, citons encore Evan Harrigton (1861), Emilia en Angleterre (1864), qui devint connu sous le titre Sandra Belloni, et quelques années plus tard, un roman d'inspiration romantique intitulé les Aventures de Harry Richmond (1871). Il écrivit encore la Carrière de Beauchamp (1875), dont le thème principal est la politique anglaise, l'Égoïste (1879), les Comédiens tragiques (1880), Lord Ormont et son Aminta (1894). En 1883, Meredith revint à la poésie avec le recueil Poèmes et chansons de la joie terrestre, qui ouvrit la voie à bien d'autres, parmi lesquels Une leçon sur la terre (1888) et Une leçon de vie (1901). Il est également l'auteur d'essais critiques et d'une correspondance, publiée à Londres en 1912.

Lucifer in Starlight

    On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
    Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
    Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
    Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
    Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
    And now upon his western wing he leaned,
    Now his huge bulk o'er Afric's sands careened,
    Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
    Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
    With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
    He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
    Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
    Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
    The army of unalterable law.

    George Meredith, tiré de Poems and Lyrics of the Joy of Earth (1883)

Meditation Under Stars

    What links are ours with orbs that are
    So resolutely far :
    The solitary asks, and they
    Give radiance as from a shield :
    Still at the death of day,
    The seen, the unrevealed.
    Implacable they shine
    To us who would of Life obtain
    An answer for the life we strain
    To nourish with one sign.
    Nor can imagination throw
    The penetrative shaft : we pass
    The breath of thought, who would divine
    If haply they may grow
    As Earth; have our desire to know ;
    If life comes there to grain from grass,
    And flowers like ours of toil and pain ;
    Has passion to beat bar,
    Win space from cleaving brain ;
    The mystic link attain,
    Whereby star holds on star.

    Those visible immortals beam
    Allurement to the dream :
    Ireful at human hungers brook
    No question in the look.
    For ever virgin to our sense,
    Remote they wane to gaze intense:
    Prolong it, and in ruthlessness they smite
    The beating heart behind the ball of sight :
    Till we conceive their heavens hoar,
    Those lights they raise but sparkles frore,
    And Earth, our blood-warm Earth, a shuddering prey
    To that frigidity of brainless ray.
    Yet space is given for breath of thought
    Beyond our bounds when musing : more
    When to that musing love is brought,
    And love is asked of love's wherefore.
    'Tis Earth's, her gift; else have we nought :
    Her gift, her secret, here our tie.
    And not with her and yonder sky ?
    Bethink you: were it Earth alone
    Breeds love, would not her region be
    The sole delight and throne
    Of generous Deity ?

    To deeper than this ball of sight
    Appeal the lustrous people of the night.
    Fronting yon shoreless, sown with fiery sails,
    It is our ravenous that quails,
    Flesh by its craven thirsts and fears distraught.
    The spirit leaps alight,
    Doubts not in them is he,
    The binder of his sheaves, the sane, the right :
    Of magnitude to magnitude is wrought,
    To feel it large of the great life they hold :
    In them to come, or vaster intervolved,
    The issues known in us, our unsolved solved :
    That there with toil Life climbs the self-same Tree,
    Whose roots enrichment have from ripeness dropped.
    So may we read and little find them cold :
    Let it but be the lord of Mind to guide
    Our eyes ; no branch of Reason's growing lopped ;
    Nor dreaming on a dream; but fortified
    By day to penetrate black midnight ; see,
    Hear, feel, outside the senses; even that we,
    The specks of dust upon a mound of mould,
    We who reflect those rays, though low our place,
    To them are lastingly allied.

    So may we read, and little find them cold :
    Not frosty lamps illumining dead space,
    Not distant aliens, not senseless Powers.
    The fire is in them whereof we are born ;
    The music of their motion may be ours.
    Spirit shall deem them beckoning Earth and voiced
    Sisterly to her, in her beams rejoiced.
    Of love, the grand impulsion, we behold
    The love that lends her grace
    Among the starry fold.
    Then at new flood of customary morn,
    Look at her through her showers,
    Her mists, her streaming gold,
    A wonder edges the familiar face :
    She wears no more that robe of printed hours ;
    Half strange seems Earth, and sweeter than her flowers.

    George Meredith, tiré de A Reading of Earth (1888)

Winter Heavens

    Sharp is the night, but stars with frost alive
    Leap off the rim of earth across the dome.
    It is a night to make the heavens our home
    More than the nest whereto apace we strive.
    Lengths down our road each fir-tree seems a hive,
    In swarms outrushing from the golden comb.
    They waken waves of thoughts that burst to foam :
    The living throb in me, the dead revive.
    Yon mantle clothes us: there, past mortal breath,
    Life glistens on the river of the death.
    It folds us, flesh and dust; and have we knelt,
    Or never knelt, or eyed as kine the springs
    Of radiance, the radiance enrings :
    And this is the soul's haven to have felt.

    George Meredith

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