But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.
I would like to live to see the time when the men and woman of God - holy, separated and spiritually enlightened - walk out of the evangelical church and form a group of their own; when they get off the sinking ship and let her go down in the brackish and worldliness and form a new ark to ride out the storm.
Aiden Wilson Tozer
--I lifted one foot from the brackish water, and the bunny slippers were soaked and drooped pathetically. Even the fangs seemed robbed of any charm. "Don't worry," I told it. "Someone will pay for your suffering. Heavily. With screaming." I felt I should repeat it for the other slipper, in case there should be any bad feelings between the two. One should never create tension between ones's footwear. --POV is Myrnin, page 221
If the river has a soul, it's a peaceful one. If it has a lesson to impart, that lesson is patience. There will be drought, it says; there will be floods; the ice will form, the ice will melt; the water will flow and blend into the river's brackish mouth, then join the ocean between Lewes and Cape May, endlessly, forever, amen.
Therese Anne Fowler
Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years, Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe Are brackish with the salt of human tears! Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow Claspest the limits of mortality! And sick of prey, yet howling on for more, Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore, Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm, Who shall put forth on thee, Unfathomable sea?
Percy Bysshe Shelley
And it seemed as though for a moment, the world encapsulated them in a giant sigh. As if the world was exhausted by humanity-by the bellows of war and bullets, of hateful cries and grieving tears. Of all the pain, the endless pain humanity had brought into its peaceful existence. A great heaving sigh to wash it all away. But like the sea, when washed away, war only crashed harder, a surging line of arched backs and brackish tears.
WE DASH THE BLACK RIVER, ITS flats smooth as stone. Not a ship, not a dinghy, not one cry of white. The water lies broken, cracked from the wind. This great estuary is wide, endless. The river is brackish, blue with the cold. It passes beneath us blurring. The sea birds hang above it, they wheel, disappear. We flash the wide river, a dream of the past. The deeps fall behind, the bottom is paling the surface, we rush by the shallows, boats beached for winter, desolate piers. And on wings like the gulls, soar up, turn, look back.
To the bankrupt poet, to the jilted lover, to anyone who yearns to elude the doubt within and the din without, the tidal strait between Manhattan Island and her favorite suburb offers the specious illusion of easy death. Melville prepared for the plunge from the breakwater on the South Street promenade, Whitman at the railing of the outbound ferry, both men redeemed by some Darwinian impulse, maybe some epic vision, which enabled them to change leaden water into lyric wine. Hart Crane rejected the limpid estuary for the brackish swirl of the Caribbean Sea. In each generation, from Washington Irving's to Truman Capote's, countless young men of promise and talent have examined the rippling foam between the nation's literary furnace and her literary playground, questioning whether the reams of manuscript in their Brooklyn lofts will earn them garlands in Manhattan's salons and ballrooms, wavering between the workroom and the water. And the city had done everything in its power to assist these men, to ease their affliction and to steer them toward the most judicious of decisions. It has built them a bridge.
Jacob M. Appel
But drunkenly, or secretly, we swore, Disciples of that astigmatic saint, That we would never leave the island Until we had put down, in paint, in words, As palmists learn the network of a hand, All of its sunken, leaf-choked ravines, Every neglected, self-pitying inlet Muttering in brackish dialect, the ropes of mangroves From which old soldier crabs slipped Surrendering to slush, Each ochre track seeking some hilltop and Losing itself in an unfinished phrase, Under sand shipyards where the burnt-out palms Inverted the design of unrigged schooners, Entering forests, boiling with life, Goyave, corrosol, bois-canot, sapotille. Days! The sun drumming, drumming, Past the defeated pennons of the palms, Roads limp from sunstroke, Past green flutes of the grass The ocean cannonading, come! Wonder that opened like the fan Of the dividing fronds On some noon-struck sahara, Where my heart from its rib cage yelped like a pup After clouds of sanderlings rustily wheeling The world on its ancient, Invisible axis, The breakers slow-dolphining over more breakers, To swivel our easels down, as firm As conquerors who had discovered home.
We are all poor; but there is a difference between what Mrs. Spark intends by speaking of 'slender means', and what Stevens called our poverty or Sartre our need, besoin. The poet finds his brief, fortuitous concords, it is true: not merely 'what will suffice, ' but 'the freshness of transformation, ' the 'reality of decreation, ' the 'gaiety of language.' The novelist accepts need, the difficulty of relating one's fictions to what one knows about the nature of reality, as his donnee. It is because no one has said more about this situation, or given such an idea of its complexity, that I want to devote most of this talk to Sartre and the most relevant of his novels, La Nausee. As things go now it isn't of course very modern; Robbe-Grillet treats it with amused reverence as a valuable antique. But it will still serve for my purposes. This book is doubtless very well known to you; I can't undertake to tell you much about it, especially as it has often been regarded as standing in an unusually close relation to a body of philosophy which I am incompetent to expound. Perhaps you will be charitable if I explain that I shall be using it and other works of Sartre merely as examples. What I have to do is simply to show that La Nausee represents, in the work of one extremely important and representative figure, a kind of crisis in the relation between fiction and reality, the tension or dissonance between paradigmatic form and contingent reality. That the mood of Sartre has sometimes been appropriate to the modern demythologized apocalypse is something I shall take for granted; his is a philosophy of crisis, but his world has no beginning and no end. The absurd dishonesty of all prefabricated patterns is cardinal to his beliefs; to cover reality over with eidetic images-illusions persisting from past acts of perception, as some abnormal children 'see' the page or object that is no longer before them -to do this is to sink into mauvaise foi. This expression covers all comfortable denials of the undeniable-freedom -by myths of necessity, nature, or things as they are. Are all the paradigms of fiction eidetic? Is the unavoidable, insidious, comfortable enemy of all novelists mauvaise foi? Sartre has recently, in his first instalment of autobiography, talked with extraordinary vivacity about the roleplaying of his youth, of the falsities imposed upon him by the fictive power of words. At the beginning of the Great War he began a novel about a French private who captured the Kaiser, defeated him in single combat, and so ended the war and recovered Alsace. But everything went wrong. The Kaiser, hissed by the poilus, no match for the superbly fit Private Perrin, spat upon and insulted, became 'somehow heroic.' Worse still, the peace, which should instantly have followed in the real world if this fiction had a genuine correspondence with reality, failed to occur. 'I very nearly renounced literature, ' says Sartre. Roquentin, in a subtler but basically similar situation, has the same reaction. Later Sartre would find again that the hero, however assiduously you use the pitchfork, will recur, and that gaps, less gross perhaps, between fiction and reality will open in the most close-knit pattern of words. Again, the young Sartre would sometimes, when most identified with his friends at the lycee, feel himself to be 'freed at last from the sin of existing'-this is also an expression of Roquentin's, but Roquentin says it feels like being a character in a novel. How can novels, by telling lies, convert existence into being? We see Roquentin waver between the horror of contingency and the fiction of aventures. In Les Mots Sartre very engagingly tells us that he was Roquentin, certainly, but that he was Sartre also, 'the elect, the chronicler of hells' to whom the whole novel of which he now speaks so derisively was a sort of aventure, though what was represented within it was 'the unjustified, brackish existence of my fellow-creatures.