En Présence de la lumière: 5th hour
Chapter five, “E” of Paul Valéry’s Alphabet corresponds to the fifth hour of our narrator’s day: observing the morning light outside of his window:
En presence de la lumière, et toutfois hors d’elle, de la fenêtre haute, l’Ange du monde entire, qui d’une voix d’azur et d’or…
He watches the morning light as it illuminates his view of the world. In this light, he sees the “Angel of the whole world” who has a voice of azure and of gold; this voice announces the day, the skies, fields, seas, peoples, deserts. This Angel represents the “Tout”, the All.
In this great omnipotence, our narrator feels powerful and yet silent. The light from this Presence, the Sun, illuminates all around him; yet he remains in the darkness. He is stripped of his name, his history, and his own darkness does not even belong to him.
His mind thinks of his mind and his eyes consider his hand. He looks at his fists and considers how they contain a diversity of actions. He thinks of the quantity of uses and acts of his hands which are innumerable and varied. This is how he will express himself, with his hands, as his words are mute.
His soul is erected above beings and virtues of his body and feels equal in existence to all that is visible in this outside world he is viewing.
“O moment, je ne suis que details hors de toi, je ne suis qu’un fragment de ce que je puis, je ne suis que moi hors de toi!
In this moment of reflection of the morning sun and all its power and glory, our narrator realizes that he is only a fragment of what he can be, not reaching his potential. “I am only me outside of you”.
He feels an indefinable power, like the power that is in the air before the storm.
Valéry, Paul. Alphabet. Paris: Librairie Générale Française. 1925
Thank you for sharing this thoughtful and provoking post. Valery sets an example for all of us to follow. His humility is tied to his awareness of the vast ability and potential captured and expressed by his body designed in the “image of God” to use biblical language.
We would be wise to slow down and look deeply into the wonders of creation we too often take for granted.
You have blessed us by introducing us to these insights and thoughts.
Yes, David, I too thought of the image of God as captured through the sunlight: in his phrase “I am only a fragment of what I can be, I am only me outside of you!” Thank you for your response. Rai