Out of "The Symbol of the Archaic" by Guy Davenport
Pavel Tchelitchew (American, 1898–1957)
Derby, Vermont and New York, June 1940 - June 1942. Oil on canvas, 6' 6 1/2" x 7' 3/4" (199.3 x 215.3 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
[Go to the MOMA page--linked--to zoom in.]
Poetry speaks with phallic direction
Song keeps the world forever
Sound is moulded to mean this
And the measure moulds the sound.
--Ezra Pound (his last lines)
In the seventeenth century we discovered that a drop of water is alive, in the eighteenth century that all of nature is alive in its discrete particles, in the nineteenth century that these particles are all dancing a constant dance (the Brownian movement), and the twentieth century discovered that nothing at all is dead, that the material of existence is so many little solar systems of light mush...
First of all, it is a great oak tree against which a girl presses herself: she is the it in a game of hide-and-seek. The hiders are concealed in the tree itself, so many children, who are arranged like the cycle of the seasons, winter children, summer children.
These children, seen a few paces back, become landscapes, and eventually two folded arms, as the tree itself resolves into a foot and hand; and, further back, the face of a Russian demon, mustached and squint-eyed. Further back, the whole picture resolves into a drop of water...
.mota eht fo erutcurts eht nianlpxe ot mih del hcihw fo noisnet ecafrus eht retaw fo pord, s'rhoB sleiN...
This is a very modern picture, then, a kind of metaphysical poem about our non-Euclidian, indeterminate world. But at its center there is the one opaque detail in the painting: the girl in a pinafore hiding her face against the tree.
An ambiguous symbol of life and death...
a depiction of Persophone or Eurydice in Hades. In a euphoric or confident time she is above-ground...
[In a time]...depressed beyond hope...[our] will is rotten and perverse...terrified by existence itself, [we put] Eurydice in Hades and spinelessly leave her there.
The poetry of phallic direction
incloses and utterly wills
meaning sounded as ordered
measuring sound molded