Harry Clarke, Selected Poems of Swinburne, binding decoration
There can only be struggle against the wilderness, constant violation, if there is to be life. Struggle is life. The wilderness is never conquered.
There is a natural and eternal tendency to return and ouroboros is the symbol of this. This return is the passive anti-human fatalism that obeys the tendency in its various iterations: Kabbalism, Spinozism, Marxism, the mind lost in the Heart of Darkness.
Only one entity is endowed with the power to counter the tendencies of nature and break the ouroboros cycle; that entity is the mind of man. The creative and imaginative mind is the very definition of what it means to be fully human. The dreamless sleep of sub-human entities animal, vegetable and mineral remain as 0 without man.
There is no working with nature, man must work against it. Man must violate nature. Man must kill the virus, not respect its right to life. Nature is a virus, often a beautiful virus.
Fire and metaphors hold back entropy; the forest has to be burnt back. This applies hierarchically at a number of levels, but first must come the awakening violation of the self.
The poet Algernon Swinburne presents the emergence of man out of a timeless equilibrium of chaos (i.e. a pre-human world), metaphorically at collective and individual levels, in his poem “Hymn of Man”.
Swinburne first imagines primeval Chaos as “sad shapeless horror increate” the “very darkness that time knew not of”, then…
Then between shadow and substance, night and light,Swinburne presents life as a violent symphony of meeting and killing, encounter and destruction of equilibria.
Then between birth and death, and deeds and days,
The illimitable embrace and the amorous fight
That of itself begets, bears, rears, and slays,
The immortal war of mortal things, that is
Labour and life and growth and good and ill,
The mild antiphonies that melt and kiss,
The violent symphonies that meet and kill,
All nature of all things began to be.
But chiefliest in the spirit (beast or man,
Planet of heaven or blossom of earth or sea)
The divine contraries of life began.
Nature, chaos, is a virus.
© John Dunn.