LORDS OF LIMIT
Today I’ve walked myself into exhaustion. 12 km up the wilderness. I thought of limits, and where mine were. Could they be conquered? Of course, it didn’t take me more than a fraction of a second to realize what a stupid idea the idea of conquering limit is – though most people believe in such things. If someone climbs the Everest, it’s being reported on as a case of conquering limit. Yes, people don’t have much imagination. Except for poets. W.H. Auden talks about “life’s limiting defect” – death. In his poem, “The Watchers” he addresses the constellation Gemini: “O Lords of Limit training dark and light / And setting a tabu `twixt left and right.” We are guided by mystery, yet all that which begins in mystery ends in philosophy. We should all do more math. Geoffrey Hill wrote an entire book of criticism using Auden’s line as a title: The Lords of Limit (1984), in which he discusses mainly the Renaissance and Restoration writers. With good reason. The poets and playwrights of those days knew more math than the contemporary ones, which means that they qualified for the title of lords of limit by default. They calculated the political implication of metaphor - for cosmology and domestic affairs. Apart from using Auden’s line as a title, Hill also uses it as an epigraph. So, where the politics of limit is concerned, the mere thinking about it is twice as good. So, what am I saying, sun-struck as I am, and feeling delirious? That we are not only watchers of passionate convergence to limit, if and when we care to think about it, but we are also seekers: we pose questions while we watch. Here's one. Not a personal one, as right now, I want to keep that to myself, but one that the poet/critic poses. Hill uses Iris Murdoch’s insight to accompany his Auden epigraph: “It is always a significant question to ask about any philosopher: what is he afraid of?” (On God and Good) When things intersect, they intersect, and that’s all there’s to it. I am not a Lord of Limit, but of Watching.