Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What others were feeling like today #2

Carrying on from a post I did a couple of weeks ago, here's another extract from the book The Assassin's Cloak: An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists. This was written on the 4th of June.


I wonder if I shall burn this sheet of paper like most others I have begun in the same way. To write a diary, I have thought of very often at far & near distances of time: but how could I write a diary without throwing upon paper my thoughts, all my thoughts - the thoughts of my heart as well as of my head? - and then how could I bear to look on them after they were written? Adam made fig leaves necessary for the mind, as well as for the body. And such a mind as I have! So very exacting & exclusive & eager & head long - & strong & so very very often wrong! Well! But I will write: I must write - & the oftener I know myself to be, the less wrong I shall be in one thing - the less vain I shall be!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I find this to be an astonishingly articulate expression of what must go through many people's minds (certainly mine) when it comes to putting one's more intimate thoughts on paper, or screen - as many now do. It certainly touches on why my blog is not particularly personal in nature: having to read back upon my own thoughts is bad enough, the idea of others doing it is just excruciating.

I particularly love the line "Adam made fig leaves necessary for the mind, as well as for the body." That is just perfect.

A few years ago I made my first serious adult attempt at a short story, in which I alluded to the feeling of nakedness that comes from writing down your feelings for others to see, and, I think, went so far as to suggest that its almost a form of self-harm. And I mostly intended the thing as a comedy! Today I can hardly bear to read that story, despite the fact that I half-assedly entered it into an online competition at the time. Tellingly, I found it incredibly difficult to show it to anyone I actually knew.

Thankfully, Ms. Barrett Browning obviously found a way to deal with her literary self-consciousness, as 19 years after that diary entry she published this little cracker:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints!---I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!---and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

I'll probably be back with another of this type of post tomorrow, as there's a couple of brilliant entries for the 5th and I have fun writing about them.

2 comment(s):

Darren said...

I really want that book!

A great entry and yes, that particular 'fig leaves' line sums it all up. I try my best to be as 'naked' as possible when blogging but it's so tough to do. Pure honesty is impossible, but I try to skirt as close to it as I can.

Interesting that Browning believes that writing about her experiences is going to make her less vain. A certain friend of mine is not a fan of blogging and bloggers because he sees it as an exercise in vanity. I prefer to think of it as a sharing experience.

Andrew said...

yeah, the whole "is blogging incredibly vain?" question has popped into my head a few times.

I suppose one could make the case that to view one's opinions and experiences as so special that you don't want anyone else to know about them could be perceived as vanity too.