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Adventures of Lehman

"On the Beautiful and Sublime" [by DL]


Immanuel Kant's essay on this subject is nowhere near as famous and influential as those of Longinus and Edmund Burke, but it is a splendid piece of writing, showing an aptitude for dividing the world and everything in it in two  -- a dichotomous impulse unrivaled by anyone until Auden took the reins and found the fork in every road.

Here is the "donnee" (as H. James would call it), the gift or the given, the material you have to work with, lifted from Kant's book (available in a slender paperback fro Yale UP) : "Knowledge is beautiful, understanding is sublime."

I took off from there, and this is what I came up with:

On the Beautiful and Sublime

                      Knowledge is beautiful; understanding is sublime. – Kant

Radio is a hot medium;
Television, a cool one.

A train ride in Russia is a novel.
A train ride to Chicago is a movie.

A flight to Miami is a disaster movie.
A yew tree is a poem.

A banyan tree is the prose
of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

A woman’s undergarments (any epoch) are poetry.
A man’s undergarments (any epoch) are prose.

Panties (white, silk, high rise) are beautiful.
Jockstraps are sublime.

Paranoia is poetry.
Insomnia is prose.

Death by lethal injection is prose.
Death by hanging is infernal.

Death by firing squad is the noble sublime.
Homer is the tragic sublime.

Cigarettes are sublime, especially Camels and Luckies.
Cigars are sublime.

Pipes are beautiful.
The Song of Songs is beautiful,

Genesis and Job are sublime.
Isaiah is sublime. Samuel I and II are sublime.

Ruth is beautiful and sublime.
Wordsworth is sublime. Keats is sublime and beautiful.

Knowledge is beautiful,
Understanding is sublime.

Mark Bibbins, poetry editor of The Awl, posted it on September 6, 2012. If I find a picture of the philosopher I'll caption it, "Who says he Kant?" Well, let's see if I can. But perhaps I should close with a more heroic less wrathful Sandy than the ranting storm fiend that just wreaked havoc in our world.

Koufax 3
That's my Sandy. -- DL               from the archive; first posted November 4, 2012

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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