Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Man and his Chisel

The mission of the poet should be to restore to the word, at least in a partial way, its primitive and now secret force.

Jorge Luis Borges
Preface to The Unending Rose

The ultimate business of philosophy is to preserve the force of the most elemental words in which Dasein expresses itself.

Martin Heidegger
Being and Time, H. 220

The immediate likeness of these these two pronouncements about poetry and philosophy is supported by closer reading. Borges' "at least in a partial way" is matched by Heidegger's caution against "uninhibited word-mysticism", which opens the just cited paragraph. Borges proposes his restorations (each poem is a partial restoration of the primitive force of words) to counteract "the usury of time" (ibid.). Heidegger's efforts at preservation are intentended "to keep the common understanding from levelling [words] off" (ibid.), which is interesting when taken together with his suggestion that "everyday common sense first takes 'Being-guilty' in the sense of 'owing', of 'having something due on account' ... "Being-guilty" as 'having debts'." (H. 281)

Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom.

Ezra Pound, Canto XLV

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