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  • Love Speaks Here: Michel de Certeau’s Mystic Fable
  • Amy Hollywood (bio)

Very early in The Mystic Fable, Michel de Certeau describes “Meister Eckhart (1260–1327) and, a half a century earlier, Hadewijch of Anvers [sic]” as the “founders” of “mystics”—a “field in which specific procedures will be developed: a space and an apparatus.”1 The space, de Certeau goes on to argue, is one of withdrawal; it is an ecstasy, a standing outside of oneself and outside of history brought about by “the seduction of the Other.” The apparatus is a technique in which “words confess what they are unable to say.”2 “The rapture and rhetoric” de Certeau calls the space and the apparatus of “mystics” are governed by exile, nostalgia, and mourning metaphors aptly described by Brenna Moore in her paper for this issue of Spiritus.3 Although The Mystic Fable deals with what de Certeau calls “the center of this field of shifting historical boundaries,” observing mysticism “at the moment of its greatest formalization and its end,”4 the book begins with this brief allusion to Hadewijch and, more importantly, ends with her.

The final pages of the book, to which Moore also alludes, return to Hadewijch, who is read as standing in a line of continuity with the poet Catherine Pozzi (1882–1934). A friend of Rainer Maria Rilke, the lover of Paul Valéry, the author of journals modeled on those of Marie Bashkirtseff, Pozzi’s poetry, according to de Certeau, is part of “a thousand-year-old tradition,” that “mystic poetics” “passes from place to place and age to age.”5 Yet as Moore rightly notes, the continuity is one of a rupture, of an impossibility, of a wandering and an excess that cannot be contained by the very tradition of which it is a part.

Like de Certeau, I will cite Pozzi’s poem in its entirety. (He opens the last section of The Mystic Fable—“Overture to a Poetics of the Body”—with the poem, although curiously, he does not give its title, “Ave.” The translation from the French is by the translator of The Mystic Fable, Daniel B. Smith.) [End Page 198]

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Draped Torso © Brian English

[End Page 199]

Most high love, if I should die Without having learned whence I possessed you, In what sun was your abode Or in what past your time, at what hour I loved you,

Most high love that passes memory, Fire no hearth holds that was all my day, In what destiny you traced my story, In what slumber your glory was beheld,     Oh my abode . . .

When I am lost to myself, Divided into the chasm of infinity, Infinitely when I am broken, When the present presently enrobing me     Has betrayed,

Through the universe in a thousand bodies shattered, Of a thousand not yet gathered instants, Of winnowed ashes windblown to the heavens’ void, You will remake for a strange year     One sole treasure

You will remake my name and image Of a thousand bodies borne by days away. Live unity with neither name nor face, Spirit’s heart, oh center of mirage     Most high love.

(Très haut amour, s’il se peut que je meure Sans avoir su d’où je vous possédais, En quel soleil était votre demeure En quel passé votre temps, en quelle heure     Je vous aimais,

Très haut amour qui passez la mémoire, Feu sans foyer dont j’ai fait tout mon jour, En quel destin vous traciez mon histoire, En quel sommeil se voyait votre gloire,     O mon séjour . . . [End Page 200]

Quand je serai pour moi-même perdue Et divisée à l’abîme infini, Infiniment, quand je serai rompue, Quand le present dont je suis revêtue     Aura trahi,

Par l’univers en mille corps brisée, De mille instant non rassemblés encor, De cendre aux cieux jusqu’au néant vannée, Vous referez pour moi une étrange année     Un seul trésor

Vous referez mon nom et mon image De mille corps emportés par le jour, Vive unité sans nom et sans visage, Coeur de l...


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pp. 198-206
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