- Poetic Image and Metaphysical ConceptionThree Figures of the Literary Predecessors and Three Configurations of the Real
There is no classification of the universe that is not arbitrary and conjectural. The reason is very simple: we do not know what the universe is. . . . One might say more; one might suspect that there is no universe in the organic, unifying sense conferred by that ambitious word. . . . The impossibility of penetrating the divine scheme of the universe cannot dissuade us, though, from offering up human schemes, even if we are aware they are provisional.—J. L. Borges
We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity which holds that all observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe.—B. L. Whorff [End Page 163]
Whenever a mind of true greatness and genius occupies itself with language, this phenomenon becomes manifest in reality. . . . The real importance of studying languages lies in the role of language in forming representations. Everything is there, for it is the sum of these representations that makes the human being.—W. von Humboldt
There is a stronger and stronger need to seek, not a universal grammar, but rather a particular stylistics. . . . The center of language shifts from Logic not to Psychology only, but to Esthetics.—E. Cassirer
Among the capabilities generally considered to determine the specificity of the human, the privilege of "thinking" and "poeticizing" is usually traced back to the faculties of reason and imagination that are held to differentiate us from other living beings. We speak of a rational animal—zoon logon, res cogitans, homo sapiens—emphasizing our ability to know and organize the world we live in; and we speak of an imaginative animal—homo poeticus, homo faber—emphasizing our ability to project ourselves beyond the immediate and create what has never yet been, to withdraw from the tyranny of present facticity and forge new ways of conceiving ourselves and the world.
When it comes to discerning the common trunk from which this bicephalous appearance arises, this twofold thinking and poeticizing capability, we may recall that, historically, the specificity of the human has also been traced back to the capacity for language: to a homo linguisticus who does not confine himself to communicating through significant gestures or noises, but inhabits and imagines the world through language and languages. For it is the poetic forms and behaviors of language that are the key to the ways we imagine and think (in that order), for the ways we imaginatively figure and rationally configure the world.
Certainly, from a critical-transcendental perspective that scrutinizes the formal conditions of possibility of representation, an attempt to show [End Page 164] in detail how the poetic performances of language underlie the ways in which the world is imaginatively figured and rationally configured would involve a patient consideration of the synthesizing function of its forms (which need to be differentiated from and given precedence over its function as a mere tool for communicating the given) to show the extent to which these forms underpin, differentiate, and transform human representation. Only then could we appreciate in full how theoretical concepts and poetic imagery are forms of synthesis that impose a type of characteristic linkage at the level of language that projects a type of characteristic linkage in representations of the real at different levels, from the most immediate to the ultimate way in which the world is metaphysically configured.
But this, at least, is what the following is meant to convey a comprehension of by way of an experience in medias res of three poems by authors who are classics of their respective traditions, namely, Horace, a Latin poet of the first century, Du Fu, a Chinese poet of the golden age or Tang era, and Ezra Pound, one of the great innovators in the poetics of the twentieth century. For an attention to the dominant behavior of their poetic forms can reveal the extent to which these works from different cultures and eras, while ostensibly speaking about the same thing—namely, their relationship to a strong literary predecessor: Pindar, Li Po, and Browning and Co., respectively—actually poetize and...