Monday, 20 July 2009


O you,
Who came upon me once

Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,

Why did you not strangle me before speaking

Rather than fill me with the wild honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy

Of the forest bees?

Amy Lowell

From kvond:

I’m not sure if you have this in mind with your affinity for “paralysis,” but Sappho’s beautiful use of the word λυσιμέλης

Once again limb-loosening Love makes me tremble,

the bitter-sweet, irresistable creature

comes to mind; the word is often translated “limb-loosening,” used to describe the powers of the creeping, undefeatable, sweetly-bitter creature Eros, who has returned. Limb-loosening of course is what Homer uses to describe what happens upon a death-blow in battle [sleep as well], but there is a word-play here, as μέλος (limb), also can mean a “song, or strain” (melody, the song-road). The loosening is both a re/lease of limbs and song, but also a death. But even more, there is a hint of the verb μέλω, “I care, I have concern,” so the limb-loosener is also the care-loosener.


  1. Through the fog shrouded woods I wander the twilight, sometimes the bright lights of human habitations flare dimly in the mist, I avoid them, turn deeper into the fog, the woods, the marshlands and stumble on seeking a path, brambles tearing at my limbs, the fog seems endless, dark evergreens loom, then disappear, then when least expected, a clearing where a mysterious woman girl waits with dark eyes wild black hair wrapped in white shroud concealing forms, troubling forms, she waits there for another, I look back over my shoulder as I wander back into the night, the fog, under the ghostly moon, she stands still, silent, she waits, she waits...

  2. Arresting awe. The photo is mesmerising and real, real, real.
    The words are strong; I love this loosener of limbs word.
    Eros, who knows from whence it comes? But once it arrives, you know, you know that you may see your Death.
    The eyes in your photo show this wonderful paradox. She brings Love, she brings Death.
    We are powerless within Her gaze.

  3. i love that wild white honey image.

    unsure about the limb loosening tho

  4. The fascinating thing about photographs is that they are as much about what is seen, as they are about what is unseen. Do you see passion? Do you see fear? Yet, tangibly, they haunt the frame.

    The photograph dissembles a world where there is no light.

    In some, that world is a bang, in others, a whimper.

  5. Oh, this is a stunning post. The photo, Amy Lowell's words, and then those of kyond all combine so beautifully, so intensely. Sappho would surely smile were she to read such loveliness.

  6. Can't see what kind of goddess she is
    Cannot tell nor figure how great she is,how far she can reach.
    She nourishes me, you, all people; like
    Earth, deprived, longing for rain, when
    Ground is dry, barren by lack of water.
    Venerable Sky, filled with rain,
    Desires to fall.
    And when both are joined as one, they produce all, all life can bear.
    Long time since I last saw the night dark, close the window before sun leaves, open them again after sun has already risen - that's why I see all your photography with 'light'. That's also what they do provide (to me). Even though at first sight one might be affraid, would like to see life, passion, light - source one would like to be fed with, sweet and alluring as wild bees honey.

  7. oh Roxana, leaving us to the mercy of such a haunting image ... such a haunting creature ... such haunting eyes...

  8. Whoever she may be, I adore the directness of this gaze from the screen, which I read as invitation darkened and textured with warning for the hazard/hasard of the approach….

    Beautiful quotations (though I think they are merely unfolding what is already present in the photo). Eros and thanatos as ekstasis/Aufhebung out of time and place into pure Being … a sense of things that comes to me every day, now. Draw near to her, I see, and all the nouns quicken and dissolve into verbs….

  9. Gorgeous synthesis. Thank you for making such use of my mere words, and then Sappho's words as well.

    I don't know if it is a coincidence,(or surely it was intentional,) but Amy Lowell's words are also drawn from Sappho:

    O you,
    Who came upon me once
    Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
    Why did you not strangle me before speaking

    ...therein cold water babbles through apple branches, and the whole place is shadowed by roses, and from the shimmering leaves the sleep of enchantment comes down..."

    (fragment 2 trans. Campbell)

    And a highly experimental translation:

    ...there, water cold-soul'd was ringing
    through braids of apple-wool, with roses, the whole child-place
    had cast shadows, and from the
    shimmering of leaves
    a coma was pouring down.

  10. Des abeilles de forêt butinent pour notre survie pour féconder la fleurs et le beau fruits arrive. Un linge poser sur tes épaule me calme.

  11. the dark night of her hair seems to be moving outwards, taking over...

  12. This picture intrigues me and yet i struggle to find something sensible to say!
    what is more important is the look behind the look, the concerns of the artist at and before the moment of creation, for, the finished article is not the one one begins with.

    anyway, thanks for introducing us the the blog Kvond?. i generally distrust philosophy blogs, they are more intimidating than the philosophers themselves.....the eros thanatos issue shd be beyond debate( i speak as one admirer of Lacan). the wish to die, to be annihilated is so wonderful....thus comes love, for it is nothing other than self harm. thus death.

    the genet quote....i watched querelle recently, i had obviously forgotten where he utters that in the novel, and then the sentence. it is beautiful, isn't it?
    why doesn't one of your divas tell us the same thing in one of your photos? i know you will do the quote justice.
    take care.

  13. Here, the mirror image of Franz von Stuck's THE SIN; can another one of the femme fatale exist, after this ne plus ultra of utmost seduction by eros and oblivion in a body, a gaze, a dark opium cloud of hair: here the aesthete's
    dream on the edge of madness; the hallucination of the Poet as his delirium dissolves into death: for who would not wish to die beneath the mouth of this creature?

  14. ah, Owen - what a fascinating story you see behind - or beyond? - this picture. a touch of gothic here, or those early german romantic visions. what i find most interesting is that your joyful nature is visible even here, in this dark landscape of the soul: i would have made a complete drama out of it, but you only 'look back over your shoulder' as you wander away - that is indeed something i envy :-)

    merc, my dear merc. i don't even know what i could say. it was very hard to find a picture for these words, you know? none seemed to fit. and i doubted even this one, until you wrote this. then i knew i was right, and the other responses that came afterwards confirmed it.

    swiss, since everyone else seems to have fallen in love with this word, i am very interested to hear why you have doubts about it. you don't like its sound in English? or is it not the word, but the process itself you deny? but of course, that honey image is awsome!

  15. how right you are, Prospero, about the nature of photography. the seen and the unseen, at the same time. perhaps the unseen haunting us more than the seen. but then: what one sees in a picture tells perhaps more about oneself than about the picture as such.

    S., if Sappho were to smile and like this - what more could i still want? thank you...

    Robert, is this your poem? I haven't expected this turn of things, from Eros to the Great Goddess :-) i should have, though. everything you say is so lovely and peaceful that it makes me want to enjoy it in silence...

  16. ffflaneur :-)

    James, i love that vision of the swirl of nouns becoming verbs in her presence. Also, you touch a point which has always amazed me: that evolution of the French 'hasard' into the English 'hazard' is so interesting, isn't it? do you know when and how it happened? It is so fascinating that you place her at that centre where the two merge and become unseparable.

  17. Kvond, i can't tell you how grateful i am that you came here, that you told me this. Once again, i want to thank you for your post "Looking at the Limb-loosener: Between Image and Word" - i think i forgot to tell you how much i loved this title, i think it deserves a book :-)

    The Lowell-Sappho coincidence (the "hasard"!) is indeed remarkable, and the lines are breathtaking. How i envy you for reading Greek - i am hardly satisfied with any translation of German texts, and i imagine it must be even more so with old Greek...

  18. Allan, cette phrase est magnifique: 'un linge pose sur tes epaules me calme" - c'est un grad vers d'un poeme qui aurait du etre ecrit.

    A propos des abeilles, connais-tu ce livre: "Le jour où l’abeille disparaîtra" par Jean-Christophe Vié?

    Manuela, is it a menacing feeling? not only the eyes, but the hair as well, perhaps - a warning, as James says.

    Marius :-P

  19. Kubla, it is enough if the picture speaks to you in a way, we don't need those 'sensible things', do we?

    but are you saying that you would like me to find a secret woman for the Genet quote? ah this is quite a challenge, let me think. and see. i would be intimidated to show it to you, i think.

    as far the Eros/Thanatos thing, of course, what else could i say? ah, one more quote, just for you: "Human sexuality is constituted as a kind of psychic shattering, as a threat to the stability and integrity of self [...] We desire what nearly shatters us, and the shattering experience is, it would seem, without any specific content--which may be our only way of saying that the experience [of sex] cannot be said, that it belongs to the nonlinguistic biology of human life." (Bersani)

  20. Sutton, i absolutely love that painting, thank you for pointing the similarity, it is striking, yes.
    we seem to share the same fascination for the dark opium cloud and the aesthete's dream...

    and i've just remembered another voice of ancien times, after Sappho, let's listen to Sophia:

    For I am the first and the last.
    I am the honored one and the scorned one.
    I am the whore and the holy one.
    I am the wife and the virgin.
    I am the mother and the daughter.

    For I am knowledge and ignorance.
    I am shame and boldness.
    I am shameless; I am ashamed.
    I am strength and I am fear.
    I am war and peace.
    Give heed to me.
    I am the one who is disgraced and the great one.


  22. Michael, you know my love for Munch - and this painting has haunted me for years! thank you...
    but now they burned it, you know that, don't you? they destroyed it! I mean... how how -

  23. Roxana: "How i envy you for reading Greek - i am hardly satisfied with any translation of German texts, and i imagine it must be even more so with old Greek..."

    Kvond: I have to say that translations of the Greek in almost every case, are painfully, woefully distortive. Among other things, English syntax simply cannot accommodate the serpentine quality of Greek reflexive delays and bracketing.

    But if you love German, perhaps reading Holderlin's thought to be bizarre translation of the "Antigone" would be interesting for you, (if you haven't read it). Like in many of the last hymns of his, he is attempting to "think in Greek" but "write in German", half loosing his mind in the process (of course).

  24. your dark cicles seem so sad and desperate, of course provokative.., though you did intentionally for your photography, i guess..

    question, are you on your journey of self-denial still? or is it just for photo-linguistic practice?

  25. hmmmm......what a brutal, *honest* picture.... it bespeaks powerful, primareal emotions. there is much tension in its stillness.

    Did I mention how beautiful all 'your secret women' are.

    P.S: tell your mother that wonders never cease ;-)

  26. Kvond, thank you so much for these explanations, i can only say that i imagine it to be like this. but having no idea of Greek whatsoever i don't know where to look for analogies. i am very interested in the translation process and i would love to read your comments or notes on Greek translations, if you care to post them from time to time. i think they could be insightful even for outsiders like me. in my own experience with translations the ultimate alterity point i have come across would be, of course Japanese - but being an altogether language type, to which none of our indo-european linguisitc rules apply, it is obvious why it is like this.
    i will check on Hoelderlin too.

  27. hello Peter! it seems that your Asian journey makes you more hermetic, i have absolutely no idea what self-denial journey you talk about :-) and no, i think that many readers have reacted to the 'truth' or 'honesty' of this picutre exactly because there is nothing fake or 'intentional' here - but i won't explain why the dark circles are there, these are the secrets of my secret women :-)

  28. Zuma, you are back! i am so happy :-)

    i needed a photograph able to bespeak "powerful, primeval emotions" for Eros, and it was not easy to settle for this one, in this case the words were so powerful that they tended to overwhelm the images.

    and thank you for praising my secret women :-)
    ps. ah, you would have to send an army of elephants carrying gems and gold over to make my mother believe that :-P

  29. i disagree. i did not think the words overshadow the picture at all. you will notice I did reference the text at all; which is ever more pertinent as it relates myth and history (though i must admit sappho is my least familiar of the ancient greek poets. I have read some of her verses and I was not much inspired by their fervour). the picture is very powerful; without this picture 'loose-limbed" is just a word.
    it appears to be always thus: the artist envies the complex intricacies of the written word; its brooding reflective subtleness; while the writer thinks his craft pales before the glory of a single burst of color or mood of shadow...

    But speaking of your have not yet asked why she should judge my kind more kindly; or why are suddenly become more worthy of her reckoning?... but elephants! tsk tsk...what an orientalist thing to say... what a clumsy and cumbersome way to send something all the way back in retroversion of Alexander's march! such gifts as I commend her were traditionally sent to Europe in sleek, extremely fast veliferous ships called clippers; of which i'm sure you've heard atleast of the cutty sark....

  30. nonono - i didn't think at all you were saying that. and neither did i think that the words overwhelmed this particular picture, my apology for such a clumsy wording. i said: it was difficult to find an image that would not be overshadowed by the powerful words - but then i found this one and i was satisfied with it. and it seems it was a good choice, judging by the reactions here.

    also, of course it is an 'orientalist' thing to say, i specifically did my best to make it sound like this - also wanted to add some 'spices' and 'heavy perfumed oils' - what else do you still have there? ah, indian silk, of course - in the weekend i took pictures of a friend dressed in a fabulous indian silk skirt, and we were mesemerized by its sunny reflections :-)
    of course i just assumed that you finally managed to go the post office and send me those teas!!!

    ps. i should begin a Sappho series here on the Bridge, you give me an idea.

  31. excuse me while you are so engaged. I was always more off a Pindar person. i'll just go and ah...water my elephants or something....

    and the blame is all mine i'm afraid . my careless eye (yes Zuma, just go ahead and blame the tools, as always. just great) did not notice that you used the plural - 'images' - implying obviously the ones you dismissed not the one you finally chose. 'my bad' as they so succinctly phrase it in california...

  32. Non Roxana je ne connais pas ce livre de Jean-Christophe Vié; par contre je connais la chaine alimentaire de la pollinisation et donc de la présence des fleurs, fruits et légumes..les OGM jouent également un rôle néfaste parce qu'ils contiennent des insecticides. Bien qu'ils soient dédiés à la lutte contre les papillons, les mites et les coléoptères, ils ont certains effets néfastes sur les abeilles. Cependant, en Europe, il y a encore peu de champs cultivés avec des OGM, par rapport aux Etats-Unis, au Brésil ou à l'Inde, mais cela ne va pas durer...