A naturall foole that could never learn by heart the order of numerall words, as One, Two, and Three, may observe every stroak of the Clock, and nod to it, or say one, one, one; but can never know what houre it strikes...Nor is it possible without Letters for any man to become either excellently wise, or (unless his memory be hurt by disease, or ill constitution of organs) excellently foolish. For words are wise mens counters, they do but reckon by them: but they are the mony of fooles...one man calleth Wisdome, what another calleth Feare; and one Cruelty, what another Justice; one Prodigality, what another Magnanimity...such names can never be true grounds of any ratiocination. No more can Metaphors, and Tropes of speech: but these are less dangerous, because they profess their inconstancy; which the other do not.--Leviathan, 1.4
Night nursed not him in whose dark mind
The clambering wings of birds of black revolved,
Making harsh torment of the solitude.
The walker in the moonlight walked alone,
And in his heart his disbelief lay cold.--Wallace Stevens.
Despite the helpful reminder of 3AM Magazine, we at NewAPPS failed to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of Wallace Stevens' Harmonium. Seneca's mysterious, terse (under 325 words) tenth Letter, brought me back to Stevens' early poetry. Stevens talks of the (nightly) "torment of solitude," faced by the poetic mind (who happens to be a religious skeptic). Yet, Seneca seems to suggest that some of the very best people should seek solitude; in particular they should living with their conscience [conscientia] (recall eight letter). But presumably Stevens's poetic disbeliever is expressing his conscience faitfully.