William and I are walking toward the massive front doors of the Library when a hand softly grabs my arm from behind.
“Socrates. Might you have a moment?”
I turn to see Virginia Woolf standing stunningly behind me with a stack of books under one arm, but before I can respond, I hear from William.
“Please go ahead Socrates. We can continue our discussion of truth another time. Good evening Virginia. I will see you both later at the evening’s event.”
“Thank you William. Please excuse my interruption.”
“No problem at all my dear lady.” William opens one of the Library’s doors and leaves.
“I so love this Library Socrates. It has every book I will ever want to read and I have all the time there is to read them. This is a book lover’s heaven. I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’”
“I agree Virginia. This is where I come to listen, to connect the silent energy between the word and the brain. The voices here speak in whispers audible only to those who truly listen. The voices of all those who have ever put ink to paper speak to you here and are silent when one does not need their intervention.”
“This is what concerns me Socrates. I do not know my voice. One moment it is this. The next moment it is that. Polar opposites exist in this, my one body.”
“Do you think this tension of opposites is detrimental to your creativity?”
“No I do not. I believe in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female… The androgynous mind is resonant and porous… naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”
“True Virginia. Then why fear it? Perhaps you should continue with your examination of your own words.”
“I want my writings to be true Socrates, but how much of the truth do I tell? Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”
“This again is all true Virginia. So I must ask the question, ‘For whom do you write?’”
“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments… What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think on re-reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; since I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.”
“Truth is not an absolute Virginia, but please tell me, how would you write about the place where these two energies reside? Your soul?
“One can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes, and yet, how beautiful a street is in winter! It is at once revealed and obscured. Here vaguely one can trace symmetrical straight avenues of doors and windows; here under the lamps are floating islands of pale light through which pass quickly bright men and women, who, for all their poverty and shabbiness, wear a certain look of unreality, an air of triumph, as if they had given life the slip, so that life, deceived of her prey, blunders on without them. But, after all, we are only gliding smoothly on the surface. The eye is not a miner, not a diver, not a seeker after buried treasure. It floats us down a stream; resting, pausing, the brain sleeps perhaps as it looks.”
“And that stream Virginia has brought you here at my request.”
“A moment, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length my dear friend and I have taken up much of your precious time.”
“You can only receive what I freely give. Time changes everything and we adapt as best we can. You have not taken my time. We are both a part of this shared moment Virginia.”
“Are you saying Socrates that a self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”
“Yes Virginia. I am. We are.”
The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fourteen — William Blake will be published on Sunday, December 30, 2018.
Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.