Pierre / writing

‘Here surely is a wonderful stillness of eight hours and a half, repeated day after day. In the heart of such silence, surely something is at work. Is it creation, or destruction? Builds Pierre the noble world of a new book? or does the Pale Haggardness unbuild the lungs and the life in him? … Is there then all this work to one book, which shall be read in a very few hours; and, far more frequently, utterly skipped in one second, and which, in the end, whatever it be, must undoubtedly go to the worms? … Not so, that which now absorbs the time and the life of Pierre, is not the book, but the primitive elementalizing of the strange stuff, which in the act of attempting that book, has upheaved and upgushed in his soul. Two books are being writ, of which the worlds shall only see one, and that the bungled one. The larger book, and the infinitely better, is for Pierre’s own private shelf. That it is, whose unfathomable cravings drink his blood, the other only demands his ink. But circumstances have so decreed, that the one can not be composed on the paper, but only as the other is writ down in his soul. And the one of the soul is elephantinely sluggish, and will not budge at a breath. Thus Pierre is fastened by two leeches; – how then can the life of Pierre last? Lo! he is fitting himself for the highest life, by thinning his blood and collapsing his heart. He is learning how to live, by rehearsing the part of death.’
Herman Melville, Pierre or the Ambiguities (1852)

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