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On Poetic Imagination and Reverie [Excerpts]
Gaston Bachelard trans. Colette Gaudin
The image-producing forces of our mind develop along two very different lines.
The first take wing when confronted by the new; they take pleasure in the picturesque, in variety, in the unexpected event. The imagination to which they give life always finds a springtime to describe. In nature, far removed from us, they produce already living flowers.
The other forces which produce images plumb the depths of being; there they seek at once the primitive and eternal. They rise above seasons and history. In nature, within ourselves and without, they produce seeds, seeds in which form is buried in a substance, in which form is internal.
To speak immediately in philosophical terms, one might distinguish two imaginations: that which gives live to the formal cause, and that which gives life to the material cause - or, more concisely, formal imagination and material imagination. These latter concepts, expressed in abridged form, seem indeed indispensable to a complete philosophic study of poetic creation. A sentimental cause, a cause of the heart, must become formal before it can assume verbal variety, before it can become as changeable as light in its many colorations. But in addition to the images of form so often used by psychologists of the imagination, there are - as I shall show - images of matter, direct images of matter. Vision names them, kneads them, makes them lighter. One dreams these images of matter substantially, intimately, rejecting forms - and vain images, and the becoming of surfaces. They have weight, they are a heart.
There are, of course, works in which the two image-producing forces cooperate; indeed, it is impossible to separate them completely. The most mobile, the most changing reverie, the one entirely given over to forms, nonetheless keeps a ballast, a density, a slowness, a germination. On the other hand, any poetic work which descends deeply enough into the germ of being to find the solid constancy and fine monotony of matter, any poetic work which derives its force from the vigilant action of a substantial cause, must still flower, must adorn itself. For the initial seduction of the reader, it must embrace the exuberance of formal beauty.
As a result of this need to seduce, the imagination most often operates where joy goes - or at least where a joy goes! - in the direction of form and colors, of varieties and metamorphoses, of the probable shapes of future surfaces. It deserts depth, intimacy with the substance, volume.
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