Thursday, 14 January 2010

Edith Södergran: a biographical profile - 11


In The Shadow of the Future there is a sense of giving-up, the struggle for material existence is abandoned and the poet's soul is freed The victory is not achieved at once. Often there are seemingly overwhelming doubts to be overcome. The soul often seems unreal:
I do not believe in seeming and soul, the game of games is so foreign to me. (`Materialism')
Physical suffering intensifies her sensation of her own body's grossness and helplessness. Yet even this grossness and animal­ity becomes transformed into a redeeming force, the power of Eros:
My body is a mystery.
So long as this fragile thing lives you shall feel its might. I will save the world.
Therefore Eros' blood hurries to my lips, and Eros' gold into my tired locks.

Throughout the poems there is a sense that at last her body is exhausted, that in some sense her `I' is free of her physical self. Now that `I' is at one with cosmic forces and dimensions, the human body, which has been the means towards this liberation, can fall back into passivity. Life is no longer "my" life, but the life of nature, of God. The transition to this standpoint must have been intensely painful for her, as she loved the perceptions of her senses and enjoyed in every way her presence on theearth. But as her illness progressed, she must have become aware that this indirect experience of nature was not for her. As her body grew weaker she began to experience herself for moments as a part of nature. Naturally her thoughts began to turn towards death:
Truth, truth, do you lie in mortuaries among worms and dust? Truth, do you dwell there where is everything I hate?
She senses that she will not physically survive the onslaught of the forces which have been at war within her:
My crown is too heavy for my strength. Look, I can lift it up with ease,
but my remains will fall apart.
My remains, my remains, you are wonderfully bound together. My remains, I believe you are beginning to long for a coffin. Now it is not the electric hour,
my remains, you do not belong to me.

(`Four Little Poems', II)

In the end, her body must count for nothing, her soul for everything:
But a little worm saw in a dark dream
that the moon's sickle cut his being into two parts: the one was nothing,
the other was all things and God Himself.

("There is no one who has time")

The story of Edith Södergran's involvement with Rudolf Steiner need not concern us in detail. It is enough to say that she was very well aware of the shortcomings of his philosophy, inherent no less in his personality than in his books. But he did bring her a measure of peace in the last, lonely years of her life, and there can be no doubt that he was a catalyst, the `dagger in the breast' that made the writing of The Shadow of the Future possible. There can also be little doubt that if ill-health had not intervened, Edith Södergran would have certainly travelled to Switzerland in order to become a pupil of Steiner. She announced this several times in her correspondence with Hagar Olsson. Such a discipleship would have been perfectly in accord with Edith Södergran's dreams of establishing a new world order of saints and mystics, poets and artists. Hagar Olsson did in fact visit Steiner, partly out of a personal interest and partly also to satisfy her friend's craving for at least some second-hand knowledge of her idol.

Biographical profile - 1
Biographical profile - 2
Biographical profile - 3
Biographical profile - 4
Biographical profile - 5
Biographical profile - 6
Biographical profile - 7
Biographical profile - 8
Biographical profile - 9
Biographical profile - 10

(to be continued)

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