A Fragment from June
June 22, 2006
Oakland, late night.
Noticing the Metropolitan
Museum Samuel Palmer catalog on the living room table…
Storm the heights of
Dance on the parapets of Eternity,
Fly the shining skies of Infinity…
That’s what I wanted to do
in my youth, whether I have done it or not…
For Palmer, there was all
that to do, but he lived only a small bourgeois life.
When in my youth I first
saw Palmer’s work, it was then the work of his youth was all there was for
me to see. That work and Kandinsky’s and others’ showed me one could
indeed “storm the heights of heaven.” Now, with the Met show and catalog,
I see Palmer failed.
Failed what? My ideal.
That ideal could not exist long in his time and place. Victorian England
had other heights to scale, other times to conquer and other spaces to
travel. And the most sure proof of that is in his loving son’s action to
save his father’s reputation by burning all of the youthful works that
remained in his father’s studio after his death. The half dozen works that
inspired me turn out to be all that remains of Palmer’s youth, and they
remain only because they had passed some earlier time into the possession
of someone else.
Maybe it is that
storming the heights
of heaven can never be more than a youthful dream… Yet, it was and is
the dream that drives.