Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dark Fluxion, All Unfixable by Thought

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

—E coelo descendit Γνωθι σεαυτον.—Juvenal, xi. 27.

Γνωθι σεαυτον—and is this the prime
And heaven-sprung adage of the olden time !—
Say, canst thou make thyself?—Learn first that trade;—
Haply thou mayst know what thyself had made.
What hast thou, Man, that thou dar'st call thine own?—
What is there in thee, Man, that can be known?—
Dark fluxion, all unfixable by thought,
A phantom dim of past and future wrought,
Vain sister of the worm,—life, death, soul, clod—
Ignore thyself, and strive to know thy God!


An unusually pessimistic assessment of the importance of self-knowledge; which, of course, is deliberate, since Coleridge is turning the ancient adage to know thyself on its head.

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