Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Emily Brontë and Parmenides

Maddalena De Leo writes:

On 7th February an interesting meeting in English about Parmenides was held in Ascea-Velia, Italy, just the place where this ancient Greek philosopher was born and from which Eleatic School thought spread. The event was organized by Parmenideum (www. Parmenideum.com), an association whose purpose is the increasing of knowledge of the Eleatic School of Philosophy and, not least, of all its contemporary ramifications in intellectual life, science, and culture.

There were some lectures in the morning and a discussion workshop with Parmenideum’s founder, Mr Habeeb Marouf (from London) as a chairman. A concert was also held in the evening with Belgian cello player Mr Nicolas Deletaille and multimedia music composed by Mr René Mogensen. During the meeting our BS member Maddalena De Leo read the following considerations which drew the audience’s interest and attention to our beloved Brontë theme:

A SHORT NOTE linking an aspect of Parmenides thought to Emily Brontë’s poetic.
   As a long time scholar of Emily Brontë, the famous English author who lived in the mid-nineteenth century, I found in one of her poems a useful hint to today’s discussion about Parmenides Being/Not Being principle.
   I refer to the last two stanzas in the famous poem No coward soul is mine, probably written in 1845 and seemingly one of the last in her production but surely Emily Brontë’s crowning poetic peak and the consummation of her thought.
Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And Thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in Thee.

There is no room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since Thou art Being and Breath
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

The Brontës' biographer May Sinclair was the first and maybe the only critic to underline for us in her work The Three Brontës (1912) that these stanzas can be considered as a direct link to ‘one of the most ancient of all metaphysical poems, the poem of Parmenides on being’ so referring to Parmenides De Natura, 28 B8, vv. 19-25:
[Greek: pos d' an epeit apoloito pelon, pos d' an ke genoito;
  ei ge genoit, ouk est', oud ei pote mellei esesthai.

         *       *       *       *       *

  tos, genesis men apesbestai kai apiotos olethros.
  oude diaireton estin, epei pan estin homoion
  oude ti pae keneon....
                         ....eon gar eonti pelazei.]

   Surely Emily Brontë never heard of Parmenides in her remote Yorkshire village but her deism in this poem is conveyed towards an entity whose existence is the Being versus all the rest that is in any case a Not Being and we understand this in her last verse in particular ‘What thou art may never be destroyed’ where the author’s convinction is asserted as an absolute truth just following Parmenides path.
Reference texts:
1.     1 Brontë Emily, Poesie, opera completa, edited by Anna Luisa Zazo, Oscar Classici Mondadori, 1997
2.     2 Sinclair May, The Three Brontës, 1912

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