Those hills are not hills

Fair is the sight from the midst of the Dnieper of the high hills, the broad meadows, and the green forest! Those hills are not hills: they have no foot; they are sharp-peaked at both bottom and top; under them and over them is the tall sky. Those woods standing on the slopes are not woods; they are hair growing on the shaggy head of the old man of the forest. Under it his beard washes in the water, and under his beard and over his hair–the tall sky. Those meadows are not meadows: they are the green belt tied in the middle of the round sky, and the moon strolls about in both the upper and lower half.
–Nikolai Gogol. Translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky

So much to admire here; each idea is surprising. After the banal though idyllic beginning, one expects the broad meadows to follow the high hills, but instead Gogol jumps to the woods. In each image a sphere is explained, but in each the sphere is different, until at the end we are given the moon, strangely aligned with the green belt of the meadows. The entire set of imagery is at once anthropomorphic and mechanistic while still retaining the feeling of a folktale.

I am so much further from the materials, both cultural and natural, than Gogol, but this feeling is what I want.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s