Friday, August 5, 2016

Serif and Seraphim

I've been writing in Goudy Old Style this week, writing about a woman (Argenta, probably, or maybe Amyntas—like Gide's evocative North African journals, or Tamaya, from the Quechua) who has a letterpress, or borrows one.  The old style, old ways, old words ever call me.  The extra strokes of the serif letters make me feel less hurried, safe from being jostled, sitting in a stripy dress in stripy palm shade like one of Matisse's tranquil lady letter-writers, drinking minty tea with sugar cubes dropped into a tall glass with a pair of exquisite etched sugar tongs.

And serifs make me think of seraphim, as well.  The highest order of angels, the winged letters that carry messages of true moment; angels with three sets of wings, the serif letters with the extra lift and reach into the furthest breathy realm of words.

I can't find my Amyntas, which leaves me discombobulated, since this is the second copy I have lost.  So my mullings go—sending me off (tumbling out of my virtual hammock) in search of lost books, half-remembered art, quotes that might fit in my valise for the next leg of my leisurely progression from one shady spot to the next.

And though I was looking for a passage that would transport us to some exotic clime, maybe Tunisia or Algiers, I'm delighted with this from Rose Macauley, traveler extraordinaire, on the subject I began with (or shortly thereafter stumbled upon):

“Words, those precious gems of queer shape and gay colours, sharp angles and soft contours, shades of meaning laid one over the other down history, so that for those far back one must delve among the lost and lovely litter that strews the centuries. They arrange themselves in the most elegant odd patterns; the sound the strangest sweet euphonious notes; they flute and sing and taber, and disappear, like apparitions, with a curious perfume and a most melodious twang.”
—Rose Macauley, Personal Pleasures

(One of her most famous quotes, I notice, mentions the empyrean, which I almost touched upon just now, as I was flying up with angel's wings, but chose another word instead, only by chance.)

image:  Henri Matisse, Still Life with Sleeping Woman

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