08 January 2008

from Letters from England (Karel Čapek), At the Natural History Museum

But I mustn't forget the crystals, their shapes, laws and colours. There are crystals like cathedral pillars, as delicate as mildew and as sharp as needles, crystals which are limpid, blue, green like nothing on earth, fiery-coloured or black, mathematical, perfect, similar to the designs of strange, deranged scholars or reminiscent of livers, hearts, huge sexual organs and animal phlegm. They are crystal caves or monstrous bubbles of mineral dough. There is mineral fermentation, melting, growth, architecture and engineering. I swear to God, a Gothic church is not the most complicated of crystals. Even in us a crystalline strength persists. Egypt crystallised into pyramids and obelisks, Greece into columns, Gothic into pinnacles and London into cubes of black mud. Innumerable laws of construction and composition run through matter like secret, mathematical flashes of lightning. We must be exact, mathematical and geometric to be equal to Nature. Number and fantasy, law and abundance are the feverish forces of Nature. Becoming a part of Nature doesn't mean sitting under a green tree but creating crystals and ideas, creating laws and shapes, breaking into matter with incandescent flashes of lightning of a divine calculation.

Ah, how insufficiently exotic, how insufficiently courageous and exact is poetry!

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