27 March 2013

The Drunken Consciousness

Arthur Symons (1865-1945), "The Absinthe Drinker," from Songs of the Vine with a Medley for Maltworms, selected and edited by William G. Hutchison (London: A.H. Bullen, 1904), p. 240:
Gently I wave the visible world away.
  Far off, I hear a roar, afar yet near.
  Far off and strange, a voice is in my ear,
And is the voice my own? The words I say
Fall strangely, like a dream, across the day:
  And the dim sunshine is a dream. How clear,
  New as the world to lover's eyes, appear
The men and women passing on their way!

The world is very fair. The hours are all
  Linked in a dance of mere forgetfulness.
    I am at peace with God and man. O glide,
Sands of the hour-glass that I count not, fall
  Serenely: scarce I feel your soft caress,
    Rocked on this dreamy and indifferent tide.

William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Longmans, Green & Co, 1902), p. 378:
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands in the place of symphony concerts and of literature; and it is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole.