A Great Alteration in My Sensations

I was again visiting my mother in Bath Royal United Hospital at the weekend. She has fallen and broken her right hip at home but is making a good recovery so far (see earlier blog). The hip operation has caused thankfully few problems or pains. She was showing off the scar which looks like something Victor Frankenstein might have managed – a raw purple wound from waist to half way down her thigh it seemed. A closed up gash, sewn together at intervals like the mouthful of grinning teeth in a Halloween pumpkin.

frankenstein

It really did make me think of Mary Shelley’s novel but in particular of one of my favourite passages in which the newly created Creature stumbles into the world, his senses ill-tuned, untuned, his mind void of language or any categorising facility. He sees a blur which only slowly becomes a recognizable world. And to be brutally honest, it was also in thinking of my father that this passage came to mind. I have written a little about his growing forgetfulness in this blog (see earlier blog). With his wife’s absence for almost 3 weeks now, his confusion becomes ever more obvious.

How strange that two related phenomena have such opposite effects. I love Shelley’s version of the first few years of a child’s perception because of its freshness and original immediacy of observation, to a great extent freed from the categories of language and preconception. But once we have grown used to such enabling props and supporting structures, the loss of them yields not freshness at all but absolute panic, fear, anger and bewilderment. I wondered whether playing over Shelley’s words (in edited form) and then systematically reversing them would evoke something of both states at either end of a life. The result, in the form of a specular poem, is given below, and I hope is an equivocal sort of success perhaps  . . .

  

A Great Alteration in My Sensations

after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

 

It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being

all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct

I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time

and it was, indeed, a long time

between the operations of my various senses

light pressed upon my nerves so that I was obliged to shut my eyes

darkness then came over me and troubled me, but hardly had I felt this when

light poured in upon me

a great alteration in my sensations

dark and opaque bodies surrounded me

the light became more and more oppressive

I sought a place

I felt cold also and half frightened

I knew and could distinguish nothing

I gazed with a kind of wonder

innumerable sounds

on all sides various scents

a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears, proceeded from the throats of little winged animals

the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me

the uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me

when I was oppressed by cold I found a fire

I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again

how strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects

 

how strange, I thought, that the same cause should produce such opposite effects

I thrust my hand into the live embers, but quickly drew it out again

when I was oppressed by cold I found a fire

the uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me

the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me

a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears, proceeded from the throats of little winged animals

on all sides various scents

innumerable sounds

I gazed with a kind of wonder

I knew and could distinguish nothing

I felt cold also and half frightened

I sought a place

the light became more and more oppressive

dark and opaque bodies surrounded me

a great alteration in my sensations

light poured in upon me

darkness then came over me and troubled me but hardly had I felt this when

light pressed upon my nerves so that I was obliged to shut my eyes

between the operations of my various senses

and it was, indeed, a long time

I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time

all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct

it is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being

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