Jack Lindsay

Form as Content, Content as Form


I said that spirit was a wind, but one
moving with sculptural hands. It leaves behind
cells of quick Imagery stolen from the Sun.
For Form impregnates everywhere this wind
and so the wind in turn curls everything
into the shape which leans towards Desire.
Form as the symbol of the wind I take,
that no dead matrix may deceive our hands
stamping out dyes of death in beauty’s name.
Consciousness as far greater than the mind,
and greater than the senses, I proclaim,
but consciousness as Form. Who understands?

You must be one whose love can never tire.
You must be one who does not fear the wind
but plaited in its manes can ride the Seas
and scoop the foam to crystal ecstasies,
dragging up Venus from eternal death
to sob with kisses underneath her breath
and so ascend to heaven on a shell
patient as your cupped hands: up out of hell.
You must not fear the curls of the mad wind
but stand for ever at its curling core
where in the balance of terrific force,
bending on all sides from the pressure, you
serenely mould the beauty you adore,
knitting the thews that others would divorce,
and passionately prove that this is true:
Consciousness is the Form of your Desire.


If consciousness is Form, we find
forms, though the merest figment of
the Sun’s constructive fantasy,
are consecrated deeply, all.
Taken anew into the mind
and left to burn away in love,
they merge into that energy
or from its centre fall.

Form is the first thing. For we see
though Form needs life to feed upon,
life in itself could never be
unless it had a shape to don.
Therefore, both ultimate and first,
immediate and yet never known,
glitters the Form, in Time immersed,
yet timeless. Wind, yet carving stone.

And Form itself must integrate
not merely forms that left alone
fade into separate barrenness,
but life itself must be made whole
by Form which unifies its fate
and puts a quest of line and tone
sweetly trembling through all stress
to harmonise the soul.

Therefore, in love’s naked embrace,
the eventual candour is revealed
since by hot face and hotter face
an infinite compact has been sealed.
The body, Form’s dim instrument,
is there drawn closer in the mesh.
Not casual touch or sight is meant,
but singleness of active flesh.

All that the touch confirms of sight,
rounding a pattern into heat:
all that the eyes in shreds of silk
offer the straying fingertips:
all in the pool of drowning light
curves, like a wind, from head to feet
and back to where, in maze of milk,
the body opens to the hips.

This is the only unity
that life can give as real Form;
and in the bed of beauty we
must learn to keep all methods warm
whereby we seek a frame to serve
as wire for Venus’ lively spine
and concentrate life’s subtlest curve
to subtler mass and line.


Then let us laugh at the melancholy cry:
Love has no solace for a sculptor’s fingers
fumbling at heat while dull light crumples by
on beds where no charmed body palely lingers.

For beauty flushes, they cry, around that slope
sleepy with thighs and crazing with despair,
and then is gone before we even can hope
to hang one quickness on the tasseled air,

one smile to curl upon the trellised gloom,
one pout to burn, one turning of the wrist
to thread with melody the tousled room
and compensate the silence for girls kisst
and gone for ever, slipping down the stair
with finger on the lip and stockinged grace.
Each, looking sweetly through a shock of hair,
shakes out her gravely disappearing face —

all gone. Now nothing but a photograph
to mock those kisses with an idiot mask
behind which bells are tolled and mourners laugh
because the name’s forgotten if they ask.

Or else a garter scented with old moons
and chattering silver of a lilied lawn
when heroines in long dishevelled swoons
lay posed deliciously on Music’s lawn.

We cannot hold the beauty? What is gained
that mouth spurns mouth a moment, wetly red,
and sweetness babbles, tenderness half feigned
and sprawled uncomfortably upon a bed.

What have we gained? they cry. Whether we take
and sieve this beauty through our open pores
or else refuse our appetites to slake
on Venus rustling to a nest of whores?

Nothing is left, they cry, save an empty sheet
which holds no crease of her compassionate beauty.
Nothing is left. Why then should one repeat
this tedious act like a priapic duty?

But we, we listen to them as they cry,
and we laugh together, for we too despair.
Our flesh is torn to stars, and in the sky.
Music has torn it at our merry dare.

We too despair and yet we do not plead.
Love that has wounded us alone can cure.
We bleed in Music. Therefore let us bleed
in staunchless stars. We laugh and shall endure.


That pause, that shelving gush of ecstasy
revealing statues on a barren night
by lightning-flashes where the darting curve
becomes the clearing edges of the statue:
this instant of tumultuous harmony
when all our being pours out like a Sun
its unstopped torrent of gyrating flame
and whirling discs of unity, upon
the universe of warmly gaping forms:
 this is the glitter that unrolls all space
because it has reduced space to a point
gushing with discs of Form:

this is the moment
from which Time throbs out on a stony world
in piercing arrowheads which strike the flatness
and send it into foam of wreathing life
and seas where Venus gathers in the depths.


Again she comes, but this time in a breadth
of soft mercurial light outcolouring
the former litter of her love. Again
she comes, and we must catch her in a net
more richly woven from the heap of light
or she’ll evaporate through broken senses
like her own pearl inside the vinegar
of our soured energy. We now must cast
wider the net, as well as make it richer,
drawing a catch of huddled images
as sparkling as a herring-catch at dawn.
The senses now must mingle like the light
of gems reflecting one another thickly
and then all burning in the tossing water.

This is the task before the poet now,
while at the same time seeking the huge rhythm
that sends life hurdling at the gap of death
to snatch a tuft of stars beyond its reach:
all this, the images so brightly touched
that if they tell us in a single stanza
merely how a young girl bent at a Kiss,
we know the way her hands moved daintily
plucking at beauty for the next twelve hours,
each second of her idling, and much more.
This is the concentration that we need.
It sends Time skurrying with its cuff of beauty,
the unity which branches in the Image.
And this delight, I say, is conscious Music.

Then let her come, for we are ready for her
The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
burned on the water, and the glittering foam
hissed round it like the sparks of that great torch;
and all the flickering tassels of the Sun,
the tangled threads of light, the bannered world,
all the tosst shreds of colour everywhere,
were part of that blown fire whose sweetest gold
paled inwards till it reached the quiet core
where Cleopatra’s face mused on her hands
and set the day alight.

SOURCE: Lindsay, Jack. Collected Poems, illustrated by Helen Lindsay. Lake Forest, IL: The Cheiron Press, 1981. xvi, 605 p., [40] leaves of plates. Signed. Copy #31. From the section: Strain, Stress, and Break: I. First Impact of Europe (Poems 1926-1930); pp. 156-161.

Note: I assume that ‘appetities’ is a typo and that he did not intend to coin the word ‘appetitties’, so I corrected it to ‘appetites’.

Collected Poems [Section Headnotes] by Jack Lindsay

A Checklist of Jack Lindsay's Books
Includes all of the following Lindsay links & more

"A Note on My Dialectic" by Jack Lindsay

"Towards a Marxist Aesthetic" by Jack Lindsay

Adorno and the Frankfurt School by Jack Lindsay

A Garland for Jack Lindsay

Jack Lindsay and British Poetry in the 1930s by Adrian Caesar

"The Origins of Jack Lindsay's Contributions to British Marxist Thought" by Joel R. Brouwer

Spinoza & Marxism: Selected Bibliography (with Basic Spinoza Web Guide)

British Marxism in Philosophy, Science, and Culture Before the New Left:
Essential Historical Surveys

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Offsite Links:

Jack Lindsay - Wikipedia

Papers of Jack Lindsay (1900-1990) (MS 7168, National Library of Australia)

The Origins of Alchemy in Graeco-Roman Egypt by Jack Lindsay
Poem To Marie Delcourt-Curvers [HMTL]
To Marie Delcourt-Curvers [pdf file]
The First and Concluding Chapters

Julian Tuwim - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pri Poeziaĵoj de Julian Tuwim (K. R. C. STURMER) / Unikoda versio
(in Esperanto)

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