Wednesday 6 December 2023

Ablative Absolute

Eavan Boland, Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1995), pp. 74-75:

   Then one day in my last year—although this is a figurative use of time—I began to understand something. It was something about the economy of it all: the way the ablative absolute gathered and compressed time. One day, again figuratively, it was a burdensome piece of grammar. The next, with hardly any warning, it was a messenger with quick heels and a bright face. I hardly knew what had happened. I began to respect, however grudgingly the systems of a language which could make such constructs that, although I had no such words for it, they stood against the disorders of love or history. They had described bridges and defined governments. They had left the mouth of the centurion and entered the minds of a Sicilian farm worker. They had forged alliances and named stars. And at that point of my adolescence, where the words I wrote on a page were nothing but inexact, the precision and force of these constructs began to seem both moving and healing.