“What is essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Fox from The Little Prince
The Little Prince is a very small book [much like the prince is a small being], which holds massive truths. I readily identify with the book because of my research into and writing upon [including a masters thesis] William Blake, author and illustrator of Songs of Innocence and Experience. Blake’s work centered on the purity and true vision of children–the small, the pure–rather than adults. This was common during the Romantic period of English literature; and William Blake is considered to be one of the earliest of Romanticists.
The Little Prince was written by Antoine de Saint Exupery.
Please see the Wikipedia summary of the book’s plot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Little_Prince
The thoughts that I am presenting here are totally my own; I read this book 20 years ago; and this is how I remember it, I may be a tad off; but the message is the same.
The bulk of the narrative takes place in a desert; one is inclined to believe that the desert symbolizes a dusty, thirsty Waste Land that the author himself is experiencing and/or the generalized, dry and parched soul of humanity–i.e. TS Eliot‘s Waste Land, which was written at about the same time as The Little Prince. Early in the book, the prince begins talking about his one, special rose, whom he had left on his home asteroid.
The rose had blown into and planted itself upon the little prince’s planet. At first, the prince thought that this unremarkable sprig was a baobab, which was what he called a common weed. As the rose began to mature toward flowering, however, the prince was able to recognize the unique way that she began to emerge.
“But the shrub [baobab] soon stopped growing, and began to get ready to produce a flower. The little prince, who was present at the first appearance of a huge bud, felt at once that some sort of miraculous apparition must emerge from it. . . .[the flower] chose her colors with the greatest of care. She dressed herself slowly. She adjusted her petals one by one. She did not wish to go out into the world all rumpled, like the field poppies.”
The rose began to tell the prince about her thorns:
“One day, for instance, when she was speaking of her four thorns, she said to the little prince:
‘Let the tigers come with their claws!’
In mentioning the tigers, it would seem that Atoine de Saint Eupery might be alluding to Blake’s Tyger from Blakes’s Songs of Experience.
Essentially, Blake’s Experience state [the Tyger state] is the state of insensitivity and detachment that Blake considered to be characteristic of adults.
The Tyger is described as fearful, with dread hands and feet–a terrorizing creature. The Lamb, on the other hand, is of the Innocence state, Blakes asks of the Tyger:
“Did he smile his work to see? Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
While Blake associated Innocence with children, he associated Experience with adults.
[Antoine de Saint Eupery also makes reference to the adults, noting how they are totally ruining the planet. William Blake considered Innocence to be sublime because Innocence had not been hardened by life’s blows. Blake’s entire body of works develops this theme further and further. In fact, his later works describe a type of heaven that is inhabited by the people who have maintained their innocence and imagination and freshness of spirit. In his later works, Blake presents a fictionalized Christ-like figure, who is the embodiment of pure imagination. That figure is named Los. Los was trying to save mankind from the devastation of their own hardened states, which was caused by their losses of imagination. Needless to say, Blake was committed to the idea that the dry, shriveled, empty adult was the ruination of society.
Blake’s later works are very difficult to read. The Little Prince, however, [which essentially has the same message as that of Blake] is very easy to read.
‘I am not at all afraid of tigers,’ the rose continued, ‘but I have a horror of drafts.’ [Probably referring to insensitivity and coldness] . . . .
‘At night I want you to put me under a glass globe. It is very cold where you live.’ (pgs. 30-31)
The little prince says to the child, ’One never ought to listen to the flowers. One should simply look at them and breathe their fragrance.’
In referring to an experiencing of the rose without talking, it would seem that St. Exupery is alluding to what Tao Te-Ching called the Nameless.
As the little prince reflected upon what he had lost, in leaving his rose behind, he observed, [My rose] perfumed all my planet. But I did not know how to take pleasure in all her grace, This tale of claws, which disturbed me so much, should only have filled my heart with tenderness and pity.’ . . . [This is talking about his own (the author’s?) loss of Innocence, of his having moved into a personal Waste Land.]
” ‘ The fact is that I did not know how to understand anything. I ought to have judged by deeds and not by words. [Another reference to the nameless] She cast her radiance over me. I ought never to have run away from her. . . I ought to have guessed all the affection that lay behind her poor little stratagems. Flowers are so inconsistent! But I was too young to know how to love her. . . .’ ” (pgs 31-32)
I do not believe that the little prince is referring to a chronological youth–nor to Blake’s Innocence. I believe that he is referring to the type of spiritual youth that is also mentioned in the Bible: “In fact, though by now you should be teachers, you still need someone to teach you the basic truths of God’s word. You have become people who need milk instead of solid food.” Hebrews 5:12 International Standard Version
The nameless essence, which should inspire the artist, is a much deeper quality than that of a superficial rendering. The nameless essence springs from the wells of one’s being.
In an earlier post, I discussed the intuition that seems to push the artist and seems to make the decisions for the artist who is listening or feeling or sensing her. Michelangelo alluded to this intuition in saying that his sculptures lay within the rock–and that what he saw in the rock–or sensed through the rock–is what directed his chiseling.
I can honestly say that when I am truly painting [this definitely is not every time I paint or draw], I feel that same type of intuition pulling my hand and making my marks for me. My years of training as an expressionistic painter no doubt helps, too; a good expressionist is led by that same intuition. In order to be able to make these intuitive marks and brush strokes, we must listen to the Nameless–and we cannot hear that Nameless, if we cannot be quiet ourselves. This is a bit like dancing too fast. In this case, we are talking too loud or playing machines too loud. We must slow down and be quiet to hear our muses.
The Little Prince’s Fox summarizes the message of that book, in saying: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” We might add that it is also unhearable to the ear [Nameless] and unfeelable by the heart.
Trust Your Inner Voice
“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein