During my first circuit of the highlands, I was taken by surprise near the north cape by a raucous many-voiced clamor; it reminded me that one of the curiosities of this island was its summer colony of northern murres.
Shortly thereafter I saw the birds soaring out from the cliffs; their nest sites were hidden from the eye by the overhanging bluffs. Only the birds whizzing to and from the cliffs were visible; they soared straight as an arrow to their breeding spots, like bees to an enormous beehive, and then turned back from there to their fishing grounds. I tried to no avail to follow them with my eye; they flew far out to sea, disappearing as points in the infinite. In just the same way, the returning birds popped back out of the emptiness of the horizon.
The spectacle possessed a magical orderliness, the sight of which elicited a certain torpidity. The sea assumed the aspect of a blank disc from whose circumference the winged beings streamed together like rays towards a secret midpoint, only to disperse back in the same formation. The soporific gleam of this mirror seemed further intensified by the fine network of flight paths that was laid out over it like a rigorously delineated scale.
Such figures also elicit a particular refinement or crystallization of the eye; like double-polished lenses, they seem to confer greater acuity to one’s glance. In their telluric mathematics, a mighty spectacle is presented to us, one in which the earth’s forces and orders are displayed more openly than usual. As in the second canto of the “Messiah”, terror is also blended into these visions – as if a terrifically restrained power stirred before one. But above all we sense something familiar, like a primordial melody, sounding in them – the bold double-dealing of the spirit that is so deeply absorbing to us and yet so deeply concealed. On the one hand, this game aspires to a supreme, metallic development of consciousness; on the other, it loses itself in untamed regions of elementary power.
In both tendencies, which so differ and seem to contradict each other like dream and reality, the unity and multiplicity of our mysterious world is hidden. We encounter them in every important issue of our times, in each of its theories and significant phenomena, indeed in the character of every individual of distinction. Nothing characterizes us better than the coexistence of this tremendous unchained power with a calm boldness of perspective – this is our style, one of volcanic precision, whose uniqueness will perhaps only be recognized after us.
Nonetheless, there are some things that historical consciousness will scarcely reconstruct, such as the wild and fortuitous manner in which the elementary and the organizational aspects of our powers alternate like fire and ice. We move through our world as if traversing a titanic city, lit up here by the glow of dreadful fires, while there workmen are busy on the foundations of an immense construction. Images of a deep and dull suffering that seems to happen in a dream alternate in rapid succession with a demonic invulnerability of the spirit, which vanquishes the chaos with the spell of its lights and lightening and its crystalline figures.
But as the image of the sea’s surface is united here with the ingenious movements of the insect-like birds, so places are imaginable in which these two great motifs approach each other and fuse; it may be in this congruence that the metaphysical part of our task lies.