Variation on Heraclitus

“You cannot step into the same river twice.” δὶς ἐς τὸν αὐτὸν ποταμὸν οὐκ ἂν ἐμβαίης.

– Heraclitus

Louis MacNeice, Variation on Heraclitus:

Even the walls are flowing, even the ceiling,

Nor only in terms of physics; the pictures

Bob on each picture rail like floats on a line

While the books on the shelves keep reeling

Their titles out into space and the carpet

Keeps flying away to Arabia nor can this be where I stood —

Where I shot the rapids I mean — when I signed

On a line that rippled away with a pen that melted

Nor can this now be the chair — the chairoplane of a chair —

That I sat in the day that I thought I had made up my mind

And as for that standard lamp it too keeps waltzing away

Down an unbridgeable Ganges where nothing is standard

And lights are but lit to be drowned in honour and spite of some dark

And vanishing goddess. No, whatever you say,

Reappearance presumes disappearance, it may not be nice

Or proper or easily analysed not to be static

But none of your slide snide rules can catch what is sliding so fast

And, all you advisers on this by the time it is that,

I just do not want your advice

Nor need you be troubled to pin me down in my room

Since the room and I will escape for I tell you flat:

One cannot live in the same room twice.


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