By Ana Parejo Vadillo (auth.)
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Extra resources for Women Poets and Urban Aestheticism: Passengers of Modernity
18 In ‘Felo de Se’, Levy gives prominence to Schopenhauer’s philosophy by examining the soul’s perpetual struggle and its ‘will to live’ even after death. The poem starts with the suggestion that modern man is in a profound crisis, he is tired of being chained to the speed of modern life: For repose I have sighed and have struggled; have sigh’d and have struggled in vain; I am held in the Circle of Being and caught in the Circle of Pain. I was wan and weary with life; my sick soul yearned for death; I was weary of women and war and the sea and the wind’s wild breath; (ll.
Ruskin had claimed that passengers’ vision would be compromised by speed, but George Augustus Sala argued quite the opposite, that in fact one could see more. ’ he wrote. ’ 163 Indeed, Sala recognised the spectacular possibilities of the omnibus, and described the experience as 36 Women Poets and Urban Aestheticism ‘vehicular panorama’: All these dramas on four wheels may be seen by him on the top of the omnibus, who may, if of a caustic turn, rub his hands, and cry, ‘Aha! 164 From the privileged position of the passenger’s seat (and by privileged I do not mean class privilege, but the privilege of site, of visual site) Sala saw both the private and the public life of the urban dweller.
I can now go about incognito, be as low as I please and indulge in debauch like ordinary mortals. 112 What is interesting about this poem, however, is that the poet has lost his halo while crossing the road. He is afraid of horses and vehicles and prefers to leave behind his halo rather than take the risk of being run over. The description of traffic as ‘death galloping at me from every side’ clearly indicates that a profound change, an ontological transformation, is taking place. The imminent menace of death has shocked the urban poet, forcing him to become different.