From A Circle of Quiet



Madeleine L’Engle, reminiscing over her school years and the development of her craft in A Circle of Quiet, wrote: 

Looking through some old journals, I came across several [poems]. There was one, notable for its arrogance, if nothing else:

We lived on 82nd Street, and the Metropolitan Museum was my short cut to Central Park. I wrote:

I go into the museum
and look at all the pictures on the walls.
Instead of feeling my own insignificance
I want to go straight home and paint.

A great painting, or symphony, or play, doesn’t diminish us, but enlarges us, and we, too, want to make our own cry of affirmation to the power of creation behind the universe. This surge of creativity has nothing to do with competition, or degree of talent. When I hear a superb pianist, I can’t wait to get to my own piano, and I play about as well now as I did when I was ten. A great novel, rather than discouraging me, simply makes me want to write. This response on the part of any artist is the need to make incarnate the new awareness we have been granted through the genius of someone else.

I used the word ‘arrogant’ about those verses. I take it back. I don’t think it’s arrogance at all. It’s beauty crying out for more beauty. 

 Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

After reading this, I called my artist sister and read it to her over the phone. And, of course, she knew exactly what L’Engle was talking about, as I do in my own way–as we all do in our personal and unique expressions of art. But she can go to the Met any time she pleases… πŸ˜‰

6 Responses to “From A Circle of Quiet”

  1. Katie says:

    Oh how true those words are!
    I am a artist, writer and singer/musican- and when see, read, or listen to something wonderful, its all I can do but be inspired to create something of my own! Maybe my works of art (whether musical or visual) arent as grand as the masters that move me- but its such a great release to try!
    Yet of course- even the masters themselves had to be inspired by someone or something. It all goes back to the greatest artist of all/ Where would art be if it wasnt for the Creator? What would inspire us if we didnt have ribbons of crimson and gold across the evening sky, or a plush forest brimming with life?

  2. Melinda says:

    Oh!–I feel very much the same way.

  3. Thought you’d like that Melinda. πŸ™‚
    And, Katie, you are so right–the very fact that these words ring true with other artists is affirming in itself.

  4. Melinda says:

    You know what I think of Madeline L’Engle! πŸ™‚

  5. April says:

    That is very true…we go to hear “The Messiah” and we want to learn to sing (or some, perhaps, to compose)…or to the ballet, and we want to learn to dance. The only trouble comes when we cannot be satisfied with less than greatness, and give up altogether, as seems to be what I always do.

  6. MaureenE says:

    How true! I think each of us in our own humble way wants to give the gift of beauty to others and great works remind us of that desire. Most of us have a long way to go, but we can certainly strive towards that goal!

    Madeline L’Engle is quite insightful. As usual. πŸ™‚