Against all “paltry yatter” (Pound), one turns to King Lear (here, by Edwin Forrest), that cleansing naysayer, that great raging haruspickall:
I abjure all roofs, and chooseSomething to tarry with, to ream out the ear’s cloacal swirl and cavity. O dear.
To wage against the enmity o’ the air;
To be a comrade with the wolf and owl,—
Necessity’s sharp pinch.
Tightrope notes (Philippe Petit, translated by Paul Auster, out of a book call’d Translations (Marsilio, 1997), collecting The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert, Mallarmé’s A Tomb for Anatole, André du Bouchet’s The Uninhabited, and Petit’s On the High Wire.): “Each steel cable is lubricated when it is manufactured. The first operation, therefore, is to remove this grease. The best method is to stretch out the cable in the corner of a garden and leave it there for several years. At the end of that time, you will hunt through the tall grass to retake possession of the ‘old’ cable. To make is new again, wash it in gasoline and rub it with emery until it is clean and gray . . .”
And: “A cable must be in good condition. Without kinks or meat hooks. Kinks are traces left by an old loop or hook: the cable has been twisted, and when it is stretched out, a barely perceptible bump remains that even the greatest tension cannot eliminate. Meat hooks are the wires of a broken strand; they bristle up like splinters . . .”
Some exercises: “Walking backward.
Imitating characters, animals.
. . .
Balancing on a ladder, or on a step ladder.
Balancing on a chair, its struts or legs resting on the rope.
With a table and chair: a meal on the wire.
With a stove and kitchen equipment: cooking an omelette on the wire.
Pistol dancing, sword dancing. Knife throwing.
Precision shooting on the wire, shooting at a moving target, shooting balloons.
On a velocipede, bicycle.
. . .
Fireworks shot off on the wire (knapsack filled with sand in which fuses have been planted; helmet with a pinwheel; balancing pole adorned with flares and Catherine wheels—lighted with a cigarette at the middle of the wire). This exercise is often fatal.”
Some histories: “Jean-François Gravelet, a.k.a. Charles Blondin, prepared an omelette on the wire; he also opened a bottle of champagne and toasted the crowd. He even managed to take photographs . . . of the crowd that was watching him cross the rapids at Niagara Falls.
Madame Saqui created historical frescoes to the glory of Emperor Napoleon, all by herself on the tightrope . . .
I myself have witnessed the delicate crossings of Sharif Magomiedoff several times: he places the tip of his wife’s foot on his forehead and walks along the wire while keeping her balanced.”
And: “. . . be lazy—to the point of delirium!
. . . To be a wire walker in its profoundest sense means to leave the wire behind you, to discover the cables that have been strung even higher and, step by step, to reach the Magic Wire of Immobility, the Wire that belongs to the Masters of the World, The earth itself rests on it . . .”