Category Archives: Le Brun, Charles

Pain – has an Element of Blank

Simple Bodily Pain, 1785, Charles Le Brun
Background Image: Simple Bodily Pain, 1785, Charles Le Brun

Whereas “Pain” is all consuming of itself, it’s interesting how she describes it has having an “Element of Blank”, as if there are other elements which make up “Pain”. And what is this “Blank”? Usually it’s an absence which is unusual in that “Pain” is made up of a lack of something, a lack of some “Element” which is also “Infinite”.

Plato spoke of the Forms and the ancients were familiar with the elements (Water, Earth, Air, Fire), but I wonder if it ever occurred to them to think of “Pain” as a form? Perhaps, though Emily has identified what it is about “Pain” that makes it so hard to describe because it contains elements of a lack inside of itself. And if we keep with the Greeks, then anything that lacks means it is not a form because a form can lack nothing, only the imitations of things possess a lack, therefore “Pain” could not be a form. Thus “Pain” would be the absence of the forms, would mean that when we experience “Pain” we are as far away from the good, the beautiful, and the true as we can get.

Another interesting aspect of this poem is that Emily does not use the word “I” at all. She seems more interested in studying “Pain” the way a scientist or a philosopher might. She does not say ‘I am in pain and it sucks’, rather she places “Pain” in the poet’s petri dish and attempts to describe what this bugger is and what she sees is basically something that feeds only on itself whose “Future” is only more “Pain”. In effect she is separating herself from “Pain” (and “Pain” from herself) by describing at some outside force so in a way she has sort of got control of it because first she identifies that it is made up of “Blank” (a lack) and that it is something which exists independently of the “I” which means it can be mastered and contained and perhaps eliminated.

Yet on an emotional level we can identify with this poem because whenever we have experienced “Pain” we feel as if we become “Pain”, as if that all-consuming energy of being hurt truly does not seem as if it will ever end. And perhaps that is because it is so difficult to remove the “I” from “Pain” because as creatures with senses there is no other way for us to experience “Pain” – we can’t put it in a petri dish and poke it and electrify it and contain it, all we can do is deal with it.