The Minutes

THE Minutes I have found to be living things. Each Minute has a personality; each Minute has a mood; each Minute has an eternity behind it—a private eternity, a private oblivion, a private destiny. They are fatal chalices, powerful telescopes, horoscopes of the past. They soar everlastingly out of the unconscious mind into the ether of the conscious mind and fade into the noumenal void. They are likea  rush of rockets into the air, breaking into the flame of moods. Minutes are the facets of Time, as moods are the facets of the soul. The passing Minute is a king, or maybe a jester, from the courts of the Past, or again, an invitation to visit Hell.

My Minutes are heretical—each one denying the other, each playing the apostate. They neutralize all dogmas. Some have lived at the poles of the Infinite; others have lived on the equators of Time. Shining oases and poppy-wreathed gourds across the sand wastes of a dismal eternity! Fragile, immortal ephemerides! Writhing prisoners of form! Unkempt, murderous Minutes! Marmoreal, hallucinating Minutes! This is Walpurgis Night, and you shall unriddle yourselves to me!

And the Minutes spoke:

A Pilgrim Minute:

I am the pilgrim Minute of Eternity. I have tiptoed through all the corridors of your ancient incarnations with a lighted candle in my hand looking for God!

An Eternal Minute:

I am the mirror that no breath can mist. I glow like the full moon behind the rush of moods. I may be veiled, but cannot be obliterated. I am the eternal spectator of change.

A Frozen Minute:

I am Reason—the winter of the emotions. I am webbed in algebraic formulas and cadenced in syllogisms. I have no power over man, for I have no soul.

An Obscene Minute:

I am the veiled wanton that came to you in your youth. My body is en fête; my mind an obscene kermess; my heart a monstrance where the Host of hell reigns. I am Lilith.

A Black Minute:

I am Ennui, the spring of the ultra-modern intellect, the frightful gargoyle that completes the Temple of the Hours, the creator and destroyer of worlds, the black snowflake.

A Desolate Minute:

I was once a fly in the empyrean and I walked on the ceiling of the universe flywise and glanced into the Golden City. Since, I am the Niobe of Minutes.


A Brazen Minute:

I am Curiosity, the assassin of the dark; cerulean traveler who fronts the murderous fires of Arcturus and who dreams of reaching the pole of the final dimension. Were my life longer than a minute I would not be.

A Hypocrite Minute:

I am the triumphant proclamating archangel of universal error. My hostel is the Ideal. I am the eternal lying logician. I am Fallacy, the dungeon of all theories and facts.

A Cowlèd Minute:

At the feast of teh Furies the human heart is the pièce de résistance. I am the Tear that floods the world. I am the avatar of immemorial griefs, an almanac of ancient days of lamentation.

A Super-Minute:

I am the thought that has forgotten. Death can waive me, for in my soul I carry a private oblivion. I apprehend and lapse. I am the everlasting “to be,” the perpetual becoming, the imperishable Tantalus-Proteus. I am a thin coating of life over a Lethe that flows into the hollow spaces of Eternity.

A Twin Minute:

I am Beauty and Death—the alternate light and shade thrown by the Absolute. When Lucifer fell into Darkness his brain became a sun and the flames were darkened in that all-mighty effulgence. I am the twin born of that Light.

A Narcotic Minute:

I am the bloodshot eye of sleepless Hope, a plagiarist of the Past, the Minute that stanches all pain and chloroforms Truth.

A Philosophic Minute:

I am a minute that has climbed into your consciousness after laboring through all ante-natal forces. Pale, thought-inwrapt, ears aprick, upright at the heart of Chaos, I hear the reverberations of thoughts unborn, and saw the phosphorescent gleams from the brains of Heraclitus and Nietzsche like skeins of light in that ancientest of mist.

A Gray Minute:

I am Fatigue. I am an eagle that yawns in the face of the Infinite. My eyrie is a hen-roost, the azure a painted awning. I am weary of flight. Anarch of the skies I was, now my head seeks the soft bolster of death.

A Spectral Minute:

I crossed the threshold of the ineluctable. You cannot see me, you must not know me. I whisper to you across the threshold of your consciousness, behind the closed door of the senses. Open that door and you die. You do not know what I whisper; you cannot see me; you must not know me.


An Ironic Minute:

I am the last minute of consciousness that lived in the brain of Christ. And my secret is this: “I had not wisdom until Judas kissed me.” And that Man smiled and died.

An Arcless Minute:

I seek to be the centre of all circumferences. I am the will-to-immobility. Motionless magnet toward which dart all that lives and all that dreams. An infinite comprehension swarming with nebulous entities. I shall be that!

A Murderous Minute:

I am the brigand Ridicule, an antique Wasp, the serious Harlequin, an abettor of sanity.

A Mystic Minute:

I am a diver and I have foraged in the sunken galleons of innominable seas. I am a lizard, too, and lay motionless on the walls of the air for an eternity that lasted a minute. I lived in the brain of Swedenborg and Blake.

A Nameless Minute:

The brain is a carcass swarming with the vermin of thought; a pullulating grave in which lie a thousand ruined Christs and a thousand rotting Torquemadas; the final condensation of a million nebulous sadic memories. Behold me! I am the mystical misanthrope, the Minute in which blossomed the genius of Momus.

An Anarch Minute:

I hung upon the granite walls of the Caucasus and soared as a curse out of the mouth of a Titan into the brain of Jupiter. I was the imperial soul of Prometheus.

A Passionate Minute:

The veil of the senses furled around the Thought of a thousand years; a thousand years the Thought stood mute and muffled in its incomparable dignity; and then away! away! it rode like a furious Valkyrie toward—an extinct Valhalla. I was the crowning Minute in Nietzsche’s brain.

An Ethereal Minute:

And a glowworm appeared for a Minute at the zenith of the Night and stabbed the dark with its fulgurant beam, and then it was no more, and infinite Space remained, as before, eyeless and mute. I was a minute caught in a tempest in Spezzia Bay.

And then the Minutes were silent, and I dreamed of the mystery of Time—Time, the Ararat of Eternity.

Benjamin De Casseres.


Source: Camera Work, Jan. 1913, No. 41, pp. 21-23



A heavily revised version of this piece was published as a poem titled “Ballet of the Minutes” in the “Books and the Book World” section of The Sun on Sept. 29, 1918 (Section 5, p. 8). Although the general flow of the pieces are very similar, the latter piece changed the descriptions of each minute rather significantly, and even some of the minute names were themselves revised.