for my One&Only

☇… ⚤ || ☠


May I write words more naked than flesh, stronger than bone, more resilient than sinew, sensitive than nerve.

— her (n.d.)

once more


Be free my honey bee, let your pen be the seismograph’s nib—etch, unabridged and unbridled, the tremors of your heart.

— him (n.d.)

⅊Ω℣℥ is


Once again love drives me on, that loosener of limbs, bittersweet creature against which nothing can be done.

— her (n.d.)

tearing me


I hear you. Plates shift perpetually, nothing can be done. Nothing compares, nothing comes close—love is the be all and, the end all.

— him (n.d.)

right apart

— § —


n.b.

The good lines above are grafted from a master in the craft of poignant poetic pronouncement, Sapphō (Greek: Σαπφώ) of Lesbos (romanised as: Lésvos).

— § —

a♡bibliography

calculated in terms of the passage of time.

01.📕 Beautiful “&” Sublime (n.d.)

This is a book of a sort that due to its evolving nature is best described as being of indeterminate in length and nebulous in type. Take one look and we’ll wager you’ll be hooked. But then again, as it’s no more and no less nefarious to its very core (its innermost heart & sanctum sanctorum soul), possibly this kind of gift horse will be seen as but an ass in your esteemed estimation, dear fraternal fellowship of feminine readers (oh Jay! Where are you this day?).
 
 

02.📕 The Kama Sutra (c. 369 B.C.E.)

The Kama Sutra (कामसूत्र / Kāmasūtra in its Sanskrit original) is an ancient Indian text on sexuality, eroticism and, the emotional fulfillment in life. It ain’t just (or indeed predominantly) a sex manual on positions. The Kama Sutra is a guide to the art of living happily alongside a treatise on the nature of love. Of interest (to me anyway) is that one of the first to translate this into any European language was Sir Richard Burton—Oh the Devil does Drive, and on its merry rounds, the said driven one (Richard Burton) inter alia slipped into Mecca and tracked in the sands of the lands that were later traversed by the Don of the Desert and the hauntingly daunting and deeply enrapturing Rub’ al Khali (a.k.a., ٱلرُّبْع ٱلْخَالِي‎ a.k.a., the “Empty Quarter”), the venerable Wilfred Thesiger.
 
 

03.📕 The Art of Love (2 C.E.)

The Art of Love (Ars Amatoria in its Latin original) was written by the Roman poet Ovid (who’s probably most famous for having written: Metamorphoses, tellingly said: “love is a kind of warfare” and was born in 43 B.C.E. [♟] and died circa 18 C.E. [☠] and whose full name was in fact Publius Ovidius Naso). The Art of Love is an instructional elegy series in three books. It was written in 2 C.E. (or as we may wanna say 2 AD). The first part/book deals with how men can ‘find’ women; the second part is on Ovid’s ways of ‘keeping’ her (once found) and the third—penned two years after the first two were put to the public—gives women advice on how to win and keep the love of a man.
 
 

04.📕 The Arabian Nights (10th c. onward)

The Arabian Nights or, ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ ( أَلْفُ لَيْلَةٍ وَلَيْلَةٌ‎ / Alf laylah wa-laylah in its Arabic original) is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the so-called Islamic Golden Age. Of interest (to me anyway) is that one of the first to translate this into any European language was Sir Richard Burton—Oh the Devil does Drive, and on its merry rounds the said driven one slipped into Mecca and tracked in the sands of the lands that were later traversed by the Don of the Desert and the hauntingly daunting and deeply enrapturing Rub’ al Khali (a.k.a., ٱلرُّبْع ٱلْخَالِي‎ a.k.a., the “Empty Quarter”), the venerable Wilfred Thesiger. Déjà vu, anyone? From Hindustan (^ see entry 02, above) we’re now in Arabia (think: Sand City / Date grove) and this high art of CTRL + C and CTRL + V continues in the listing that follows (see entry 05, below) when we traverse the Arabian/Persian Gulf and wend our way to Isfahan and its environs. Many of the tales in The Arabian Nights have erotic undertones, from the stories of wives and their lovers to those of kings and their conquests, to the overarching story of Shahrazad and Shahryar. However, so as not to hide it, Burton did add colour, many say he took the poetic license granted to translators of poetic text a few furlongs too far. Take for one example this note he made to an aspect of one tale’s plot: Debauched Arab women show a particular lust for black men on account of the size of their parts. “I measured one man in Somalia who, when quiescent, numbered nearly six inches … No honest Moslem would take his womenfolk to Zanzibar on account of the huge attractions and enormous temptations there.” (Burton had a habit of measuring ‘quiescent’ male members and was frank enough to say Europeans were only average but those of ‘pure’ Arabs and the menfolk of Hindustan were well below average.)
 
 

05.📕 The Perfumed Garden (15th c.)

Giving it its full title, The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight (الروض العاطر في نزهة الخاطر‎ / Al-rawḍ al-ʿāṭir fī nuzhaẗ al-ḫāṭir in its Arabic original) is a 15th c. sex manual and work of erotic literature by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nefzawi. The book gives advice on sexual techniques, recipes to remedy sexual maladies and, among other things, gives lengthy lists of names for the penis and vagina. Yep, our man in the Orient, Sir Richard Burton, was the first to translate this treatise on the birds ‘n’ bees into English too. Oh! The Devil does Drive, and on its merry rounds drove Burton to dip himself into a bath of crushed walnut and Rose water to dye himself in preparation for penetrating Mecca and Medina (not content to undertake this mendacious act as a common man, he adopted an Afghan lilt to his near fluent Arabic and posed as a Sheikh who happened to have acquired near magical Eastern gynecological skills; permitting him not only VIP entry into the confines of Mecca but also the tents of the wives of the dignitaries of some of the fiercest Wahhabi subscribers to Ḥanbalite law that ever did live and breath [upon gaining this rarefied, no wholly ‘exclusive’ realm of the Bedouin tent, he promptly made b-lines to the a-lines beneath the petticoats worn under the puritanical black abaya {worth noting too that Burton, whilst posted to Bombay and tiring of the tedium of stockpiling loot from the subcontinent in the warehouses of Naval Dockyard for the East India, took it entirely upon himself to carry out, first-hand, so-to-speak, a comprehensive and exhaustive anthropological study of Bombay’s red light district ((Lal Bazaar))}]) and track in the sands of the lands that were later traversed by the Don of the Desert and the hauntingly daunting and deeply enrapturing Rub’ al Khali (a.k.a., ٱلرُّبْع ٱلْخَالِي‎ a.k.a., the “Empty Quarter”), the venerable Wilfred Thesiger. From Hindustan (^ see entry 02, above) by way of Dhow sail (داو dāw) to Arabia (^ see entry 04, above), we’re now in Persia (think: of the patter of decorated feet on the cool marble floors of Purdah in cahoots with the hubbub of the market rising from the streets beyond the palace walls) and this high art of CTRL + C and CTRL + V, now concludes. Freud considered the theory of repression to be: “the corner-stone on which the whole structure of psychoanalysis rests…” the extent to which this links in with déjà vu is up to you, I’m just saying don’t go confusing Freud the elder with Freud the younger (i.e., I’m here on about Sigmund not Lucian).
 
 

06.📕 The Carnal Prayer Mat (1696)

The Carnal Prayer Mat (Rouputuan in simplified Chinese) has a controversial status in Chinese history and its literary canon. It has long been banned and censored. It was written by Li Yu (who was born in 1610 [♟] and died in 1680 [☠] and was also known as Li Liweng) who was a playwright and a publisher in addition to a writer of prose. Today The Carnal Prayer Mat is considered by some to have used unabashed pornographic tracts to attack Confucian puritanism. Prophetically, the book’s prologue declares that sex is healthy when taken as if it were a drug, but not as if it were ordinary food. As literary critic Danny Yee wrote in 2004, although this text is “pretty raunchy in places” it should be applauded far more for its “brilliant comedy and satire.”
 
 

07.📕 Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748)

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748), known too as Fanny Hill (possibly an anglicisation of the Latin mons veneris, mound of Venus), is an erotic work by Englishman John Cleland (born [♟] 1709, died [☠] 1789). It was first published in London in 1748 whilst Cleland was in debtors’ prison. It is considered to be the first original English prose pornography and thus has been one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. Being as from where I’m from I’m compelled, yes compelled in an utterly unstoppable way to write in support or as a retort: camel toe. In sum, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill) details the coming of age and subsequent shenanigans of one Frances Hill who was orphaned at the age of 15. With no money at hand she leaves her villages and travels to London where she gets a cleaning job at Mrs. Brown’s brothel. At first Fanny believes her new job to be legitimate, but her curiosity and sensuality are aroused when the prostitute with whom she shares a room introduces her to sex. Mrs. Brown then tricks Fanny into ‘servicing’ a client. She thereafter leaves Mrs. Brown and falls for a man called Charles but this is a short-lived respite from her engagement with the world’s so-called oldest trade, because he’s sent of to sea never to be seen again (or does he return ;))… Fanny then finds work at an upper-class brothel, where she experiences a multitude of sexual acts and discovers that sex for money is not as satisfying as sex for love…
 
 

08.📕 120 Days of Sodom (1785, published: 1904)

120 Days of Sodom (Les 120 Journées de Sodome ou l’école du libertinage in its French original) was Sade’s masterwork; the manuscript was lost for a period during the French Revolution and was not published until the 20th c. Marquis de Sade’s unfinished drafts are nowadays described as being both erotic and pornographic (born [♟] 1740, died [☠] 1814; Donatien Alphonse François [Marquis de Sade] was a French nobleman who was/is famous for his libertine sexuality and writing on sex and infamous for his sexual abuse of adolescents). In sum, the tale of 120 Days of Sodom is about four wealthy male who embark upon a quest to experience the ultimate sexual gratification by conducting a string of orgies. They do this by sealing themselves away for four months in an remote castle deep in the heart of the Black Forest (in today’s Germany; think/don’t think: Black Forest gâteau [Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte]) with a harem of 36 victims.
 
 

09.📕 Flowers of Evil (1857)

Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal in its French original) is said to be a real masterpiece of French literature (it is a collection of poems that are sometimes of an erotic nature/bent). Upon publication Charles Baudelaire (born [♟] 1821, passed [☠] 1867; was a French essayist, poet [his poems are widely considered to show a mastery of rhyme and rhythm and combine neatly Romantic exoticism with realistic observations of everyday life] and, an early translators of Edgar Allan Poe into French.) was prosecuted by way of an ‘outrage aux bonnes mœurs’ (‘an insult to public decency’) and fined 300 francs. Six of the book’s poems were then suppressed for almost 100 years: “Lesbos,” “Women Doomed (In the pale glimmer…),” “Le Léthé,” “To Her Who Is Too Joyful,” “The Jewels” and, “The Vampire’s Metamorphoses.” Thanks to Alan Turing and Tim Berners-Lee we now have the internet and we have uninhibited, unabridged and unexpurgated access to this sextet, Flowers of Evil in full and indeed, every line of every work in this selected♡bibliography.
 
 

10.📕 Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928)

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of the more famous novels by D. H. Lawrence (David Herbert Lawrence was born [♟] in September of 1885 and expired [☠] in March of 1930, his collected works, inter alia, can be seen as a reflection on the dehumanising effects of modernity, industrialisation and ‘The Great War’ [WWI] [within this reflection he explores vitality, spontaneity, sexuality and emotional well-being]). It was first published privately in 1928 in Italy and in 1929 in France—its explicit descriptions of sex, and Lawrence’s use of then-unprintable (in the United Kingdom at least) four-letter words rendered it a liber non grata in England. An unexpurgated edition was not published openly in the U.K. until 1960, when it was the subject of a watershed obscenity trial against the publisher Penguin Books. Penguin won the case and quickly sold three million copies. In sum, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman.
 
 

11.📕 Story of the Eye (1928)

Story of the Eye (Histoire de l’œil in its French original) is the 1928 novella written by Georges Bataille (whose full name was/is Georges Albert Maurice Victor Bataille, a gentleman who was born [♟] in 1897 and broke on through to the other side [☠] in July of 1962 and whilst alive was interested in many things including the history of art and wrote on an array of subjects in various forms including: eroticism surrealism and transgression)). In sum, Story of the Eye, details the increasingly bizarre sexual perversions of a pair of teenage lovers. It is narrated by the young man looking back on his exploits. The work contains several vignettes, centered around the sexual passion existing between the unnamed late adolescent male narrator and Simone, his primary female partner. Within this episodic narrative two secondary figures emerge: Marcelle, a mentally ill sixteen-year-old girl who comes to a sad sticky end, and Lord Edmund, a voyeuristic English émigré aristocrat of the debauched (we’d say) debonair (he’d say) kind.
 
 

12.📕 Tropic of Cancer (1934)

Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller (Henry Valentine Miller, [♟] December 26, 1891 – [☠] June 7, 1980, was an American writer noted for developing a new type of literary format, a semi-autobiographical one that blended character study, philosophical reflection, stream of consciousness, explicit sex scenes and mysticism), has been described as both ‘notorious’ for its realistic descriptions of sex and ‘responsible’ for the free speech that is now considered as a given in literature. Although published in Paris in 1934, it was long banned in the United States. When finally Tropic of Cancer was published in America in 1961 the publisher, Grove Press, was taken to court and it took until 1964 for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide that it wasn’t too obscene to be added to the higher up bookshelves of bookshops.
 
 

13.📕 Delta of Venus (1940s, published: 1977)

Delta of Venus, by Anaïs Nin (or, as spelled out in her passport, Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell, was born [♟] in 1903 and passed away [☠] in 1977, she was a French-Cuban American diarist, essayist, nwho was born to Cuban parents in France where she spent her formative years in Paris [La Ville Lumière], beforehand it was Spain and Cuba and after that it was all lived out in the U. S. of A.), is a book of fifteen erotic stories mostly written in the 1940s. It was not made available to the general public until 1977. Nin wrote these stories for a long anonymous individual known as ‘The Collector.’ (The Collector also paid Henry Miller (^ see entry 12, above) and English poet George Granville Barker [1913–1991—who I can reveal to be the person that penned ‘The True Confession of George Barker’] to produce erotic fiction for their private consumption). We today know the identity of this pornographic patron, one Roy M. Johnson of Healdton Oil, Oklahoma, You. S. Ayy (Roy’s now made it on to Oklahoma’s ‘Hall of Fame’ that is maintained diligently by the Gaylord-Pickens Museum [who deftly omit all mention of his interest in erotica, instead focusing on the patronage he bestowed upon church and state]).
 
 

14.📕 The Story of O (1954)

The Story of O (Histoire d’O in its French original) is an erotic novel published in 1954 by French author Anne Desclos (Anne ‘Cécile’ Desclos, born [♟] 1907, died [☠] 1998) under the pen name ‘Pauline Réage.’ Desclos was bisexual. She had a long-term relationship with her employer Jean Paulhan, the director of the prestigious Nouvelle Revue Française, who was 23 years her senior and a long-term liaison with historian and novelist Édith Thomas, who may have been an inspiration for the character of Anne-Marie (The Story of O’s protagonist). In sum, The Story of O is the tale of female submission involving a beautiful Parisian fashion photographer named O, who is taught to be constantly available for oral, vaginal, and anal intercourse, offering herself to any male who belongs to the same secret society as her lover. She is regularly stripped, blindfolded, chained, and whipped (and even gets her bum cheeks branded with a hot rod).
 
 

15.📕 Lolita (1955)

Lolita was written by a Russian-American novelist who, in his later years, preferred to reside in a serviced Swiss chalet appended to a swish swanky hotel resort and engage in caustic trysts [sic] with literary critics and, is known to us today as, Vladimir Nabokov (born [♟] 1899, died [☠] 1977 and who famously wrote, ‘it was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight’). This work is notable for both its controversial subject matter and the crafting of the English language. The book soon became a literary classic and remains one to this day not least because of its style and its precise portrayal of the banality of postwar America. In sum, in Lolita, we follow the protagonist-cum-narrator, a middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert. Humbert is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after using both hook and crook, he becomes her stepfather.
 
 

 
references (upon request)

Al Nafzawi, M. (1989 [15th c.]). The Perfumed Garden: First illustrated edition of Sir Richard Burton’s translation. London: Hamlyn/Octopus Publishing Group/Hachette Livre/Lagardère Publishing.

Bataille, G. (2001 [1928]). Story of the Eye. London: Penguin Classics.

Baudelaire, C. (2016 [1857]). Flowers of Evil (duel text edition). London: Alma Classics.

Bidoonism, A. (n.d.). Beautiful “&” Sublime. Anotherland: The Openbook Duet.

Cleland, J. (2000 [1748]). Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Ware, Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Classics.

De Sade, M. (2016 [1785/1904]). 120 Days of Sodom. London: Penguin Classics.

Desclos, A. [Réage, P.] (1994 [1954]). The Story of O. London: Corgi Books/Transworld Publishers Ltd./Penguin Random House/Bertelsmann.

Haksa, A. N. D. (Translator). (2012 [369 B.C.E.]). Kama Sutra: A Guide to the Art of Pleasure. London: Penguin Classics.

Irwin, R., Lyons, M. &, Lyons, U. [Translators] (2010 [10th c.]a). The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights (Volume I). London: Penguin Classics.

Irwin, R., Lyons, M. &, Lyons, U. [Translators] (2010 [10th c.]b). The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights (Volume II). London: Penguin Classics.

Irwin, R., Lyons, M. &, Lyons, U. [Translators] (2010 [10th c.]c). The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights (Volume III). London: Penguin Classics.

Lawrence, D. H. (2006 [1928]). Lady Chatterley’s Lover. London: Penguin Classics.

Li, Y. (1991 [1657]). The Carnal Prayer Mat. Ware, Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Classic Erotica.

Miller, H. (2005 [1934]). Tropic of Cancer. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Nabokov, V. (2005 [1955]). Lolita: 50th anniversary edition. London: Vintage Books/Knopf Doubleday Publishing.

Nin, A. (2000 [1940s/1977]). Delta of Venus. London: Penguin Classics.

Ovid (2012 [2 C.E.]). The Art of Love. London: Vintage Publishing/Alfred A. Knopf.
 
 

to eternity m’dear
 

The seas of pity lie/ Locked and frozen in each eye//

foreplay for love


If wild my breast and sore my pride
I bask in dreams of suicide
If cool my heart and high my head
I think, “How lucky are the dead.”


— Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell at their farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1937
Dorothy Parker was very famous in the interwar years for her talent with words. She had, it is said, a stinging repartee and the ability to churn out — at high velocity — endlessly quotable one-liners.
Dorothy Parker
Beneath Dorothy Parker’s sharp wit and acidic humour, was a writer who expressed well the deep vulnerability of a troubled, self-destructive soul who, in the words of philosopher Irwin Edman, was a Sappho who could combine a heartbreak with a wisecrack.”

Susanna Kaysen (1994, p. 48) writes in her memoir that certain hospitals, “had housed many great poets” and wondered if such hospitals specialise in poets, or was it that poets specialised in madness? She went on to ponder, “what is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?”

life, y’know, just erupted…


A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

Kafka wrote,
Sexton quoted,
Auden would’ve approved.


REFERENCES

Kaysen, S. (1993). Girl, interrupted. Private Idaho: Turtle Bay Books.

Parker, D. (2001). The Collected Dorothy Parker. London: Penguin Classics.

“Long Live Love”

— a monument to now

“*Listen* To Me”


I begun the day in a wistful way—
Your loquaciousness
is so very precious
Ur mind’s delicious
– – – – – – – – –
Despite all this adversity
this ever so harsh reality
& De Profundis’ centrality
– – – – – – – –
You dominate my mind totally
Visions of you so consume me
My constant motif is but you

—but t’was fleeting and soon faded away
. . . . . . .
So listen to me now and do not say,
or utter, a single ‘fucking’ word.
I’ll speak from where they say,
reason does not dare descend.
. . . . . .
Oh for the hands they are a telling,
they are tolling for last orders.
Ignore this play with wording,
it’s just sum wit rejoinders.
. . . . .
Because you do know me and I so know you,
let’s send to hell this thing called reason.
Let all caution be exiled to Timbuktu,
sense!? Let it sing to the horizon.
. . . .
Hear the heart drown out the head,
let reason go, let it sail to a vortex,
Quick to silver, subside to sand,
let it quarry a swirl of Semtex:
. . .
East lays laden with forbidden fruits of Eden;
Shades of purple, orange ‘n’ London-grey;
The road must now be undertaken for
Xanadu opens with a vision of jay.
. .
I know but one deep immutable truth,
you r my singular fountain of youth
.
send me by strive, your kiss of life.

I do know well the Greek modes of love /
I do know my station on their Dionysian-derived cline // oft depicted as a triangle (△) encircled in psychology journals:

“Greek Love”
— Humankind’s attempts to classify love /lʌv/ (the four-lettered word that conquers all else) starting with Sappho.

It’s out there (my station), I am an outlier. I’m now well beyond the pale, o loved one, I’m upon the opposite side of the river from the legions of righteous ones. I read it said that I’d be labeled a serial sinner (you know, condemned as a renegade reprobate). Myth and make believe — the tract I refer to — is though, but a form of statecraft (a claim that would once have been enough to see me be tethered to a stake and to feel the pain of the flame lick and lash at my naked floundering feet, see: 📙 “Hammer of Witches”). Myth and make believe (our “mumbo-jumbo,” jay) are the modus operandi for…, the mode to use when…, concocting statecraft. You see, statecraft is penned patronage. It is paid patronage for the poets and prose makers that write (well) what their paymasters want to be read and remembered. History is verily the victor’s diktat. (What that we are informed is seminal and pivotal, gospel and sacrosanct, the scripts and texts, the tracts and tomes that underpin our understanding, define our being and determine the circumference confines of our culture and civilisation, are what yesteryear’s men of good fortune decided they liked, determined should not be burnt and declared be deemed divine: “Praise You ma’Love.” The anthologies and authoritative lists are set in stone albeit of age-old codex form [more pulpwood cedar ‘n’ larch then than igneous granite {graveyard-grade} ‘n’ sedimentary clay {desert-baked}]. Diligently now, they are being scanned and transcribed to reside in digital form [with audio to boot]. Electronic egalitarianism yes! [1]  But, a further consolidation of what is and what isn’t canonical. Shibboleth — that’s the name given to the centurion gatekeeper who’s older than Rome and Athens — goes back, and I can painfully attest to this, to the bubbling springs of Babylon and the torrential downpours of Uruq. I mean — mouth the following ‘K.R.-style’ — “Come On” Dear reader!” Do we really believe that the carver of the Löwenmensch figurine — a lion-cum-human hewn from a woolly mammoth’s tusk — was anything other than a man; gifted with gold, or the like, by the then chieftain whose Machiavellian right-hand man had deduced that if the clan were to willingly waste there time worshiping an idol, they’d be less likely to question hereditary hierarchy and more likely to conduct their affairs in an opiated kind of way [pay your taxes, your dues to Caesar, do it faithfully, do it obediently for, who are we {who were they?} to hold the powers that be to account? we accept you had to rape and pillage the village in order to teach, you had to kill to save, war is peace, let man control woman in matrimony {thus he’ll not hit back at his master but instead wallop his wife when he gets home} and six + nine is no more or no less that fifteen on the clock {Look for the numbers, it is all about the numbers, not around the numbers, but into the numbers. seven has been found to be divine ((but only if read in ancient Hebrew form [[the power and the divinity is lost in translation]] for in that script, in Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning, …” — we will note that the number seven is written all over it [[(1) there are seven words in this opening verse (2), there’s 28 letters in total {{divisible by seven}} (3), the first three words have 14 letters {{divisible by seven}}, (4) the last four words have 14 letters too {{divisible by seven}} (5), the words: God, heaven, and earth also add up to 14 letters {{divisible by seven}} (6), the remaining words add up to 14 letters as well and (7) the middle word in Genesis 1:1 — when written I reiterate, emphasis and underscore, in ancient Hebrew form — is the shortest, with two letters, but, ‘but,’ the words to the right and left of it have 5 letters each so, combining with either would give us seven too {{proof positive of the almighty one, no? irrefutable evidence of The Invisible Hand or — dare we utter an or… or evidence that wordsmiths have been at play, crafting away, for several millennia or more? (((it is a known known that the good scriptures, while filled themselves with numerical patterns — hidden meanings — expressly forbade us, those made of clay, to dabble in such pursuits; to quote Deutronomy 18:10–12: “Let no one be found among you who … practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable.”)))}}.]])) seven is heaven — oh yes! It rhymes, but what of the sinuous serpentine six? and it’s naughty partner in crime: number nine? ((On six: In Revelation 13:18, the number of the Beast is written with the Greek symbols for 600 and 60 and 6. On nine: This number is related to the number six, being the sum of its factors — 3×3=9, and 3+3=6 — it also purported to be the number of finality and/or judgment; you see, it was in the 9th year of Hosea’s supremacy that the King of Assyria destroyed the northern capital city of the Israelites and too, it was the the 9th year of King Zedekiah’s reign that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered the southern city of the Israelites.))}.].) And, to the unforgiving wilderness of solitude and exiled abstinence that I face on this side of the river’s bank, I say unto you: I know well the lines of “De Profundis” for recently, I’ve poured over them again and again. I hear it has a word count of circa 50,000 but this wasn’t noticed by I. I was, you see, carried away by the assonance (imagined) and the associations… the adages and the aphorisms… the allegories and the allegations:


Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword.

I, ____, take you, ______, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death DO us part:

📘 “De Profundis”
— analysis, audio & book in HTML/PDF formats.

Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan (1630) by Diego Velázquez
Baroque | Camp | “Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan” by Velázquez (1599–1660) (1630) — Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was a Spanish painter and the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV. Velázquez’s artwork became a model for 19th c. realist and impressionist painters and, in the 20th century, artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon paid tribute to Velázquez by re-interpreting some of his most iconic images.

— § —


NOTES

[1]   Suffice to set out here — from the surfeit that’s out there free of charge — are the following six (I show no fear & no favour in their selection):
1. — ancient-literature.com
2. — archive.org
3. — classics.mit.edu
3. — gutenberg.net.au
4. — gutenberg.org
5. — sacred-texts.com

📕📕📕

{S.} {O.} {S.}

Last night, I was literally saved by a book


so, in deference and in homage of,


I do hereby present to thee


an encomium entitled:


“Between Bookends”


dedicated to


the book


Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
 
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything”
 
Science. Technology. Want for nothing. Maximum pleasure. Welcome to a world where society exists without war, poverty, sickness or unhappiness, where instant gratification and mass consumerism sooth the inhabitants into happy conformity. One man stands to challenge all this: Bernard Marx, alone in harbouring a longing to break free. His attempt to do so sets off a chain of events that could disrupt everything.” — Is this Brave New World that Huxley imagined where we are headed, or are we already there? Take the drugs and float away through Huxley’s relentless cityscape, and you might find answers to questions you didn’t know you should be asking. (This is taken from a too be published 2021 edition introduction by Yuval Noah Harari.) [1]


Brighton Rock
Graham Greene
 
“Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust.”
 
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, Pinkie is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold, who is determined to uncover him. This is Graham Greene’s chilling exposé of violence, class, and gang warfare inspired many imitators. Few, if any, can match the originality of Brighton Rock, and of Pinkie – one of fiction’s most unnerving and compelling villains.


Catch-22
Joseph Heller
 
“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.”
 
It’s the closing months of the Second World War and Yossarian has never been closer to death. Stationed in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, each flight mission introduces him to thousands of people determined to kill him. But the enemy above is not Yossarian’s problem – it is his own army intent on keeping him airborne, and the maddening ‘Catch-22’ that allows for no possibility of escape. Penguin, the publisher, writes, “No book has satirised military madness so hilariously and tragically. It is the tale of one man’s struggle to survive the sheer lunacy of war.”


The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories
Angela Carter
 
“Midnight, and the clock strikes. It is Christmas Day, the werewolves birthday, the door of the solstice still wide enough open to let them all slink through.”
 
We grow up on fairy tales but it is only later we realise what we have been fed. Angela Carter saw the power of these dark stories – stories in which objects betray, children threaten, men turn into animals and women are unsafe. Erotic, subversive, ancient, modern: the tales in this book pulse with a vivid, radical imagination. Turn the key, enter the chamber. Carter untwists our old tales and offers them up with sensuality, depravity, humour – and a mirror held up to ourselves. (From a yet to be published 2021 edition with an introduction by Laura Dockrill.)


Slaughterhouse 5
Kurt Vonnegut
 
“So it goes.”
 
Billy Pilgrim – hapless barber’s assistant, successful optometrist, alien abductee, senile widower and soldier­­ – has become unstuck in time. Hiding in the basement of a slaughterhouse in Dresden, with the city and its inhabitants burning above him, he finds himself a survivor of one of the most deadly and destructive battles of the Second World War. But when, exactly? How did he get here? And how does he get out? Travel through time and space on the shoulders of Vonnegut himself. This is a book about war. Listen to what he has to say: it is of the utmost urgency.


The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway
 
“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
 
In the baking sun, in a small village off the coast of Havana, lives an old fisherman named Santiago. It has been eighty-four days since he last caught a fish. The locals call it bad luck. Refusing to accept defeat, Santiago sets off in his tiny skiff alone, fishing further out than ever before. It is here, over a number of days, that he, his will and his character are tested beyond imagination. Faced with bad weather, hunger and thirst, the old man finds himself in battle with a giant marlin, a fish bigger than any to have been caught before. Nature is not kind and gentle in this fable, nor is Hemingway. You hold in your hands one of the very best pieces of writing to have ever been created.


When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi
 
“Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.”
 
This magnetic, hopeful book was first published in 2016. Adored by millions of readers, it is a Vintage Classic already and a book that will stand the test of time. — We often ask ourselves how we should be living. In Paul Kalanithi’s deeply moving memoir, he is forced to ask himself the question, ‘how do you live when you are dying?’ At thirty-six, having just finished his training to become a neurosurgeon, he was faced with a devastating cancer diagnosis. This is his memoir. From student, to doctor, to patient, to father, and to writer, Paul preserved his last years and legacy in this truly unforgettable book.


To Kill A Mockingbird
Harper Lee
 
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.”
 
This evocative and amusing novel has charmed and inspired generations. — Summers for Scout in the Deep South are long and golden. Her story is one of innocence, and growing up. It is also about justice. When Scout’s father Atticus Finch, a lawyer, agrees to defend a black man against an accusation by a white girl, he takes on the prejudice of the whole town. Through the case, Atticus teaches Scout that your imagination is not just for childhood games, but for understanding other people. Because you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.


Stoner
John Williams
 
“He learned silence and did not insist upon his love.”
 
For nearly fifty years this book existed as quietly as its protagonist before it was rediscovered. It is now regarded as one of the most heart-stopping and beautiful classics of the twentieth century. — This is the great forgotten novel of the last century – a quiet book; the story of a quiet life. William Stoner is a man who learns to contain himself, but beneath the surface lie passions and principles. An undistinguished career, an unhappy marriage, a bitter conflict with a colleague; Stoner endures. He is a different kind of hero. This wise, moving story seethes with the power and beauty of an individual life.


The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood
 
“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”
 
Atwood’s Handmaids have become a symbol of feminist resistance. This masterpiece blurs the boundaries between fiction and news headlines. — Imagine a world where women’s bodies are controlled by men. Where society has descended into religious patriarchy and censorship. Where the environment has been destroyed and a powerful few hold the reins to all wealth and freedom. Welcome to Gilead. This is the story of Offred, a Handmaid forced into sexual servitude, in the country once known as the USA.



Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness . . .
. . . Beauty is truth, truth beauty, — that is all
          Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


— John Keats (extract, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”)


NOTES

[1]   Vintage Classics [Penguin, 2021]: “MOST LOVED. MOST RED.” — ten must-read modern classics. You get me, don’t you:

William Burroughs and, Maurice Girodias (a bootleg pornographer and renegade Parisian publisher; he inherited Olymipa press — think: Henry Miller’s 1934 novel, “Tropic of Cancer,” which had explicit sexual passages and could not therefore be published in the United States; Anaïs Nin’s “Winter of Artifice” (1939) and James Joyce’s “Haveth Childers” Everywhere and “Pomes Penyeach” (1932) — and ran, for a time, Obelisk Press, notable publication firsts were Burroughs’ “The Naked Lunch” and, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov).
 
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

“Elsewhere”

_ that’s where i am _

“Elsewhere”


Elsewhere Anchises,
 
Fatherly and intent, was off in a deep green valley
Surveying and reviewing souls consigned there,
Those due to pass to the light of the upper world.
It so happened he was just then taking note
 
Of his whole posterity, the destinies and doings,
Traits and qualities of descendants dear to him,
But seeing Aeneas come wading through the grass
Towards him, he reached his two hands out
In eager joy, his eyes filled up with tears
And he gave a cry: “At last! Are you here at last?
I always trusted that your sense of right
Would prevail and keep you going to the end.
And am I now allowed to see your face,
My son, and hear you talk, and talk to you myself?
 
This is what I imagined and looked forward to
As I counted the days; and my trust was not misplaced.
To think of the lands and the outlying seas
You have crossed, my son, to receive this welcome.
And after such dangers! I was afraid that Africa
Might be your undoing.” But Aeneas replied:
“Often and often, father, you would appear to me,
Your sad shade would appear, and that kept me going
To this end. My ships are anchored in the Tuscan sea.
Let me take your hand, my father, O let me, and do not
 
Hold back from my embrace.” And as he spoke he wept.
Three times he tried to reach arms round that neck.
Three times the form, reached for in vain, escaped
Like a breeze between his hands, a dream on wings.


Virgil, “The Aeneid” (Book VI). Translated from the original Latin by Seamus Heaney (1939-2013); published by The New Yorker in 2016.

^ I have now read this a dozen or more times and only now, is a meaning emerging. I’ve no context (((I could dig but I shan’t — i.e., I could read up on Virgil’s “The Aeneid” and/or look into a good half-millennia’s worth of essays and tomes that draw out and align his Roman founding myth with that of Ancient Greece’s — I did though happen across a few painted works of art on the subject and these are depicted below))) but what’s beginning to form in my mind is a passage depicting a dream, double vision, wanting a heartfelt wish to materialise, wanting beyond want a thing that is neigh on impossible to get or to have. More devastatingly so because, even if it were to be realised, the ramifications of it — I speak here more personally now — would soon act to indelibly taint and mar the realised dream. Back to the poem, some things can never be sated; sons and fathers reaching in vein to bridge breaches. Must there be fault-lines along this cline? I know not, if ever I had a connection, it has long since gone (I don’t feel beholden, I don’t feel denigrated). As my woman said to me, no response stings more than apathy. To elicit consternation and ridicule is better than a snoring Lecturer on student presentation day or, a swipe left without a second glance or a moment’s hesitation (I don’t recall if rejection’s a swipe to the left or to the right but, you get the point don’t ‘you,’ oh fic-fuckin-ticious you). Mums ‘n’ daughters; Freud (Sigmund) ‘n’ Freud (Lucian) & the Oedipal complex and, the impassioned lyrics “The killer awoke before dawn / He put his boots on / He took a face from the ancient gallery / And he walked on down the hall // He went into the room where his sister lived / And then he paid a visit to his brother / And then he walked on down the hall / And he came to a door / And he looked inside / Father? / Yes son / I want to kill you / Mother, I want to… /// was it ‘fuck,’ or just ‘kill’ too? Etc. etc. I’m sic n tired of relying on context for understanding, for my long-run weakness to blindly adhere to the interpretations of others. Literature is art, art is in the eye of the beholder, it is for me — in my isolation wing of solitary confinement — to decide what I see and what I feel when I happen across a piece of poetry.

Virgil reading “The Aeneid” to Augustus, Octavia, and Livia
By Jean-Baptiste Wicar (1762–1834) (1790).
“Aeneas flees burning Troy”
By Federico Barocci (1535-1612) (1598).
“Aeneas meets Dido”
By Rutilio di Lorenzo Manetti (1571-1639) (c. 1630).

I grasp

for you

“Verse XIV”

 
In this hour I feel you like never before
*
As you lay there imprisoned in a state of isolation, I lay here restless in the straight jacket of my making.
*
I see the naïveté of a youth transcend to the reason of an adulthood. Along has come a first dose of morbid fear: a realisation that this is life and no, no it’s not going to unfurl and happen but that it is, it is unraveling and happening.
*
In this hour I need you like never before.

Click here to see Bidoonism's pictorial profile of Lucian (
Click to see Bidoonism’s pictorial profile of Lucian “the lothario” Freud.

“Come On Gaius”

 
I love beginnings
Love! “So strong!” It is though
Oh how much I know this
Venus to Uranus
Exploded with a kiss
&
I hate though endings
Hate! “Too strong!” Not at all
All conspires against us
The mean and religious
Everything does curse us.
 

 


NOTES
 
[1]   Uranus _ 27 known moons _ 7th planet from the Sun; named after the Greek god of the sky _ I’ll believe in Pluto ’til I die _ Twenni-seven, huh! Twen Tee Sev En, HUH!

 
Excuse me while I kiss the sky,
you got to get it while you can.
Love cannot save us from fate,
go back to her, I’ll go to black.
 

Oh Brightest Star

you’re far paler than my moon


لا أخلو منك أبدًا
ولا للحظة / ولا لبرهة
ولا لثانيةٍ واحدة

A literary analysis of John Keats’ poem: “Bright Star” (1819) of which there are known to have been several versions.

“Bright star”


Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.


— John Keats (1819)

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

John Keats (1795–1821) was an English Romantic poet who died at twenty five and is today one of the most analysed contributors to English literature. The poetry of Keats is heavily loaded with sensualities and thus is in line with other Romantic poets who wittingly or otherwise wrote to accentuate emotion by way of emphasising (and poetically amplifying) the imagery of nature. I could dig a little deeper here, actually I kind of did, but I did not really want to over-focus on the poem’s context because somehow it makes the analysing of the poem more humdrum in that we would basically know its motivation (its muse and/or, for other poems, the implied and intended meanings — subtext, I feel, all too often is revealed by context). [1]  Maybe I’m being foolish, should analysis be but a guessing game? Should we concoct everything from the strings of punctuated words alone? Is it about us or them or the text? Yeah it’s a bit of all three but which should we emphasise? It comes down, I guess, to why we bother to pursue the task of textual analytics in the first place: is it for pleasure or is it for purpose?

2. The poem

Well, let us begin by going to the heart of the matter: the poem’s narrator — almost certainly Keats him very self — is saying: (i) I want to be with the one I love day and night forevermore else (ii), I want to die here and now. Put differently, a life spent without being intimately entwined with the object of one’s lust and obsession is not one worth living . . .

Paolo_Veronese_-_Unfaithfulness_-_Google_Art_Project
Faith No More
“Unfaithfulness”
by Paolo Veronese (1575)
Paolo_Veronese_-_Unfaithfulness
London Calling
Paolo Veronese (1528–1588)
Room 9 ‘Venice 1530–1600,’ National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

. . . In the first recorded draft of “Bright Star,” dated to early 1819, we read loves unto death; whereas, in a later version, death is an alternative to (ephemeral) love. This poem is a classic ‘English’ — or ‘Shakespearean’ — sonnet: three stanzas of four lines apiece then the two-line rhyming couplet at the end. It is punctuated as a single sentence and uses the expected rhyme — A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D-E-F-E-F-G-G — with a customary volta:

No—yet still stedfast, ...

occurring after the octave. Arguably there is something of a second volta marked by the caesura and the dash, when this turn of emotion is expressed:

—or else swoon to death.

As a dictionary will tell you, as it told me, an ‘eremite,’ or hermit, is someone who lives in seclusion from society, usually for religious reasons (to ponder the seminal question of why and/or in penance for an actual or imagined thought or act). This guides us to the notion of a solitary unblinking star, to a connotation of ever-present light and (reassuring) oversight.

2.1 Synopsis

Addressed to a star — this “patient, sleepless Eremite” — the poem tells of the narrator’s desire to be as constant as a star with regard to being beside their loved one. The first eight lines are not about love or even human life; Keats looks at a personified star. By the sestet we find the narrator upon their lover’s chest and read that that’s where they desire to spend every moment from that exact one, to eternity. Life is finite, youth and the intensity of initial love are fleeting. If one knows one’s end is fast approaching, why on earth, why in the world, would they not seek to be a star and lodge forever more, pillow’d upon their loved one?

2.2 Imagery & symbolism

The Star
The use of the star as an image within the poem will most likely have been to emphasise steadfastness; a dutiful and resolutely firm unwavering presence (as is my love for you). Could this star be Venus? But as a planet, it ain’t so steadfast. [2]  Could it be The North Star? Yet astronomers say this one ain’t the brightest of the bunch. Could it be the Andromeda Nebula (NGC 224) seen as a collective one?

In Greek mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia of Aethiopia (the latter we are obliged to assume is some variant of a self-obsessed and overly vain step-mother). Andromeda is the Latinised form of Ancient Greek Ἀνδρομέδα (Androméda) meaning: “ruler of men.” When Cassiopeia boasts that she is more beautiful than the Nereids (the 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris — spirit nymphs of the ocean), Poseidon (god of the sea, earthquakes, storms, and horses; considered one of the most bad-tempered, moody and greedy of the Olympian gods) sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia as divine punishment. As a consequence, Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus (son of Zeus and, before the days of Heracles, one of the greatest Greek hero monster slayers; he beheaded the Gorgon Medusa for Polydectes and saved Andromeda from Cetus) . . . with a happy ever after ending for he escorts her on his magic carpet over Arabia to Greece to reign as his queen.
 
As a subject, Andromeda has been popular in art since classical times. In the Renaissance era, a popular source was Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.”

Andromeda & Perseus
From left to right: “Perseus (upper right) and Andromeda (left)” by Joachim Wtewael (1566–1638) (c. 1611); “Andromeda” by Gustave Doré (1832–1883) (1869) and, “Andromeda chained to the Rock by the Nereids” by Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856) (1840), hanging @ The Louvre Museum, Paris.

But, as Keats was an Englishman and stargazers there do like to go on about the ‘North star,’ let’s suppose that it was this one (the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor/Little teddy Bear; .a.k.a., ‘Pole Star’ / ‘Polaris’) — which historically it was assumed that the heavens rotated around — that the narrator is eulogising as “Bright Star.” Never mind though the exact one. Regardless of the star in question, it is said that stars, in poetic prose, personify a quiet and universal fixedness, the limitations of which are implied even as the star itself is praised. Shakespeare used such imagery in his play Julius Caesar when Caesar likens himself to the ‘Pole Star’ (yes, that’s the ‘North Star’). Shakespeare also celebrates love by way of the star as a symbol in Sonnet, № CXVI, see this excerpt:


… Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, 

That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.


William Shakespeare (№ CXVI)

Although stars may have ‘lone splendour’ (the likening of one to an ‘Eremite’ emphasises the sense of removal from the tangible world of humanity and, dare I say, aloofness), its cons are spelled out too: solitary & sans sensitive (in tandem with its steadfastness & splendidness). “Bright Star,” like other romantic poems, amplifies natural phenomena but Keats masterfully compares and contrasts.

You see, some natural phenomena is seemingly unchangeable — the seven stages of a star’s life-cycle, the rise and fall of black holes, plate tectonics too are not of a human scale nor almost, is a glacier’s creep — and is thus in stark contrast to the restlessness of humankind’s romantic passion. However, certain forms of love (Mania: obsessive love, from the Greek term ‘μανία,’ meaning “mental disorder,” from which the term “manic” is derived) can seemingly be construed by the afflicted individual as immutable. As one critic wrote of Keats’ usage of the star imagery in this poem, “The human heart can never be tranquil like the star, for human emotions know the conflict of joy and pain.” [3]

The Sea
Such an evocative body: the oceans, the seven seas, the ebb and flow on the tidal Thames with images of Londinium and tales of the Congo/Kongo; The Bay of Biscay and the Spanish Armada; clipper ships on voyages to Arabia and the Orient for spice; discovery ships seeking out new passages amongst ice-sheets and icebergs; HMS Bounty botany & mutiny, Tahiti, the Cherokee-class HMS Beagle w/ Galapagos finches on the mind.

The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Sewn in sailcloth, a plank at rear, one in front, a half-mast the backdrop for the call: “All hands bury the dead.” Was this the case for Usāmah bin Muḥammad bin ʿAwaḍ bin Lādin? It’s known there’s controversy about the veracity of this occurring out in the Indian Ocean on May 3rd, 2011… kept cryogenically, the more likely fate. After star-gazing and alongside the watching of an open fire, the setting and rising sun most surly be humankind’s infatuation with gazing at the sea and listening, if not for siren calls, then to the calls of (colloquially called) seagulls.

The Pasture
Its grazing not gracing so what springs to mind if not new born lambs encountering an unseasonably late snowfall — after all, it’s not deep and entrenched, it is new, soft and just a mask-like coating or veneer . . .

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

. . . — shepherds and their hooked crooks: we can rise with Marlowe (Red sky at night / Shepard’s delight) we can fall with Raleigh (Red sky in the morning / Shepard’s warning). Take either or both; mountains and moors are a world away from nascent industrialised urban squalor. Pure Love is a world away from perfunctory love. Stars are enduring, seasons (in Europe) are short-lived.

— § —


NOTES

[1]   Keats knew, it is assumed, that he was dying from tuberculosis — think Edgar Allan Poe and his poem: “Annabel Lee” {T.B. got George Orwell too, an artery burst in his left lung, killing him @ 46 yet he got hitched, in a hospital bed, the year before to one: Sonia Brownell; in attendance. amongst others, were Lucian Freud, Evelyn Waugh.} — and “Bright Star” is in no small part about this awareness. This delivers unto us con-text. When one first dwells on the sonnet’s closing sestet, we may question the utility of living forever if the one we love isn’t immortal too (i.e., Fanny Brawne, the real-world actual person who is almost certainly this poem’s mortal muse, isn’t being characterised as an undying goddess) yet, for Keats, a man in his early twenties well aware that he’d not likely see his 27th birthday —


Excuse me while I kiss the sky,
you got to get it while you can.
Love cannot save us from fate,
go back to her, I’ll go to black.

— living a normal lifespan (to be spent beside his ‘fair love’) would be tantamount to living forever.

I’d like to make note of the following words, words typed by Rumaan Alam in his review of a 2019 book on Lucian Freud entitled: The Lives of Lucian Freud: The Restless Years, 1922-1968


When I visit museums, I rarely listen to the guided tours and often try to look at the work before I read any explanatory wall text. I want to make up my own mind, or at least let my eye have first crack at things.

“Girl with a White Dog”
by Lucian Freud (1922–2011) (1950–1) — Oil paint on canvas, 76.2 cm by 101.6 cm @ The TATE, London. As Laura Freeman wrote in The Sunday Times, “No coiffure, no powdered shoulders, no airbrushed thighs. With Lucian Freud, paint becomes flesh. Skin puckers under armpits. Veins spread bluely across breasts in unheated studios. Skin is waxy-sallow in London winter light. He leaves out nothing. Not even a mole.”
“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.” -- Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
Lucian Freud
“The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn.”
— Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
“An artist should appear in his work no more than God in nature. The man is nothing; the work is everything.” -- Lucian Freud (1922–2011)
Lucian Freud: a self-portrait on aging.
Lucian Freud (1922–2011) once said, “An artist should appear in their work no more than god in nature. The human is nothing; the work is everything.”
just dust
“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.”
― Evelyn Waugh

— § —

[2]   Venus can often be seen within a few hours after sunset or before sunrise as the brightest object in the sky (other than the moon) from both the East End of London and Rome’s Vatican City (née Papal States).

— § —

[3]   It is best not to be too literal. A star’s heart is the diametric opposite of ‘tranquil’ for it is an atomic bath of nuclear fission and fusion converting atoms of hydrogen into helium and generating tremendous amount of fire|🔥|نار [feisty, fervid & all-consuming]. Yet, my moon, you to me can be a sensuous soporific “Sea of Tranquility” (“Mare Tranquillitātis” / 8.5°N 31.4°E).

“The Grave of Love”

— a poem considered
— poetry critiqued

A literary analysis of Thomas Love Peacock’s poem: “The Grave of Love” and, an introduction to Peacock’s essay “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820), P. B. Shelley’s response to it, “A Defence of Poetry” (1821) and the precursor to both, Philip Sidney’s “Apology for Poetry” (1595).

“The Grave of Love”


I DUG, beneath the cypress shade,
What well might seem an elfin’s grave;
And every pledge in earth I laid,
That erst thy false affection gave.

I press’d them down the sod beneath;
I placed one mossy stone above;
And twined the rose’s fading wreath
Around the sepulchre of love.

Frail as thy love, the flowers were dead
Ere yet the evening sun was set:
But years shall see the cypress spread,
Immutable as my regret.


— Thomas Love Peacock (c. 1807)

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866) was an English poet, novelist and official of the East India Company. Peacock left school at thirteen but, by way of assiduous reading, made himself an accomplished classical scholar and a master of both French and Italian literature. He was not an author by vocation, but his executive position at East India House, allowed him the time to pursue an avocation as writer of essays etc. (it is worth noting that the East India Company is indelibly linked to the U.K.’s former colonial domineering of India). Peacock was too, a good friend of the noted Romantic poet P. B. Shelley and it is clear that both were influenced by the work of the other. Peacock tended to satirise the intellectual tendencies of his time in his works of fiction in which, “conversation predominates over character or plot.” It is widely said that his best poetic verse is found within his novels. Peacock’s finest literary achievements are his inimitable satiric novels — Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817) (based on the “idea of an orang-outang mimicking humanity!) and Crotchet Castle (1831) — in which his procedure is to collect a group of argumentative eccentrics in a country house and set them to talking. His protagonists represent extreme or bigoted or visionary points of view on all sides of the important topics of the time. In one of his best-known works, Nightmare Abbey (1818), he constructs (satirises) characters drawn from the eminent poets of the time, including Shelley as “Scythrop Glowry,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge as “Mr Ferdinando Flosky” and, Lord Byron in the guise of “Mr Cypress” — the latter, a misanthropic poet destined for exile.

Some English Romantics:
01. — S. T. Coleridge
02. — John Keats
03. — P. B. Shelley
04. — Lord Byron

The novel Gryll Grange (1860) was once described as being the last and “mellowest fruit from Peacock’s tree.” It considered a key concern of the (mid-Victorian) era: the championing of civilization, harmony, and completeness against both technology and religious asceticism (‘prudishness’). The main plot of the book concerns Mr Falconer who is an idealist, ascetic, and classicist. Falconer lives in a tower attended by seven virgins, but is persuaded to join a convivial house party at Gryll Grange, where he woos and wins its presiding genius, Morgana Gryll.

— Why ‘seven’? Please do tell me.

Peacock’s, “The Four Ages of Poetry” (1820) is a satirical perspective on the history of poetry and its societal role (see below). He adapts the Greek and Roman view of literary evolution as a slow demise from the early golden age into his own trajectory, that has two rises and falls — the first age being the age of iron; the second, of gold; the third, of silver; and the fourth, of brass (cf. [1] Shelley’s, “A Defense of Poetry” (1821) and [2] Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” (1595) — both discussed below).

2. The poem

What is, when all’s said and done, this thing called love? Well my woman ((Oh! My man))… analysis by analysis, a step or a few forward, one or two back, we will learn what it encapsulates, what it can be defined as and, how it unfolds and immutably entraps those that fall for Venus’s nectar — like a black hole, there’s various entry points but no known exit/s. To be clear, “The Grave of Love” was in fact an untitled poem. It was found amongst Peacock’s belongings after his death. According to Edith Nicholls (Peacock’s grand-daughter) it was probably written in or around 1807. Unlike what I’d first guessed — the burial of an infant child — Edith speculated that the poem was to a young woman, one Fanny Falkner, whom he had loved. Edith wrote that, “They were engaged when she was eighteen, and he was twenty-two. For a few months they were entirely happy in mutual affection and sympathy. … The engagement was broken off in an unjustifiable manner by the underhand interference of a third person, and the young lady, supposing herself deserted, married another man.” I have titled it as I have because the venerable Arthur Quiller-Couch included it in The Oxford Book of English Verse (1919) as “The Grave of Love.”

“The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900”
— An anthology of English poetry, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch, that had a very substantial influence on popular taste and perception of poetry for at least a generation. It was published by Oxford University Press in 1900. Interestingly, it was carried widely around the British Empire and was seen as a near essential ‘knapsack book.’ Quiller-Couch dedicated it to Trinity College, Oxford calling it, “a house of learning; ancient, liberal, humane, and [his] most kindly nurse.” In the preface, penned in 1900, he wrote, inter alia, “To be sure, [one] must come to such a task as [the compiling of this anthology] haunted by their youth and the favourites they loved in days when they had much enthusiasm but little reading.”


A deeper import
Lurks in the legend told my infant years
Than lies upon that truth we live to learn.


— Arthur Quiller-Couch (1900)

2.1 Synopsis

“The Grave of Love” is not a poem that’s often subject to analysis; the most precursory of searches will attest to this. Yet, it speaks of love (lost) and thus it speaks to me. It follows then that I read this and reread it many a time. I happened across it initially in, I think, a Norton anthology. In sum, the poem seems to be about a person — the narrator — laying someone to rest, but doing so metaphorically speaking and actually too. So, not burring the actual person or merely a thought of a person but the making of a shrine of sorts to symbolically lay that person to rest. The elfin bit made me think of an infant but this just did not and does not fit with the false affection and the immutable regret.

2.2 Vocabulary

Yep, yep we all have dictionaries but, I do think that having the following word meaning reminders readily @ hand will aid both understanding and appreciation.

Cypress tree
— (Or branches of it) Symbolic of mourning.

Elfin
— A person or their face) small and delicate, typically with a mischievous charm.

Ere
— [archaic] preposition: before (in time).

Erst
— A long time ago; formerly.

Immutable
— Unchanging over time or unable to be changed.

Regret
— We should note, I’m reliably informed, that the word “regret” had a much stronger meaning in 1807 than it does today.

Sepulture
— A small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried.

Thy
— [Archaic] A form of the word “your.”

2.3 Literary & Poetic Devices

The poem consists of three stanzas of four lines apiece. There’s rhyme aplenty:

shade / laid
above / love
set / regret

Allusion
— The making of an indirect reference of a person, place, &c. For instance in this poem “elfin” implies the object of the poem was not just small in frame but cheeky somehow too.

2.4 Analysis

Was DUG all caps for emphasis, or should it not have been? Have I merely reinforced a typo of a kind or was this the poet’s want? Anyway, there’s bitterness,

erst thy false affection gave

there’s remorse,

rose’s fading wreath /
the flowers were dead

and there’s regret:

Immutable as my regret.

Misunderstandings and seemingly run-of-the-mill errors of judgment can have monumental consequences, don’t I know it. Oh don’t I bloody fucking know it. You feel for the narrator, there digging the grave, he (let us assume it is a ‘he’) does this metaphorically so to speak (and yes, the poem itself is a metaphor too) but it is palpable: the earth, the sod and the mossy stone, all hark of the Emerald isle — the island of Great Britain — so too is the quintessential twined wreath of roses — red / English country garden etc. etc. — but then, amongst all of this, is the Cypress tree . . .

Etymology: Cypress tree
— The word cypress is derived from the Old French ‘cipres,’ which was imported from Latin ‘cypressus,’ which is the latinisation of the Greek κυπάρισσος (kyparissos). And then we have the knowledge of the Romantic era’s love of all things Greek by way of good Italian architecture, art and writing. In Greek mythology, Cyparissus (kyparissos) was a boy beloved by a deity (probably Apollo). In one well known version of this myth, the favorite companion of Cyparissus was a tamed dear, which he then accidentally killed with his hunting javelin as it lay dozing serenely in a wood. The boy’s grief was such that it transformed him into a cypress tree. Hence that tree became the classic symbol of/for mourning ((we know about Fig leave and Olive branches don’t we ;P)).
 
The myth is thus aetiological: it explain, or it tells us the reason for why this tree is of this particular significance culturally speaking.

Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music
“Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music”
— by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1834)
Apollo, Hyacinthus and Cyparissus making music
“Cyparissus”
— by Jacopo Vignali (c. 1625)

. . . the sigh press tree. Well, this lifts the tragedy of laying a loved one (or a terminated love affair) to rest to a higher plane. Timeless poetry can put one’s emotional ephemerality into some degree of perspective and for poetry’s roots, where do we go if not to The Iliad and The Odyssey; the foundational texts of Western literature. Where do we seek solace if not to poems and poetry, to long-read (or long form) articles and tomes that deal with the nature of the human condition. I mean, the sun had set and the flowers were dead.

Frail as thy love

Who’s love exactly?. . . Was it — this love 💔 — frail because it was false (‘fake’)? Frail because it was fickle (‘fleeting’)? Or frail because the giver of this love became feverish and then passed away?

Knowing the context (the notes of Edith Nicholls etc.) is — I feel more and more — an impediment not an aid to usefully analysing poetry.

— § —

The Four Ages of Poetry &c.

“The Four Ages of Poetry,” an essay of 1820 by Thomas Love Peacock, was both a significant study of poetry in its own right, and the stimulus for the 1821 essay: “A Defence of Poetry” by P. B. Shelley. Both are, in a way, nuances of the arguments made by Philip Sidney’s 1595 An Apology for Poetry (in which Sidney responds to some points made by a puritanical contemporary of his).

In essence, “Four Ages” (see the full essay, with commentary, here) is a utilitarian attack on the Romantic poets of Peacock era; characters indeed that he was closely and amicably associated with. Note well that Peacock was first and foremost a satirist and thus tongue n cheek was the order of the day — in other essays Peacock would write in defence of such poets! In a nutshell, Peacock offered a mocking account of how poets originally developed a claim to be historians and/or moral and ethical guides. He argued that: practice is mainly rooted in expression, so it should not be held as fact. In a counterpoint essay — “A Defense of Poetry” — Shelley places the poet on a pedestal see the full essay, with commentary, here). Arguably Shelly’s case for the poet is built upon the essay Philip Sidney wrote — “An Apology for Poetry” — back in 1595 that defended poets and poetry from prudish puritans see the full essay, with commentary, here). The shoulders of giants. . . ; decline and fall. . . & moment’s monuments. . .

First published in the journal Literary Miscellany in 1820, Four Ages was Peacock’s satirical perspective on the history and societal role of poetry. He describes the golden age as the age of Homer, the silver age as “the poetry of civilized life,” with two kinds of poetry, “imitative and original.” Peacock holds Virgil as an example of a strong imitator, and casts the original poetry of the silver age as the emergence of comic and satirical forms, and notes of the age the “labored polish of versification” as a new obstacle to poetry’s previously unencumbered music of sound and sense. The [Romantic], brass era is marked, according to Peacock, by poems of “verbose and minutely-detailed description of thoughts, passions, actions, persons, and things.” Peacock concludes that industrialised civilization has outgrown the need for poetry, and that as societies become more complex the intellectual role that poets had held is more effectively taken on by philosophers and statesmen. In the brass age, Peacock argues, the poet is “a semi-barbarian in a civilized community.”

Objection your Honour!

Shelley retorted to Peacock by saying that, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Shelley’s essay — “The Defence of Poetry” — contains many allusions to Peacock’s Four Ages, e.g., “If I know the knight by the device of his shield, I have only to inscribe Cassandra, Antigone, or Alcestis on mine to blunt the point of his spear;” taking one instance of a favourite character from each of the the three great Greek tragedians. Shelley begins with reason and imagination, defining reason as logical thought and imagination as perception, adding, “reason respects the differences, and imagination the similitudes of things.” From reason and imagination, humankind may recognise beauty, and it is through beauty that civilization comes.

Language, Shelley contends, shows humanity’s impulse toward order and harmony, which leads to an appreciation of unity and beauty. Those in “excess” of language are the poets, whose task it is to impart the pleasures of their experience and observations into poems. Shelley argues, that civilization advances and thrives with the help of poetry. This assumption then, through Shelley’s own understanding, marks the poet as a prophet, not a man dispensing forecasts but a person who “participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one.” He goes on to place poetry in the column of divine and organic process: “A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth … the creation of actions according to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the Creator.” The task of poets then is to interpret and present the poem; Shelley’s metaphor here explicates: “Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

Today, Defence of Poetry is considered by far the most important of Shelley’s prose writings. In it, Shelley claims that poets have the capacity to be philosophers; that they are the creators and protectors of moral and civil laws; and that if it were not for poets, scientists could not have developed either their theories or their inventions.” Shelley opens his essay by discussing the two faculties of the human mind: reason and imagination. He highlights the difference between them and says:“Reason is the enumeration of qualities already known; imagination is the perception of the value of those qualities, both separately and as a whole. Reason respects the differences,and imagination the similitudes of things. The reason is to imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the spirit, as the shadow to the substance.”

From the Romantic era, let’s rewind to the Elizabethan era. Philip Sidney in his 1595 “Apology for Poetry” reacts against the attacks made on poetry by the puritan and anti-theatrical writer, Stephen Gosson. To, Sidney, poetry is an art of imitation for specific purpose, it is imitated to teach and delight. According to Sidney, poetry is simply a superior means of communication and its value depends on what is communicated. The claims Gossen made (and were then countered by Sidney) are as follow:

  1. Poetry is the waste of time;
  2. Poetry is mother of lies;
  3. It is nurse of abuse;
  4. Plato was right to have banished poets from his ideal world.

For Sidney, (1) poetry is the source of knowledge and a civilizing force, for Sidney. Gossen attacks on poetry saying that it corrupts the people and it is the waste of time, but Sidney says that no learning is so good as that which teaches and moves to virtue and that nothing can both teach and amuse so much as poetry does. He contends that ancient Greek society respected poets quite considerably. The poets are always to be looked up. So, poetry is not a waste of one’s time. Sidney claims (2) that poet does not lie because he never affirms that his fiction is true and can never lie. The poetic truths are ideal and universal. Therefore, poetry cannot be false per se (or as others have put it, “the mother of all lies”). Sidney rejects too the notion that poetry is “the source of abuses.” To him (3), it is people who abuse poetry, not vice-versa. Abuses are more nursed by philosophy and history than by poetry, by describing battles, bloodshed, violence etc. On the contrary, poetry, the argument goes, helps to maintain morality and peace by avoiding such violence and bloodshed. Moreover it brings light to knowledge. Sidney (4) contends that Plato in his Republic wanted to banish the abuse of poetry not the poets. He himself was not free from poeticality, which we can find in his dialogues. Plato never says that all poets should be banished. He called for banishing only those poets who are inferior and unable to instruct the children.

As Sidney sees it, art is the imitation of nature but it is not slavish imitation as Plato views. Rather it is creative imitation. Nature is dull, incomplete and ugly. It is artists who turn dull nature in to golden color. He employs his creative faculty, imagination and style of presentation to decorate the raw materials of nature. For Sidney, art is a speaking picture having spatiotemporal dimension (belonging to both space and time or to space–time). For Aristotle human action is more important but for Sidney nature is important. Nature vs. Nurture. . . Oh how I want it to be the latter (we can hope society, family and parenting can improve) but all indications are that it’s nature, our dee en ay & our genes, that overrides and supersedes and is writ large 😦


REFERENCES

📙  An Apology for Poetry (1595)
📙  Melincourt (1817)
📙  The Four Ages of Poetry (1820)
📙  A Defence of Poetry (1821)
📙  Crouchet Castle (1831)
📙  Headlong Hall and Nightmare Abbey (1850)
📙  Gryll Grange (1861)
📙  The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900 (1919)

Brett-Smith, H. (Ed.) (1923). Peacock’s Four Ages of Poetry, Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, Browning’s Essay on Shelley (2nd ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Eliot, C. W. (Ed.) (1909). Percy Bysshe Shelley – A Defence of Poetry. English essays, from Sir Philip Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard classics, Volume 27. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

Eliot, C. W. (Ed.) (1909). Sir Philip Sidney – The Defense of Poesy. English essays, from Sir Philip Sidney to Macaulay. The Harvard classics, Volume 27. New York: P. F. Collier & Son.

Peacock, T. L. (1817). Melincourt. London: T. Hookham.

Peacock, T. L. (1831). Crotchet Castle. London: T. Hookham.

Peacock, T. L. (1850). ‘Headlong Hall’ and ‘Nightmare Abbey’. New York: George P. Putnam.

Peacock, T. L. (1861). Gryll Grange. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd.

Quiller-Couch, A. T. (1919). The Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250–1900. Oxford: Clarendon.