Un flâneur, c’est moi

me, my dog n bone and i

^^^ A “modernist” trilogy by British author Will Self consisting of Umbrella, (2012) Shark (2014) and Phone (2017) is notable in several ways, one being that for the most part, James Joyce-style, it does away with prosaic literary norms like punctuation and paragraphing. As impressive as this style of prose may be, Boyd Tonkin of The Financial Times, along with many other literary critics, caution that Self’s refusal to lay down anchors in his sea of words — chapters, sub-headings and even blinking full stops for the most part — may let inattentive passengers drift over syntactically sunken treasures of lexically lucid insights on the human condition in the era of the internet, self obsession and mass consumption; in other words, some readers may sail on obliviously by as say, just below the translucent aquamarine waves of a balmy coral sea, Neptune is meticulously choreographing a highly nuanced and graphically mesmerising (if only you’d been paying attention and reading methodically) mermaid ménage à trois: 🧜🏻‍♀️ 🧜🏻‍♀️ 🧜🏻‍♀️. In a neat little nutshell, this trilogy tells us of how state-sponsored violence and capitalism have been bedfellows for the past hundred years (no solitude; no satisfaction) and how technology is disrupting our lives whether or not we are awake/woke or slumbering (most likely in a fitful way from all that screen-time prior to nod off with, more probably than not, Alexa or Cortina or Siri passively recording our breathing, heartbeats per minute along with our REM dreams and transferring this binary data to digital farms for marketing executives — their minions more like — to mull over in the present Quarter, for government and media corporation agencies to feed into social engineering and manipulation algorithms and for posterity too — we really are just numbers in a system now, an almighty long string of fucking zeros and ones). Another notable thing is the extent to which this trilogy has been able to harmoniously marry the personal to the political.

In Phone our perennial protagonist, Zechariah Busner — who has spent half a century investigating the minds of others — is starting to lose his own marbles. Previously he ran a mental-health commune in Shark and managed to wake a sleeping-sickness patient from a 50-year coma in Umbrella but by the naughty nihilistic noughties he is, as Tim Martin of The Spectator so eloquently and succinctly paraphrases it: “standing in the breakfast bar of a Manchester hotel without any trousers on, comparing his penis to an ‘oiled and wooden-looking’ sausage. ‘I’ve no desires to speak of — not any more,’ he tells the security guard. ‘I’ve attained Sannyasa, y’see — the life-stage of renunciation.’”


WHATEVER YOU DO hang on to your phone
. . . . . . !
Feel the smoothness of its beautifully bevelled screen
. . . . . . !
Place your thumb in the soft depression of its belly-button
. . . . . . !
A £500 worry bead – and your main worry? Bloody fucking losing the phone


— Will Self (2017) & I (2020)

As stated, Self’s labyrinthine trilogy covers the modern ways of madness, love and death (the personal psyche) alongside how we are governed and controlled by big tech and self-help gurus and their paid-for solutions to the problems they themselves have conjured up and tell us, via surreptitious social media feeds, we are ailed with — but me, me, I’m fucking depressed in the very realist of senses and I know well the reason for why — you, you my dear one&only — and no mindfulness mumbo jumbo is gunna fix that (the political). Like the actual umbrella, and like the physical sharks of the seven seas, the phone becomes the medium — figuratively, literally and metaphorically — in which all of the characters in the last of the trilogy’s instalments play out their deepest desires, erotic fantasies and heartfelt hatreds.

J. P. O’malley, of The Independent, writes that characters in the trilogy often blend and merge into and out of one another and while it is all fictional after a fashion it is — like in reality — hard to distinguish between fantasy, madness and drug-induced hallucinations 😜 👻. Self isn’t inventing the wheel but simply borrowing from his cultural heroes: Joyce and R. D. Laing. The latter, in his time, challenged the militant orthodoxy of psychiatry and rejected labels such as mad/sane and normal/abnormal. As Self, himself says, anybody who’s lucid can apprehend that the world we live in is a large-scale and inherently chaotic system in all sorts of ways. In particular it is the consequence of technology on society writ large that is the constant motif of these three novels.

On the subject of technology and the mediums for reading prose, it makes me laugh a bit because Self himself is adamant that the codex — from the Latin, ‘caudex’ meaning the trunk of a tree or a block of wood or indeed a book constructed of a number of sheets of paper, vellum, papyrus, or similar materials — is dead but who really can imagine that many a millennial (or younger) picking up a trio of books and reading them? Okay, so they’ll read Will’s work online, but come on! Online reading is hampered by tab/app switching. Nevertheless (or should I say Notwithstanding?) it is — as some might say — what it is. Some of us youngsters do read actual books in between wanking and worrying oh and some of us oldies do too, again, in between worrying and wanking. And what the bloody hell do I mean by saying “it is what it is” because I’m not comfortable with the demise of the art of reading nor the closure of library after library nor the contention that we no longer need to learn how to use a pencil because all we’ll ever do in the future is touch type on ultra thin film Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode screens.

Anyway, according to Jon Day of The Guardian, Self is mostly interested in the ways we have come to be constrained by the technologies that once promised to free us. This is, he writes, evident in Self’s “Kittlerian trilogy” * which ultimately is a commentary on the interplay between minds, madness and technology across the 20th c. As overaching protagonist Zechariah Busner muses, the problem with modernity is that we are all “attempting to make our way across this new wasteland using the same old ways.”

Umbrella — 1 of 3.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2012 this work is a so called ‘stream-of-consciousness’ novel; written in a flowing fashion without chapters and very few paragraph breaks between scenes. Umbrella tells the story of a psychiatrist Zack Busner and his treatment of a patient at Friern Hospital in 1971 who has encephalitis lethargica and has been in a vegetative state since 1918. The patient, Audrey Death, has two brothers whose activities before and during WWI are interwoven into her own story. Busner brings her back to consciousness using a new drug called, L-Dopa. In the final element of the story, in 2010 the asylum is no longer in existence and the recently retired Busner travels across north London trying to find the truth about his experience with his patient.

Shark — 2 of 3.
This book turns upon an actual incident in WWII — mentioned in the film Jaws * — when the ship which had delivered the fissile material to the south Pacific to be dropped on Hiroshima was subsequently sunk by a Japanese submarine with the loss of 900 men, including 200 killed in the largest shark attack ever recorded. When the Creep, an American resident in the 1970s at the therapeutic community in north London supervised by our dear maverick Zack, starts to tell rambling stories of thrashing about in the water while under attack from sharks, Zack has to decide whether they are schizoid delusions or some sort of reality.

Phone — 3 of 3.
Much of Phone takes place during the premiership of the “Narcissist-in-Chief”, TeeBee A’s Will puts it and Tony B.lair as my woman likes to call him. All of the books key characters have had maverick careers in hierarchical institutions such as the EffSeeOh, and the EmmOhDee (translations: FCO [The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office] MOD [The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence]). For the four protagonists at the heart of Phone, the £500 worry bead in their pocket is both a blessing and a curse. For our now elderly but still dear Zac it is a mysterious object – ‘NO CALLER ID’ – How should this be interpreted? Is it that the caller is devoid of an identity due to some psychological or physical trauma?’ – but also it’s his life line to his autistic grandson Ben, whose own connection with technology is, in turn, a vital one. For Jonathan De’Ath, a.k.a., ‘the Butcher’, MI6 agent, the phone may reveal his best kept secret of all: that Colonel Gawain Thomas, husband, father, and highly-trained tank commander – is Jonathan ‘s long time lover. And when technology, love and violence finally converge in the wreckage of postwar Iraq, the Colonel and the Spy’s dalliance will determine the destiny of nations.

As O’malley says, almost every second sentence in this book is a double entente, where the Freudian metaphor is never far away. The phone could and in certain contexts and quintessential quarters does represent a myriad of different things: a penis, the military industrial complex, or a symptom of a violent-dysfunctional-collective-psychosis in contemporary western culture. Self goes well beyond personal grief, and analyses a pathological ­politick where “intervention” is now the default first option — strike fast, think later.

As Stuart Kelly of the New Statesman sees it, Phone is yes about the intersection of technology and psychosis but also too about the intersection of the amatory * and the military industrial complex. As Self himself obsesses about, the naming of our distressed parts is all psychiatry consists of nowadays – that, and doling out the drugs which allegedly alleviate these symptoms. In other words, every freshly manufactured malady comes flanked with a team of would-be experts at the ready, pumped n primed to fleece you of your Euros and Riyals, they accept PayPal and occupy daytime TV and those tailored adds that troll your every move on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. (Tailored, not off-the-peg, oh they see and treat us as individuals…)

Uniting our most urgent contemporary concerns: from the ubiquitous mobile phone to a family in chaos; from the horror of modern war, to the end of privacy, Phone is, according to Penguin, “Self’s most important and compelling novel to date.” Notwithstanding such accolades, and while Phone may well constitute a glorious trove of sinister marvels, it might nevertheless send the incautious reader slightly mad — just like the world wide web accessed via that gleaming data-rocket in your pocket probably will do too. Mark my words.

Will Self has actually written a load more books in addition to the trio of novels just discussed, I’ll mention one more here, Dorian. It is is a tainted love story and a stated ‘imitation’ of Picture of Dorian Gray, by the vainglorious (?) Oscar Wilde. According to the blurb on the back-cover:

In the summer of 1981, aristocratic, drug-addicted Henry Wooten and Warhol-acolyte Baz Hallward meet Dorian Gray. Dorian is a golden adonis – perfect, pure and (so far) deliciously uncorrupted. The subject of Baz’s video installation, Cathode Narcissus, and the object of Henry’s attentions, Dorian is launched on a hedonistic binge that spans the ’80s and ’90s. But as Baz and Henry succumb to the disease du jour, how is it that Dorian, despite all his sexual and narcotic debauchery, remains so unsullied – so vibrantly alive?
 
‘Chilling, hysterical, tasteless and haunting. A Gothic thriller complementing and enriching its original.’Independent on Sunday
 
‘Brutal, savage, infinitely readable.’The Observer

2019_48_will_self


A creative life cannot be sustained by approval any more than it can be destroyed by criticism.

— Will Self

2019__will_self


Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.

— Will Self

 

From who and by what means, I’ve no fucking clue 😉


p.s.

* Flâneur
Via French from the Old Norse verb flana “to wander with no purpose,” flâneur means, stroller, lounger or loafer. And, flânerie is the act of strolling — walking slowly — with all of its accompanying flâneur associations (the female equivalent to the flâneur). It was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who made the notion of Flânerie the object of scholarly interest. A near-synonym is: ‘boulevardier.’ A boulevardier is an ambivalent person who seeks to detach themselves from society in order to be an acute observer of society.

* Amatory
Relating to or induced by sexual love or desire. — “John’s amatory exploits put me on cloud nine well over that pale lunar moon.”

* Kittlerian
Friedrich A. Kittler (1943–2011) was a literary scholar and focused mostly on the media, and technology.

* JAWS

REFERENCES
Self, W. (2009). Dorian. London: Penguin.
Self, W. (2009). Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe. London: Penguin.
Self, W. (2009). How the Dead Live. London: Penguin.
Self, W. (2009). Liver (And Other Stories). London: Penguin.
Self, W. (2012). Umbrella. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Self, W. (2014). Shark. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Self, W. (2017). Phone. London: Viking.

I shall study…

for what else can I do?
❝(Ⅲ+Ⅲ) ⅋ (Ⅲ*Ⅲ)❞

Heronimus Bosch
^ Known as a triptych. This one consists of oil daubed, with meticulous masterstrokes, on three oak panels. It was painted some 500 years ago, by a lowlands gentleman called, Hieronymus Bosch.

“Garden of Earthly Delights” is the contemporary title given to Hieronymus Bosch’s mesmerising work. It was painted in around 1499 and is currently on show at the Museo del Prado in Spain.

Before digging and delving a little deeper, lets enjoy each panel in turn (click each of the three below to greatly expand the image); together, the three parts of a triptych are intended to tell a story which is read from left to right:

Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_The_Earthly_Paradise_(Garden_of_Eden)
A. “Left-hand panel”
Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_(Ecclesia's_Paradise)
B. “Central panel”
Hieronymus_Bosch_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights_-_Hell
C. “Right-hand panel”

As so little is known about Bosch, opinions and interpretations of his work have ranged from, “an admonition of worldly fleshy indulgence,” through, “a dire warning on the perils of life’s temptations,” to, “an evocation of ultimate sexual joy!” Look again at the myriad of things going on in the central panel; there is a surfeit of symbolism. Contemporary scholars are divided as to whether the triptych’s central panel is a moral warning (good 😇) or a panorama of paradise lost (bad 😈). But come on YOLO (( Jae: WOLO )) bad is good ain’t it. We say wicked to mean good and sick to mean wow. I, for one would rather wallow in the last days of Rome, than be a prudish restrained human, living not for today but the mythical afterlife.

“Hidden meanings in The Garden of Earthly Delights”
by Fiona Macdonald (9 August, 2016)
BBC
 
“Facts You Need to Know About the Delightfully Weird ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’”
by Jessica Stewart (6 July 6, 2019)
MyModernMet
 
“Decoding Bosch’s Wild, Whimsical “Garden of Earthly Delights”
by Alexxa Gotthardt (18 October, 2019)
Artsy.net


POST SCRIPTUM

Tri–
Etymology: From Latin tri- (“three”) and Ancient Greek τρι- (tri-, “three”).


Triptych
A triptych is a work of art that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works.


Trilogy
A group of three related novels, plays or films etc.

Tricycle
A vehicle similar to a bicycle, but having three wheels, two at the back and one at the front.


Triangulation
[1] (in surveying) the tracing and measurement of a series or network of triangles in order to determine the distances and relative positions of points spread over an area, especially by measuring the length of one side of each triangle and deducing its angles and the length of the other two sides by observation from this baseline. — “The triangulation of Great Britain.”
[2] The formation of or division into triangles.
[3] (In American politics) the action or process of positioning oneself in such a way as to appeal to or appease both left-wing and right-wing standpoints.


Triplicate
Adjective: Existing in three copies or examples.
Noun: A thing which is part of a set of three copies or corresponding parts.
Verb: To make three copies of something; to multiply by three.


Tripod
A three-legged stand for supporting a camera or other apparatus.


Trigonometry
The branch of mathematics dealing with the relations of the sides and angles of triangles and with the relevant functions of any angles.


Tripartite
[1] Shared by three parties. — “a tripartite coalition government.”
[2] Consisting of three parts — “a tripartite classification.”


Tricolour
Adjective: Something that has three colours.
Noun: A flag with three bands or blocks of different colours, especially the French national flag with equal upright bands of blue, white, and red.


p.p.s.
With reference to the trio of trilogies introduced above:

* AESCHYLUS [1 of 3]
Aeschylus (524–456 BC) was an ancient Greek tragedian and is today described as the father of tragedy.

Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1862)
My X man, a sensitive soul but also a *_fucking_* player
Greek text
“It’s all Greek to me”
(i.e., double Dutch, gibberish, gobbledygook, mumbo jumbo)

It’s all Greek to me
An English idiom — which may be construed as rude by some — meaning that something is difficult to understand. The metaphor makes reference to Greek as an archetypal foreign form of communication both written and spoken. The idiom is typically used with respect to something of a foreign nature. We may choose to use it to refer to texts containing too much jargon etc. The idiom/metaphor’s roots may well be a direct translation of a similar phrase in Latin: “Graecum est; non legitur” (“it is Greek, [therefore] it cannot be read”) a phrase increasingly used by monk scribes in the Middle Ages, as knowledge of the Greek alphabet and language was dwindling among those who were copying manuscripts in monastic libraries. Recorded usage of the metaphor in English traces back to the early modern period. It appears in 1599 in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

Double Dutch
[Informal • British]
Language that is impossible to understand. — “The instructions were written in double Dutch.”


Gibberish
Unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing. — “Our Doctor for English Literature often talks a load of gibberish.”


Gobbledygook
Language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms. — “His essay on Plato was pure gobbledygook.”


Mumbo jumbo
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment. — “A maze of legal mumbo jumbo.”


Read more :
Poetry & ProseWritersAeschylus

 

** ALIGHIERI DANTE [2 of 3]
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 in the Italian city of Florence. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” is the famous phrase written above the gate of Hell in the 14th c. poem by Dante; the poem is called the “Divine Comedy” and Hell is known as “Dante’s Inferno.”

Dante
Love moves the sun and the other stars.


Read more :
Poetry & ProseWritersAlighieri Dante

 

*** CHINUA ACHEBE [3 of 3]
Achebe is said to be the father of African literature in English. In spare and lucid prose, he writes of the universal tale of personal and moral struggle in a(n ever) changing world. In his most notable and accomplished work, Things Fall Apart, the individual tragedy of Okonkwo, ‘strong man’ and tribal elder in the Nigeria of the 1890s is intertwined with the transformation of traditional Igbo society under the impact of Christianity and colonialism. In No Longer at Ease, Okonkwo’s grandson, Obi, educated in England, returns to a civil-service job in colonial Lagos, only to clash with the ruling elite to which he now believes he belongs. Arrow of God is set in the 1920s and explores the conflict from the two points of view – often, but not always, opposing – of Ezuelu, an Igbo priest, and Captain Winterbottom, a British district officer.

A while ago I wrote a post about how Instagram etc. is changing the way humans interact with the wilderness and sites of beauty and/or historic importance:

Wilderness-Lost--02

Wilderness-Lost--03


Wilderness Ruined

Today, I read a bit more about Instagram and how it seemingly deeply interferes with a great many of our psyches:

“Infinite scroll: life under Instagram”
by Dayna Tortorici (31 January, 2020)
The Guardian
 
“Why the New Instagram It Girl Spends All Her Time Alone”
by Dayna Tortorici (16 October, 2019)
The Atlantic
 
Tavi Gevinson’s Life on Instagram
by Lauren Starke (16 September, 2019)
New York Magazine

Here’s an interesting thing…

psyche means the human soul, mind, or spirit.
 
psychology means the scientific study of the mind.
 
Psyche [Ψυχη] however, is a name too. Only now did I know.

Psyche Abandoned, by Jacques Louis David (1795)
“Psyche Abandoned”
by Jacques-Louis David (1795)

^ look at her eyes, I mean, gaze into them and wonder the reason for why — my man’s eyes are a gorgeous green / my woman’s eyes are a beautiful brown — once you’ve done your wondering, I’ll tell you the reason for Psyche’s tear weary eyes. It is this: the flight of Cupid. Unfortunately, his sudden departure was something that she unintentionally caused. You see, despite having been forbidden as a mortal to look upon the god, Psyche could not resist discovering who her nighttime lover was and what he looked like (she knew well his sublime amorous moves and sweet wettening whispered words). So as Cupid slept, she gazed upon him by the light of an olive oil fueled lamp (Moby Dick wouldn’t be for another two millennia…). Mesmerised by his beauty, she accidentally spilled a drop or two of that warm frankincense incensed Kalamata oiive oil upon his naked torso. As a consequence, Cupid — for that was his name — woke and was compelled by God’s command to retreat back to the heavenly abode from whence he cometh.

Good thing is — I guess, yes — our dear Psyche became a god and lived happily ever after:

“Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss”
by François Gérard (1798)

I love

& I hate

Some may wonder how…

“How can it be both, Anna?”

Alas, I know not the why nor the how.

Anglophile? Me? You’re dreaming Darlin’

7c1a50cc49167d7198906c401778e3df

1217-magna-carta-heritage-visit-britain-poster-landscape

eye cry

[ he’s sad ]


Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium!
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magic again binds
What custom has firmly parted.
All men become brothers
Where your tender wing lingers.
Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!
Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium!
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magic again binds
What custom has firmly parted.
All men become brothers
Where your tender wing lingers.
Your magic again binds
What custom has firmly parted.
All men become brothers
Where your tender wing lingers.


— Friedrich Schiller (1985)

Friedrich Schiller's signature

Arthur_B._Davies_-_Elysian_Fields_-_Google_Art_Project
“Elysian Fields”
by Arthur Bowen Davies (c. 1916)

p.s.

The word “Elysium” (Ἠλύσιον) derives from the Ancient Greek and means, ‘to be deeply stirred from joy.’ In Homer’s Odyssey, Elysium is described as a paradise:
“The Elysian plain…where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men.”

Moment’s Monuments

^ poetry defined.


“Pick Up a Printed Poem”


A poem is a hitchhiker
waiting in a book
hoping you ill stop
hoping you will look
at life and letters differently
once you get to know him.
Give a lift to words.
Pick up a printed poem.
Poetry will help you steer.
Poetry will help you see.
Poems I met years ago
still ride around
inside of me.

— Amy L. V.

‘Love’ by Coleridge

A literary analysis of Coleridge’s “Love.”

“Love”


All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.

The moonshine, stealing o’er the scene
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!

She leant against the arméd man,
The statue of the arméd knight;
She stood and listened to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.

Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve!
She loves me best, whene’er I sing
The songs that make her grieve.

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story—
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew, I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.

I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.

I told her how he pined: and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another’s love,
Interpreted my own.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes, and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!

But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night;

That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,—

There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!

And that unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land!

And how she wept, and clasped his knees;
And how she tended him in vain—
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain;—

And that she nursed him in a cave;
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest-leaves
A dying man he lay;—

His dying words—but when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faultering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!

All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve;
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve;

And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!

She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love, and virgin-shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.

Her bosom heaved—she stepped aside,
As conscious of my look she stepped—
Then suddenly, with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.

She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head, looked up,
And gazed upon my face.

‘Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly ’twas a bashful art,
That I might rather feel, than see,
The swelling of her heart.

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”
Sculpted by Antonio Canova (c. 1787) @ The Louvre.

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher. Coleridge’s literary criticism, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential. In addition, he coined various phrases, including, “suspension of disbelief.” He was a contemporary of William Wordsworth — indeed they produced a number of collaborative works — and together they were amongst the key founding members of what we today class as the “Romantic Movement.”


The eye, it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
Against or with our will.

— William Wordsworth

A poem of Coleridge’s, called “Christabel” is said to have had a major influence on Edgar Allan Poe — particularly Poe’s 1831 poem, “The Sleeper.”


For passionate love is still divine
I lov’d her as an angel might
With ray of the all living light
Which blazes upon Edis’ shrine.

— Edgar Allan Poe

One of Coleridge’s best known and most anthologised poems is called “Kubla Khan.” Listen to it here:

For all of his adult life Coleridge suffered from periods of intense anxiety and depression. Furthermore, he was physically unhealthy and, in attempting to overcome this used laudanum, which fostered a lifelong opium addiction (see: Lovelorn for more on opium and literature).

2. The poem

In Coleridge’s poem “Love,” the narrator (and read here: probably Coleridge writing about someone he himself was pining for) is attempting to win over a women by appealing to her tender emotions (her ‘soft spot’ so to speak). To do this he tells her a heart-wrenching story! He waxes poetic about the days of chivalry, in which a knight saved a lady from an “outrage worse than death” (let us presume it may well have been rape), is wounded in so doing and soon thereafter, dies in her arms. The women that the poem’s narrator fancies, on hearing the story, is deeply moved to tears and then — low and behold 😉 — succumbs to the narrator’s charms.

Each of this poem’s 24 stanzas is a quatrain (4 lines) and follows, I think, the ABCB rhyming pattern. The first three lines of each stanza — I’ve read it said — are written in iambic tetrameter (each line contains two sets of two beats, or “iambs” — firstly unstressed then stressed) each stanza’s last line contains only three iambs (i.e., it was written in “iambic trimeter”). [tri = three, think of a triangle!]


Learn more about literary analysis techniques:
Poetry & ProseLiterary devices
Poetry & ProseAnalytical techniques
Poetry & ProseGlossary of terminology

Theme

The theme of the poem is the glorification of love. Love, as a subject, is always engaging as it describes the most intense passion of the human heart (see: “Love letters”). In this poem there is only really a union of the hearts, and not of the body; there’s no suggestion of carnal passion. It is, in other words about love and not about sex.

Love, according to the poem’s narrator is the supreme passion of all human beings and all the other passions are slaves to it. These other passions and emotions, moreover, all contribute something to the passion of love. In their own ways they stimulate, inspire, and sustain love.

Coleridge’s “Love” has many thematic elements associated with the Romantic Period not least its stress of the emotional over the reasonable! This is evident from the second and final stanza. Another theme of poetry in the Romantic Period is the nostalgic view of past traditions such as e.g., the Medieval Era (the Middle Ages), as signified in the poem with the discussion of the knight, fighting for chivalry and a fair lady’s heart and honour:

for ten years he wooed the lady of the land

The the degree to which the poem’s narrator goes to win the heart of the woman he fancies — his true one & only — is the driving force of this poem. I say women, but maybe the narrator fancied a man… Love is Love; love is gender-blind.

Like a rainbow,
you come and go.

In the first stanza of “Love” the narrator begins by stating that every emotion one could experience influences and is influenced by love.

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Love is given agency. In the second stanza the narrator goes on to refer to himself in the first person.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.

This is he, this is Coleridge! His “waking dreams” his (opioid) day dreams… He recalls the “happy hour…”


I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?

Two lovers entwined pass me by
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

— Steven Morrissey / Johnny Marr

The sixth stanza of Coleridge’s “Love” describes how the narrator is using his language (words & tone) to woo his woman:

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story—
An old rude song...

The next stanza — I think — is meant to tell us how the women he fancies is both aroused and saddened by the somewhat risqué and scandalous medieval tale:

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;

The 17th stanza again describes how the narrator is using his language (words & tone) to woo his woman:

My faltering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!

The poem ends with a neat – happy for ever after — ending… lovely but a fucking myth (ain’t it mate?)

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.



Read more of and on The Romantics:
Poetry & ProsePoetsS. T. Coleridge
Poetry & ProsePoetsJohn Keats
Poetry & ProsePoetsP. B. Shelley
Poetry & ProsePoetsLord Byron


Rear view one (derrière wide-angle)
Rear view one (derrière wide-angle)
Rear view two (derrière macro)
Rear view two (derrière macro)
“Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss”
By François Gérard (1798)

* A symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening.