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Sunday surprise – a British Query

Monday, June 26th, 2017

[ By Charles Cameron — William Blake asks, David Jones responds ]
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William Blake asks:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

I won’t quote the rest of the poem, because it’s those last two lines that interest me:

And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

**

Is there a glimpse of Jerusalem to be had, among the mills and chimneys of industry? David Jones, I think, takes the question very seriously, not looking for an answer to some Glastonbury Festival site, but to the contemporary manifestation of those mills — the skyscrapers of the city — not turning his gaze away from them but peering into them, questioning the very assumption that paradise cannot be found among them.

And here, I think, Jones answers — his quest unsatisfied:

I said, Ah! what shall I write?
I enquired up and down.
(He’s tricked me before
with his manifold lurking-places.)
I looked for His symbol at the door.
I have looked for a long while
at the textures and contours.
I have run a hand over the trivial intersections.
I have journeyed among the dead forms
causation projects from pillar to pylon.
I have tired the eyes of the mind
regarding the colours and lights.
I have felt for His wounds
in nozzles and containers.
I have wondered for the automatic devices.
I have tested the inane patterns
without prejudice.
I have been on my guard
not to condemn the unfamiliar.
For it is easy to miss Him
at the turn of a civilisation.

I have watched the wheels go round in case I
might see the living creatures like the appearance
of lamps, in case I might see the Living God projected
from the Machine. I have said to the perfected steel,
be my sister and for the glassy towers I thought I felt
some beginnings of His creature, but A, a, a Domine Deus,
my hands found the glazed work unrefined and the terrible
crystal a stage-paste …Eia, Domine Deus.

It is, I think, a very great poem. Eia, Domine Deus.

More to the somewhat left, Cameron

Friday, June 9th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — first of two posts ]
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Our friend Scott just observed:

This blog has been getting a little partisan since November…can we go back to being a little more objective?

Here’s the first of two posts in an initial attempt at balance, one from myself and one from Zen, both about today’s Comey testimony.

**

Was this the day a boil burst?

Was this the day a boil burst on the neck of universe?
Universe is too large,
even solar system exaggerates,
Jove Pater may be keeping a paternal eye on us,
there may even be villages in New Guinea
where John Frum is the news topic of the day,
but as Dan Rather just said of Comey’s testimony,
This scene is going to be written about fifty, a hundred,
two hundred years from now; there’s something
Shakespearean about it, in more current terms,
House of Cards..

My mind drifted from the Comey hearings,
and came back, I wondered where it had gone, given
the intensity of the moment,
volcanic maybe, though all moments
have seemingly a sort of priority in their own times
like a balcony in Escher bulging because,
well, because he’s seeing it, making it his focus..
My mind must have wandered,
that’s the metaphor, down to the banks of Lethe,
dipped in, gotten ah somehow baptized,
deep baptized,
so that Lethe, the banks of Lethe,
the steps leading down to the banks of Lethe
all vanished, all submerged,
gone down into oblivion, known
only because once there was mind on Comey
and I woke to mind gone.

Pure Buddhism, pure any meditative practice..
Mind here, gone,
and meanwhile the volcano,
Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, boil,
has burst,
spewed forth evidence Mueller
like a small planetary Jove Pater can work with
in his own moments volcanic —
just an American,
or not quite only an American Jove Pater —
manwhile, Trump ever Mercurial,
Comey stellar..

Speaking of stars, whoah!
Catastrophe,
meaning literally: a downward-turning of the stars.

If your memory serves you well..

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — Muslim travel ban DoubleQuoted with Japanese internment camps, history rhyming, Ginsberg on Dylan’s national rhyme ]
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Anna O Law (The Immigration Battle in American Courts, Cambridge, 2014) made the connection:

**

What kind of rhyme is that anyway, Mister History?

Is it one like:

Idiot wind, blowing everytime you move your jaw,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Mardi Gras.

— the first version the current Nobel Laureate in Literature tried out — or this, definitive one? —

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.

**

The question interests me because there’s a back-level where the rhyme is in the concept, not the sound of the words as pronounced by poet or listener, reader — as with the rhyme womb / tomb, where before-birth and after-death meet both soncally and conceptually, making life freshly worthwhile as only the mechanics of poetry can.

Ginsberg explains:

Christopher Ricks, who has also penned books about T. S. Eliot and John Keats, argues that Dylan’s lyrics not only qualify as poetry, but that Dylan is among the finest poets of all time, on the same level as Milton, Keats, and Tennyson. He points to Dylan’s mastery of rhymes that are often startling and perfectly judged. For example, this pairing from “Idiot Wind,” released in 1975:

Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull,
From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol

The metaphorical relation between the head and the head of state, both of them two big domes, and the “idiot wind” blowing out of Washington, D.C., from the mouths of politicians, made this particular lyric the “great disillusioned national rhyme,” according to Allen Ginsberg.

Ginsberg’s formidable liking for this rhyme is part of what got him invited to Dylan’s Rolling thunder Review:

Ginsberg’s tribute to that rhyme is one of the reasons he is here with Bob and Joan and the rest of the merry motley. It was, says Allen, “one of the little sparks of intelligence that passed between Bob and me and that led him to invite me on the tour.”

**

I caught the rolling thunder in Fort Collins:

**

Ah yes.

And If your memory serves you well is, as I recall via Google, Dylan’s top of the hat to Rimbaud‘s A Season in Hell, which opens with the words:

Jadis, si je me souviens bien, ma vie était un festin où s’ouvraient tous les cœurs, où tous les vins coulaient.

This Wheel’s On Fire, lyrics by that Nobel fellow, Rick Danko and the Band:

**

Memory, pattern, association, analogy, history, learning.

And Dylan on how literature works on you a similar wonder — in his recently released Nobel speech:

Music to my ears.

Pistol, crucifix, condom

Friday, May 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — covering all bases? — an astonishing display of symbols ]
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Lists of three — sex, drugs and rock’n’roll for example, or wine, women and song, as we used to say — sex, lies and videotape — can usefully itemize / totemize the whole of life as it is lived — a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me — at the individual, general, universal or transcendent level — when two or three are gathered in my name

But this image, from a Ukrainian law enforcement advisor’s Instagram account beats all!

Hat tip: Christopher Miller

Pistol, crucifix, condom
— I was wondering whether one could play scissors, paper, rock with those symbols, but..

**

Coleridge characterizes symbols thus:

A symbol is characterized… above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it Renders Intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is representative.

At night, to be honest, a pistol, a condom an a crucifix might each be placed on the bedside table of someone in law enforcement as a matter of convenience, with no great symbolic import attached. But they are each nonetheless highly symbolic items. And the greater the degree to which these three items, when considered as symbols, are “translucent” to the individual resder here, the more astonishing their juztaposition in this image will appear.

The Executive and the [unacknowledged] Legislator

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” — PB Shelley ]
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President Trump reads the lyrics of a song about a snake:

Trump is arguing the dangers of immigration and the necessity of a wall…

My response:

Poet Robert Frost reads a poem about a wall:

**

There’s irony aplenty in the Frost poem, and the voice of the narrator is generally not taken to be that of Frost himself. Worth pondering, thugh, are these lines:

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.

Frost’s poem, though, is contrapuntal, with its two key statements clashing:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

and:

Good fences make good neighbours.

Frost, it seems, leans more to the latter position — and Trump might have done himself a different favor, and quoted Frost.


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