Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Freedom From Facts: Truth As Fetishism

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

flat-earth-memes-252-14.jpg

From a site called Freeminds.org which seems to be some kind of Islamic fundamentalist site.

I am tempted to post another paper, but hell, I decided to do a little ranting for a change. The Earth is flat again! Climate change is a hoax! As Firesign Theatre one proclaimed “Everything You Know is Wrong!” I would comment on the Trump phenomenon but things are changing so rapidly that anything I say today will be old news in a day or two. so I will keep the political commentary focused on the long haul. Or the short dig, I am not thinking too good these days, Things, facts, data, all floating around my brain…. can’t think….

joseph-goebbels-quote-on-lie.jpg

The Nazi’s are back, interesting that it was American advertising genius that taught the Nazi’s propaganda, Trump is just owning the concept, rebranding. From http://mype.co.za/new/on-trump-many-big-lies-and-us/82645/2017/01

Recently I have become interested in Critical Theory, mostly feminist, post-Marxist and the rest of what they are teaching in the Universities these days. I just finished my Geography degree, although I spent a lot of time taking history and classics. I was going to be an English Lit major, but got tracked into English Rhetoric, which is really prep for teaching or in my case technical writing. I hate technical writing, but I was getting money from the state to go through the program while I was on dialysis and then rehabilitation from my transplant. Free money from the state, what was I going to do? I took it and endured. But then I started working again. Drag, yes, but hell, it was what my machine self was created for. Hooboy, that opens a can of worms, dualism versus monism.

criticaltheory-cartoon.png

From: http://mimiandeunice.com/2010/10/08/critical-theory/

I like to try things out. I even am trying on this whole Trump white race is good thing. Not exactly my identity, after all I am a believer in the old Lou Reed song “I want to be black” and have spent much of my adult life becoming a self identified under class person, so much so that in fact, surprise, surprise, that is exactly what I have become. An earnest, poor person struggling to join the middling classes. How ironic, how appropriate, I lecture minority youth on the benefits of good credit, how to pass for passive when the cops are on your case, how to get grants and find public education rather than getting trapped in debt with scam for profit school education. Although I must admit, one girlfriend has gone to one of those schools and has her Dental assistant degree and she loves that shit.

dualism-vs-monism.png

From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dualism-vs-Monism.png

Another girlfriend did the for profit school medical assistant program and is really bored being a billing clerk. She has debt, not tons, but was it worth it? I got my Geography degree and what do I do, estimating for a graphic design and commercial print and packaging company, its kind of boring, but then I have my own office, I get respect more or less, and I can look up academic papers on line between working on estimates. I am thinking about a paper on the effects of climate change on the prophetic and messianic process during the Reformation. I am beginning to think that the technological changes with the invention of the Printing Press was more of a factor, but I am having fun researching. Getting a masters, now that should be interesting, if I don’t die first.

university-debt-trap.jpg

From: http://www.politicalcartoons.com/cartoon/590cfe89-e690-48f7-bf94-5af5ff8d3fe5.html

So what to say, Dump Trump, sure, but Pence? No, Trump at least wants to be loved and will cater to some extent to a populist agenda. Pence and the rest of the crew are straight up Republican establishment types. What is really interesting and disconcerting is the rise of the Alt Right and the ability of fact free news sites to become legitimate. In my youth an equivalent would have been if all of a sudden the Tattler and the other tabloids at the supermarket check out stands became the new legitimate news sources. They are for a certain type of semi - literate person. But for the ruling classes to manipulate that to destroy the truth seeking process enshrined in the enlightenment theory, and the news media that subscribe to the enlightenment, the academia, and the general educated class perspective, tossed aside for a populist, no-nothing type of anti-intellectualism, pandering to the lowest common denominator, not out of necessity but by deliberate choice, is well, tough to take.

news-source-truth-continuum.jpeg

From: http://list.ly/list/1ML2-fake-news-lessons

On the other hand from a nihilistic point of view, why not. Flush it all down the toilet and start fresh. Fresh could be nice, if it wasn’t racist, homophobic, and celebrating monster truck culture. Hell when is the President going to show up at a monster truck rally? I heard him talking about professional wrestling the other day before a crowd in Iowa. Why not, nobody really cares, as Randy Newman in his classic tune Political Science said:

No one likes us, I don’t know why
We may not be perfect but Heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money but are they grateful?
No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful
They don’t respect us so let’s surprise them
We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them

slim-pickens-riding-the-bomb.jpg

Slim Pickens Rides the Bomb in the Kubrick classic “Dr. Strangelove”

That song was written almost 50 years ago. Some things never change. The Earth is flat again and science doesn’t matter, its how you feel about it that makes it real, right?
With that said, the bigger the lie the better, just repeat it often enough and abracadabra you have fact free reality.

fact-comprehension-preschool.png

Test used in early child teaching. From: https://www.education.com/worksheet/article/fact-or-make-believe/

Near Eastern Influences on Archaic Period Greece

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaeological Museum of Athens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Persian_Wars#/media/File:Greek-Persian_duel.jpg
img src=”http://www.crystalinks.com/Greco_PersianWars.jpg” alt=”" /

I recently posted this book review I did for an ancient Greek survey class. I have have had some health issues recently and had to drop most of my classes. Work has been excessively demanding and has taken up most of my waking hours, and being sick just left me too drained to continue most of my studies. I did manage to hang onto this one class and I am thoroughly enjoying my hours immersed in the Greeks. The question has come up in my mind, as I watch Congress fawning over Israel and evincing seemingly irrational fear of Iran, as to why this anti Iranian sentiment. It is more than simply the result of the Iranian take over of the embassy in Tehran. This is deeper cultural stuff. As I was thinking about the Greco-Persian Wars, I realized that the anti-Persian propaganda goes back to the ancient Greeks and the wars against the Persian Empire in the 5th Century BCE. Since the study of ancient Greece goes back to at least the 18th Century in elite American and Western European culture, this prejudice, part of a greater fear of Oriental domination, ingrained by experiences with the Muslims and Turks more specifically in the case of Europe, all has influenced the current political climate. I applaud the Obama administration for its breaking through to a more rational position vis a vie Iran.

I hope you enjoy reading my review.

Walter Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Trans. Margaret E. Pinder and Walter Burkert. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press. 1992).

Burkert’s book is dedicated to the exploration of oriental influences in Greek culture particularly in the archaic period of the ninth through sixth centuries BCE. Burkert starts with evidence from scraps of Greek literature bolstered by an examination of the artifacts remaining from the period. He considers the period of the Assyrian battles for domination on the coast of Northern Syria in the later Ninth century and again in the later eighth and early seventh centuries BCE, in particular to be seminal in the diversification of Oriental knowledge among the Greeks, with refugee craftsmen relocating to the Greek speaking regions among others (Burkert 11-14).
Specific example Burkert uses for an early immigration is that of a family of goldsmiths and gem cutter in Knossos who reused a Minoan tomb consecrating it with oriental style foundation deposits in approximately 800 BCE known as the “Tomb of the Goldsmiths” (22, 54). He goes into a rather extensive description of the traditions of the “public workers,” or demioergoi (Od. 17.383-385 qtd. in Burkert 23), writing of their ability to move about due to their skills of techne (23). He indicates that immigrant potters, and vase painters came from Egypt, Lydia and Phrygia also, noting that as late as Aristotle craftsmen were as a rule described as immigrant non-citizens, and often slaves (23).

Banded Jug with Oriental Influences

The seventh century began with the influence of Oriential Style are influencing the current Geometric Style. Images of lions, foreign goddesses followed by strange animals, and the sphynx were all elements introduced into greek vase painting by eastern culture. The brunt of the oriental influence came from the greek east that had the most contact with eastern civilization. The areas of Rhodes, Samos, and Miletus had a strong influence on this trend.

(Carter, np)

Burkert also describes in some detail the transfer of magical and religious rituals and traditions citing the bronze liver models from Mesopotamia in clay and the very similar Etruscan liver model from Piacenza in the third century BCE and being an example of a clear transfer of systems of belief from the east to the west, in this case hepatoscopy or haruspicina, divination by interpreting sheep livers in particular (Burkert 46-48). He indicates that there was a very specific Assyrian school with a systemic approach that was somewhat abstracted from nature, also followed in their own system of saecula by the Etruscans (48, 49-50). The Greeks he argues followed a more naturalistic and behavioral model in interpretation with it becoming the preferred form of divination into the classical period as Burkert cites from Plato (49). He considers “the spread of hepatoscopy one of the clearest examples of cultural contact in the orientalizing period” (51). The mobility of seers and healers or “migrant charismatics” as he calls them, is a key part of the spread of oriental wisdom to the west along with the traders and craftsmen.

Burkert spends some time denouncing the “anti-oriental reflex” (3) as something that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries among German speaking academia, in particular, as an outgrowth of the “ideology of romantic nationalism” of Herder, the separation of philology from religion by Wolf and the new pagan influenced classicism of Winckemann (2). The emergence of national romanticism is seen by the author as part of the grounds in which anti-Semitism gained influence in classical studies. The discovery of the Indo-European linguistic base for most European languages, along with Sanskrit and Persian, furthered what was at the time a Greek-Roman-Germanic view of the world (2). A strong motivation for Burkert is quite evident in his almost crusader like approach to rehabilitating the Oriental and Semitic influence in particular in this study of the Archaic period of Greek history. He notes later in the text that Beloch went out of his way to separate “Rhodian Zeus Atabyrios from Mount Atabyron =Tabor, the mountain in Palestine” claiming this as a clear cut case of anti-Semitism (34).

While I am not an authority on German academic anti-Semitism, it is fairly clear that until recently Semitic roots to many aspects of Greek culture has been limited. A simple scan of the citations from the East in the text book A Brief History of Ancient Greece describes the period after the decline of the Mycenaean Civilization mentions grave goods from Greek tombs, from the Near East that may have been a result of contact with “Near Eastern traders roaming the Aegean Sea” (Pomeroy et. al., 47). They mention the emergence of iron working after 1050 BCE as a result of trade in bronze making raw materials being cut off, rather than being the result of technology learned from the Hittites or other Near Eastern sources where “Iron technology was long known” (43). Mention is made of Hesiod deriving a history of the gods in his Theogony from ancient Mesopotamian stories, but then goes nowhere with that connection (57). Later describing Hesiod’s Works and Days where “Sermonizing poetry, so different from that of the Homeric narrative, was clearly influenced by the Ancient Genre of Near Eastern ‘wisdom literature’” (77). The colonization of the wider Mediterranean word is attributed to Greek traders in partnership with Phoenicians (59) and that the Greeks took up the phonetic writing system in the Eighth century for reasons that are called debatable (60). They do better describing the origins of art in the description of the “Orientalizing style” from the Near East and Egypt in about 720 BCE, but the description takes up a couple of sentences only (62) and their description of the emergence of the classic Greek Temple at that time doesn’t mention outside influences at all (62). This may seem fairly substantial but it seems to allude to rather than explore the influences of the East. Burkert sets about to develop the influences his and others influence can be seen in the text above.

Lady of Auxerre
Lady of Auxerra. Limestone, probably from Crete, ca 650-625 BCE.

Source: Boundless. “The Orientalizing Period.” Boundless Art History. Boundless, 14 Nov. 2014. Retrieved 05 Apr. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/art-history/textbooks/boundless-art-history-textbook/ancient-greece-6/the-geometric-and-orientalizing-periods-63/the-orientalizing-period-330-10889/

Burkert claims an eastern influence on the construction of large altars for burnt offerings and the large temples which he notes coincided with the period of movement of eastern craftsmen in the eighth century prior to which there had been no examples in Greece (Burkert, 20). The use of composite beasts and other animal motifs in pottery and sculpture are part of what has been known as the Orientalizing period as mentioned above. Creatures such as the Chimera have Hittite links, Triton’s to Mesopotamia, as well as lion motifs. He states that the sight of a lion would have been something unknown in the life of most Greeks (20). He goes on to say that “typically Greek” forms of portrayal of Zeus and Poseidon with the lightning bolt or the trident are derived from Syrio-Hittite statuettes. The same goes for the portrayal of the standing naked female goddess with hands touching breasts as being of Syrian origin (21). He goes on to state that the Hoplite weapons that came into use in the Archaic period were close to Assyrian and Urartian models, suggesting that mercenaries may have picked brought them back with them. Burkert notes the Carian and Ionian mercenaries in Egypt under Psammentichus among others in the seventh and sixth century (25). Burkert, a philologist, has an extensive discourse on the use of loan words from the Near East. He states that the earliest Greek writing shows up shortly before 750 BCE in Naxos, Ischia, Athens, and Euboea intersecting exactly with the time of the “trading connections of Iawones from Syria via Euboea to the West” (26). He says that while the exact location of the transfer may be hard to pinpoint, it occurred rather rapidly form Phrygians to the Etruscans in a matter of a few decades, indicating that the idea of a slow indigenous development of the Greek alphabet had been discredited by Lilian Jeffery’s work (27).

Burkert seems to go so far as to give short shrift to the Egyptian influence on Greek culture and religion. As he describes the possible roots of the Greek tradition of liver augury, describing the priest clan of the Tamiradae at Paphos claiming to have brought the tradition from Cilicia, citing Tacitus and discounting the earlier source Herodotus’ claim for an Egyptian source as being unfounded (49; note 16, 182). Although I understand is desire to accentuate Semitic roots, discounting Egyptian roots seems to be somewhat counterproductive. The distinctions being made by Burkert seemingly have more to do with late twentieth century revisionism than historical fact. Although his speculations on the migration of technology, myth, and religion seem perfectly valid, his emphasis on the Akkadian, Phoenician and Assyrian roots is noteworthy.

Bernal in his extensive review of Burkert, complains of the lack of inclusion of the Egyptians and of the narrow time frame in which Burkert sets the impact on Greek culture of the Near East (Bernal 138). Bernal has bigger fish to fry, he seems to be out to debunk the concept of the Dark Ages in Greece as one of isolation from which the Greeks emerged in the Archaic period stating “Burkert appears to share the Hellenocentric view that … the ‘Dark Ages’ provide a significant barrier between the cosmopolitan society of the palaces and the ‘repurified’ Greek society that emerged in the early eight century” (138). He goes on to argue that the initial Semitic influence goes back to the earliest period of Bronze Age Greece and Minoan Crete to the early second millennium BCE (144). While I agree with Bernal on his assessment on the weakness of the Egyptian influence in Burkert’s argument, I don’t read Burkert as excluding earlier influences so much as focusing on the Archaic period and expanding upon our understanding of the extent of the influence of dispersion of ideas across geographic regions.

Writing of purification rituals, Burkert describes how there is a wide literature available for magic rituals whereas that in Greek is brief, allusive or dependent on later reports Burkert, (Burkert, 56). He discusses the piglet bloodletting rituals in Aeschylus description of the purification of Orestes for murder (57). He mentions one example of ritual purification in the Iliad called lymata or dirty water being disposed of (57), Deciding to look for the citation I found (Il.1.313-314) “while Atreus’ son told his people to wash off their defilement. And they washed it away and threw the washing into the salt sea.” (Trans. Lat. 83). This seems to be related to the offense to Apollo and his priest. Seeking further information about the matter I found this extract on Theoi.com:

Arctinus of Miletus, The Aethiopis Fragment 1 (from Proclus, Chrestomathia 2) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th B.C.): “Akhilleus [after slaying Thersites for his insults] sails to Lesbos and after sacrificing to Apollon, Artemis and Leto, is purified by Odysseus from bloodshed.” (Astima, Artemis n.p.).

An Apulian krater in the Louvre shows Apollo himself pouring the blood of the pig over Orestes Burkert affirms, although he does not show this image in the book (Burkert, 57). It is available on line from the web site of the Louvre in Paris. Below is the image described by Burkert with a description from the Louvre Museum in Paris where the krater is located:

The purification Orestes in Delphi.’ This exceptionally large bell-krater depicts the beginning of Aeschylus’s tragedy The Eumenides. The scene opens at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, symbolized by an altar surmounted by the Omphalos, the navel of the world. Orestes has taken refuge here, fleeing the Erinyes, the terrible goddesses of vengeance. He is still holding the dagger with which he has killed his mother, Clytemnestra, to avenge his father. Behind him stands Apollo, holding a laurel branch in one hand and, with the other, shaking a piglet above the young man’s head in a gesture of purification. Artemis, the god’s sister, stands by his side.

(Padel-Imbaud, np).

The ritual purification in the Semitic world involved the blood of a pig as Burkert indicates in an excerpt from Babylonian ritual texts of purification (Burkert, 58). There is much evidence of purification rituals in the Near East from which the Greeks could have picked up from traveling seers and healers the specific practices mentioned above He goes on to make the point that even Apollo had to undergo ritual purification after slaying the Python, by going to Crete which Burkert associates along with Cypress as a center for the early Orientalizing period. He also notes that there are indications that the cult of Apollo itself has links to Semitic culture including the rituals around the new moon and the seventh day of the month (61). Although he clearly states that not all coincidental similarities of names and timing of events, are not evidence of Semitic influences, he feels that not enough recognition of the links that are the most likely hypothesis are given credibility by experts in the field and this book goes a long way in rectifying that lack of credit.

With much detail and copious notes, half again as long as the book itself, Burkert packs in a short text of 129 pages plus 90 pages of notes and bibliography an extensive and well- argued case for the continuous and extensive interaction between the Near East and Archaic period Greece. While he doesn’t give much shrift to the continuity of prior connections during the Bronze age, focusing on the period from about 800 – 650 BCE, he does not state that this was the only period of interaction, but the main early period. As I have stated before he leaves Egyptian sources largely neglected, but his effort is primarily aimed at debunking the approach of Orientalists and Hellenists that tries to examine Greece as a pure case of indigenous brilliance as the source of western civilization separate from the Near Eastern cradle in which the Greek baby rocked.

Works Cited

Atsma, Aaron J. “Artemis Goddess.” Theoi Project 2000 - 2011, Accessed Feb. 21, 2015 http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/ArtemisGoddess.html

Bernal, Martin. “Burkert’s Orientalizing Revolution.” Arion, 4.2 (1996): 137-147.

Carter, Xxavier. “The Geometric Style Greek Archaeology,” Metamedia at Stanford http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/113/655. Last modified Sat Dec 17/2005 06:09. Accessed 4 April 2015.

Lattimore, Richmond, Trans. The Iliad of Homer. Introduction and notes Richard Martin. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 2911.

Padel-Imbaud, Sophie. “The purification of Orestes in Delphi.” Apulian red-figure bell-krateine 23. Collection Campana, 1861, 1861 Known as the “Eumenides Krater” Cp 710. Louvre, France. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/apulian-red-figure-bell-krater. Web, accessed 2/22/15.r. Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC) Sully wing 1st floor Galerie Campana V Room 44 Vitr

Pomeroy, Sarah B., Burstein, Stanley M., Donlan, Walter, Roberts, Jennifer Tolbert, and Tandy, David, W. A Brief History of Ancient Greece Politics, Society, and Culture. Third ed. New York: Oxford U. Press. 2014.

Betwixt and Between

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Betwixt and Between talk with Mihika
From: betwixtandbetween.libsyn.com-

I am hovering over a decision whether to drop the pretense of understanding the English language well enough to write it properly. Questions about my willingness to persevere in, the process of dissecting the English language, and attempting to become a better writer via the English Rhetoric program at CSULB have arisen. Dread at another sleepless semester has me halting before the gateway to eternal wisdom.

Dante purportedly originated the phrase: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” the warning at the gates of hell
From: wordwhoops.wordpress.com

Invested as I have become in attaining a degree in English Rhetoric, I find myself falling into continual despair at my inability to articulate correctly the brick and mortar terminology of the language. I have been reduced to watching ESL videos on YouTube in attempts to prop up my poor understanding of grammatical structure.

From: http://tracifishbowl.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-one-where-i-get-little-crazy-about.html

I am at another Rubicon, and sit here on my writing bed Hamletizing over whether to wrestle with my travails and misfortunes or to throw in the literary towel. And yes, I did consciously use Hamletize, that literary no-no. As my old girlfriend Nadine would famously say “fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke.” I am becoming much too aware of my phrasing for my native heart to take. Hesitating and bemoaning my lack of clarity, denigrating the artless expression of raw content, and thus forfeiting immediacy, for fear of clunky exhortations.

From: The Vault at Pfaff’s - Biographies - Search digital.lib.lehigh.edu-

Arguments over passive voice and active voice, transitive and intransitive verbs, proper pronouns and the lot have me quivering in fear over the next word, whether or not this sentence will falter and die a thousand deaths, or land in some version of literary limbo.

Aldous Huxley with “Limbo” From: aleaftothebean.wordpress.com

I can envision Dante, led by his faithful Roman guide Vergil, observing myself same words, enduring the slings and arrows of abuse from Chiron’s centaur horde. I can reference with the best of them, but only with the help of a well-worn Google search. Only the fragments of memory from the days when I could roam over the literary fields with some felicity have aided in my hunt and pecking in these more dour times.

Chiron Descending From: ebooks.adelaide.edu.au

So should I continue to abuse myself, lacking sleep, deferring literary projects, following the dubious path of academic acknowledgement, into my doddering last days, or eschew the trappings of academia and strike forth upon my own, hacking a path in the primordial-chthonic stew? I suppose, imagine, conjure, that to be the question dear reader.

I singe the body eclectic!

From: Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery | Motherboard motherboard.vice.com-

New Year

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

A Tale of Two Hoodies
From: globalgrind.com

It is a new year a dawning. I hear fireworks, shouting and pan clanging around me as I write. Out with the old, and in with the new.

We have begun to see the resistant remnants of ugly racism fall before the angry critique of the aroused brown and black peoples. It is my firm belief that the US will be able to face at last the lingering distasteful odor of race based discrimination and cleanse itself, from this bloody relic of slavery and colonial imperialism. Good luck and well wishes to us all.

From: socialistorganizer.org

May 2015 be the year we finally make it to a world where there is only one race, the human race.

From: http://blog.loukavar.com/2014/08/28/moving-beyond-racism/

See you around the block folks, and may we all grow in tolerance, empathy and understanding.

British Imperialism in Ireland: Harbinger of Things to Come

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Sir Henry Sidney, Lord-Deputy, accompanied by an armed force, sets out from Dublin Castle for a progress through Ireland. Detail from a plate in The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581).
From: John Derrick - http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/about/bgallery/Gallery/researchcoll/ireland.html

Coercing the Native Speaker: English Language Consolidation in the British Isles

The intent of the Scots to become Englishmen was certainly not predetermined at the time of the attempted union by King James. This was voted down in Parliament and Shakespeare’s commentaries in Macbeth notwithstanding, there was a propaganda war occurring. This war was fought between those who advocated a Standard English and those who wanted a Scottish standard of English. The victims of this battle for control of the language were the common dialect speakers who were forced to choose between these narrowing poles as the contest for the hearts and minds of the Scots and English developed over the next two centuries. As Adam Beach notes by the time of Adam Smith there had emerged a semi anthropological view of civilized and savage language in which those who did not speak in the dominant paradigm were increasingly regulated to lower class status.
Lynda Mugglestone relates how class was determined by accent, emphasizing the opportunity offered by language standardization in the work of 18th century writers like Thomas Sheridan. Sheridan spoke disparagingly about the ‘disgrace’ of dialect, uniformity of language would provide opportunity for the Scots, Irish and Welshmen. The shifting emphasis on accent and speaking properly became a focus in English culture. Mugglestone describes language becoming a key determinant of class status by the late 18th century.

Britain is depicted in its feminine aspect as the Athena-like Britannia disciplining the naughty Irish child
From: http://english.chass.ncsu.edu/jouvert/v4i1/hasla.htm

Taking another approach Amy Devitt sees the movement to uniformity as part of a natural process and not one of prescriptivism or institutional enforcement. Describing the gradual standardization of English in Scotland around the initial union through King James, the process is simply seen as a normal outcome of history. The emergence of a dominant language is not always benign as the example of the Irish would show during this same period. Patricia Palmer wrote about the dislocation felt by the Irish who as described in John Derrike’s The Image of Irelande, a not so rosy picture arises, “Dumb / bloodied, the severed / head now chokes to / speak another tongue”. Severed heads present a literal finality. Choking to speak the oppressors tongue, transition from one language to another in Elizabethan times displays the interrelationship between conquest and language. Perhaps the Irish model from the Elizabethan England’s bloody conquest of Ireland with the subsequent pushing aside of the Irish language could be seen as the mother of all English imperialism, in fact the model for subsequent rendering of savages unto civilization as was done so well with Native Americans by the colonists.

White and Black Slaves in the Sugar Plantations of Barbados. None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.
From: http://radio2hot.wordpress.com/2013/12/31/the-irish-slaveswhat-they-will-never-ever-tell-you-in-history-class-or-anywhere-else-white-and-black-slave/

As the British embarked on the earliest phase of its dabbling in colonialism, Shakespeare weighed in against such foreign ventures. Leah Marcus describes Shakespeare’s anglicizing of names in his version of “Thomas Lodge’s prose romance Rosalynde (1590),” As You Like It, where the Ardennes forest is replaced with the British Arden forest. Marcus shows Shakespeare subtly anglicizing many original French terms and denigrating foreign adventures, Jacques for example becomes Jaques a potential victim of the French disease (as syphilis was known), with his sores, the representation of what would happen if the locals went abroad. Shakespeare was critical of British foreign adventurism by anglicizing Lodge’s story, according to Marcus. England was embroiled in its war of Irish conquest at the time As You Like It was first staged possibly at the opening of the Globe Theatre in 1599. Shakespeare in my modest view was constrained to follow the way the winds were blowing rather than staking is reputation on an anti-colonialist position.

Cromwellian army’s campaign in Ireland immediately after the English Civil War. Cromwell was short of cash to pay his troops at the end of the war, and confiscated 80% of the land (coloured orange above) for his troops in lieu of money. The dispossessed landowners were offered poor quality land in Connaught in exchange.
From: http://www.great-britain.co.uk/history/ireland.htm

Bloody Ireland was a test, which way would the English go, to empire or fraternal relations? Patricia Palmer wrote, “`Elizabethan’ Ireland is the last moment when a confident Irish-speaking world confronts its English nemesis” The wordsmiths of freeholder independence vs the consolidation of empire in the language is part of a process of defining legitimatization according to Jim Milroy. Milroy’s criticism of “internal linguistic analysis” presented by advocates such as Saussure, who believed studying internal linguistic structural forms, creates “objective, non-ideological, and reliable,” analysis. Linguistic standardization excluding variants contradicting the norm inherently involves bias. Miloy says the claim “the history of standard English is the legitimate history of English” exhibits bias limiting the discourse, setting standards ignoring geography, history, and culture. The standardizing tendency, determines much English origins discourse focusing on corruption of a supposed model, Miloy considers illusory. Miloy credits the influence of Victorian enthusiasts enamored the language of Shakespeare, exploring dialects as vulgarizations of the mother tongue, denying historicity to deviations.

The fact is the term “Black Irish” is an ambiguous term!Traditionalist maintain the term to be in accordance with a dark-haired phenotype of Irish descent.
From: sagebookwhisperer.blogspot.com

Writing of Ireland Palmer claims that the imperial and linguistic project went hand in hand as early as the sixteenth century. “The fact that so many of the leading translators of the age - Bryskett, Fenton, Googe, Harington - were also players in the conquest of Ireland confirms the uncanny congruity between pushing back the frontiers of English and expanding the geopolitical boundaries within which it operated.” The steps taken to establish empire were essential to the process creating English predominance, leading to the destruction of competing cultures by rooting out linguistic variance. Thus the creation of legitimate and illegitimate language is according to Wiley a projection of elite culture going back to the sixteenth century, defining social status by accent much earlier than the eighteenth century where Mugglestone places much of the written literature devoted to uplifting the linguistically deprived. While Mugglestone and Wiley are associating the distinction to class, Palmer focuses on the imperial project as dependent or co-equally requiring the destruction of the native tongue.


From the website: The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick (London, 1581) - Plates

The English solders return in triumph with ‘liberated’ livestock and Irish prisoners, carrying severed Irish heads and leading a captive by a halter. Note the adoption of Irish practice in the taking of enemy heads.

The Scottish then become subject to a different type of linguistic deconstruction. The new king of England in 1603, James, was the king of Scotland and England combined, already King of Scotland when he accepted the crown of England upon Elisabeth I’s death. For Devitt this was a natural process of integration. The power balance between England and Scotland was as that of Ireland prior to the conquest, still to be determined. Neil MacGregor points out that James attempted to solidify his union of Scotland and England in a political alliance, which neither the British nor the Scots would abide by. The Scots demanded equality and the English superiority. King James could only get out of Shakespeare a Macbeth, with the English coming to the aid of the legitimate rulers of Scotland, Edward, an ancestor of James. Yet Macbeth, as Greenblatt points out, would be reassuring in the sense that the usurper lost his head, just as the Gun Powder plotter, as Shakespeare obliquely refers to a Jesuit writer of equivocations, one whose head landed on a pike outside the Tower of London.
(To Be Continued).

Gunpowder Plotters heads on poles.
From: http://www.explore-parliament.net/nssMovies/11/1121/1121_.htm

Works Cited For end notes contact GaryRumor2@yahoo.com

Beach, Adam R. 2001. The Creation of a Classical Language in the Eighteenth Century: Standardizing English, Cultural Imperialism, and the Future of the Literary Canon. Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 43, no. 2: 117-141, (accessed October 21, 2014).

Devitt, Amy J. Standardizing Written English: Diffusion in the Case of Scotland, 1520-1659. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Will and the World. New York: Norton. 2004

MacGregor, Neil. Shakespeare’s Restless World A Portrait of An Era in Twenty Objects. New York: Viking 2012.

Maloy, Jim, “The legitimate language Giving a history to English.” Alternative Histories of English. Ed. Richard Watts and Peter Trudgill. London: Routledge, 2002. 7-26.

Marcus, Leah S., and Furness, Horace Howard Oliver. 2014. “Anti-Conquest and As You Like It.” Shakespeare Studies 42, 170. MAS Ultra - School Edition, EBSCOhost, (accessed October 21, 2014).

Mugglestone, Lynda. ‘Talking Proper’ The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol. Oxford: Clarendon Press.1995

Palmer, Patricia, Ann. Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabethan Imperial Expansion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2001.

War Rhetoric, Bush, Obama, Hannibal, Rome, Hercules Myth & Abrahamic Cult

Sunday, September 14th, 2014


patriotaction.net

Here we go again. The US seems to have become implacably wedded to war, policing the world and using foreign policy distractions to bolster sagging domestic political fortunes. After 9/11 there was some reasonable justification for going into Afghanistan, to get a little payback although it probably would have been best treated as a police action. below are a couple of speeches by Bush and Obama respectively. They are thirteen years apart. Like empires before and would be imperial powers, the rhetoric needs to be designed to reflect the public willingness to be pulled into a conflict that may or may not be justified. In thinking about this I am reminded of some past efforts to convince others to join in the cause of a more or less just war. Hannibal and his use of the Hercules Myth in his struggle against Rome, is critical to an analysis of the fate of Carthage and its struggle with Rome.

“Seigel and Shuster created Superman from existing material already to hand: the myths of Samson, Hercules…”
From A Shared, Faithless, Modern Mythology: Superheroes as Modern Legends…By Darren April 22, 2012 Comicbuzz.com

My thesis more than the simple statement that nearness to the point of contention, sharpens one’s real politick, there is this interesting issue of manipulation of underlying myths for the sake of propaganda both current and ancient. Hercules was a heroic figure, an intermediary between man and the gods. He often represented the position of people facing the impossible demands of fate, despite his flawed nature, coming through victoriously and in the process thwarting the interests of the bad gods and their minions. Where is this Herculean character in the modern political discourse, certainly in the theatrical production of Marvel and DC super heroes this is the case. Where in the discourse on the level of believed mythologies, on the level of religions of the states involved. This goes to the meta-belief systems which in this case are embedded in the monotheism of the modern world. The patina of the heroic Babylonian-Greco-Roman world is faint and growing fainter as the past is blown up before our eyes in Iraq and Syria. But the monotheistic world, of the Crusader vs the infidel narrative and the relatively insecure position of the Jews plays out now. I shall concentrate on the Herculean myth; refer to modern rhetoric with a brief analysis of the use of the myth of Hercules in the Punic wars and the later Roman absorption of the myth in their own victorious narrative. Thus the issue becomes one of what significance do these meta-stories have in the development of the narrative and the real political issues the narrative deals with.

Bush declaration of attack on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.

Obama declaration of attack on ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

To go into Syria because of the beheading of a couple of journalists seems to be playing right into the hands of IS. They seem to be getting some strategic benefit from drawing the US into these costly limited wars. Wars that ultimately cannot be won without a serious deployment of boots on the ground to occupy space as well as the enforcement of a political agenda that may mean ramming terms down the throats of unwilling Middle Eastern states, through political, military and economic pressure. I am not sure the USA has the means or the will to pursue such a course and the IS planners like their counterparts in Al Qaeda know that.

“This cartoon, by David Axe and Matt Bors highlights some of the key developments in U.S. drone warfare”
(understandingempire.wordpress.com).
.
The war of attrition by taking out the heads of the leadership via assassination and drone strikes, has been of limited success, as one head is chopped off, Hydra like two more arise to take its place. The implication, if one takes the example of Hercules is that you need assistance on the ground, an ally who is there to cauterize the wound to prevent a new set of heads from emerging.

Hercules battles the multi-headed beast of terror in ancient world.
“The Hydra fighting Heracles | Paestan black figure hydra C6th B.C. | J. Paul Getty”
www.theoi.com

From Hesiod, Theogony:

And third again she [Ekhidna] bore
the grisly-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess
white-armed Hera nourished
because of her quenchless grudge
against the strong Herakles.
Yet he, Herakles, son of Zeus,
of the line of Amphitryon,
by design of Athene the spoiler,
and with help form warlike
Iolaos, killed this beast
with the pitiless bronze sword.

(Hesiod 316-321)

A lot can be learned from that ancient Greek myth. Hercules was the hero of the ancient world. He is given a more human and tragic by the Greeks with his rage and murder of his family, being thus forced to perform his penance in the 12 labors, one of which was killing the Hydra. This Hydra could not be tamed alone. An ally had to be sought. Herakles, as strong as he was could not fight the beast himself.

High tech warfare in the 3rd century BCE
mikikyqy.pev.pl

The struggle for control of the public image of the heroic is an ancient one. In the context of the Punic Wars Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles who has an interesting interpretation of Hannibal’s propaganda wars against the Romans, pitting Hercules/Melqart as the ally of Carthage and her friends as opposed to Rome who had its own myth of Heracles. For the Romans, as described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus a Greek rhetorician in the 1st century BC, Heracles becomes a great liberator of man. During his tenth labor, the restoration of the cattle of Geryon, he descends into Italy freeing the people from the despotism of tyrants such as Cacus (Miles 248-249).

Hercules killing Cacus By Beham, Hans Sebald 1545 in Iconotheca Valvasoriana” Wikimedia.

From Virgil we have the tale of Cacus’s defeat by Hercules in the Aeneid:

Then Hercules
burst wide the doorway of the sooty den,
and unto Heaven and all the people showed
the stolen cattle and the robber’s crimes,
and dragged forth by the feet the shapeless corpse
of the foul monster slain.

(Vergil. 8.262)
Hercules slaying the monster oppressing the local people thus becomes in Virgil, who is citing a tale that had been part of Roman lore. notes the worship of Hercules as preceding the founding of Rome:

our Pinarian house is vowed to guard
the rites of Hercules. An altar fair
within this wood they raised; ‘t is called ‘the Great,’
and Ara Maxima its name shall be.

(Vergil, 8. 262)

This has been noted in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome in the article on “Hercules in Roman Religion” by William Dominik, that Ara Maxima was a very ancient site of worship of Hercules in the forum Boarium and that Hercules who as founder of Gades in Spain under the Phoenician name Melquart had become part of the pantheon of Roman protector gods. Hercules was sent on his labor to retrieve, i.e. raid and steal, the cattle of Geryon, the ancient oil from the other end of the world. On his trip back from the cattle raid, Hercules managed to participate in Roman prehistory becoming the model for Romulus and many other heroic figures in Roman lore and history (Dominik 405).

“Geryon - goodnight argent - In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept”
goodnight-argent.weebly.com

Returning to our narrative of the ancient and the modern, as Miles claims, Hannibal aware of the need to win the propaganda war, and understanding the universal appeal of Hercules in Greek, Roman and Phoenician culture and in that of many peoples across the Mediterranean world, decided to appropriate the symbol of Heracles for his own and had a Greek historian in his train write to this purpose:

“Silenus’s portrayal of Heracles-Melqart as Hannibal’s divine companion was thus designed to send out a message to the western Greeks that it was the Carthaginian commander who represented their last opportunity to restore their diminished freedoms [vs a vie the Romans]” (Miles 247-248).

“Limoges enamel depicting Hercules carrying the two columns, by Couly Nouailher, mid-16th century (Walters Art Museum). The columns of the Melqart temple at Tyre were also of religious significance” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillars_of_Hercules)

Coins were struck of the young Hannibal in Nova Carthago, the headquarters of the Barcid dominated colony in Spain as he aspired to the role of a new Hercules Melquart. This coin with the image of the war elephant on the back is, as Miles indicates, associated the Barcid family, as well as being a symbol of continuity with the rule of his predecessors in Spain (Miles 226-227).

“Hannibal AR Tridrachm. 221-218 BC, Carthago Nova, Spain, Laureate bust of young Melqarth-Hercules left, heavy knotted club behind neck / Elephant walking” below (Wildwinds.com).

Just as Vergil was attempting to create a mythos to justify the new imperial project of his dominating friend Octavian, in the modern world the USA must do the same. The need to promote the heroic value of the invader as the legitimate force for liberation can be seen again in the modern Middle East as the Obama administration struggles to come up with a narrative that will be convincing to the young fighters in Syria and Iraq whom the US hopes to use as proxies in the war against ISIS. There have been videos made from ISIS originals highlighting the horror of the ISIS practices intended to deter potential recruits and to persuade fighters to join or at least not leave the so called moderate Islamic groups in Syria in particular.


Youtube.
State Department video battling ISIS propaganda.

The need to battle ISIS propaganda and to win over the allegiance of the people will be predicated, as with Hannibal, upon the victory of the American backed forces. There is nothing like success to gain recruits. ISIS with its string of successes rapidly gained backing. Hannibal gained early support from the Gauls of Cis-Alpine Gaul with early victories over the initial Roman forces at Trebia. A result of which wavering Gauls became more pliant supporters. Later victories including the massacre at Cannae led to Capua giving support to Hannibal, although limited, not to include a troop levy which may seem somewhat familiar to Kerry as he attempts to hammer together an alliance against ISIS. Southern Greek cities that did go over to Hannibal soon regretted the choice as Rome recaptured them one by one. As the Arab countries now must weigh the long term consequences of supporting the US. Turkey, with a border directly adjacent to ISIS controlled territory and 49 diplomats in ISIS custody, did not even sign onto the statement Kerry hammered together.

John Kerry, wearing suit, speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, right, at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Thursday. Reuters

As the Wall Street Journal article “Allies Pledge to Help U.S. Fight Islamic State Extent of Cooperation in Military Operations Still Unclear” by Maria Abi-Habib and Jay Solomon from 9/11/14 indicates, the alliance has very limited and conditional support. Germany has said it would not join air strikes. Russia concerned about the legality of US air strikes over Syria without Syrian government approval would create an barrier to UN support unless the US is willing to ally itself with the Assad regime, something the US claims to be loathe to do. Yet the US has no problem allowing Iranian troops on the ground in Iraq and PPK fighters, on the US terrorist list to work with the US in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Strange times indeed, Hannibal would be a worthy adviser as Obama wades back into these perilous waters.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/kerry-holds-talks-in-saudi-arabia-on-anti-islamic-state-campaign-1410445577


“The painting Hercules Firing Arrows at His Children, by Italian artist Antonio Canova was painted in 1799 using oil on paper and glued to canvas. It is 42 X 66 cm. The painting features the infamous madness of Hercules. After being driven mad by the goddess Hera and by drink, he murders his whole family in blind furry. When finally sober, Hercules is surprised and heartbroken by his actions. He agrees to twelve labors in order to partially atone for his sins” Phin Upham http://phinupham.net/hercules-firing-arrows-at-his-children/

Where is the modern Hercules? Is there a universal figure like Hercules? It can’t be Jesus, Jews don’t recognize him and Muslims give little significance the the figure. It can’t be Mohammed for the same reasons. Who is it, we have to go back to Abraham and Issac. Who is the good servant of god? This is a myth that is concurrent with that of Melquart-Hercules. But this is not a self evident narrative in the modern rhetoric. What is, is the question asked of Abraham. What are you willing to do to impose the will of your god? Hercules, was asking a different question, what do I have to do to get these gods off my back? What unifies them is the fact that they both are engaged as intermediaries between the helpless humanity and the gods/fates/demonic forces. Thus the rhetoric reflects a justification of the position vs a vie these powerful cosmic forces and much effort goes into the justification of these efforts. How strange, how typically human and how sad that the dilemma of both Hercules and Abraham still exist today.

“Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Islamic version) on a Haft Tanan museum wall in Shiraz”
Evgenia Kononova (Wikicommons)

The gods make Hercules crazy, a very modern figure, could be a warrior suffering from PTSD. Abraham is tempted to craziness by the Abrahamic god and then is stopped by his better angels. The Romans and Carthaginians fought until one was destroyed utterly. In the modern ethos there is the opportunity to arrest the path to war. Are our better angels going to stop us from war madness?

Selected Works Cited.

Dominik, William J. “Hercules in Roman Religion.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. Google Scholar. 404-406. Web. 9/14/14.

Hesiod, Theogony. The Works of Hesiod.trans. Richard Latimore. Ann Arbor: U of Mich. P. 1959. Print.

Miles, Richard. Carthage Must Be Destroyed. New York: Viking Penguin. 2011. Print.

Vergil, Aeneid. Perseus Digital Library. U. of Chicago. Web. 9/14/14.

Phillis Wheatley and Black Struggle for Recognition under Slavery

Monday, May 12th, 2014

A slave sale advertisement from 1769
learningenglish.voanews.com

Phillis Wheatley: Navigating the Shoals of Slavery in Eighteenth Century Colonial America

Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston, at the young age of seven or eight, on a ship of “refugee” slaves, too old or sick for the West Indian Plantations (O’ Neale, Wheatley). She was bought by the Wheatley family hence her Anglo imposed identity, replacing that of her childhood. She was a slave when she wrote “On Being Brought from Africa to America” a teenager, perhaps sixteen or seventeen years of age. Using the symbolism of the religion of her time, this slave, educated by her master’s family, wrote lines that reflect the double consciousness in which a slave had to live, no matter how benign the master was in her case. Wheatley writes in the poem, ‘That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:/Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.” (Wheatley, 3-4) Brought to America, not of her own will, as she says a “redemption neither sought nor knew” in benighted ignorance, she gives credit to her Christian masters for her being brought to awareness of her ignorant state in a statement that is loaded with the irony of not having sought salvation, it is brought upon her, as she is a bought thing, a chattel, and yet she seems to have a genuine feeling of being a participant in this Christian community as will be indicated. It provided Wheatley with the intellectual tools to navigate her way in the world of Colonial America and to make her own arguments for justice.

The New England colonies practiced slavery beginning in the mid-17th century.
classroom.synonym.com

This coming to the light of Christian Salvation is not an unmitigated blessing as in the next line with some reserve she mildly complains “Some view our sable race with scornful eye,” (5) in which she chooses carefully the term “sable,” for black, this denotes a valuable animal, a fur highly sought after, indicating both being valuable in her own right, and at the same time as being a commodity, a precious one, but a commodity still. Perhaps this is indicative of the use of her talent as an exhibition. Wheatley ends the line with a synecdoche, “scornful eye.” This could be a commentary on the racism of the Christians, and their treatment of something of such value as sable, indifferently. O’ Neale notes that during that period, the late Eighteenth century, Northern slave owners would read the work of Wheatley and others, to their slaves, perhaps as evidence that their lot was not so bad under the enlightened rule of their white civilizing masters (O’ Neale, A Slave’s Subtle War, 145). The revolutionary impetus for freedom from the British rulers must have caused some consternation among thinking whites about the irony of the status of their slaves.

Portrait of Phillis Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead (S.M.) Portrait reportedly painted by Scipio Moorhead (S. M.).
www.vcu.edu

Playing upon the various meanings of the word black she says in the next line “Their colour is a diabolic die.” (Wheatley 6). Here is she quoting from a sermon or the man in the street? She places this line in quotations, just as Savior is italicized to bring this to the reader’s attention, in this case it could be the reader who casts a negative light upon the beauty of this sable race. Reflecting ambiguity, the precariousness of her position, an object, both valued and despised. Possibly devil’s spawn, “diabolic,” as if blackness were conjured up in some satanic workshop, where the die is placed over the beautiful sable race; Wheatley is not yet saying the word, as if it is something too powerful, to say in so many words. But in the next line she finally says “black” and there the object is named there she is pined to the label that is indicative of the place of her race in the colonial world.

Abolitionists use symbol of freedom the Phrygian cap.
usslave.blogspot.com

It is tempting to say that Ms. Wheatley was simply suppressing her true feelings of resentment, as she was a slave who the Wheatley’s had procured as a servant for Mrs. Susannah Wheatley, wife of John Wheatley a successful tailor. Mr. Wheatley decided that Phillis should be taught by his daughter Mary when the young slave girl was seen writing with chalk on a wall (Library of Congress). Phillis, whose name is the same as the slave ship upon which she arrived in the port of Boston, was discovered to be talented and encouraged by the Wheatley’s to develop her abilities. Taught “grammar, geography both ancient and modern, astronomy, history and enough Latin to read the ancient Roman poet Horace, with ease” (Williams 216). This was something that was uncommon for women of any race in that time. “Wheatley… found the biblical myth, language and symbol to be the most conducive vehicles for making subtle yet effective statements against slavery” (O’ Neale, A Slaves’ Subtle War, 145).

George Whitefield (1714-1770) Founding father of Methodism
georgiaencyclopedia.org

An indication of the intelligent usage of her relationship to the importance of religion in her time, she chose the death of a famous evangelist to write one of her first known poems, “On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield.” This poem which catapulted her to some fame in England and the colonies, even garnering the attention of Voltaire in France was her vehicle to transform her lot. Wheatley has Whitefield, founder of Methodism, saying to the congregants:

“Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,
“Impartial Saviour is his title due:
“Wash’d in the fountain of redeeming blood,
“You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God.” (Wheatley 34-37)

An interesting point about this is that although written in 1770 when the famous British Evangelist died touring America, she probably had not seen him speak (Rogal 86). This indicates her ability to transform a public event to her own advantage, her path to salvation. “Wheatley had forwarded the Whitefield poem to Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, to whom Whitefield had been chaplain. A wealthy supporter of evangelical and abolitionist causes, the countess instructed bookseller Archibald Bell to begin correspondence with Wheatley in preparation for the book” of poems that could not be published in the colonies because of racism (O”Neale, Wheatley). Thomas Jefferson infamously said of her “Religion indeed has produced a Phyllis Whately; but it could not produce a poet. The compositions published under her name are below the dignity of criticism” (Jefferson 267).

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781-1782 (excerpt) “In Virginia and Maryland slavery became what nurtured these states to wealth”
elizabethgarcia.blogspot.com

Despite the odds, Wheatley is able to navigate the political winds of pre-revolutionary Boston and become a celebrity in her own time, noteworthy enough for the dismissing racism of Jefferson and a presence in the literary world of London, even if as something of a novelty and a pawn for those engaged in political struggle in England. As “Betsy Erkkila argues for Wheatley’s powerful ‘challenge’ to the ‘constituted authority’ of her time, as she points to the transformative frankly political impact Wheatley’s poetry:…Wheatley transformed the revolutionary discourse on liberty, natural rights, and human nature into a subtle critique of the color code and the oppressive racial structures of republican America” (qtd. in Nott 22). This courageous spirit of poor health, a reject for the slave plantations, being foisted on the Americans as damaged goods, exemplified the spirit of resilience that is inherent in all of humanity. As Du Bois stated “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity” (Du Bois 3). Phillis Wheatley made her mark upon the world using the tools she had access to, transcending, as best she could, her lot in life.

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon commended Wheatley to William Legge, the Earl of Dartmouth, appointed Secretary of State for the British North American colonies in 1772.

www.dailykos.com

Works Cited
Du Bois, W. E. Burghardt, The Soul of Black Folk. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. New York: Library of America. 1984. Print.
Library of Congress.“Phillis Wheatley, the First African American Published Book of Poetry September 1, 1773.”americaslibrary.gov. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Nott, Walt. “’Uncultivated Barbarian’ to ‘Poetical Genius’: The Public Presence of Phillis Wheatley.” MELUS, 18, 3, (1993), 21-32. Jstor.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
O’Neale, Sondra. “A Slave’s Subtle War: Phillis Wheatley’s Use of Biblical Myth and Symbol.” Early American Literature. 21, 2 (1986), 144-165. Jstor.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
- “Phillis Wheatley.” Chicago: Poetry Foundation.2014. poetryfoundation.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Rogal, Samuel J. “Phillis Wheatley’s Methodist Connection.” Black American Literature Forum. 21, 1/2 (1987), 85-95. Jstor.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Wheatley, Phillis. “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” Chicago: Poetry Foundation. 2014. poetryfoundation.org. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Wheatley, Phillis. “On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield.” “Phillis Wheatley.” PoemHunter.com. Web. 27 Apr. 2014.
Williams, Selma R. Demeter’s Daughters: The Women Who Founded America 1587-1787. New York. Atheneum.1976. Print.

The Shelly’s, Byron And The Year Of No Summer

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014


historyofgeology.fieldofscience.com

Imaginary(?) View of Tambora

William Turner Flint Castle

The World Eruption in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
By Gary Crethers

Reading Frankenstein, one of the first impressions is that of man in nature, man engaged in endeavors to discover the secrets of the natural world, and the stormy nature of the times. The storms that frequently erupt and engage the reader are no mere literary trope. The period of 1816 and 1817 when Mary Shelly wrote her tale of the modern Prometheus, is a time of great climatic turbulence that had ramifications all around the globe. For not only was this a time of man’s effort to conquer nature, but it was a time when nature struck out at man most effectively, if unintentionally. Some of the ambivalence Shelly shows towards science can be directly attributed to the experience of the world as she wrote. Modernity, in the time of Mary Shelly, had not yet become the triumphalist march of progress that would blind man to nature’s reality, as a power beyond control. Mary Shelly, as she writes, would seem to be very much influenced by the forces beyond the rational in nature and man.

More than one significant event had occurred in 1815, New Orleans perhaps, Waterloo without a doubt and, “the eruption of the Tambora volcano on the island of Soembawa in Indonesia on April 15th 1815… The mountain elevation dropped from 14,000 feet to 9000 feet, killed close to 10,000 people on the island and another 80,000 people would eventually die from starvation and diseases related to the eruption. Tambora was one of the largest recorded eruptions with estimates of 1.7 million tons of dust put into the air equaling 6 million atomic bombs” (Foster).


http://www.bbc.co.uk

Villa diodati where Byron and the Shelly’s resided

This event overshadowed the entire period in which Frankenstein was composed, adding a gloomy and romantic aura to the days of the middling classes, such as the Shelly’s. Mary Shelly, recently having spent a year or more in Scotland, was no stranger to foul weather as she says in the author’s introduction to Frankenstein, “I made occasional visits to more picturesque parts, but my habitual residence was on the blank and dreary northern shores of the Tay, … Blank and dreary on retrospection I call them; they were not so to me then. They were the aerie of freedom, and the pleasant region where unheeded I could commune with the creatures of my fancy” (Shelly, xxi-xxii). For “the dashing young sybarite” Byron, the weather was likely a distraction (Perrottet).


www2.macleans.ca

For others it was an opportunity to go upon a grand adventure, and as most of the temperate climates had been explored, discovered and were in the process of being exploited, adventures were to be found in the extreme climes, as young Walton writes in breathless enthusiasm “I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks… Inspirited by this wind of promise… I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation” (Shelly, 1). There was real excitement in the period for conquering the poles, as Jessica Richard writes, “In articles in the Quarterly Review, beginning in the October 1816 issue (published Feb. 1817; Shelley notes reading the Quarterly on May 29 & 30 1817) and in a book-length study, Chronological History of Voyages into the Arctic Region (1818), Barrow worked to secure governmental and popular support for British polar exploration” (Richard, 297).

But to claim that this hubristic excitement for exploration and conquest, for Barrow was interested in finding the northwest passage, just as Walton says, “you cannot contest the inestimable benefit which I shall confer on all mankind,… by discovering a passage near the pole” (Shelly, 2). This advancement, as young Frankenstein says “when I considered the improvement which every day takes place in science and mechanics, I was encouraged… of future success” (38). This is the progress machine in action, as Charles Van Doren says in The Idea of Progress, speaking of stages of man’s conception of progress, referring to Louis Mumford’s system, “that by which Old World Man become ‘New World Man,’ was brought about by the scientific and technological ‘revolutions’ of the last several centuries” (Van Doren, 54). This machinelike inevitability “is perhaps another way of saying what Godwin says – namely, that man is capable of achieving everything that he is capable of conceiving” (55). This is the view that Mary Shelly is critiquing. In that critique is a powerful dose of mother nature.

Discussing the effects of the power of nature, specifically coming back to the effects of the 1815 eruption, Gillen D’Arcy Wood writes, in “1816, The Year without a Summer,” of some Mary Shelly’s correspondence:

In a letter to her half-sister Fanny Imlay, written on her arrival in Geneva, Mary describes—in hair-raising language that would soon find its way into Frankenstein—their ascent of the Alps “amidst a violent storm of wind and rain” (Letters 1:17)…. Mary’s famous second letter to Fanny is one of the most vivid documents we have of the crazed volcanic weather during the summer of 1816: “An almost perpetual rain confines us principally to the house,” Mary wrote on the first of June from the shores of Lake Geneva. “One night we enjoyed a finer storm than I had ever before beheld. The lake was lit up—the pines on Jura made visible, and all the scene illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy blackness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful bursts over our heads amid the blackness’ (Letters 1:20)” (qtd. in Wood, 3).


www.rebecca-writes.com

This scene is reproduced almost verbatim in the text of Frankenstein, “I quitted my seat and walked on, although the darkness and storm increased every minute and the thunder burst with a terrific crash over my head” (Shelly 59). Moving into the plot, Victor Frankenstein has just arrived outside the gates of Geneva, which, closed for the night will not allow him admittance. He decides to go seek the site where his young brother William has been murdered and in a romantic moment of what seems more a reflection of ego than concern “While I watched the tempest, so beautiful yet terrific, I wandered on with a hasty step. This noble war in the sky elevated my spirits; I clasped my hands and exclaimed aloud, ‘William, dear angel! This is thy funeral, thy dirge!’” (59). A moment of gothic “gloom a figure which stole from behind a clump of trees near me… A flash of lightning illuminated the object… it was the wretch, the filthy demon to whom I had given life” (59). This scene illuminates many of the elements that made the year 1816 so momentous in its own right. Stormy weather, a wandering man kept out of a gated city and a dangerous monster in the shadows. Not only is this high melodrama, but it is symptomatic of that time and importantly shows reality in the physical world introducing itself and shaping the contra vision of progress that Mary Shelly so effectively describes.

Shelley’s waking dream vision which inspired her to write of “the pale student of unhallowed arts, [h]e sleeps; but he is awakened; he opens his eyes; behold the horrid thing stands at his bedside, opening his curtains and looking on him with yellow, watery, but speculative eyes’ (xxv). Wood notes, “The description is reminiscent of numerous impressions of European beggars in this period. One English tourist, travelling from Rome to Naples in 1817, remarked on ‘the livid aspect of the miserable inhabitants of this region.’ When asked how they lived, these ‘animated spectres’ replied simply: ‘We die’ (Matthews 192-3)” (Wood, 4).


www.geographictravels.com

The conditions were extremely harsh all over Europe, as Wood continues to describe:
[T]he scale of human suffering in Switzerland was among the worst in Europe. When the crops failed, thousands died of starvation during continental Europe’s last ever famine, while the numbers of indigent homeless ran into the hundreds of thousands. Mortality in 1817 was over 50% higher than its already elevated rate in the war year 1815. Everywhere, desperate villagers resorted to a pitiful famine diet of ‘the most loathsome and unnatural foods—carcasses of dead animals, cattle fodder, leaves of nettles, swine food. . . .’ (Post 128)” (Wood, 3).


oldstonehousemuseum.org

In the light of these conditions it becomes perhaps understandable why the city of Geneva would shut its gates. People would be hard pressed to provide for themselves as the monster of Frankenstein describes for family that he had adopted as his teachers, “They often, I believe, suffered the pangs of hunger very poignantly, especially the two younger cottagers, for several times they placed food before the old man when they reserved none for themselves” (Shelly 92). Yet the monster has sympathy, and instead of stealing food as he had been, “I abstained and satisfied myself with berries, nuts, and roots” and then sought to help them “during the night I often … brought home firing [wood] sufficient for the consumption of several days” (92

The reaction of the monster is very human, humane. It shows greatness of soul, not of the sin of Adam, but of the tabula rasa, the unwritten book. Akin perhaps to Rousseau himself, who finds himself locked out of Geneva, and wanders like one of these vagabond poor, but not to doom, but “wandered on foot to Annecy in Savoy – where he was taken in by Mme. de Warens, Rousseau’s protector and then [1733-1740] lover” (Riley, 3). Frankenstein instead of finding a port in the storm, becomes part of the process of destroying a poor servant girl Justine, who when falsely accused of murdering Victor’s brother, he remains silent and allows her to die while experiencing great pangs of guilt, but he rationalizes, “a thousand times rather would I have confessed myself guilty of the crime ascribed to Justine, but I was absent when it was committed, and such a declaration would have been considered as the ravings of a madman” (Shelly 64).


breakfastintheruins.blogspot.com

Justine

How ironic it would be to connect the fate of this poor girl with that of the French transgressive writer De Sade’s own Justine, who in Justine, ou les malheurs de la vertu, published in 1792, was victim of horrendous treatment as a reward for her virtue. According to Anne Williams “We do know that Byron owned a copy of Justine in 1816, just before he left England… Mary Shelley, then, may have heard about more than Galvanism while listening to Shelley and Byron’s conversations that fateful summer” (Williams, 13).

This lack of compassion on the part of the upper classes, which is especially seen in the tragic story of the servant girl, reflects poorly on the levels of empathy regarding the fate of the lower classes by the relatively well to do circles from which the Shelly’s and their even more affluent friend Byron who “crossed the English Channel to France, visited the battlefield of Waterloo in Belgium, then traveled south along the Rhine in a reproduction of Napoleon’s coach, accompanied by a squadron of servants, a peacock, a monkey, and a dog” (Perrottet), were escaping. Yet they were seemingly above the fray of the travails of the average people. They weep, as Elisabeth, who, in what seems a moment of self-pity rather than revolutionary zeal, ‘“Alas!’ said she. ‘How shall I ever again believe in human goodness?’ (68). As a middle class person, Elisabeth is indignant at Justine for not living up to her idealized version of reality, all her weeping leads to naught and she can go home consoled that Justine has left her troubles behind. Troubles cause by Frankenstein, creator of the monster, which, in this case in the real world was a time of troubles, when good citizens locked their gates and let young innocents die, as examples, for the rest of the restless and hungry lot of humanity.

The poem “Darkness” by Byron, written that summer might indicate something of the effect of that weather:
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day, (1-6)
Traveling earlier that year to Lake Geneva, Byron could not have helped but to notice the effects of the combined weather and war on the populace, just as the traveler Wood notes above mentions. Again from “Darkness”:
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh; (42-45)


poetry.rapgenius.com
Famine

The monster that is stalking the earth, the opposite of the dream of freedom, now conquered, famine, disease and death rule the land. Sensitive souls might weep, and eventually a new man would have to arise from this charnel house. Man and nature have conspired to turn Frankenstein’s monster, the mutated dream of freedom, revolution betrayed by the man on Elba, buried by the Metternich’s of the world, transformed into a howling madman and mankind reaps the whirlwind. The Prometheus has been released and Shelly was one of the first to see dire consequences in the hubris of man both in his indifference to suffering and to the power of natural forces that then, as now he pretends to master (a bit of a polemic, but it is late).

Works Cited
Byron, Lord (George Gordon). “Darkness.” Poetry Foundation. Chicago: Poetry Foundation. 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Foster, Lee. “1816 - The Year Without Summer” Climate Corner. Maine-ly Weather. A newsletter publication from The National Weather Service in Caribou, Maine. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Perrottet, Tony. “Summer of Love: The Romantics at Lake Geneva.” Biblion: Frankenstein The Afterlife of Shelley’s Circle. Courtesy of The New York Public Library. www.nypl.org. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Richard, Jessica. “’A Paradise of My Own Creation’: Frankenstein and the Improbable Romance of Polar Exploration.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 25: 4. (2003). 295–314. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Riley, Patrick. “Introduction: Life and Works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.” The Cambridge Companion to Rousseau. Ed. Patrick Riley. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press. 2001. Print.
Shelly, Mary. Frankenstein. Forward, Walter James Miller, Afterword, Harold Bloom. New York: Signet Classic.2000. Paperback.
Van Doren, Charles. The Idea of Progress, New York: Frederick A. Prager, Pub. 1967. Print.
Williams, Anne. “‘Mummy, possest’: Sadism and Sensibility in Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Romantic Circles. University of Maryland. July 2003. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.
Wood, Gillen D’Arcy. “1816, The Year without a Summer.” BRANCH: Britain, Representation and Nineteenth-Century History. Ed. Dino Franco Felluga. Extension of Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net. Web. 8 Feb. 2014.

Tempestuous Relationship of Lake Poets & Byron

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Cartoon of Byron’s dedication of Don Juan to Robert Southey,
first two stanzas of the “Dedication” are quoted below:

Bob Southey! You’re a poet, poet laureate,
And representative of all the race.
Although ’tis true that you turned out a Tory at
Last, yours has lately been a common case.
And now my epic renegade, what are ye at
With all the lakers, in and out of place?
A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye
Like four and twenty blackbirds in a pye,
Bob Southey! You’re a poet, poet laureate,
And representative of all the race.
Although ’tis true that you turned out a Tory at
Last, yours has lately been a common case.
And now my epic renegade, what are ye at
With all the lakers, in and out of place?
A nest of tuneful persons, to my eye
Like four and twenty blackbirds in a pye,

Which pye being opened they began to sing’
(This old song and new simile holds good),
‘A dainty dish to set before the King’
Or Regent, who admires such kind of food.
And Coleridge too has lately taken wing,
But like a hawk encumbered with his hood,
Explaining metaphysics to the nation.
I wish he would explain his explanation.

“Byron’s Critique of the “Lake Poets” Reflected in Don Juan
By Gary Crethers

Reading Canto III of Don Juan, I noticed that Byron became quite vitriolic regarding Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, those known as the Lake poets. I had just returned to reading the epic after leaving off for a semester of tedium in Honors English Three, the English of logical disquisition, more like pedantic resolute adherence to formulaic regurgitation of Rogerian and Toulmin argumentative style… how that Canadian and spare the rod therapist became so boring, is a tribute to the teach to test and core curriculum approach of the uh, modern education in California, but I like my subject, digress.

Byron and Southey

Byron in his modern Greek oration delves into then current British literary affairs in the third Canto, published after the first and second which came out in July of 1819, written in the fall of that year but not published until 1821, Byron was smarting from a rumored tale Southey was spreading about himself, and Shelly having formed “A league of incest” with Mary Godwin and Claire Claremont in Geneva in 1817 (qted in Joukovsky 499). This bit of personal invective led Byron to write his famous dedication to Southey, poet laureate of England, who said of Don Juan that it was “a foul blot on the literature on his country, an act of high treason on English Poetry” (500). Byron’s own statement was that “I have given it to Master Southey, and he shall have more before I have done with him” (499). Fighting words which when I read this, I became curious to discover the cause:

All are not moralists, like Southey, when
He prated to the world of “Pantisocracy;”
Or Wordsworth unexcised, unhired, who then
Season’ed his pedlar poems with democracy;
Or Colderidge, long before his flighty pen
Let to the Morning Post its aristocracy;
When he and Southey, following the same path,
Espoused to partners (milliners of Bath). (Don Juan III. XCIII)

The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder,—Scene. The borough, in Imitation of Mr. Southey’s Sapphics,—Vide. Anti-Jacobin, p. 15. George Tierney and a knife-grinder pushing his wheelbarrow in front of an ale-house. 1 print : engraving, color. London : pubd. by H. Humphrey, 1797

Seething in sarcasm, words like “prated” next to “Pantisocracy,” which having dug up even more of my curiosity finding this from the Life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge by James Dykes Campbell:

It was during the visit to Oxford that Pantisocracy was hatched. Southey gave his recollections of the matter to Cottle in a letter dated March 5, 1836: -
In the summer of 1794 S. T. Coleridge and Hucks came to ‘Oxford on their way into Wales for a pedestrian tour. Then Allen introduced them to me, and the scheme was talked of, but not by any means determined on. It was talked into shape by Burnett and myself, when … he and I proceeding on foot to Bath. After some weeks, S. T. C, returning from his tour …, Then it was that we resolved upon going to America, and S. T. C. and I walked into Somersetshire … He made his engagement with Miss [Sarah] Fricker on our return from this journey at my mother’s house in Bath, not a little to my astonishment… I had previously been engaged to my poor Edith [Fricker]. . , . He remained at Bristol till the close of the vacation [?] - several weeks. During that time it was that we talked of America. The funds were to be what each could raise - S. T. C. by the “Specimens of the Modern Latin Poets,” for which he had printed proposals, and obtained a respectable list of Cambridge subscribers before I knew him; I, by “Joan of Arc,” and what else I might publish. I had no . . . other expectation. We hoped to find companions with money. (Campbell 31).

Area of Eastern Pennsylvania where Priestly lived and Pantisocracy was to be established.

An article on Joseph Priestly and his move to America makes this connection to the poets:

“Thomas Cooper, a friend of Joseph Priestley’s, published a pamphlet in Britain titled “Some Information Respecting America,” meant to encourage others to settle in Pennsylvania and offering instructions on how to do so… influenced by Cooper’s, poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and [Robert Southey], full of idealism and angered at Priestley’s treatment in Birmingham, intended to emigrate to America and establish a utopian community” (wikipedia Joseph_Priestley_House).


idrinkmyteasweet.com

Alexander Pope (a poet Byron admired) designed park near Bath, England, close to Bristol, hiking territory of Coleridge and company.

Byron’s joke about hoofing it to Bath, and the reference perhaps to Chaucer, it becomes self-evident that he knew the past of the Lake Poets. The milliners, Coleridge and Southey both became espoused to, the Fricker sisters, who themselves having fallen from a prosperous childhood into some poverty by the spendthrift ways of their father, “were all skilled needlewomen and had no difficulty earning their livings from their needles. But it was a profession with a dubious reputation. It was Byron who made the sarcastic remark about Coleridge and Southey marrying `two milliners from Bath’, gossip repeated by Thomas De Quincey, who added, `Everybody knows what is meant to be conveyed in that expression’” (Jones). As Jones points out in her book A Passionate Sisterhood, describing the theory that seems to have been the main subject of discourse among the Fricker’s and their future beau’s in 1794 Bristol, Jones states:

Southey and Coleridge were disillusioned by university life, unsuited to traditional careers by virtue of their beliefs, and perplexed by the problem of maintaining themselves. From their `metaphysical’ and philosophical discussions, Pantisocracy was born. The word was created by Coleridge from the Greek pan-socratia which means an all-governing society. At its heart was the notion of a community of self-governing equals. There was to be no private ownership of land, which was regarded as a common heritage belonging to everyone. Man and nature would live in harmony. Even animals were to be sisters and brothers `in the Fraternity of universal Nature’. Children had to be removed from the corruptions and prejudices of modern society and brought up as `children of Nature’. It was to be a totally democratic society, in harmony with nature; a new beginning (Jones).

Apparently ready to go off to America, with dreams of creating a model society, with a band of followers and although poor, these youth has in its enthusiasm the ability to ignore the petty details of financing or hoped to make do with income from their writing as indicated in this letter of Southey recorded in Campbell:

Coleridge (wrote Southey to his midshipman brother Tom) was with us nearly five weeks [read four] and made good use of his time. We preached Pantisocracy and Aspheterism everywhere. These, Tom, are two new words, the first signifying the equal government of all, and the other the generalisation of individual property; words well understood in the city of Bristol. . . . The thoughts of the day, and the visions of the night, all centre in America. Time lags heavily along till March…. In March we depart for America, Lovell, his wife [nee Fricker], brother and, two of his sisters; all the Frickers ; my mother, Miss Peggy, and brothers ; Heath the apothecary, etc. ; G. Burnett, S. T. Coleridge ; Robert Allen, and Robert Southey. . . . “We shall be on the bank of a navigable river, and appoint you admiral of the cock-boat (qted. In Campbell 35).


hugesponge.blogspot.com

Young Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Below is Coleridge’s poem from 1794:

“Pantisocracy”

No more my visionary soul shall dwell
On joys that were; no more endure to weigh
The shame and anguish of the evil day,
Wisely forgetful! O’er the ocean swell
Sublime of Hope, I seek the cottag’d dell
Where Virtue calm with careless step may stray,
And dancing to the moonlight roundelay,
The wizard Passions weave an holy spell.
Eyes that have ach’d with Sorrow! Ye shall weep
Tears of doubt-mingled joy, like theirs who start
From Precipices of distemper’d sleep,
On which the fierce-eyed Fiends their revels keep,
And see the rising Sun, and feel it dart
New rays of pleasance trembling to the heart. (Coleridge)


http://guides.lib.uh.edu

Storming of Bastille.

This was the time of the French Revolution. It was dangerous for young men to be too strong in their advocacy of radical change. The initial enthusiasm for the revolution, as emphasized in Tom Paine’s Rights of Man, was by the mid-nineties subject to the reaction of the British “Church and King” crowd Tories whose leader, one John Reeves, called Coleridge a spy for the French, and harassed advocates of the republican position with their “Association for Preserving Liberty and Property Against Republicans and Levelers” (Gilmour 400). Paine, whose book had sold some 200,000 copies by 1793, was burned in effigy, his printers forced to escape to America or were imprisoned, and Paine himself, warned by printer and poet William Blake that the government was bringing up charges of seditious libel against him, Paine fled England in 1792 for revolutionary France (399, 400). Thus were given another reason for the desire to relocate to America on the part of Southey and Coleridge. As Coleridge himself states upon the revocation of Habeus Corpus and the institutionalization of the concept of constructive treason, and the outlawing of assemblies of over fifty in 1795, that he was “all too delicate for use” to participate in the resistance to the legislation but said publicly that the bills were “conceived and laid in the dunghill of despotism” (411).


britishreactionstotherevolution.files.wordpress.com

Cruikshank - the radicals arms, British view of French Revolution

Back to Byron’s assault, he refers to Wordsworth’s “pedlar poems with democracy” and in the next lines Coleridge’s association with the Morning Post to which he contributed from 1797 to 1802. Apparently there were quite a few poems from the period submitted to the publication due to Coleridge’s closeness to Wordsworth at the time and perhaps due to a pressing need to meet his contractual obligations to produce poems for the Post, he resorted to using Wordsworth’s material along with his own (Landon 392, Smyser 420). This could be a crack at the materialistic venture into crass journals on the part of Coleridge and Wordsworth by Byron, Coleridge himself refers to himself as a “hired paragraph scribbler” (Glickfield 681).


theepochtimes.com

The Pedlar

“The Pedlar” by Wordsworth, was considered to be something of a problematic protagonist for such lofty poetry as Bailey writes in “’Dangerous and Suspicious Trades’: Wordsworth’s Pedlar and the Board of Police Revenue,” comparing Goethe’s Wanderer and the pedlar “When Wordsworth’s Excursion was published, critics objected to the Wanderer’s social status, pointing out, in Hazlitt’s words, that ‘we go along with him, while he is the subject of his own narrative, but we take leave of him when he makes pedlars and plough-men his heroes and the interpreters of his sentiments’” (qted. in Bailey 244). This then is some grounds for Byron’s somewhat derogatory comment on Wordsworth’s democratic values expressed in the section of his larger work the Excursion, called “The Pedlar.” But more to point Wordsworth had been something of a Godwinian Radical. Nicholas Roe in Wordsworth and Coleridge: the radical years, notes that in 1795 Wordsworth was drawn into the same popular reform movement as was Coleridge and Southey, and in his relationship with Coleridge in particular had a “direct bearing on Wordsworth’s subsequent development from a Godwinian radical to poet” (Roe 10, 194). Byron is thus reminding Wordsworth of his earlier democratic values.


wikimedia.org

Original American Printing of Mary Wollstonecraft’s book

William Godwin, English proto-Anarchist and his wife Mary Wollstonecraft proto-feminist, both wrote influential political statements that were read by the Lake poets in the 1790’s, including An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness by William Goodwin written while the French Revolution was transforming France and in England his work was received as sedition. His wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, no less radical wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects, and was read by the Fricker sisters as well as the Lake poets themselves (Jones). Byron thus as a personal friend of the Shelly’s, Mary Shelly being Godwin and Wollstonecraft’s daughter, found it unconscionable that Southey would, in his later years, spread gossip about those who in his own youth he had admired and agreed with.


oldschooltours.net.

Young Wordsworth

Wordsworth himself in a letter of 1838, when concerned about his reputation as a possible paid writer of verse for Daniel Stewart’s Morning Post, refers to the conflict between Southey and Byron, writing of “one article which I was induced to publish in a London newspaper, when Southey and Byron were at war” (qted. in Joukovsky 496). This may have been a residual attempt to clean up his past as he was now an important and relatively conservative figure in British society. Byron, now dead and gone had in his few pithy lines indicated a certain hypocrisy on the part of the Lake Poets, who in their youths had shown a much more radical aspect than subsequently as they gained respectable office in their older ages. Byron in contrast, reviled for his dissolute nature, left England under something of a shadow and cast his fortunes writing his barbed satirical anti-epic and eventually found a somewhat less than romantic death from disease while preparing to aid in the liberation of Greece from the Turkish yolk.

Byron meeting Greek Revolutionaries on Corfu

Works Cited
Bailey, Quentin. “’Dangerous and Suspicious Trades’: Wordsworth’s Pedlar and the Board of Police Revenue.” Romanticism. 13. 3. (2007). 244-256. Project Muse. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Byron, George Gordon. Don Juan. New York: Modern Library. 1949. Print.

Campbell, James Dykes. Samuel Taylor Coleridge A Narrative of Events of his Life. London: Macmillan and Co.1894. Internet Archive. California Digital Library. Open Library. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. “Pantisocracy.” readbookonline.net. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Gilmour, Ian. Riot, Risings and Revolution Governance and Violence in Eighteenth Century England. London: Plimco. 1993. Print.

Glickfield, Charlotte Woods. “Coleridge’s Prose Contributions to the Morning Post.” PMLA. 69. 3. (1954). 681-685. Jstor.com. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Godwin, William. An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness. 4th ed. London: J.Watson. 1842. dwardmac.pitzer.edu. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Jones, Kathleen. A Passionate Sisterhood: the Sisters, Wives and Daughters of the Lake Poets. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2000. nyt.com/books/first/j/jones-sisterhood.html. Web. 16 Dec. 2013.

Joukovsky, Nicholas, A. “Wordsworth’s Lost Article on Byron and Southey.” The Review of English Studies. New Series. 45. 180. (1994). 496-516. Jstor.com. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.

Landon, Carol. “Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the Morning Post: An Early Version of ‘The Seven Sisters’.” The Review of English Studies. New Series. 11. 44 .(1960). 392-402. Jstor.org. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Roe, Nicholas. Wordsworth and Coleridge: the radical years. New York: Oxford U. P. USA. 1998. Google Books. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Smyser, Jane Worthington. “Coleridge’s Use of Wordsworth’s Juvenilia.” PMLA. 65. 4 (1950). 419-426. Jstor.org. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Wikipedia, “Joseph Priestley House.” wikipedia.org. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Wollstonecraft, Mary. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. Boston: Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews. 1792. wikipedia.org. Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Dante’s and Virgil’s Relationship with Power

Friday, December 13th, 2013


artofeurope.com

1822: Musée du Louvre, Paris

Alternatively titled The Bark of Dante, this painting was Delacroix’s first Paris Salon triumph. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, the red-robed figure is the Latin poet Virgil, who guides Dante through Hell as the writhing, demonic souls of immoral Florentines struggle to get into the boat.

“Dante’s and Virgil’s Relationship with Power”
By Gary Crethers

Virgil and Dane both lived in rough political times. Civil wars had drawn both of them into the conflicts of their day. Virgil originally a somewhat pacific follower of Epicurus (DeWitt 105, 109), and according to Aelius Donatus, fourth century C.E. biographer, Virgil was a student of medicine, mathematics, and a not very good speaker (Donatus 15-16). From these roots he became the poet of empire, using the myths and history of the past to rationalize the consolidation of the imperial Roman project. Having witnessed an exhausting series of civil wars, Virgil’s efforts are to valorize and consolidate with a rhetorical foundation, the fait accompli, the new peace of Rome. Some of the roots of Virgil’s transformation will be explored. Dante in contrast is seeking that very foundation upon which to build a revitalized world of peace, something that for all his efforts remained a vision. Dante was looking forward to an Italian world that would rebuild the greatness of the past grandeur that was Rome, not as a mere imitation of the old empire, with the church and state merely reunited, but in a new flowering of culture in a reformed Florence as part of a truly Holy Roman Empire. That vision was fractured by the reality of corrupt competing interests, but also because there was an emerging sense of regional nationalism in Dante’s time that he participated in with his choice to write in the vernacular. Their responses to the conflicting interests; and how they rationalized and polemicized for a peaceful and better world.is complex, yet each came up with a vision as to how this this could be done. This overly ambitious premise cannot digested in such a short paper, therefore only nibbles around the edges of the subject will be attempted. A taste of Virgil’s youthful diversion from an Epicurean rejection of the politics of the day, into an apologist for Empire will be briefly conjectured upon. Dante’s experience in the politics of Florence around the critical time of 1300 CE when he had his disastrous experience as a prior and subsequently used that time in his personal wilderness to site his Comedia, will be touched upon. Some notes on his deliberate corrections of or mistranslations of Virgil in what is perceived as a setting the stage for justification of the use of the vernacular as Dante compares himself, to the ancient author with a rather modest sense of his own place among the giants of the poetic arts.


Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery/The Bridgeman Art Library

The head of Pompey is delivered to Julius Caesar in Caesar Before Alexandria, an eighteenth-century oil painting by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675–1741)

Virgil writes in a turbulent time. The Roman Republic is collapsing. Born in 70 BCE, he was 21 when the civil war breaks out between Caesar and Pompey in 49 BCE. Caesar’s army famously crosses the Rubicon and Rome is abandoned by the Senate and Pompey as they head for the safer ground of Greece. Virgil alludes to this tine in the Aeneid, when in the Underworld Aeneas’s father makes some predictions, where he clearly references Caesar and Pompey:

from Gaul and the Alps the father-in-law will march
against the son with Eastern Legions massed.
(Children, never grow hardened to wars like those;
against your homeland raise no hostile hand!
Oh, take the lead, show mercy, child of heaven,
throw down that sword, son of my blood!) (Aeneid VI: 830-835)

The elder Pompey was Caesar’s son-in-law by marrying Caesar’s daughter Julia. Upon her death in childbirth, the alliance between the two men faltered. Virgil’s evident dismay at the wars, calling the two great warriors children is bold, but also as a warning to future would be rebels, children now. Evidence of the subtle manner in which he can imply several levels of meaning in so few phrases, with the conflict between the east and west, prefiguring that of Antony and Octavian, in the past when written but a future event in the poem, displaying also an artful polemic in favor of Augustus with the losing side having come from the East. This was the land where Antony was led astray, where he turned from his marriage to Octavian’s sister to dwell in the beguiling arms of Cleopatra as Caesar himself had done. Octavian, would have none of this and proved himself thus to be a virile and upstanding Roman, untainted by any eastern vice, or so the propaganda implied (Grant 185-189).


Wikimedia.org

Antony and Cleopatra (1883) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema Escaping from Actium

Norman DeWitt states in his “Virgil at Naples” that Virgil had, just before the demise of Julius Caesar, in about 45 BCE, joined the movement of Roman intelligentsia in to three camps, his being the pacifist, Epicurean group heading for Naples, a Republican group relocating in Athens and a more “ribald circle” of Antony’s supporters stayed in Rome. Virgil stayed there until his return to Mantua (DeWitt 109-110). Steele Commager in his introduction to Virgil A Collection of Critical Essays, picks up the story when Virgil in the first Eclogue has a conversation between Meliboeus and Tityrus wherein “Meliboueus, dispossessed as a result of civil wars, is compelled to leave his fields in search of a new home: ‘such disorder is there throughout the land’ (E. 1.12)… Tityrus, almost certainly a mask for Virgil himself, survives to sing… only through the intervention of a godlike Octavian: ‘O Meliboueus, it was a god who bestowed this peace upon us’ (E. 1.16)” (Commager 1-2). In fact in aftermath of the civil wars following Caesar’s death in 44 BCE, which was first between Octavian and Antony against Brutus and Cassius in 43-42 BCE and then between Octavian and Antony in 41 BCE, ending in 40 BCE when Virgil was thirty. Sometime in this period Virgil had his property confiscated as discharged soldiers were given portions of Mantua, resulting in his expulsion from the estate of his family, which he was able to recover due to his poetic efforts placing him clearly in the camp of Octavian and against that of Antony (Bunbury 265, Commager 183, DeWitt 110). Aelius Donatus states in his Life of Virgil, that Virgil wrote the “Bucolics, primarily in order to honor Asinius Pollio, Alfenus Varus and Cornelius Gallus, because they kept him from being penalized in the distribution of lands after the victory at Philippi, when the lands on the other side of the Po were being divided amongst the veterans by order of the triumvirate” (Donatus 19). Pollio, according to Ronald Syme in The Roman Revolution, Virgil’s mentor was about to become consul at the same time that Virgil wrote the “Fourth Eclogue” and was instrumental in bringing about the peace between Octavian and Antonius which was sealed with the marriage of Octavian’s sister to Antony. This golden age of peace was what was being celebrated by Virgil (Syme 218-219). Thus we can see that Virgil was affected by the turbulence of the times even though he tried to stay out of the battles, he became intimately involved with the powerful rulers of the new Rome.


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Vatican Virgil Late Antique 5th C vellum codex. Rome, Vatican Libraries

Unlike the classical period Greeks who reveled in the life of the Polis, Romans waxed nostalgic for their lost rural idyll and by Virgil’s time anyone who could afford it had a country villa (Wormell 2). Virgil himself spent as much of his time as possible on his land, writing in his pastoral “Eclogues” of an abstracted Arcadia. Rome had already become as Wormell paraphrases Horace saying “too dirty, too wealthy, to noisy, especially in the summer heat” (2). Virgil, as DeWitt says had become somewhat disillusioned with Roman life and studies by 45 BCE when he retired to Naples and evidently from poetry to study philosophy (DeWitt 105). Virgil in one of the minor poems “Catalepton” exhibits several of the qualities noted by DeWitt, his dismay with his studies, determination to study Epicurean philosophy with Syro, his giving up the boys (Donatis 9), and even muses, although how seriously this is to be taken is debatable considering his prodigious writings:

Ye empty tubs of rhetoricians, off with you,
You’re merely words inflated not with Attic dew;
Ye Seliuses, Tarquitiuses, and Varro, too,
A tribe of scholars filled with lore that’s dull, if true, O empty cymbal of our youth, be off with you!
And thou, O Sextus, foremost in my thoughts, good-bye.
Sabinus, too; now, handsome youths, to you good-bye.
For we to happy havens spread our sails and fly,
And seeking noble Syro’s learned words have we
From every care our life henceforward rendered free.
O Muses, off with you, be gone with all the rest!
Ye charming Muses, for the truth shall be confessed
Ye charming were, and modestly and rarely still
Ye must revisit papers that I then shall fill. (V: 1-14)

Leaving Virgil in a pique, attempting to get a sense of the man and some of the underlying motivations in his life has led to some points on his seeming reluctant journey into becoming spokesperson for empire. Perhaps that is why he speaks so much of duty, and giving up of Dido in the Aeneid, who in this context may represent a leaving behind of a life he had loved. Virgil was perhaps seeking a retired life and not one in the center of things and yet, there he was a popular author at the center of the imperial propaganda machine. Certainly although Aeneas has a somewhat reluctant hero quality about him, he did his duty. Kimberly Bell noted in her article “‘Translatio’ and the Constructs of a Roman Nation in Virgil’s Aeneid” that Virgil himself, had planned to spend several years in Greece revising The Aeneid but was persuaded by Augustus to accompany him back to Rome, dying on the voyage in 19 BCE (Bell 12), thus one last time putting duty ahead of desire.


gwu.edu

This painting above (by Domenico di Michelino, 1465) depicts the poet Dante gazing toward Florence (the walled city on the right). The painting is in the Duomo (Cathedral) in Florence.

Dante is living in a time where Florence is more like the Greek Polis, the center of a smaller world, the place to be, and in exile, his longing is not for a rural idyll but the life of the city he once knew. Italy was in the midst of the height of medieval expansion, just before the collapse in the 14th century wars and epidemics. As Joan Ferrante points out in her introduction to The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy, it is among other things a “political tract” in the context of the religious-political debates of the early 14th century where she quotes George Holmes summing up Dante’s political agenda as “the necessity for a universal Roman Empire and a Church without money or jurisdiction” (qtd. in Ferrante 6) which had remained consistent with earlier works. Ferrante claims Dante and many others in his time had reason to hate Boniface, the pope of the time when the Comedy was supposed to take place (77). Blaming the Pope Celestine V for allowing Boniface to become pope (85), Dante says “I beheld the shade / Of him who made the Great Refusal, impelled / By cowardice” (Infer. III. 49-51). Boniface according to sources in Ferrante tricked Celestine into retiring by drilling a hole in the wall into his room and with a tube at night, called out to Celestine to renounce his position while Boniface pretended to be an angel of the lord (81-82). Boniface intrigued against Dante’s faction in Florence the White Guelph’s who became allied to the Ghibellines (Schevilli174). Dante in Canto 27 describes how Count Gudio was tricked by Boniface into helping him defeat his enemies with a promise of absolution that never came as he was about to be carried off to heaven but because he had no absolution and had not repented because he thought he had been granted absolution in advance, he was doomed to the eighth circle of hell “because he counseled fraud” (Infer. XXVII: 117). Boniface, according to Dupuy, said about the Eucharist, it’s “no more Christ’s body than I am” (qtd. in Ferrante 83). He was accused of any number of sins.


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Liber Sextus: Sextus decretalium liber a Bonifacio viii in concilio Lugdunensi editus (Venice: Luca Antonio Giunta, 1514), Courtesy Lillian Goldman Library, Yale Law School. Boniface’s foxy fox is pulling the papal tiara off Celestine’s head, while the holy dove flies above the latter’s head.

Dante sets himself up to deliver the message of the divine function of Rome, comparing himself in the negative to Aeneas and St. Paul (Infer. II. 9-30). The explication of the separation of the papacy and the state, the devolution of Florence in to the city of Hell, as Dante’s great hope for restoration of the empire Henry VII states calling the Florentines “proud sons and heirs of Lucifer” (Ferrante 49-50), is an ongoing political theme in the Comedy. Ferrante divides Dante’s message into three parts, the Inferno representing the fallen city, Florence, Purgatorio is Italy and Paradiso is the eternal Rome (46-47). With that in mind “Dis” becomes not just the citadel of Satan and schism indicated by the “Mosques,” but so soon after the description of “Filippo Argenti” (Infer. VIII 58-67), is indicated its role as the impediment to the restoration of the Roman Empire on earth and yet it is in the linguistic unity of the vernacular Italian that Dante finds to be a basis hope in the Purgatorio and thus Florence is also the hope of Italy (47).


college.columbia.edu

Studious Dante

Dante also found sponsors but never a victorious leader, unlike Virgil who managed to find himself on the winning side of the Roman Civil Wars attached to Octavian. Dante was embroiled in a miniature version of those grand Roman battles being played out in Florence. Ferdinand Schevilli, in Medieval and Renaissance Florence, states that “[Dante] was a scholar, poet and a gentleman of leisure, who like his forebears who derived his living from a modest property” (Shevilli 171-172). As a young man Dante had joined a guild where he was listed on the roles of the physicians as a poet. The Guelph forces had taken control of Florence establishing the six ruling priors in 1282 when Dante was seventeen. Dante did not play a significant role in politics until 1300 when the Whites had reasserted control of Florence under Veri de’ Cerchi. At that time he declared himself for the Whites and spent several months as a prior when the city was threatened by Pope Boniface and the pope’s agent Charles of Valois. Cerchi, more concerned with his property, being a rich merchant, than defending the city seems to have convinced himself that Valois was a peace maker between the papal supported Black Guelph’s and the White Guelph faction which had recently evicted the Black Guelph’s. Valois proceeded to then allow the exiled Black Guelph’s into the city where they took power, raped and pillaged for five days, made lists of all the recent White supporters of influence including all the priors to be brought to trial before the Black supporting court. This was Dante’s cue to get out of town in early 1302. He promptly had his property confiscated and a death sentence placed on his head, earning Boniface his enmity. Interestingly Boniface did not gain control of Florence, his agent Valois simply allowed the Blacks to return to power (171-174). Dante’s only revenge was literary. Valois had his name etched in the Purgatorio where the spirit of Hugh Capet prophesizes:

He does not carry weapons when he comes,
only the lance that Judas tilted; this
he couches so – he twists the paunch of Florence.
From this he’ll gain not land, just shame and sin, (Purg. XX 73-76)

The paunch being twisted perhaps that of Cerchi who placed his own wealth over that of his party and allowed Florence to be taken leading to Dante’s exile.


wikipaintings.org

Dante in Exile - Frederic Leighton. Artist: Frederic Leighton

The twin forces of Empire and Church betrayed in Dante’s Inferno and following an inescapable logic, the ultimate sinner are the ones who betrayed their trust in the two institutions he most needed to provide order in the world. Judas’s betrayal of Christ and Brutus and Cassius betraying Caesar each in one of the mouths of Satan himself (Inf. xxxiv. 56-66). According to Erich Auerbach in Dante: Poet of the Secular World, each sin has been logically placed in a plan based on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as developed by St Thomas Aquinas, Dante had his revenge based on logic and ordered design. Dante has no room for those who are indifferent, Auerbach notes he has a particular loathing for these stating “The violence of Dante’s tone when he speaks of them reveals the very personal bias of a man who was passionate, fearless, and indomitable in his espousal of the good, and for whom active struggle was the natural form of life” (Auerbach 105-110). One has to think of the suffering of Dante in exile, having fought for a cause he believed in, having participated in the politics of his city Florence and then to have been rejected and exiled, must have been for him a great betrayal, and those symbolizing the indifferent, the traitors and betrayal he felt was transferred directly into the poem.


electronicbookreview.com

Bordando el manto terrestre, by Remedios Varo.

Dante appropriates Virgil for his own purposes, creating a new version of Virgil to chastise those in his world who are destroying civilization by their barbaric and greedy behavior and also reminding them of the lost world of Roman glory in the process. Robert Hollander in his essay “Misreadings of the Aeneid in the Inferno,” indicates this dwelling on what to him is a deliberate change of Virgil’s description, translating from the Latin:

Yonder too, Ocnus summons a host from his native shores,
son of prophetic Manto and the Tuscan river, who gave thee, O Mantua, ramparts and his mothers’ name, rich in ancestry, yet not all of one stock: three races are there, and under each race four peoples: herself the head of the peoples,
her strength from Tuscan blood ” (Aen. 10. 198-203).

Hollander says that Dante is deliberately misquoting Virgil as a criticism of his “master and author” (Hollander 77-78). This is transformed in Dante to:

And she, whose loose hair covers her breasts unseen
On the side away from you, where other hair grows,
Was Manto-who searched through many lands, and then
Settled in the place where I was born. (Inf. xx. 49-52).

Dante has Virgil go on to say after a fairly long aside about the country round Mantua, “There Manto the savage virgin saw in mid-fern / A stretch of dry land, untilled, uninhabited;” (Inf. xx. 71-72). Then he describes how people settled in the marsh building the city:

Over her bones, with not lots or divination
They named it Mantua. Before the fool Casalodi Was deceived by Pinamonte, its population
Was larger. So let no other history,
I charge you, belie my city’s inception (Inf. xx. 80-84).

Dante reading other sources, Hollander cites Ovid and Statius (Hollander 79), changes Manto into a virgin, and comments on some of the politics of his day using Virgil’s voice. Dante has in correcting the error of Manto’s status, virginal in his view, out done Virgil, and in this demonstrating his worthiness for entrance into the circle of poets he eulogizes “And far more honor: that fair company/Then made me one among them-so as we traveled/Onward toward the light I made a sixth” (iv. 84-87) .


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Map of Mantua

Dante is now not only making a case for his inclusion in this lofty circle but as he states they are moving to the light of understanding and wisdom, even in this place in the ante room of hell. On another level Dante has created for himself the justification for the use of the vernacular language in poetry as a “poeta” and thus argues that his native Florentine is the equivalent of the classical Latin which after all was the vernacular of its day. Kevin Brownlee in his article “Why the Angels speak Italian: Dante as Vernacular Poeta in Paradiso XXV” states much the same “It is also in Inferno IV that we find the Divine Comedy’s first presentation-both implicit and indirect – of Dante as in some sense making claim to this prestigious title” (Brownlee 603-5). Thus commenting on the nature of contemporary readings of meaning in older texts, Charles Martindale, in the introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Virgil, argues that Dante uses “strategies for mediating cultural change and for negotiating relationships with the past which are deemed significant for the present.” Marindale states “Did not the Greekless Dante effect one of the two or three most powerful and exciting readings of Virgil-what Harold Bloom, who argues that all readings can be construed as ‘misreadings’ (either strong or weak), would call a ‘strong misreading’- in the Divine Comedy, his own narrative revision of the Aeneid?” (Martindale 2, 8-9). Still Dante did a more than yeoman like job in transferring what he desired from the Aeneid and was perfectly capable of coming up with his own reading, to suit his purposes. Dante’s Virgil spoke to his time, a tool for his use in creating his own vision.


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Virgil and Dante meeting Homer, Horace Ovid and Lucan, oil on canvas, 37″x54″ Painting was shown in the Boston Athenaeum from 1850-1869.

In Visions of Heaven and Hell Before Dante, Eileen Gardiner notes that Dante was fully cognizant of the European visionary tradition, including some very detailed descriptions of a descent into hell such as is described in “Tundale’s Vision.” This tale attributed to Ireland where a knight, Tundale went into a coma and reported this story to monks who then conveyed it to Bavaria in the next year and soon it was circulating in some 13 languages. With its levels of hell and punishments allotted for different crimes, the guardian angel, foul smells, sights and sounds of the hellish state (Gardner xiv, xvi, xxvi). This tradition with its tropes and traditions available to Dante was also grounds for a European view that was not strictly based in the classics and had a modern, even cosmopolitan flavor if such tales from the crypt could be considered to be urbane. They were in the sense that they represented a living European culture not dependent on the long ago past.


nytimes.com

A detail from “Mankind’s Eternal Dilemma — the Choice Between Vice and Virtue” by Frans Francken the Younger, from about 1633, part of Sotheby’s “Divine Comedy” exhibition.

The Roman world of Virgil was one emerging out of the chaotic civil war period. Rome had been transformed from a minor rather provincial city state in a land remote from the center of action in the Greek world, to becoming in less than two centuries the center of power in the known world of their time and an urban megalopolis. Power struggles between factions had been a fact of life in Virgil’s youth and he strove to support the consolidation of peace under Augustus through the mythologizing of Octavian’s patrimony in the Aeneid. Rome needed an ideological literary rallying point worthy of its position as the new undisputed leader of the Mediterranean world, something as worthy as the Greek classics of Homer, that task Virgil, the former pacifist, seeing peace in the new world order providing, what he hoped to be in dutiful Aeneas, a model for the new rulers of the world which he set out to accomplish with the blessings of the newly transformed Octavian, now Augustus.


http://academic.shu.edu

Virgil, between Clio and Melpomene 3rd century mosaic, Hadrumetum, Tunisia

Dante also grew up in changing times but in his case the medieval city state in the 13th century was jockeying for position within a less than imperial or Holy Roman Empire. An unstable future in the 14th century dawned as attempt after attempt to create a unified state collapsed with rival factions continuing to rule in the secular states of the Papacy and the Empire as well as the independent city states such as Florence of the time. Dante in his Divine Comedy chastises, and prods his contemporaries into greater efforts with his projection of the hoped for world in his model La Comedia. His efforts were not to bear fruit in his time, but instead he provided the foundations for the modern Italian language and perhaps ultimately the Italian state by his powerful stance for a just world order.


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William Blake: illustration to Dante The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto I, 1-90

Works Cited
Auerbach, Erich. Dante Poet of the Secular World. 1929. Trans. Ralph Manhiem, U. of Chicago P. 1961. Print.
Bell, Kimberly K. “‘Translatio’ and the Constructs of a Roman Nation in Virgil’s Aeneid.” Rocky Mountain Review. 62: 1 (2008). 11-24. JSTOR. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Brownlee, Kevin. “Why the Angels Speak Italian: Dante as Vernacular Poeta in Paradiso XXV.” Poetics Today. 5.3, Duke U. P. (1984), 597-610. JSTOR. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Bunbury, Edward, Herbert. “Mantua.” Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography in Two Volumes. Vol. 2. Ed. William Smith. Boston: Little, Brown and Co. 1857. 265. Google Books. Digitized 29 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 Nov. 2013.
Commager, Steele. Introduction. Virgil A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Steel Commanger. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall. 1966. 1-13. Print.
Dante, Alligheri. Inferno. Trans. Robert Pinsky. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature The Middle Period. 100 C. E. – 1450. Ed. Paul Davis et. al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. 2004. 679-848. Print.
Dante, Alighieri, Purgatorio. Allen Mandelbaum, and Peter Armour. The Divine Comedy. New York: Knopf, 1995. Print.
DeWitt, Norman. “Virgil at Naples.” Classical Philology. 17: 2 (1922). 104-110. JSTOR. Web. 2 Dec. 2013
Donatus, Aelius. Life of Virgil. Trans. David Wilson-Okamura. (2008). Virgil.org. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
Ferante, Joan M. The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP. 1984. Print.
Gardiner, Eileen, Introduction. Visions of Heaven & Hell before Dante. Ed. Eileen Gardner. New York: Italica P. 1989. xi-xxix. Print.
Grant, Michael. Cleopatra. New York: Barnes & Noble. 1992. Print.
Hollander, Robert. “Dante’s Misreadings of the Aeneid in Inferno.” The Poetry of Allusion Virgil and Ovid in Dante’s Commedia. Ed. Rachel Jacoff and Jeffery T. Schnapp. Stanford: Stanford UP. 1991. Print.
Martindale, Charles. Introduction: ‘The Classic of all Europe’. The Cambridge Companion to Virgil. Ed. Charles Martindale. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 1997. 1-18. Print.
Schevill, Ferdinand. Medieval and Renaissance Florence Volume 1: Medieval Florence. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row 1963. Print.
Slaughter, M. S. “Virgil: An Interpretation.” The Classical Journal. 12: 6 (1917). 359-377. JSTOR. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.
Syme, Ronald. The Roman Revolution. Rev. ed. Oxford: Oxford U. Press. 1956. Print.
Vergil. The Minor Poems of Vergil: Comprising theCulex, Dirae, Lydia, Moretum, Copa, Priapeia, and Catalepton. Trans. Joseph J. Mooney. Birmingham: Cornish Brothers. 1916. Virgil.Org. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.
Virgil, The Aeneid. Trans. Frank O. Copley. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature The Ancient World, Beginnings-100 C. E. Ed. Paul Davis et. al. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins. Wormell, D. E. W. “The Originality of the Eclogues sic paruis componere magna solebam.” Virgil. Ed. Donald R. Dudley. New York: Basic Books, Inc. 1969. 1-26. Print. 2004. 1181-1265. Print.


http://ayay.co.uk

A william blake paintings picture entitled ” dante beatrix addresses from the car ”

Post script. January 9th 2014.
I just read the entire Medieval and Renaissance Florence Vol. 1 by Schevilli up to and past the part Dante is concerned with at the time of writing The Divine Comedy, some details I got wrong in my rush to produce a paper, Dante essentially became a Ghibelline after being forced out of Florence with his fellow White Guelphs by the Black Guelphs, and being welcomed by his fellow exiles the previously defeated Ghibelline faction. The twists and turns of the various factions in Florence revolved around the various interpretations of how to best insure the freedom and prosperity of the Florence city state. Generally the Ghibellines believed in their participation in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Guelphs believed in supporting the Papacy in its ongoing struggle for authority over and against the Imperial interests. Dante himself, eventually came to a vision of a restored Rome with the Imperial and Papal authorities accepting their places as coequal an older vision that had been increasingly become unrelated to the real world of Italian politics. It was perhaps a traditional vision, looking back more than forward, although his use of the vernacular and his elevated world view in his great poem eventually made him a model from which Italian nationalists drew much inspiration.


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