Stevensiana

Discussion in 'Comedy & Tragedy' started by AdamSmith, Oct 4, 2016.

  1. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    An able and diligent lawyer, [Wallace] Stevens was named a vice president at the Hartford in 1934. He was not known there—or in most other places—for warmth and sensitivity. Once, a colleague told Stevens that he’d admired a eulogy Stevens had given at the funeral of another Hartford executive. Stevens replied, “I hope to do the same for you some day.” In 1955, the same colleague, on learning that Stevens had died, asked if it was a heart attack, noting that he would be surprised to learn that Stevens had a heart.

    http://bcm.bc.edu/issues/summer_2016/features/mystery-man.html#sthash.7zlB5ohK.dpuf
     
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  2. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    The gentleman haunts my imagination.

    In summer 2008, in Orlando at the beginning of a week-long reunion with a much-loved retired escort who had just re-entered the biz, we were together at Disney in some walk-thru adventure that featured Triton as its theme, and this would not stop running through my noggin.

    Could Crispin stem verboseness in the sea,
    The old age of a watery realist,
    Triton, dissolved in shifting diaphanes
    Of blue and green? A wordy, watery age
    That whispered to the sun's compassion, made
    A convocation, nightly, of the sea-stars,
    And on the cropping foot-ways of the moon
    Lay grovelling. Triton incomplicate with that
    Which made him Triton, nothing left of him,
    Except in faint, memorial gesturings,
    That were like arms and shoulders in the waves,
    Here, something in the rise and fall of wind
    That seemed hallucinating horn, and here,
    A sunken voice, both of remembering
    And of forgetfulness, in alternate strain.
    Just so an ancient Crispin was dissolved.
    The valet in the tempest was annulled.


    http://www.everypoet.com/archive/po...lace_stevens_the_comedian_as_the_letter_c.htm
     
  3. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    The rest of that stanza goes:

    Bordeaux to Yucatan, Havana next,
    And then to Carolina. Simple jaunt.
    Crispin, merest minuscule in the gales,
    Dejected his manner to the turbulence.
    The salt hung on his spirit like a frost,
    The dead brine melted in him like a dew
    Of winter, until nothing of himself
    Remained, except some starker, barer self
    In a starker, barer world, in which the sun
    Was not the sun because it never shone
    With bland complaisance on pale parasols,
    Beetled, in chapels, on the chaste bouquets.
    Against his pipping sounds a trumpet cried
    Celestial sneering boisterously. Crispin
    Became an introspective voyager.


    The last sentence applies today very much to me and, I think, to many of us who are here for just that reason.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  4. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Slightly different side of him.

    The Sun This March

    The exceeding brightness of this early sun
    Makes me conceive how dark I have become,

    And re-illumines things that used to turn
    To gold in broadest blue, and be a part

    Of a turning spirit in an earlier self.
    That, too, returns from out the winter’s air,

    Like an hallucination come to daze
    The corner of the eye. Our element,

    Cold is our element and winter’s air
    Brings voices as of lions coming down.

    Oh! Rabbi, rabbi, fend my soul for me
    And true savant of this dark nature be.
     
  5. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Yet another side.

    In the far South the sun of autumn is passing
    Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.
    He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,
    The worlds that were and will be, death and day.
    Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.
    His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame.

    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=20722
     
  6. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    One of his first great pieces, written when he was 36.

    Sunday Morning

    I
    Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
    Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
    And the green freedom of a cockatoo
    Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
    The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
    She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
    Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
    As a calm darkens among water-lights.
    The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
    Seem things in some procession of the dead,
    Winding across wide water, without sound.
    The day is like wide water, without sound,
    Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
    Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
    Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

    II
    Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
    What is divinity if it can come
    Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
    Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
    In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
    In any balm or beauty of the earth,
    Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
    Divinity must live within herself:
    Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
    Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
    Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
    Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
    All pleasures and all pains, remembering
    The bough of summer and the winter branch.
    These are the measures destined for her soul.

    III
    Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
    No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
    Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind.
    He moved among us, as a muttering king,
    Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
    Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
    With heaven, brought such requital to desire
    The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
    Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
    The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
    Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
    The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
    A part of labor and a part of pain,
    And next in glory to enduring love,
    Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

    IV
    She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
    Before they fly, test the reality
    Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
    But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
    Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
    There is not any haunt of prophecy,
    Nor any old chimera of the grave,
    Neither the golden underground, nor isle
    Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
    Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
    Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
    As April’s green endures; or will endure
    Like her remembrance of awakened birds,
    Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
    By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.

    V
    She says, “But in contentment I still feel
    The need of some imperishable bliss.”
    Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
    Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
    And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
    Of sure obliteration on our paths,
    The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
    Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
    Whispered a little out of tenderness,
    She makes the willow shiver in the sun
    For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
    Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
    She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
    On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
    And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.

    VI
    Is there no change of death in paradise?
    Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
    Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
    Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
    With rivers like our own that seek for seas
    They never find, the same receding shores
    That never touch with inarticulate pang?
    Why set the pear upon those river-banks
    Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
    Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
    The silken weavings of our afternoons,
    And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
    Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
    Within whose burning bosom we devise
    Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

    VII
    Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
    Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
    Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
    Not as a god, but as a god might be,
    Naked among them, like a savage source.
    Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
    Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
    And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
    The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
    The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
    That choir among themselves long afterward.
    They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
    Of men that perish and of summer morn.
    And whence they came and whither they shall go
    The dew upon their feet shall manifest.

    VIII
    She hears, upon that water without sound,
    A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
    Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
    It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
    We live in an old chaos of the sun,
    Or old dependency of day and night,
    Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,
    Of that wide water, inescapable.
    Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
    Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
    Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
    And, in the isolation of the sky,
    At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
    Ambiguous undulations as they sink,
    Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
     
  7. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Another bit from 'The Comedian as the Letter C.'

    Nota: his soil is man's intelligence.
    That's better. That's worth crossing seas to find.
    Crispin in one laconic phrase laid bare
    His cloudy drift and planned a colony.

    Exit the mental moonlight, exit lex,
    Rex and principium, exit the whole

    Shebang. Exeunt omnes. Here was prose
    More exquisite than any tumbling verse:
    A still new continent in which to dwell.
    What was the purpose of his pilgrimage,
    Whatever shape it took in Crispin's mind,
    If not, when all is said, to drive away
    The shadow of his fellows from the skies,
    And, from their stale intelligence released,
    To make a new intelligence prevail?
    Hence the reverberations in the words
    Of his first central hymns, the celebrants
    Of rankest trivia, tests of the strength
    Of his aesthetic, his philosophy,
    The more invidious, the more desired.
    The florist asking aid from cabbages,
    The rich man going bare, the paladin
    Afraid, the blind man as astronomer,
    The appointed power unwielded from disdain.
    His western voyage ended and began.
    The torment of fastidious thought grew slack,
    Another, still more bellicose, came on.
    He, therefore, wrote his prolegomena,
    And, being full of the caprice, inscribed
    Commingled souvenirs and prophecies.
    He made a singular collation. Thus:
    The natives of the rain are rainy men.
    Although they paint effulgent, azure lakes,
    And April hillsides wooded white and pink,
    Their azure has a cloudy edge, their white
    And pink, the water bright that dogwood bears.
    And in their music showering sounds intone.
    On what strange froth does the gross Indian dote,
    What Eden sapling gum, what honeyed gore,
    What pulpy dram distilled of innocence,
    That streaking gold should speak in him
    Or bask within his images and words?
    If these rude instances impeach themselves
    By force of rudeness, let the principle
    Be plain. For application Crispin strove,
    Abhorring Turk as Esquimau, the lute
    As the marimba, the magnolia as rose.


    The bolded bit may be, more than much of anything else in literature, what taught me how to write and think. :rolleyes:

    (In that, I take after another of my idols, the poet John Ashbery, whom a friend of his once described as 'lazy and quick.')
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
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  8. sync

    sync Count

    AdamSmith, I so envy individuals like yourself who are able to extract and interpret the messages within literature and poetry. I have failed just about every English literature or poetry interpretation challenge I've ever encountered and feel I've been, and continue to be, oblivious to so much beauty in the world.
     
  9. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Believe me, I am with you in knowing how very much remains in literature that I still don't get.

    That's one of the beautiful things about Stevens, as with so many artists who are truly great. Unlike, say, Auden and many other 'greats' who fade with time. Reading Stevens intensively since I was 19, I still get new things from him every time I return.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
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  10. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Actually occurs a much more useful (I hope) reply: Just read the words.

    The writers are not trying to conceal, but to expose. (And to discover.)

    They are way out there on the edge of wondering, Did I just go somewhere where cognizance has not quite before? or instead Did my imagination fail me yet again?
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  11. Kenny

    Kenny Duke

    "There once was a girl from Nantucket..."

    :eek:
     
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  12. Much of poetry, especially modern poetry, is meant to be evocative and allusive, not linear.

    Blame Eliot, and don't sweat it.
     
  13. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    :cool::p

    A girl from North Carolina...
    ...vagina...

    :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
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  14. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Eliot's (understand I love him but we must know him):

    Scribblings of the artist as a young man

    King Bolo's swarthy bodyguard


    Were called the Jersey lilies

    A wild and hardy set of blacks

    Undaunted by syphilis.

    They wore the national uniform

    Of a garland of verbenas

    And a pair of great big hairy balls

    And a big black knotty penis.

    An extract from Eliot's King Bolo verses and the cover of the new collection in which bawdy material is published
     
  15. I never said he didn't have reprehensible qualities. But we have already established that I am more favorably disposed to his best-known poems than you are.

    Btw, the above means that the supposedly complete collection of his poetry I own is far from complete.
     
  16. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Your capacity for understatement is enviable.

    For me, The Waste Land is an aesthetically and emotionally juvenile production whose thrust :rolleyes: is to bemoan the protagonist's difficulties with getting it up and getting it in.

    And the rest of his poems go downhill from there.

    His essential tonal and attitudinal source was Tennyson, on top of which Tom barnacled a bunch of Modernist decorative elements plucked at random from whatever sources he had, with shallow understanding, been browsing in. For The Waste Land, for instance, Jesse Weston's From Ritual to Romance. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Ritual_to_Romance

    Together with comparably superficial stylistic borrowings from assorted 19th-century French masters, Baudelaire, Laforgue (and Arthur Symons, a minor British poet but of major borrowing usefulness to Eliot when he was first getting started) and others of what became the Symbolist movement.

    Yes, I don't much care for ol' Tom of St. Louis. :D
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  17. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Here is Dylan Thomas, who had little use for Eliot, reciting -- in his best imitation of Missouri-born Eliot's put-on Brit accent -- Henry Reed's sublime Eliot parody 'Chard Whitlow' (after TSE's 'Burnt Norton').

     
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  18. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    CHARD WHITLOW
    (Mr. Eliot's Sunday Evening Postscript)

    As we get older we do not get any younger.
    Seasons return, and today I am fifty-five,
    And this time last year I was fifty-four,
    And this time next year I shall be sixty-two.
    And I cannot say I should like (to speak for myself)
    To see my time over again—if you can call it time:
    Fidgeting uneasily under a draughty stair,
    Or counting sleepless nights in the crowded Tube.

    There are certain precautions—though none of them very reliable—
    Against the blast from bombs and the flying splinter,
    But not against the blast from heaven, vento dei venti,
    The wind within a wind unable to speak for wind;
    And the frigid burnings of purgatory will not be touched
    By any emollient.

    I think you will find this put,
    Better than I could ever hope to express it,
    In the words of Kharma: "It is, we believe,
    Idle to hope that the simple stirrup-pump
    Will extinguish hell."

    Oh, listeners,
    And you especially who have turned off the wireless
    And sit in Stoke or Basingstoke listening appreciatively to the silence,
    (Which is also the silence of hell) pray, not for your skins, but for your souls.
    And pray for me also under the draughty stair.
    As we get older we do not get any younger.

    And pray for Kharma under the holy mountain.

    Henry Reed
     
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  19. AdamSmith

    AdamSmith Count de Crisco

    Chard Whitlow is a parody, most directly, of Eliot's East Coker (actually maybe my favorite Eliot piece, although even that is not to say much :rolleyes: ):

    I.

    In my beginning is my end. In succession
    Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
    Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
    Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
    Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
    Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
    Which is already flesh, fur, and faeces,
    Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
    Houses live and die: there is a time for building
    And a time for living and for generation
    And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
    And to shake the wainscot where the field mouse trots
    And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.

    In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
    Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
    Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon,
    Where you lean against a bank while a van passes,
    And the deep lane insists on the direction
    Into the village, in the electric heat
    Hypnotized. In a warm haze the sultry light
    Is absorbed, not reflected, by grey stone.
    The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
    Wait for the early owl.
    In that open field
    If you do not come too close, if you do not come too close,
    On a summer midnight, you can hear the music
    Of the weak pipe and the little drum
    And see them dancing around the bonfire
    The association of man and woman
    In daunsinge, signifying matrimonie—
    A dignified and commodiois sacrament.
    Two and two, necessarye coniunction,
    Holding eche other by the hand or the arm
    Whiche betokeneth concorde. Round and round the fire
    Leaping through the flames, or joined in circles,
    Rustically solemn or in rustic laughter
    Lifting heavy feet in clumsy shoes,
    Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth
    Mirth of those long since under earth
    Nourishing the corn. Keeping time,
    Keeping the rhythm in their dancing
    As in their living in the living seasons
    The time of the seasons and the constellations
    The time of milking and the time of harvest
    The time of the coupling of man and woman
    And that of beasts. Feet rising and falling.
    Eating and drinking. Dung and death.
    Dawn points, and another day
    Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind
    Wrinkles and slides. I am here
    Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning.


    Etc.: http://oedipa.tripod.com/eliot-2.html
     
  20. Kenny

    Kenny Duke

    :p "There once was a scribbler from St. Louis..."
     
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