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WHY PETRARCH’S “TO ITALY” REMAINS SIGNIFICANT

PETRARCH2

WHY PETRARCH’S “TO ITALY” REMAINS SIGNIFICANT

Since I am neither Italian nor a scholar of Latin beyond what I learned at school, I sometimes ask myself why I should feel moved by and dealing with something close to the heart of poetic inspiration in the case of Petrarch’s Ad Italiam, (To Italy, but sometimes called Petrarch’s Hymn to Italy). More recently too I find a new and relevant symbolic significance attaches to the work..

The mood of the poem is plainly enthusiastic and ecstatic but the total impression is of feeling somehow more engraved, fixed and  “absolute”  in a way I should wish to class with the very different because elegiac  Catullus C1, the celebrated “hail and farewell” poem for the poet’s brother deceased in a far land. It is always possible that Catullus at least indirectly influenced Petrarch, a proto-Renaissance classical scholar who had unique possession of the newly rediscovered work of the Roman poet, but undoubtedly Latin bible Psalms played their part  – there is an affinity for the spirit of those Psalms which celebrate Jerusalem and Israel as sacred site and Promised Land.

Ad Italiam  which begins  Salve, cara Deo tellus sanctissima, salve is of course more impressive in the Latin in which so much of Petrarch’s poetry was composed (though his famous Canzoniere with its Sonnets to Laura) were in his and Dante’s native Tuscan. One translation I take from the net runs as follows:

Hail, land most holy dear to God, hail!
A land of safety to the good, a land to be feared by the proud,
Land much nobler than other famous shores,
More fertile than the rest, more beautiful than any other country,
Bound by twin seas, shining with famous mountains,
Revered for arms and holy laws,
Home of the Pierian Muses, rich in gold and men.
Art and nature together courted your exceptional favors
And gave a teacher to the world.
Now after a long time I return to you eagerly,
A permanent resident. You will give a welcome resting place
To my tired life, and in the end you will supply enough
Earth to cover my pale bones. How happy I am to see you,
Italy, from the high mountain of leafy Montgenèvre.
The clouds stay behind my back. A clear breeze
Strikes my face, and the air rises to meet me with gentle
Motions. I recognize my homeland and rejoicing I greet it.
Hail, beautiful mother, glory of the earth, hail.

THE POET’S SELF AND HIS ITALIA

What might be so specially poetic and/or moving about this? Granted the lyric might strike us a little more forcibly if we read it with some poetic biography in mind – I first came across the poem in youth in a book about the Renaissance to which Petrarch was in many respects a founding father. He was so through his revival of the classics and his novel conviction that ancient and modern could be somehow blended because a real continuity should be seen to exist. I read how the poet was leaving France for the second and last time, the land where, due to his father’s business, he had spent a good part of his own youth and early adulthood enjoying success (and serenading Laura) but feeling increasingly dissatisfied and alienated in the corrupt atmosphere of Avignon and its papal court.

So this is a poem of homecoming, of liberation and hopefully of finding oneself at last. At that level almost anyone could appreciate the poem’s feelings even without the precise biographical background against which I first encountered these lines.

In this instance however the easily appreciated emotion is raised to another plane by the fact that something of the prophetic and archetypical functions of poet and poetry are super-added to what is being declared. Quite simply, no such place as Italia/Italy even existed at the time Petrarch was writing, nor would it for centuries.

Italia is a name drawn from Roman politics and geography. Typically, and like Dante so patriotically attached to his Florence, Italians scarcely felt they belonged to any larger national entity and certainly no single language unified them. Petrarch thus simply names and claims Italy, spreading across the geographical region something by way of  old-new Platonic generalization in preference to the Dantesque Aristotelian and medieval detail. It’s a work of poetic making and claiming of which there are few examples – the more archaic, briefer song of the druid Amergin setting foot upon Ireland would be one.

This address to an imagined, effectively archetypal Italia is made from the mountain heights of Montgenèvre and rather like Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo before he dies. (Possibly remembering that example the poet refers to where his own final resting place will be although at the time he was only forty nine and would spend the last twenty one years of his life in Italy). Petrarch was modern or at least pre-romantic in re-discovering the beauty and power of mountains. From curiosity and for pleasure – and madly it seemed to people of his time – he had actually climbed Mt Ventoux in Provence. Here he is traversing lower Alps above the Val Susa and the Turin region to arrive in his “Italy”.

With this generalization about the land below him there is a sudden expansion of feeling, a deeper breathing. The wind that strikes the poet’s face while the clouds are behind him is almost more inspiration itself, a liberation of spirit, than any natural phenomenon even if a breeze was blowing on the heights. Behind him lies France and in effect the sort of things France at the time (and to this day somewhat) represents in terms of scholasticism, a kind of analytical pigeonholing and rationalization of everything that at worst risks preventing the individual from reaching transcendent states of mind and being. For these the poet himself has obvious affinity and he has been able to justify them from especially elements of classical culture. He is thus released to the lyrical, more musical, even operatic impulses that belong with “Italy”.

THE ITALY OF WESTERN ORIGINS

It is his Platonic generalization which allows the poet statements about Italy which perceive everywhere the sanctity and beauty of the land and culture. Practically, from its medieval banditry to its modern mafia, from its corrupt medieval popes to modern politicians, not to talk of things like ugly modern traffic chaos, Italy carries many blemishes like many another country. But in the more prophetic and archetypal view it is still inspired, spiritual and beautiful, “more beautiful than any other country….” And the fact remains that, quite objectively, Italy is particularly and hauntingly beautiful among nations whether in terms of nature or culture. Even a French painter, Claude Lorraine, would render it a symbol of Arcadia and Promised Land, the Golden Age, the Millennium. Germans would make a cult of the place (Goethe’s Kennst du das Land wo die Zitronen bluhn? bespeaks an attachments to Italy as somewhere that offers a beauty that however tangible and immediate also somehow exists as a special longing beyond the immediate). Well before any modern tourist invasions Italy would become homeland and heartland to many, especially artists. The Romantic poets and artists descended upon it with Keats and Shelly managing to die there, Shelley having declared in Julian and Maddalo,

How beautiful is sunset, when the glow
Of heaven descends upon a land like thee
Thou paradise of exiles, Italy.

Beauty of all kinds can corrupt as much as improve, but Italy goes about as far as it is possible to go in redemption of many things through beauty. At any rate many will excuse it much on that account. People may however also identify with and overlook much where Italy is concerned because of a fundamental recognition that in many respects, it is also “us”. It is Europe, the root of many things – the West itself.

It’s Rome that marks a beginning for Europe in a way that Greece never quite does. We are indebted to Greece for many things that make the West the West, but there is also a discontinuity with its legacy. Italy via both its medieval and Renaissance worlds supplies the world a continuous development, a variation upon a theme that we recognize. Rome never quite died whereas Athens did. I feel therefore that when Petrarch prophetically celebrates Italy he celebrates Europe itself by default even while, like Moses rejecting Egypt, he implicitly rejects France for a more lyrical, all-embracing, quasi-operatic worldview. But then the Italian opera that Greece, despite its drama didn’t invent and which didn’t exist in Petrarch’s time, can itself be considered one of the symbols of the West. It, and its lyrical impulse is the sort of thing that allows Petrarch to steal from Greece its claim to be home of the Pierian muses. As said, the poet’s “Italy” is, beyond the actual place, a heart zone and archetypal and he knows what keys to hit….

ARCHETYPE AND HOROSCOPE

One can tell this from the all-revealing horoscope for modern Italy (10th June 1946, 6 pm Rome) which with remarkable accuracy registers the force field of cultural identity across time as when we find asteroid Dante together with his prime inspiration Virgil, a doyen of the mythos of Rome and all Italians. They are conjunct on 25 degrees of Gemini, the sign of languages and writing, the sign of Europe, of democracy and of Christianity (born under Gemini with the speaking of tongues) and the sign of modern Italy which has, so far, perhaps most realized Gemini as the division of twins, the mental and other divisions of North and South regions. And since on the physical plane Gemini rules the hands, Italy under Gemini suits the nation that half speaks through hand and gesture.

Petrarch (Petrarca)  is found in the nation’s creative fifth house in initiating Aries. He stands in fortunate trine to a Mars in Leo, Petrarch’s own sign – he was born 28th July Greg 1304 – in the nation’s ninth house of ideas, philosophy and religion. (I can’t report that Petrarca aspects Laura in Italy’s chart but curiously his natal Mars in Cancer does fall exactly on Laura in the national chart).

While Italy’s 1946 pattern naturally represents the modern nation, it echoes its past too as national charts will, even spectacularly so (like Solomon conjunct the Part of Wisdom in the chart of modern Israel). There is little question that Petrarch by helping to birth the Renaissance in a way that Dante and Virgil didn’t, is a major creative influence upon Italy for all time. (Dante and Virgil, famed for visionary journeys to Hades and the Inferno are suitably found together on the same degree in the nation’s eighth house, traditionally the hell house and the house of secrets.

Altogether, Petrarch’s legacy in aspect to Italy’s beliefs house Mars relates to and stimulates what is deemed most typically, perennially Italian in what (despite the Gemini sun) will be the modern nation. This is the tendency to a certain dramatic, leonine extravagance in everything from architecture to entertainment. The popular reputation is for this even when not it is not universally the case; but since Leo is the sign not just of the national Mars but of the Midheaven, a point which describes the destiny and reputation along with leadership profile, the nation will always produce some singularly flamboyant leaders from Mussolini to Berlusconi whether they were Leos or not (Mussolini was!).

When he defines his at once real and dreamed “Italy”, Petrarch defines it not just by the mountains that we know he would automatically favour, but describes it as “bound by twin seas” almost as though it were an island. As if to confirm this emphasis in the real and ideal (or dreamed) image, we find asteroid Italia in the fourth house of land and origins in Pisces, sign of seas but also of dreams and myths. Italy may be sea-girt, but as one cannot emphasize enough, beyond any place it is also a state of mind, a mythos.

Roma is likewise in the same land and origins house and sign though not conjunct Italia – something, but happily by no means everything, is indebted to the Rome of Virgil. Vaticana isn’t in the house and shouldn’t be since modern Italy is separate from Vatican city. (Vaticana like Dante falls in the eighth sector of secrets (which is how many Italians see it, but placed in Cancer at 19 degrees in exact semi-sextile aspect to the 19 degree Gemini sun. This is a relation which betrays how Italians can have both real attachment to yet divided thoughts about the Vatican they won’t fully trust).

AN ABSOLUTE POETRY

Through a brief astrological excursus I’ve aimed to show how a gifted poet will be in touch with the kind of archetypal and symbolic forces that seem to distinguish the more memorable expressions of poetry. Recently Australia’s multi-tasking intellectual Clive James, who is recommending a poetry that avoids some of the excesses of an increasingly tired and non communicating modernism in the arts, has emphasized the old belief that one does not choose poetry (the art that so many try their hand at) but rather is chosen by poetry. To the extent I would agree, I should want to add that sometimes it is as though history itself chooses the poet.

A supreme example in my opinion is the Catullus that Petrarch rediscovered. History has not just been kind to the Roman poet whose work was thought lost for centuries. His times and setting provide him a quite special voice, even an authority that manages to cancel out all failures and lapses of taste in minor pieces. This is a poet who can refer casually to Caesar and Cicero as acquaintances and magisterially to the range of the rapidly growing (late Republican) territories. He carries Italia from its back streets to its urban grandeur and natural wonders on his shoulders, but lightly so as to make any contrasting elegy and sense of loss all the more hauntingly memorable.

At times it can be hard to be quite sure where powers of art or notable social privilege make for the effects, (nearest in literature perhaps to the world-owning internationalism of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra), but there is a sense of capturing something essential and foundational for all time that lends Catullan poetic utterance a stamp of authority that even very good poetry doesn’t necessarily have. Here the poet sings and sees because the times, history itself, make for it, and the effects be so vivid it becomes poignant – one may finish half surprised the poet is even long dead.

Himself inhabiting a turning point of history he helped to make, Petrarch in his prophetic idealizing sets the bar high for Italy, but arguably the poem become a vantage point for any thinking about who and what the nation was, is and can be and, as I have suggested, even in some respects the West that Italy originates and symbolizes.

Looking back at the past and contemplating the near future in which ISIS has promised to attack Italy and Rome and now that already the country is being overwhelmed amid its lifesaving generosity towards impossible numbers of fleeing refugees, a new and different poignancy surrounds any absolutes of vision. Astrologers could well wonder concerning the eclipse that hits Italy’s destiny and leadership Midheaven in 2017, They could also question the presence of the only two Islam-associated asteroids Ahmed, (a name for Mohammed), and Abdulla (the name of Mohammed’s father), in Italy’s ninth house of beliefs and the overseas. The conjunction of Abdulla to the national Saturn in the beliefs house, the proximity of Ahmed to that house’s Pluto (death and transformation) and the proximity of Ahmed to Sicilia, a once Muslim region and one of the regions through which Italy is most likely to suffer invasion, together likely say something. Especially as we then even find Isis in the ninth house in the same kind of aspect to Italy’s destiny Midheaven as Vaticana is to Italy’s identity and leadership giving sun. Will the flag of Islam at one point fly over the Vatican as promised by ISIS?

Petrarch of course envisages an eternal and very Christian Italy. Christian is undoubtedly prominent in the chart on an angle (the descendant) for Italy, but it’s in an odd position which could suggest that a truly Christian identity may be left to struggle against internal and external enemies, everything from mafias internally to IS fighters externally[1].

I do think that seven centuries on from Petrarch and two thousand years and the whole age of Pisces from Virgil, the fate and identity of Italy is once again in dispute and endangered, perhaps more than it quite realizes. But if poetry is sometimes prophecy, I don’t feel I have entirely presumed to conclude Part 4 of my Coming to Syracuse, (which offers a deliberate update and partial critique of Virgil’s overtly prophetic Eclogue 4), with the assurance after many trials of ultimately surviving:  ( Part One https://goo.gl/97NgiO Part  Four  https://goo.gl/KQZ6kp – there are six parts recorded by actress in Canada).

…And then the fortunate of the coming age
Beneath the shade of beech and elm
Again in midday idleness they’ll sing
And speak of love that’s everywhere and everything
And under clusters of the vine, breathe in
Deep peace and view all Being as benign.

[1] The seventh house is paradoxically the closest partner and ally and/or open enemy of the person or nation (hidden enemies are more involved with the twelfth sector). Christian is directly opposite Italy’s Scorpio ascendant above which in the hidden twelfth is the nation’s moon while below the ascendant in the first house is Palermo in Scorpio. Palermo being the traditional home of mafia with Scorpio its supposed sign and Palermo squaring (i.e.afflicting) the rulership Midheaven, we know immediately there is something hidden about Italy, something not easily seen or known amid the extraversion and which could affect even the government. This will likely be a variety of secret societies and forces. Whatever or whoever precisely they are, Christians are or should usually be their natural enemy, hence, I think, the position of Christian in this chart suggestive of strivings without and within..

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Poetry

 

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QUESTIONING PABLO NERUDA: A POEM

(The purely literary talents of the late Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), Chile’s Nobel Prize winning poet are not disputed, but his ideas are another matter).

Naruda2

QUESTIONING PABLO NERUDA: A POEM

” Is there anything in the world sadder
Than a train standing in rain?”
                              “The Book of Questions”

Earth sees and knows more tragedy
Than trains that stand alone in rain.
But should a poet question that
Don’t be surprised, pursue his folly
To its source, perceive the logic
In his terms; pity and excuse maybe
The weakness of his vision lost
To everyday existence. It’s viewed
Through that same gross distorting lens
The materialist applies to larger life
At the expense of natural truth and even
Right proportion, held up until
It’s fact and fact alone that wearily
The eyes will see so that emotion then
Hangs loose and tumbles somewhere – anywhere.

But then admit at least it’s true
If rain pours down on silent
Trains or not, that life beneath
The godless skies of era’s end
Is but like grey and quiet
Windless days at stations of those
Branch lines little visited and used
But where vague melancholy plays
Along waste lines and tracks towards
No end until the haunted, musing mind
Stares wonderingly unsure in fascination
At mysteries of quiet decay
Or savours what might seem the void.

But poets, mostly all, have slept
And not well dreamed nor even imagined
Well as spirits of drear modernity
Have passed their way a century long
In halting motions, when not sudden rush
Lamps sometimes blinding yet their vision blurred.
Even so, in what cave, poets, were you hidden
When all the universe outside enlarged
And in your body all cells multiplied?
How was it that when science advanced
Your own mind grew like nearly everyone’s
But more confined, dull time alone
And not eternity become its field.

Though only the transcendent mind
(its origins ignored or unexplained)
Could think in terms of good and ill
And not through lower nature’s ways,
The doubting mind now rails at thought
Of God or any high design
For is not nature in its course but
Inefficient, selfish, simply bad?….
So runs the careless new philosophy
Child to the sound-byte and a world
Of images employed to shock.

What answer could the railing have?
Could, even should, what’s sacred make reply?
Could, even would, an answer then be heard?

At least two levels of separation stand
Between the rationalist’s vision and the
Imagined God or deity of hearsay merely
And of stereotypes, or even just
The sad resentment at misfortune’s turns.

First degree of separation thrives
Upon the ignorance that fails to
Grant or even sense God never is
Outside alone like fact as fact to be
Observed (or even just dismissed
Because as though summed up, controlled
From knowledge of external laws).
God almost more as Spirit is within
To drive the rhythm, forces, even ideas
Of all that’s natural life and shaping
Destiny of those who live, a labour
Quite continuous. It’s soul before
Divisive intellect that must observe
And apprehend the universe.
Ask and look outwards only and you will
Be blind; Look inwards only and
To everything divinity speaks
You may prove deaf for hearing but
Your words alone or feeling only quiet dark,
An all-embracing nothingness. Both
Sight and hearing being compromised,

The second stage of separation from
Core truth is human imperfection’s weight,
Which binds so much, so far
That all transcendent synthesis and
Any light depends at last upon
A will to faith and then to learn
Met by divine desire inclined to grace.
Not even love on which all being must
Depend, can mend what is not firm
And supple, both, within the human will.
For otherwise there is but chaos
In love itself with worship of the limited
And no soul open to perceive
The cosmos with the cosmic soul.

That materialist Lucretius,
Even he was dedicate to Venus.
Thus as confusion’s poet, you Neruda
Would decide (amid mad homage to
The lords of earthly tyranny), that [1]
Woman owns the universe. It’s She
Plays with its light, who everywhere arrives
In flowers and water, a wonder such
You wish to eat her body’s sunbeams
And her lashes shades.[2] And then,
You marvel at that primal night
Man touches with the senses, only they.
It’s thus we read and hear you chase
Through sea earth and sky, the bosom, belly, mouth
Of women, lovers, the Mother in effect, [3]
Her value now supreme because – it’s
No surprise – you feel that love’s too short,
Oblivion’s too long and what of soul [4]
You know gone caught in branches, thickets
Where you gave pursuit. Yet still – and speak
Of no great tragedy again! – the rain
Removes her clothes, its drops, are words,
Your own, that fall on her for you to stroke. [5]

And surely so your rains must serve
For unbelief will ever thrive and unfaith
Find new shrines to worship the material.

NOTES
[1] Even Neruda’s admirers have been embarrassed by his homage to Stalin and Castro.
[2] “Every day you play with the light of the universe… Poem X1V
[3] Neruda is a child of the mother. Born with an exceptional 5 planets in Cancer, his imagery suitably embraces, milk, breasts, seas, lakes, crabs, oysters, fishes, boats and dogs (Cancer and Sirius is the sign of dogs). With Woman effectively deified, Neruda’s materialist’s pantheism cancels out the form and character of the women he pursues who are really all the same being anyway. (One is particularized by her unique feet which fits with Neruda’s still more watery Pisces ascendant, a sign which “rules” the feet
[4] “Love is so short and oblivion so long” in Saddest Poem. 
[5] Love Poem X1V

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Poetry, religion

 

TWO POEMS ABOUT YEATS: “THE YEATS BRONZE” and “A YEATS SONNET FOR 2015″

YEATSBRONZE

(Not everyone is familiar with the Yeats sculpture in his Sligo hometown and much about Yeats is still not generally known or understood. The following two poems address that. For other Yeats and Irish poetry related material on this blog see below after the Notes)

THE YEATS BRONZE

Poet of Erin, mystic, seer,
Once out of life you did not take
Your form from any natural shape [1]
Byzantium’s bronze and smithy’s art
Were put to work as gongs still
Tolled and heavily for another soul
Crossed over its tormented sea. [2]
And thus a transformation could begin
So terrible beauty might be born:
Your legs grew Daddy-long-legs long
Your noble head and large became
More like a smaller serpent’s crown
Atop a torso bent and spread
And curved and also wide as though
A lettered cobra would shoot forth    [3]
Before a house of Paudeen’s pence [4]
To challenge crass materialism
Or even prod dull Ulster into song…[5]
If such were possible from between
The narrow lips not frozen quite to fangs
Upon this mask of an inhuman shade,
Near relative to the serpent’s clan [6]
Still all a-twist within the turning gyres
Of ages, life and death and knowledge of
The Lucifer’s future son. Who’s like
To God if following your magic name
It’s good and evil are the same. [7]

So…all visitors and devotees beware,
And noble Horseman (if you still exist)
Pass by and soon, where not a cross
Offends memorials nor any pagan soil
On which may drive the reckless motorist
Prone to crash [8] or Hades worms make way
Through western winding mummy cloths. [9]

 

A YEATS SONNET FOR 2015

YEATSOLD

At once a nation’s father and its child
Through verse and essay, drama, myth
You spoke and wrote, recorded and restyled
A people’s soul made safe against the scythe
Of time well fortified by dream and vision.
And yet you were distracted half your life
By women, two quite to the devil given  [1]
Another, prey to spirits, was your wife.
But then your magic wish and ritual
Was for a new messiah and holy land
To arise from Erin, not from Israel.       [2]
That dawn proved difficult to command.
With age you grew resigned to mask and bluff.
You were great, but not quite great enough.

NOTES FOR THE YEATS BRONZE

[1] “Once out of nature I shall never take/My bodily form from any natural thing, Sailing to Byzantium

[2] “That dolphin torn, that gong tormented sea”. Byzantium  The idea is that in the mythic, archetypal, spiritual Byzantium a gong announces the transition of each new soul to the other side.

[3] Yeats’ hood like torso has words from his poems inscribed across it.

[4] “A House of Paudeen’s Pence” – a bank. The reference is to words of the first two lines of To a Wealthy Man Who Promised a Subscription to The Dublin Municipal Gallery if it were proved the People Wanted Pictures. The Yeats bronze by Rowan Gillespie stands in front of a Sligo Bank.

[5] The Sligo bank happens to be the Ulster Bank as though the sculpture was challenging lack of Ulster colour and patriotic attachment to greater Ireland.

[6] Serpent’s clan – a bit severe but it’s an odd  that a)  in Yeats’ much consulted horoscope a modern reading shows his Mars conjunct Viper and Mars rules sculpture and sculpture has rendered him serpentine if not quite a viper and b) since anyway Mars is also sex connected for especially males, Yeats’ attempt to have astral sex with Maud Gonne got stalled when she alleged he appeared to her as a snake.

[7] Yeats’ name in the Society of the Golden Dawn was DEDI or Demon est Deus Inversus. (God is the demon or devil inverted). This reflected his belief in the need for the coming age of the child of the Mother by Set or Satan or Lucifer who unifies the opposites. Various scholars like Dionysius Psilopoulos, Yeats and the Chthonic Esoteric Tradition and Susan Johnston-Graf W.B.Yeats: A Twentieth Century Magus have stressed a hidden, darker side of Yeats’ beliefs and involvements which as in my essay Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana are further backed up by some unexpected, striking astrology related information. See http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH

[8] Yeats’ valedictory Under Ben Bulben poem tells the horseman to pass by and refuses any conventional religious phrase to be associated with his churchyard grave which has no cross either. His sympathies were sufficiently pagan or anti-Christian for the local bishop to have doubts whether he should have a Christian burial,  “Prone to crash”. In  2005 a car crashed into the first version of the sculpture.

[9] “Shade more than man, more image than a shade:/
For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth” Yeats’ Byzantium. The mummy cloth imagery is thought to be associated with western religious iconography especially the tradition of St Veronica’s napkin. Yeats’ Byzantium imagery owes more to  impressions of Sicily’s the late Byzantine art than the Byzantium/Istanbul region as such.

NOTES FOR A YEATS SONNET IN 2015

[1] Yeats was life long obsessed with Maud Gonne who admitted to selling her soul to the devil in her youth while his first mistress, Olivia Shakespear, “hated Christ like the devil” according to Ezra Pound, while according to the poet-mystic AE she lived in rooms populated by yellow devils that intimidated him.

[2] Yeats, a magician of The Society of the Golden Dawn, performed rituals to return the gods to Ireland and make it the new holy land. His anti Christian position is well represented by the play The Resurrection.

OTHER BLOG FEATURES RELATED TO YEATS AND IRISH POETRY

Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and More  http://goo.gl/T3AUV9

Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana  http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH

Under Parnassus: An Under Ben Bulben Variation http://bit.ly/1wdsnwa

Judas Stopped at Dublin: A Poem of Spiritual Pollution and Ablution for 2015  http://goo.gl/HZZPU2

Remembering Seamus Heaney  http://bit.ly/1bcMbRf  

Kevin Kiely Against the Seamus Heaney Cult   http://bit.ly/1nkNoNd

POETRY ON MCCLEARY’S ALTERNATIVES and MCCLEARY’S ADDITIONS

There is now a wide range of poetry on these blogs but note that also available in You Tube video are

Coming To Syracuse, a mini epic recorded in 6 parts beginning here : http://goo.gl/49wJww

and

Songs of Puritania on a Gay Theme(address soon to be given)

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in Poetry

 

NETI NETI : A POEM ABOVE GANGOTRI (For World Poetry Day 2015)

 Gangotri2

Neti, Neti means “Not this, Not this”. It belongs to celebrated claims of the Hindu Upanishads (with affinities for Negative Mysticism in some medieval Christianity) which describes God/Ultimacy not as Creator or Person but what God isn’t. The mystic realizes there is only the being/essence, or “Suchness” like a substance into which by concentration one may yogically hope to merge. This wwareness of Suchness can however co-exist with a world of myth or even created this-worldly forms which have the status of a sort of dream/illusion (Maya) in which the gods are capricious and divided because ultimately they are not real or at least secondary to the higher realm of Brahman and Suchness.

NETI, NETI: A POEM ABOVE GANGOTRI [1]

Warm images of ancient ones rise up,
Delay and play and circle here, a dazzle
For the inner eyes. There pass the crowds,
The many thousand sons of King Sagara,
And then from him seven generations on
The greater son for whom Mount Bhagirathi
There not far is named.[2] Among the spirit
Train appear ascetics who it’s said
Could swallow seas or scatter wide
Whole multitudes and pulverize with breath
Or fire. Their eyes are alien wild; see
The unearthly stare amid the smiles and play
Of Ganesh and of Hanuman, one plump, one spry
And family icon gods of hearth all coloured
Friendly as a bright bazaar their shapes,
Now firm, now fragile as the eternal
Womb of myth itself which presently
Lies in this would-be yuga age at rest
Upon these valleys,”the abode of gods”.[3]

The moving arc of jostled forms,
That juggernaut of sculpted images
Tight pressed but cheerful as a noisy nursery
To ride the skies and range through earth
(For there are heavens, worlds and realms beneath)
Glows bright and lively as a sun.
Yet Sol’s own rays beam down
Less warmly on what towers ahead,
That bare reality of solemn heights
The granite eminence and glacier wall
Through which the only silence-breaking
Sound that stirs the few and ancient trees
Above the pilgrim’s path is chill,
Crisp gustings from the thin air’s winds.

Even so it’s light alone, and then fast drifted
Strands of cloud that whisper to and brush
The peaks, bring near, as though for merely
Human touch, what’s still remote from here below:
Those heights that partly hide and shelter
This wide cow’s mouth of sacred rock. [4]
From there, much like a frothing, freezing snow
Pours out the worshipped hoped for one,
The playful She that once gushed forth
From out the highest heavens and deepest earth
To fill dried ocean and to purify
Sagara’s murderous sons and resurrect
Their ashes from the ancient pyres. No will
Of gods or men could halt the impulse
Or her play nor even by Shiva’s locks
Could plunging Ganga be detained. Yet she,
By Brahma sent to purify, even shape lives
And redeem from endless circles of rebirth,
Was too soon stained, (and is those icy heights
Once left behind), dragged, drawn and tossed into
The filth and mire of earth, choked and polluted
In her deepest self, her role scarce more
Than mourner to a universe of pyres.

11

Now they are gone, as sudden gone as glimpsed,
Shades that imagination feeds who suck
In turn at spirit’s life for nourishment,
Ghosts of this valley, objects of desire half feared
If here adored by those few hardy pilgrim souls
Washed, frozen in the churn of rushing
Ceaseless Ganga flow. Motionless, astare
Eyes fixed or closed, what do they see?
Those Hades shades, an outer or
An inner light, a combination of all these?
What breeze from what Beyond would blow
Through mind as surely as those flags
Staked here and there to mark devotion?
What might minds feel of primal unity
Or plenum emptiness? If reaching there
Could even the devotee avoid and nowise
Sense through nature on the steep ascent
The solemn radiance that won’t reveal,
The weight of melancholic solitude
Which voiceless owns the valleys and the air?
“The gods came later than creation,
Who knows from where this world arose?” Thus
Pondered and in vain would poetize
The Vedic sage. [5] Indeed! For can those
Peaks be left to soar and mountain purity
Look down except as though to bar
From earthly Edens all remaining paths and
Every sacred conversation?

Before they enter on their final truths
It’s hearing is the last sense dying
Persons know; and surely rightly so
For what is first in the creative urge
Is sound and word, not images which
Hand may draw or mind’s eye see.
From all decay creation’s Lord withdraws
And dwells beyond, where never hand
Has touched nor fixity of concentrated
Thought has merged or can.

Go where you will, dream, chant
Or meditate, pursue the path of intellect,
Seek wisdom at a guru’s feet,
Bathe in the frozen Ganges’ waves
To claim redemption through the pores.
It’s all in vain since soul and spirit
Have not “heard”. God is not “this” or “that”,
Not “here” nor “there” unless you’ve left
The substance for the sound from where
Faith’s fountain flows into all levels
Of the holy worlds. When this is missed
So at the door of “suchness” mind remains,
Soul stays confused and nature mourns
Even though, within all things, near and
Beyond, the deity you did not know
Or long forgot, still waits.

NOTES

[1] Gangotri is in India’s northern Uttarakhand province the nearest village below the source of the Ganges. Though I have visited the Himalayas I have not visited specifically Gangotri but with only the slightest help from photos I feel I can sufficiently imagine it. I would also assume that like pilgrims mentioned in Nick Fleming’s photographic record (http://goo.gl/Md1JAQ) I would sense the melancholy (which I associate with many Asian mountain regions and sacred sites) and which for me raises metaphysical questions. So much so that what began aesthetically here as a lyrical evocation of India finished closer to a personal statement somewhat redolent of ideas expressed in my writings such as The Great Circle: Asia, David and God Consciousness with its claims about Asia’s lost, unknown God.(see http://amzn.to/128eGOQ)
[2] Mount Bagiratha. Bagirathi was the descendant of Sagara whose labour of extreme penitence atonement for earlier family crimes attracted Brahman’s attention.
[3] Existence for Hinduism runs through repeated cycles of four vast yugas (epochs) of which the supposed current Kali Yuga is the worst. The whole area around Gangotri is dubbed Devi Bhoomi, or “abode of the gods”.
[4] Gomuck means Cow’s mouth and is the point at the end of the glacier from which the Ganges or one of its chief sources of the Ganges emerges above Gangotri.
[5] Rig Veda 129: 6-7.

ascetic    hindgods

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Poetry, religion

 

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JUDAS STOPPED AT DUBLIN: A Poem of Spiritual Pollution and Ablution (in Yeats 2015)

   Judas    Dublin

This blog and my books are sufficient witness that as writer and poet I don’t oppose criticism of Christians, Christianity or any religion. It is, or should be, a universal democratic right though increasingly non-western religions, not just militant Islam, oppose it. (Hindu nationalism, emboldened under Morsi, shows a sudden increase in persecution of Christians with last Christmas believers even attacked for carol singing!). Even so, I still find unacceptable some levels of lampoon and abuse of beliefs that – practically – are the psychological and cultural equivalent of racism. Their unimpeded expression amounts to a pollution of the social atmosphere. To surround religious issues with gutter talk and obscenities is not “satire” or “free speech”, among other things it’s just aggressive bad manners….

To revive an old issue, but as it happens at a relevant time, Brendan Kennelly’s The Little Book of Judas (2002), a selection with additions to the  400pp The Book of Judas (1991), is a case in point. I was reading Judas in early January before the Paris massacre, but though its poetry is one of a kind, it  seems newly topical,  especially now  those of us outside France finally know more about what Charlie Hebdo beyond the tragedy really represented,  and could wonder if Christians didn’t  always have  more reason than Muslims to be offended by it. (With at last report 70 churches in Niger torched, Christians have paid more than enough for the ultra-secularist rights claimed by the cartoonists  and defended by  sympathizers as though the quintessence of western freedoms they never quite were). Whatever, I don’t accept that material like Judas can be justified as ‘really” therapy (discover and express your inner Judas!) or a special kind of truth telling society needs. Nothing and nobody terribly needs it………[This introduction is continued below with the notes]

JUDAS STOPPED AT DUBLIN: A POEM OF SPIRITUAL POLLUTION AND ABLUTION IN YEATS 2015 (1)

PART ONE: POLLUTION

Judas I am, so damned I’m full of
The highest of wisdom you wouldn’t
Believe, (though you need to for sure).
A reason don’t pray for me please,
You’ll only be cured of yer Oirish lies
And deceit and forgiven when you stare
Down my tunnel of darkness faithfully
Hearing my own and Beelzebub’s verbiage.

Which I couldn’t stop if I tried.
Just as I couldn’t do ever. You maybe
Heard how, irrepressible always,
My saucy questions and filth made it,
To that Last of the Suppers at which,
You may trust me, I wasn’t blootered (2)
Unlike B Behan being himself as usual.
I had too much to spout out
At that solemn occasion and later
Because, you know, Jesus couldn’t have
Done things so well – “salvation” and all that –
Without me as enabling guide and
A Mouth the better to have your attention.
Consider for even the average occasion
Jesus keeps butting in with his talk
And you’d need to remind him
To pass you the salt. [3]

My power with words has good nuns transfixed
And they writing me letters, recognizing
My insight which conveys them
More grace and insight than
Counting their beads and swallowing bread,[4]
While the youth of mixed-up new Erin
They come to me just as to Jesus –
Even their favourite old rocker
From Joshua Tree says I fly high as
The Holy Ghost flies (3) (while I talk Spiriteff).(5)
But it’s fine if and when they blaspheme:
Their laureate told them it’s hatred of God
Brings the soul back to God and
Fair needs foul any time.(6)

I’m the very best voodoo. I visit
The poet by night and can raise him
Higher than Keats for skill in that negative
Knowing that absorbs things from
Grass blades to angels.[7] I let him hear
Voices, his own, your own, Erin’s own,
Lucifer’s, you name it, there’s no
Psychic or shaman will be in contention.
Hearing my voices my poet, alert, grabs
His pen or the laptop – instant creation!
Any labour of mystics – and isn’t the poet
A mystic? – that can’t combine all the input
From awareness all’s’ One, has not
Yet found truth, not learned with the Serpent
That truth too’s a lie. Come join me on journeys
Through muck of the mind, for some it’s a way
Of the cross, for others just fun. Whichever
It’s all much the same, your chance for
Some carousel rides at life’s fair where it’s
Laughter will save and purify “soul”.

For you too can hear me, you eventually will,
I really can’t hold back the words more
Than I can my bladder and bowels. Beginning
Is what I most do and am replaying always;[8]
I don’t understand the meaning of “end”.
Nor for that matter “empty”. It’s a fact
The colostomy bag of my verse
Is so full there’s hardly room in
All those houses of Erin that publish
To contain the treasure of dark pearls
And slime that I pour over pages and
People when I’m not wandering
Dublin to see the night sights, the sick
On the streets, the dead in the Liffey.
It all so reminds me of beauty, indeed
Is beauty itself as the pen of the
More mindful of poets always knew
Since Jim Joyce could look out at sea
And think it fine as a nose-dirty hanky.

Humour, it’s something I’ll always retain.
I like to see life’s funny side,
Like Lazarus back from the grave and
Begging for tea or Flanagan asking
How much he’d receive for nailing
You know who to what and just when.
And then that day I was thinking
God was an unmarried mother in
Limerick, somewhere out West. God
Hasn’t heard half my jokes yet. I tip him
Good Morning and suggest that Nazareth
Folklore carries some interest. But I don’t
Have reply. Never mind, I persist in the
Hard work that’s mine though I can’t know
Why it is I’m the chosen any more than
A poet from backwaters Kerry…. You
Want my advice? Off with you all if not
To Lough Derg, then for penance I’ll say
Take a look at yourself, see just who you
Are, like Cromwell, Hitler and lords of IS
I say there lies your labour and duty.
Let nothing constrict your imaginative
Life, your sublime logorrhea or cheek.

PART TWO: ABLUTION

DALKEY  Dalkey Bay Twilight

Dismissed but not followed we may pause.
Where are we? Today perhaps anywhere:
Dublin Bay, Dalkey, Killiney, even Dover [9]
And there surveying the sea you’ve remembered
Or those oceans imagined which are always
Moving within you whose secrets in essence
You know. Whichever, just look and hold
Those waters in view and hear them. For now
It is evening, and the tide is returning
But winds gusting and high waves are rising
With new force under twilight’s soon darkness.
They sweep in, rushing forward the time of the
Curse-ridden final degree of the fishes, [10]
Its wild depths, long and notoriously site
Of too many drownings, of suicides, losses,
Of lies and betrayal, all that supports
The great sum and weight of human despair.
“Then where”, soul inquires, “is the place for
Our shelter, where the protection that there
Surely must be? Does not even the deepest
Level of darkness precede or hide light?”

Maybe and sometimes indeed, but an age
Must have end and the weather and fashion
Of minds obscures the divine which
Itself is already and mostly withdrawn.[11]
Till all times and seasons will change it’s
Evil that reigns. All rule by the Good,
All justice, protection, these mark but
Intervals only, favours to right deeds
And faith. But if prayer asks the wrong God
Or the right name too late, souls risk
To become or to stay victims still.
Too many voices will silence soul’s hearing
Of God and too many voices lend
The divine many names. Beside the
Oceans of time and of life the peoples
Are waiting, but waiting for what?
For whatever flatters the human,
Appears the most easy and binding.
A new name will arise, but will only deceive.

I thought us alone but he hears us,
The traitor, the one born of this sign.[12]

“No, but how strange”, muses Judas, I take
The so minor role of the old cheeky kisser.
Me? Wouldn’t you think it’s another example
Of how God is always making wrong choice?”

Well, for love neither of God nor of man could
Your choice alter ego, that poet presuming, check
Any words on his tongue or committed to page.
His being could never envisage a too lowly task
On the stage of this so ugly beautiful world
That invites the uses of art…Be assured, then,
Since your mouthpiece in Dublin disfavours
All thought of vocation that’s minor
Your role was never so minor (the while
Its choice was far from divine). Beelzebub
Smelt out the weakness, saw how your mouthpiece
Could finish those non serviam labours
Of JJ, how, using a vocal psychopomp’s aid [13]
In a few years alone with the laughter of fools
He could spirit whole mesmerized masses away
From reasonable mind, conduct them with flair
To the summits not of Sidhe but the silly.[14]

“Conduct”, can it be I’ve uttered the word,
That word deemed “too archaic” now issuing forth
Like a symbol from out of the maw of
Spiritus Mundi, seven letters of sound  [15]
Forbidding a poet, myself, to be published?
Seven letters, seven, the all-sacred number?
Yet how suitably suspect and banned
When the behind-scenes secular venom
Is busy excluding whatever that’s sacred
It can. For from homes of the poets
To publishing houses the last degree’s
Arts are simply perverse and unholy
Can’t bear or share light, can’t teach or inspire
Too often double-faced to the core,
In feeling or ethics but few levels
Higher than what might fill Dante’s inferno,
Whip and spur into action dark minds in
The houses of Erin’s children abused. [16]
See them, poets when not raking in muck heaps
Chasing the most arcane, technical word
While injustice enlarges and genocide follows [17].
Hear them, Judas’ comrades, the artists
Moaning, protesting the power of who or what
Limits and censors, hear them blaspheming
At home yet cowardly docile not to offend
The rule of belief that threatens and struts
In the role of implacable bully abroad.
Saeva Indignatio! Swift,Yeats, who
Could express, who seize the world’s now
Brim full cup of mad reeling?

Who was it the “tolerant” Voltaire pursued?
Whose career was he eager to hinder?
The same one who’d learned the rule is:
Be too kind to be kind at all. It’s the same [18]
For the good, though alas and by contrast it’s
The small leaven leavens the lump. No poet
Is called to deep feeling and friendship with evil
The project’s too easy, caught and spread
Like a cold. Who is it needs to feel through,
With or for the mind of a traitor?
Why justify (by)ways of Judas to man?
Sing him no more, you need only summon
His name and he’ll come to you and to Dublin –
Be assured he’ll make his home and hearth there.

BONOKennelly2

 [ Intro cont ]……In the wake of the Paris massacre it was surely rather irresponsible of Salman Rushdie to propose that all religion “is a medieval form of unreason that deserves “fearless disrespect”. (With 39 people including the author’s Japanese translator dead on account of his The Satanic Verses one feels Rushdie of all people might express himself with more restraint!)

As we have seen, in societies and faiths beyond the West considerably less than Kennelly’s high and persistent level of poetic profanity of which my poem gives only moderate evocation, entails far severer consequences. I don’t of course approve those consequences or agree with their ideological basis, but some permitted western literary freedoms should give us pause to reflect just how long-suffering especially Christians have been, (and shouldn’t have to have been), in relation to the values of a supposedly democratic society. For example, jokes about crucifixions – any crucifixions whether of Christ or anybody – should be deemed unacceptable whether on a  religious or humanistic basis. Such gallows humour isn’t humour. The abuse of Christianity being”democratically” tolerated only heightens the impression outside the West that it is not simply “infidel” but is so contemptibly infidel as to be undeserving of respect or rights. (a sort of attitude as in extremist  Niger that If you can’t support it over the insult to the prophet, you can’t complain if we destroy your places of worship in retaliation!). Muslims at this point ignore the reason Christians tolerate abuse of their faith which is because, unlike Islam, their belief system is most essentially a faith to be recommended and chosen, not imposed. It is not ultimately a political faith that envisages certain rights to imposition  – Islam means Submission – some would maintain globally. Democratically however Christianity and any faith still has rights that could and should be more affirmed to basic respect in the public forum.

Publishers and leaders of opinion in media have something  to answer for in what has happened to the sheer values fog overtaking public opinion in recent decades. Personally I don’t believe any publisher would be justified to issue what Kennelly produced. And though undeniably Ireland in the last century has known too much censorship for which Catholicism is not guiltless and though – fittingly for a betrayal theme! – it was a UK rather than an Irish publisher issued Judas, it is still controversial that, so far as I know, the Irish literary establishment has never seriously criticized Kennelly. Rather and as usual they (like the eccentric Bono) hastened to flatter the Kennelly of the profane and obscene ramblings that became a shock value bestseller by at least poetic and Irish standards. It is moreover amazing given the remarkable inflexibility of  Ireland’s management of such as its abortion laws, that Kennelly didn’t run anywhere near foul of the existing but never applied blasphemy laws. Be that as it may, in this year of the Paris magazine massacre and Ireland’s Yeats 2015 (see my blog for Nov 2014), we should think again about what western values are and where going. And I do have more right than most poets and writers to protest what (as indicated towards the conclusion of the poem) I claim from long experience is the situation. I don’t incidentally care if my criticisms should chance to give a little belated publicity or sales to poet and the publisher, Bloodaxe. Let them take what’s little better than blood money anyway. It is more important that truth be stated and recognized regardless. It’s the only possibility of some freedom from pollution, some exorcism of the rot.

NOTES TO THE POEM

1) The title echoes Carlo Levi\s memoir,  Christ Stopped at Eboli. Dublin has long been the residence of Judas poet Brendan Kennelly, formerly English literature professor at Dublin’s Trinity College.
2) “Blootered”, one of many Irish slang expressions for drunk. In the poem Unauthorized Version, dramatist Brendan Behan arrives at the Last Supper drunk and demanding Jesus to give him more drink. See Brendan Kennelly, The Little Book of Judas, Bloodaxe, 2002 p.78. Another Last Supper poem will speak of Judas preventing a bomb going off.
3) Kennelly op.cit. The Dinner p.167-9
4) There is a kind of person, especially in religion, who will always treat denial as higher affirmation, obscenity as the disclosure of beauty and blasphemy as the greatest praise. With its reviews of Judas publisher Bloodaxe cites Sister Stanislaus Kennedy who declares Kennelly’s “poems shine with the wisdom of somebody who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and familiarity and wonder of life’. Judas/ Kennelly must have laughed.
5).”The Book of Judas – Reviewed by Bono”, http://u2_interviews.tripod.com/id133.html
6) Kennelly, op.cit, SpiritFuck  pp.125/6.  This poem alone but many others would place Bono decidedly in the wrong in identifying/associating/comparing anything in Kennelly’s work with the Spirit  (Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Matt 12:32 is believed to mean calling demonic evil good and divine good evil – Jesus warns the Pharisees not to blaspheme by attributing his work to the devil). The work of Kennelly and Bono, the literary professor and the rocker has been surprisingly intertwined and supported one another as high profile figures in Ireland. While I don’t vouch for all the following evangelically inspired article has to say,  the sheer mystery, often just wild ambiguity of Bono’s influential take on Christianity is treated in the following feature http://www.holybibleprophecy.org/2012/08/12/u2-frontman-bono-christian-or-antichrist-by-elliott-nesch/      And I’m bound to say from the astrological standpoint evangelicals wouldn’t care to acknowledge, I am fascinated that for someone who has so played around with Christian doctrines and reguarly acted MacPhisto on stage, we find Lucifer on an angle for Bono and what I empirically judge to be the regularly Antichrist factor, Achristou, conjunct his ruling Saturn, the devil’s planet in the devil’s sign, Capricorn.
7) Reference to Keats’ theory of negative capability whereby one loses oneself in identity with the other. “Hatred of God…” is from Yeats’ Supernatural Songs and  ‘fair needs foul”  from Yeats’ Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop.  While it would be possible to misunderstand Yeats here whose meanings were not negative or radical in the style of Kennelly, some mystery does attach to just what Yeats did believe and what kind of darkness it sometimes embraced for himself and/or Ireland. I examine this in Secret Yeats and the Hidden Arcana:  http://bit.ly/1jt9zOH
8)  Beginning is the title of one or Kennelly’s earlier, successful and celebrated persons – fittingly for an Aries, the sign of beginnings but not famous for concluding anything.
9)  Dalkey bay is just south of Dublin. For the inclusion of Dover consider Matthew Arnold On Dover Beach and my poem Beyond Dover Beach  http://bit.ly/1gLlckG                        .
10)  Dolphins, which can be sometimes seen off Dalkey Bay, were anciently one of the symbols, perhaps the original symbol for the sign of the fishes, Pisces. The 29th degree of Pisces is deemed evil and unfortunate. To live as now at the end of the age of Pisces is comparable to living on the unfortunate last degree of the sign. Especially anything maritime from floods, tsunamis, major pollution of the seas and the drowning of refugees will be highlighted.
11) Although optimistic Christian philosophers and theologians teach otherwise, biblical and early Christian tradition is that the Creator is withdrawn and the devil rules the world. All understanding of and relation to God, all understanding of suffering should be predicated on that ignored belief. See my Cosmic Father, and The Great Circle http://amzn.to/128eGOQ
12) There are ancient traditions to the effect (endorsed in modern times by the seeress Jeane Dixon from alleged vision) that Judas was born under Pisces.
13) JJ is James Joyce to whose negative attitudes I would regard Kennelly as heir. See Why Ireland Needs Yeats 2015 and more. A psychopomp, Mercury being a good example, travels between heaven and earth or between conscious and unconscious. as per Jungian psychology.
14) Sidhe (fairies) is pronounced Shee
15) Yeats:The Second Coming “….A vast image out of the Spiritus Mundi  troubles my sight…”
16) The Murphy and Ryan reports shocked Ireland by revealing decades of abuse, some of it almost fit for the Inquisition, practiced without restraint within church institutions like orphanages.
17) Irish and western poets have been almost wholly absent from  protest of anything like the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands from Egypt to Pakistan and the genocide in Iraq and Syria.
18) Voltaire had an irrational dislike of the dramatist Marivaux and sought to keep him out of the Academy possibly due to the fact Marivaux was a Catholic who was not a supporter of the Encylopedie.. The celebrated quote about kindness is from Le Jeu de L’Amour and du Hazard.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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OVID FOR EVER and PAUL JANKA FOR SOMETIMES

Ovid         OVMETA       Janka    Pickup

OVID FOR EVER AND PAUL JANKA FOR SOMETIMES

A POET MADE FOR FAME

Ovid can well be considered one of the most important poets of all time, along with Shakespeare for whom Ovidius was his favourite classical writer. An entire line in romance, courtly love and even typical western portrayal of love as a battle of the sexes, is hugely indebted to an Ovidian legacy.

The bard of Stratford owed rather more to the bard of Sulmo than is acknowledged and not simply because of references to myths preserved in Ovid’s celebrated Metamorphoses which for Shakespeare as for many poets (and musicians, painters and sculptors, supremely Bernini) has been a treasure house to plunder. One thinks rather of the influence of such as Heroides in which women soliloquize about their fate and experiences with men (mostly in modification or contradiction of the existing accounts of their stories from Homer and others). This anticipates the role of females in Shakespeare’s plays (or even just the poetry of confession in the likes of Richard 11  meditating on his life). Ovid’s work is, scintillating, witty, critical, dramatic and unusually psychological for his era. He wrote drama as well as poetry – we know of his Medea which is lost to posterity.

Ovid (March 20th 43 BC Julian/-42 Greg – 17/18 AD) was prolific and his memory for the myths, ancient sources and customs he refers to was prodigious too. He claimed, as was surely necessarily the case, that he wrote in poetry almost as naturally as prose. His natural facility must have given him the confidence from his only middle class origins to leave the legal career expected of him by his father and social background for a purely literary career which seems to have been launched as early as eighteen.

Despite the obvious delight in myth as in the Metamorphoses and in traditions as in the Fasti, Ovid can sometimes be sceptical and cynical about both and in a way that adds to our impression almost nobody in the ancient world was quite so modern as Ovid. He is the Italian artist and cinematographer before the time. He is very much the western individualist in preparation on the cusp of the new age (of Pisces), the age which would propel western humanity to the forefront in historical/cultural terms. All the ancient writers and poets, no matter how insightful and enduringly relevant can still seem somehow archaic in comparison. Arguably Thucydides is rather modern, but on the whole, especially the Greeks, almost plod in comparison with Ovid whose only possible rival for a contemporary feel among the Latins is Catullus.

Ovid has been so influential it can well be asked whatever does anyone have to do to become  a famous, prolific writer of major verse like Ovid and Shakespeare who dashed off the work that almost all other poets worldwide have had to labour over because poetry is an art of excellence and often compression akin to the work of sculpture or mosaics?

Here the astrologer can affirm something others can’t. Both Ovid and Shakespeare have their writer’s Mercury at 16 of cardinal, (action orientated) Aries. Things just flow out of them, the energy is boundless and it’s likely most of the time that, like Shakespeare according to Ben Jonson, Ovid never blotted a line…albeit he is on record as wishing to have polished the Metamorphoses except that exile and disgrace got in his way. (The astrological effect may extend to a degree or two either side. A lesser but still major prolific poet for all occasions, Wordsworth, had his sun at 18 Aries).

But if we can observe this, are there other things the birth pattern can help us perceive? I believe that crucially we can do so but I shall say a little more about the poet and his life first.

OVID MYSTERIES

There are all sorts of mysteries around Ovid, his motivation, his themes, his exile but they might be said to begin and end with an overwhelming conviction that his fame would endure for ever, or at least, as he declared at the end of the Metamorphoses, for as long as anyone uttered the name of Rome. Metamorphoses is not however the only place he forecasts a uniquely privileged future. Where did this obsessive, insistent conviction and its self-confidence derive from? I will come to this presently.

Particular mystery attaches to the poets banishment from Rome in 8 BC to the miserable outpost of Tomis (modern Constantia) on the Black Sea on the order of the Emperor Augustus.

Two reasons are given for this most celebrated of literary experiences of exile. The first was that the poet was a corrupter of Roman morals (through his Amores and Ars Amoris, the Loves and the Art of Love) which Ovid would later claim represented fantasies and follies not reflective of his personal life. He will also protest that there was little cause for blame given the already well-established “wanton verse” of such as Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus in the generation before him. And it is undeniably strange given that legacy, that any strongly felt charges of corruption weren’t brought earlier. On the love theme Ovid had been published and known for years before perhaps jealous rivals of the successful poet influenced the Emperor whose reform of the marriage laws in 18 BC was challenged by Ovid’s permissive oeuvre. (It is of course a popular myth that Roman society was engaged in almost continuous orgy before Christianity came along – one has for example only to read the atheist poet Lucretius’ negative account of sex and love to recognize Ovid was far from expressing or catering to some unquestioned norm. Ovid himself describes concern with adultery as “provincial” which is to affirm it existed). Even if we allow that Augustus in seeking to reform morals could begin with punishing a living writer rather than just speaking against dead ones, the emperor may have had more private reasons.

The second cause of banishment was involved with the fact the poet had witnessed or been involved in something of which we aren’t clearly told by either Augustus or the poet. Ovid’s poems of exile admit only to some folly, (perhaps witnessing or speaking of something he shouldn’t have), but he insists there was nothing criminal or of criminal intent behind it. Since however the order occurred the same year as the Emperor’s daughter, Julia, was also sent into banishment for (persistent) adultery, it is not inconceivable that the well-connected Ovid had been some witness to, or an influence behind events which ran counter to Augustus’ new moral laws aimed to reform the ultra-permissive lifestyles of the Rome’s wealthy new upper classes. They certainly didn’t serve the militaristic values of the Roman empire. Ovid effectively turns away from this offering not an expansionist epic but a comedy of the wars of the sexes.

OVID AND MORALITY

Before looking further into this I will say something about Ovid and morals.

Endearing, charming, amusing and often kindly though Ovid can be – he abhorred mistresses being cruel to servants, he was appalled at easy abortion – and though his 26 year long sufferings till death in the wilds of Tomis are heartbreaking, I think one is bound to agree that few have argued more blatantly and strongly for adultery. He tells his readers how to go about it and to treat it all as a love game, chiefly but not wholly to a man’s advantage. Ovid is not obscene, but he is frankly, boastfully immoral and in a way that argues against his own comparison with the Latin poets before him.

Love poets of the previous generation like Catullus, Propertius and Tibullus represent a unique experiment and moment in history. Comparable in some respects to the medieval troubadours, they were born to be upper class men of leisure in a way Ovid wasn’t. They had sought love and an exploration of female character in a very individual, independent way against the strictures of the old Republican and very patriarchal world. There weren’t many places for adventuring poets to go except prostitutes or other men’s wives – Catullus famously pursued “Lesbia”, the wife of the absent Metellus Celer and Propertius pursued the high class prostitute Cynthia. Quite whom dreaming Tibullus and his Delia and other women represent is less clear. But in the case of Catullus and Propertius not only was there some genuine and memorable even painfully memorable love involved, but when it didn’t work out there was frank recognition of the fact. Moreover some of Catullus’ poems celebrate marriage and more traditional values. Propertius too admires the faithful traditional wife. One may be left with the sense of some lessons learned, an evolution of ideas and character.

Though Heroides does sympathize with abandoned lovers and ill treated wives and is almost feminist, nothing like this attaches to Ovid’s erotic verse which is full of glittering, throw away cynicism. Its tricks to further seduction, chiefly of the wives of other men whom one is delighted to deceive, would leave a legacy in the rituals of elegant but decadent courtly and aristocratic lifestyles across the centuries. Augustus surely had a point about writing that corrupts, though we might need to consider if the emperor didn’t have motives apart from the moral ones and associated rather with his developing religious policies that he didn’t openly declare in this particular case.

But in turn did Ovid have a point in protesting that his erotic verse did not represent the facts of his life and experience? There could have been some truth in that claim even if it was made with some exaggeration in order to plead the case for release from exile.

The Heroides does in fact suggest an author with as strong a feeling for virtue and loyalty as anything opposite. It is therefore possible – just – that the love poetry could be thought of as largely a satire of nouveau riche Roman morals but voiced through the mask of a Casanova. The claim to private innocence amid public folly would even be consistent with Ovid’s birth sign, Pisces, which imagines much.

One need only read the adultery filled fiction of the devout, church going John Updike to see  the Piscean comparison and ( because people are rarely too honest about sex and love and whatever his precise birth date) the poetry of the cavalier clergyman Robert Herrick. Herrick even writes as though he had a variety of mistresses he never had. He even uses the name of Ovid’s supposed chief mistress, Corinna. But just who was the original Corinna whose name Herrick borrows? For fame, influence and scandal in some respects an even closer comparison to Ovid, though a non poetic one, would be with Piscean Erika Leonard/ E.L.James (7.3.1963) author of Fifty Shades of Grey. Again like Ovid we have a Piscean with a moon in Leo, and though apparently long term happily married, Mrs Leonard takes the world by storm with her unbridled sexual fantasies.

Ovid had three wives. He was married off to the first very young and he described her as “useless” and divorced from her as from a second wife divorced before he was thirty for reasons unknown. His third well connected wife was left in Rome guarding the family home when he went into exile. (By imperial favour the poet’s home and goods weren’t taken from him. Perhaps Augustus realized the Tomis would be prison and purgatory enough as proved to be the case). Ovid declared he had been faithful to his (third) wife. He may have exaggerated or lied, yet he had a case to make for his release and he had been well known in sometimes critical Roman circles. Could he have professed the innocence he maintained and not had it all easily denied if it was all manifestly untrue?

Some critics detecting that Ovid must be describing his own home in the Amores, have suspected that Corinna was not the mistress but a record of the ultimately detested first wife. It is my own suspicion that it was from this rather extravagant, free living Lady Gaga style character that Ovid discovered what the tricks of seduction were (in addition to what he would have easily enough learned from earlier poets). I suggest a way to read The Art of Love is a virtual satire on existing Roman mores while the tricks of seduction constitute a revenge upon the first wife. Why? Because at one level there is an Ovid who is genuinely sympathetic and romantic towards women – he could never have written whole tracts of his work and the Heroides if that were not the case – but there is another Ovid who wants to be revenged upon women. He despises them and offers the love game and seduction as the way to be revenged. 1: 646 et seq of Ars Amoris might well be the key to the whole work and its author’s psychology when he declares against women:

They’re cheats, so cheat them; most are dumb and
Unscrupulous: let them
Fall into the traps they’ve set themselves…
So let perjuries gull the perjured
Let woman smart from the wounds she first dealt out!  (tr Peter Green)

I suggest a long suffering cuckold is talking, one saving face by pretending to strings of conquests he never had. After all, he does declare in the Corinna centred Amores, “your morals turn me off, your body on” and he pleads she will at least pretend to be faithful so he won’t be too hurt.

If true this of course still can’t automatically and fully exonerate Ovid. His sins may not be of commission but they could be of the imagination. To the extent he is blasé about rape (by the gods in Metamorphoses) and teaches heartless cynical infidelity in a big way that will influence society for generations to come, he can’t be deemed only an innocent and thus only the victim his nightmare banishment made him. One could even argue that here is the culture hero who acts as one of Satan’s little helpers. Whether he was or not we must surely see something remarkably symbolic in the moment of cultural and ethical conflict that marks his life.

OVID AND THE NEW AGE

I said that Ovid was born under Pisces, the age that was dawning in his lifetime. Christ was born in 7 BC the year following Ovid’s banishment and (as maintained on various blog article on this site) Christ was born, as we know the Emperor Augustus was, under the sign of Virgo – in late Virgo with his sun opposing Ovid’s late Pisces sun and exactly so: 27 Virgo to 27 Pisces which didn’t help Ovid.

Everything Virgo as being both opposition and complement of Pisces would represent the ideal or better half of the new age; and while that “feminine” era would advance such themes as romance, compassion, tolerance and the status of women to some degree, it would necessarily do so through the filter and mode of its Virgoan ideal. That  would mean it would oppose any mere confusion and permissiveness, just as the end of that same era (now) things would tend to sink back into permissiveness and the confusion of values that in its negative expression Pisces too often represents. The parables of Jesus are almost built on a Pisces/Virgo axis of imagery, his hearers are even counseled not to be drunk with the servants (Pisces is a servant sign, a sign of inebriation and addiction). Something in Ovid even adumbrates the Christian feeling of the coming era. Hypermestra to Lynceus in the Heroides is already giving us the martyr’s sacrifice, the suffering, the higher love, the forgiveness, attachment to the ideals of virtue, even a virtue that will be its own reward.

Ironically it may have been the more spiritual side of Ovid which contributed as much as anything else to his mystery-ridden downfall. In harmony of sorts with the incoming era the Virgo born Augustus Caesar, himself in power when Jesus was born, sought to direct his own and Roman authority towards a new imperial cult. The emperor would be increasingly viewed as divi filius, son of God. Arguably Ovid could be seen as undermining the trend. He had always been rather sceptical about the gods but in his incomplete Fasti, a record of the various cults and festivals of Rome he is at once independent doubter and believer through the way in which he has interviews with or visions of deities to sort out mythic/theological issues with them. There are vague intimations here of a Protestant independence, reliance upon the personal belief or revelations.

This individualistic approach could end as unhelpful to Augustus as the Ars Amoris to his reformist marriage laws and perhaps more so. I am even inclined to think those critics who emphasize this point are on the right track. There is a strong hint from the birth pattern that Ovid was a victim to religious policy.

OVID’S HOROSCOPE

OVIDCHART

Even without a birth time to help us (the above chart is set for midday) the day of Ovid’s birth is striking enough for his fate and character and because it is it isn’t too difficult to guess at an approximate birth time. (see below)

The obsession with and conviction about fame is strikingly staked out by the rare way in which five planets planets can be considered as being on world points (it is usual to allow 1.30 by way of conjunction). There is little to compare in other writers, not even in Shakespeare (who suitably for his pattern took his role as dramatist rather lightly and half despised it as not quite respectable).

Pluto at 0.43 Cancer

Mars at 1.03 Cancer

Saturn at 0.24 Capricorn

Uranus at 1.26 Libra (just within the 1.30 limit)

Neptune at 14.11 Leo (WP is 15 Leo)

The fact that shocking, revolutionary Uranus is in the marriage/unions sign, Libra, just by itself bespeaks the destabilizing of marriage ideals.

This is then backed up by Venus in separative and different Aquarius at 13 Aquarius opposed to romantic Neptune in the Leo sign of passion and big loves. The moon has to be somewhere in Leo that day presumably within conjunction of Neptune which is the poet’s romantic/mythic imagination directed upon the life of the gods in Metamorphoses. Albeit Leo is a fixed sign, the metamorphosis theme is linked to the mutability of the natal Pisces sign which Neptune rules. Also in Aquarius is Jupiter which reflects the modernity of Ovid’s outlook on and treatment of almost any theme. The fact that 15 Leo is deemed the most unfortunate of the six world points and Venus is basically opposed to it is an invitation for the things of Venus to be in trouble.

However, far and away the most distinctive feature is the world points involved in a tight, difficult, tension-giving T square of the malefic planets or even, if one includes the position of the sun which is not closely conjunct the Aries world point, that frustrating signature, the Grand Cross, thus:

                         SUN

MARS/PLUTO           SATURN

                       URANUS

Somewhere along the line Ovid was going to run into big trouble, even big political trouble because Saturn on a world point in the sign it rules points to such problems and they could be exacerbated by the in itself very difficult and frustrating close Mars/Pluto conjunction. (The latter conjunction incidentally renders it doubtful Ovid would be too easily successful in love and sex; and with the opposition from Saturn any embittered cuckold theory gains some weight). Shakespeare had Mars in Cancer (but not on the same degree) but for Ovid Mars placed here with Pluto and in the sign of homes and hearths, this has also to be the aspect of the long and frustrating exile from the home base.

Given Ovid’s various interests, his modes of seduction and a great loquaciousness to which he admitted, it is fairly clear he was probably born between 11 am and 12 pm with late Gemini or early Cancer rising this then making the difficult T square or Grand Cross central to the pattern and Saturn (political authority, the emperor), opposed to the rising from the house of open enemies.

But what is then interesting is that if we run the chart for Augustus (there is an asteroid Augusta which since asteroids were originally registered in feminine form is the appropriate asteroid for Augustus, we don’t find it conjunct Saturn…. or not closely. Instead at nearly 26 Sagittarius it is in difficulty square to Ovid’s identity-giving sun at 27 Pisces. Sagittarius is the sign of philosophy and (organized) religions. The hint is surely that Ovid offended the political authority of Augustus most nearly through what material like the Fasti represented for the emperor’s emerging state religion. The morals come into it, but not necessarily as the prime consideration.

PAUL JANKA AND PICK-UP ARTISTRY

At the end of the Piscean era which from its outset the Piscean Ovid was able after a fashion to haunt and dominate culturally, comes Paul Janka author of How to Get Laid in New York City (2004). He is not a poet and, on 1st June 1975, he was not born under Pisces but rather Gemini. However certain links with Ovid are interesting.

First of all, that sensitive degree again. Where is Janka’s Jupiter (his beliefs, his religion almost)? Sure enough it’s on that fatal 16 Aries from which Ovid was able to write so much (including about pick-ups and seduction in a big way) and again Uranus is destabilizing notions of unions but now at 28 degrees and thus the end rather than the beginning of marriage signs Libra as for Ovid.

Janka was propelled into his search for formulae by what he originally considered to be the great difficulty for him and for men, even good looking males, to attract women or to attract them in the way desired – especially for exciting quickies. (Ovid is more interested in landing a suitable mistress). This block is reflected in the exact square of restricting Saturn at 16 Cancer to that sensitive 16 Aries which carries Janka’s Jupiter. Even on top of his game Janka will speak Saturnian style of “the discipline” of working his technique.

As Janka’s sun is at 9 Gemini and his Mercury at 23 Gemini, one wonders if either of those two degrees wouldn’t correspond to Ovid’s unknown birth time and ascendant. (In favour of a Gemini ascendant for style and appearance Ovid was, beside his loquaciousness, slim and reedy as is Janka who corresponds in many ways to the text book version of Gemini-in one of his interviews it is even admitted he is not too concerned with erotica, it is conversation turns him on. Ovid is more concerned with women’s appearance and advises them in some detail how to enhance beauty and present themselves to advantage). If he is telling the truth about his past he nonetheless seems to have begun much like Janka.

………I’m the poor man’s poet,
Was poor myself as a lover, couldn’t afford
Gifts so spun words. Poor suitors must woo with caution,
Watch their tongues, bear much that the rich
Would never put up with

I haven’t analyzed Ovid’s theory of seduction and I haven’t read up on Janka’s theories of same which are the subject of whole courses and seminars in especially New York. In both cases however there is an unwavering belief in the power and ability of simply “technique” (a Geminian theme – Janka has spreadsheets and detailed records) and technique has a lot to do with saying the right things on cue and time (another Geminian theme) and at the right place. Both have a sense of place, the proper sites of opportunity, though one wonders if it doesn’t betray elements of Ovidian fantasy when the poet suggests the ardent lover could hover around Rome’s Jewish synagogue. Did Ovid harbour desires for a Jewish mistress, indeed had he read Genesis, a point of scholarly debate given oddly biblical elements in the creation story with which the Metamorphoses opens?

Ovid insists upon agreeing with almost anything a woman says and thinks provided one has her attention. Likewise promise anything. Janka is also very verbal but concerned  American style with a quick kill, the bang. In effect though, he agrees with Ovid in not wasting time pursuing uncertain, elusive cases. Grasping a woman’s interest and attention fast and insuring it’s strong enough to be worked upon later can be certified through the simple expedient of just obtaining her phone number. Janka  wants as many numbers as possible as then one is always assured of a certain percentage however small. Ovid more interested in mistresses and affairs, is both the eternal Latin and natural Piscean (sign of service) in insisting on being at woman’s service. Promise a woman anything, flatter her, pick up whatever she drops, give her whatever she wants, solicitously follow her. “Don’t jib at a slavish task like holding/her mirror; slavish or not such attentions please…”

Both evidently believe that woman’s vanity and/or curiosity can carry things along if only once the foot is in the door. This incidentally allows at least Ovid to stray in non PC, Christian Grey directions which may have some kernel of truth, especially for the less verbal when he declares:

It’s all right to use force……
What in fact they love to yield…
They’d rather have stolen. Rough seduction
Delights them. The audacity of near rape
Is a compliment – so the girl who could have been forced, yet somehow
Got away unscathed, may feign delight, but in fact
Feels sadly let down. Hilairia and Phoebe, both ravished
Both fell for their ravishers

In the case of both Ovid and Janka all such statements rest upon a certain understanding of the sexes which, whether true or false and they do seem exaggerated (and they are fascinatingly different from anything one might say about authentic same sex relations), are nonetheless promoted to boost male confidence to go on the attack. Essentially both assume and assure their audiences that women want it badly if only the right note can be struck.

Like men, girls love stolen passion,
But are better at camouflaging their desires.
If masculine custom precluded courtship of women
You’d find each besotted girl
Taking the lead herself. A heifer amid lush pastures
Lows to the bull, a mare
Whinnies at stallions, but our male libido’s milder,
Less rabid….

Really? To the extent the animal and human kingdoms can be compared and there is truth here, it is a half truth and linked to something Asia and the Bible better grasp as stressed in my Solomon’s Tantric Song  (amzn.to/14aa5Qe). The woman leads sexually as at the beginning of the Song of Solomon once some kind of relation is established. (The mystery of just what has been established with whom in the case of the elusive Song is something I attempt to establish in the book).

Janka has had both a lot of praise and criticism for his techniques, but his most recent shock delivered to his followers has been settling into monogamy and even getting married to his latest girlfriend.  I suppose this possibility was always present given the fact that not just Uranus but transformative Pluto is also in the unions sign Libra and opposite his sun. He would be challenged, even compelled, at some stage to rethink and change direction somewhat.

So, despite all critics and enemies calling him a creep and worse, the half Czech Janke has not gone into any exiles unless voluntary to Europe and he might even end up happily ever after. Since however he is not a poet and belongs most essentially to the ephemeral world of New York rather than the more eternal one of Rome and was born with no links to any world points, it is likely his eventual fate is to be disappear and be forgotten in a way it is unlikely Ovid who foresaw his destiny ever will be. And curiously readers might feel it is Ovid who is more alive and real. It is sometimes hard to think he isn’t with us still and that we didn’t meet him last week.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A SAINT’S MISTAKE: A POEM OF ST PAUL

[It’s arguable that tradition is wrong and St Paul never quite maintained what is popularly believed as regards “homosexuals” and “homosexuality” – words not used in his time. But belief about what he famously or notoriously wrote in Romans still has effects. But if the Apostle did say things along the line attributed to him,  both popular and scholarly understanding does not consider the evidence for  an element within Pauline experience which suggests the possibility of real error in his outlook in this area, one divinely anticipated and disapproved. Within poetic limits that difficult and controversial point is addressed. Related notes add a little more. Ideas for the poem came to me after reading the  outrageous extent of homelessness of gay people in America as a result of some ongoing conservative Christian attitudes]

Conversion

(The Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus, by Caravaggio c. 1600)

A SAINT’S MISTAKE: A POEM OF ST PAUL

From birth those energies defining life
May be transformed but keep their force,
There’s limit set upon the chance for change.
The angry youth may live to father revolution
But, lifelong, yearning visionaries may never
Grasp all truth; the times, society, a weakness of
The vehicle determines where and how each will
May grow. Light can enlighten when not blind,
But sight may need what’s heard to truly see.
Let eyes be opened, ready for the sun
Of Truth, but still recall that Logos speaks
Across the universe of space and time
Through ages, not one age alone which ends,
As ours, its spiritual life enfeebled,
Lacking true prophetic view, even
Ignoring such as you, St Paul, wilful,
Doubting or perhaps confused, refused
The words of Agabus. [1]
Upon Damascus road met by great Light,
You saw, you gazed, you fell and then
Three days remained alone in darkness, blind,
Till, helped by human hands, scales fell like leaves
From off your eyes. But what was that your ears
Had heard? Your mind in shock no doubt turned much
Upon a sacred history, ancient Law,
The Lord, but had you in that solitude
Absorbed the fullness of the uttered words
And even when preaching soon the Christ as
Son, repressed and left unlearned what echoed
Through the flashing of celestial light?
Even God had seen you on the road
Not just as Jew devout to last extremity,
But kin to pagan Pentheus face set against
The worlds of women and of difference
And spoke to you the words of question and
Rebuke once given by Agathon’s lover to the god
Of ecstasy and the flourishing vine.[2]
Of this, though Christ alone is truly he,
The shadow also speaks to depths of mind for
In yourself and God a Gentile dwells as
In the Gentile there’s a Jew. To soul within
And world without your call was to a wider field
Than even you would quite allow, lands and lives
Not only to address with a new gospel
Of deliverance and transcendent Law
But in their essence to reclaim. Such would require
Not only persons of the Way not fall sad victim
To persecutions of your policy
But – what and who are more remote to
The conservative, devoted mind – also
Minorities, the outsider, the enslaved.
The stubborn ox resists the goad, so hard
It is for even the good to heed God’s voice;
But harder life then weighs on many more
If that same voice is disregarded or misheard.
It brings a canker to redemption’s rose,
It hid a poison in the new and good,
And justified whole centuries of harm,
Of inquisition, secrecy and dull despair
Of suicide, of souls denied the family home,
Of youth made objects of improper cure
Confused by a false loathing of the self,
Lives lived as though beneath a curse,
And so because you never learned, not even
From Jeremiah in his difference,
That never the leopard lost his spots
Nor did the Ethiopian his skin.[3]
The pedantry and prejudice of one once
Proudly Pharisee, stayed blind to what
In nature, art, and even just humanity
Might teach. You failed, as even great Luther
Later failed the Jews. [4]
Within a Roman world whose ruling might
Your angry will alone could hope to oppose,
Scarce noticing the slavery and pleasure
Taken in refinement of all cruelties,
You made a scapegoat and the symbol
Of most vice and sin, (almost the fall
Of this whole world and worthy of death itself),
Those whose eros and whose loves inclined them
To one side, their own, by this made
Enemies of a “Law” – transcended and fulfilled,
You taught – yet holding you still much in thrall.[5]
Not only was the scapegoat harmed but also
Spiritual lives identified most narrowly
With nature’s way. [6] Vague rumour, petty hate
In place of information or of love, worldly
Obsession with oppressive law and politics
Sometimes rank violence on the streets,
Such was and is the legacy to those
Whose loyalty is wholly to “God’s word”
And your authority, all ignorant
Of just how little the Spirit spoke
To you on the contested theme but
Rather echoes of Apocrypha, pressures
And customs of your familiar world.[7]
Like Peter struck with vision by the sea
But who denied the wisdom shown because
It seemed to oppose a written source, [8]
Likewise idolatry of tradition and of text
Chokes inspiration of the Living Word.
Oh Spirit who should lead to Truth and who
In your own being is the Truth, descend
Upon the human mind that thought
May rise to judgements on a higher plane,
Not timeless only but aware of time, its cycles
And those changes they intend. [9] Together let
Inspiration, scriptures and the kairos speak,
And not one source alone lest faith’s whole vessel
Run aground or sink.
No theory, no philosophy, no abstract
Statement of a rule will summarize
The Spirit’s truth whose will embraces
Situations and hurt souls as even
Holy Law was forced to do for daughters
Of Zelophehad.[10] Alas that Tarsus
Was the home not just of you, St Paul,
But to that Stoic thought defining
Nature, pleasure and a universal law
Too abstractly in the face of plain
Reality and human need. How hard
It was for you to accept even the
Character of the youthful Mark. [11]

11

These facts despite, the Good can redirect
And heal what harms. But wrong’s a wild weed
Reproduced and strong, and stronger still
When unacknowledged where it grows. Within
The fields of faith yet worse than choking weed
Stands visible and alone the bending,
Stricken tree of noxious fruit. It should
Be left to perish in its place, but those
Encircling it for its defence as though to guard
A relic’s power, and then their foes (seeing
More the persons than the tree), both these
Partake in what corrupts at root and branch.
Truth to both is inconvenient and feared;
Those who defend the tree will not admit
Beyond all claims of justice and of evidence
Their saint and scripture might be wrong – even while
They do not dare to cite them now on
Due obedience of slaves. They are themselves
Enslaved to Paul, so much they’ll even join
Their voice and vote with unbelievers in Christ’s
Name if only still to impose their way. [12]
Their mouths speak lies and foolish syllogisms:
Difference is but a “lifestyle” and a “choice”,
Let no one teach that it exists lest youth be
Converts to perversion; talk of discrimination
Or harassment is beside the point. Just as indeed
It always was, the righteous standing too long
Passive witness to a thousand wrongs, approving
Countless marriages in name alone
(But these deemed holy – other kinds are wrong).
This way “the unnatural” could be simply
Punished or erased and blessing from heaven,
Not wrath, shower down upon a Pauline world
Sore needing apprehensions more divine
Of being and persons in themselves. For
Grace itself is para physin – Paul
Deemed it work against the natural. [13]
Those who attack tradition’s tree and tribe
Are but soul brothers of their tyranny.
They’re almost what was so long feared
Or banned or damned, emerged like hell’s
Own self to manifest in monstrous style
A beast conformed to worst imagination.
Revenge lends savour to its policies
And once again an abstract value – now
“Equality” – spreads widely a new chaos.
The sacred, soon a target for the secular,
The atheist and hedonist demand full
Equal rights for ceremony and employ
All places from the college class to
Altar’s rail. Appeals to conscience, failures [14]
To welcome well or grant request,
All can be deemed new forms of insult
Or discrimination, grounds to pursue
A case at law, if need be, ruin livelihoods
And lives. For now what’s spiritual seems only
False and what is ethical but relative
Though what is sexual can seem true –
Even honest as pornography,
Itself a model for new modes of life.
It’s why beyond love’s rights, sometimes
Demanded with fanatic zeal, too often
Lies what’s scarcely more than sex as sport,
And heartless exploitation of the young.
And while the theorist and the litigant
Hold forth, indifference meets the
Youthful homeless and perplexed. But then,
Beyond “acceptance” at all costs, what
Will the monster’s tribe provide for life
And health beyond its empty round of
Party celebration or narcotic haze?

III

Enough! The false can only bring forth
Lies again. The conflict of inflexible minds,
Harms everything and everyone, disturbs
The life of faith and human rights alike
With argument too close to cavil and to kvetch. [15]
Both parties see repeatedly but
One another to their shame in that dark
Mirror of St Paul. [16] In him, amid
Deep revolutions for the mind and age
And strivings with a hostile world, what seemed
Like vulgar issues of the few bore little weight
Except to dismiss, condemn, deride,
Though history would prove that wrong
Like any utterance on a theme
When one admits to “think”, not fully know,
Just what it is the Spirit of God declares [17]
Or by pure silence does not judge. Therefore…
Unless to say it can be that the first
Are last [18], amid those sufferings and that
Martyrdom, let none too quickly judge
The life and words of you, St Paul, for
Scarcely will the saint or sage, and others
Less, attain full knowledge and perfection.
Each soul needs a Damascus with its light…
Yet there, let even saints not only see
But hear what makes for life and should set free.

NOTES

[1] Acts 21:10. The prophet Agabus warns Paul against going to Rome and the Christians beseech him not to go but he goes anyway. It is not clear how much he believes the forecast and how much God is understood to give a choice in the matter through the warning, but anyway Paul remains adamant. He had always intended or wanted to go to Rome (Acts 19:21) though it is not specifically stated the Spirit told him to go there as opposed to Achaia.
[2] Jesus is self-described as the true vine (Joh 15:1) so by implication the vine god, Dionysius (whom Gentiles believed was the God of the Jewish Temple) is the false. However the archetype is still relevant. We now know even pious Jews attended the pagan theatre and there is reason to suppose both Jesus and Paul could have known the celebrated Bacchae of Euripides (“the lover of Agathon”, Agathon being one of Athens’ most beautiful men). In the play Dionysius manifests like Christ to Paul, to accuse Pentheus of disregarding and persecuting him…”a man defying god”. Although Acts 24:16 says Paul heard  in Hebrew, the apparent quote from Euripides’ Greek is exact. It has unnecessarily kept the dramatist’s plural form of kentra goad/necessity (which would fit rather with a common proverb in the singular) that Euripides employs when Pentheus says,  “You disregard my words…and kick against necessity/the goads”. Euripides has only pluralized to make his poetic metre go. It is also important to note that the necessity/the goad could have sexual implications which the KJV bible’s “kick against the pricks” accidentally reflects. Though I don’t accept theories Paul was a closet gay, it’s possible the conversion narrative contains a hint Paul needs to examine his sexual being and attitudes at deep levels, as otherwise they could affect his teachings, treatment of people and understanding of what Jesus himself is like. While one could dismiss the Euripides connection as a fluke, there is yet another “fluke” to suggest real Christ/Euripides/Dionysius connection. (See separate note below). I do not believe the Jesus of Paul’s conversion would approve the Paul of Romans 1 and is already implicitly warning against going or continuing in its direction.
[3] Jer 13:23, On the basically gay/queer character of Jeremiah see for example Chapter 8 of my Cosmic Father: Spirituality as Relationship. It is beyond present scope but contained in my writings that some persons do, or appear to make, at least partial change from their orientation. There are reasons for this but in most instances persons are what they are and remain what they are  from childhood.
[4]  Luther reformed much and lit a torch for liberty in Europe generally, but his record of anti-Semitic prejudice (he proposed synagogues should be burned down) left a legacy in Germany facilitating Nazi attitudes centuries later, a case of a great man making great mistakes.
[5] It could be that Paul’s famous/infamous Romans 1 describes male prostitution, paedophilia, recreational bisexuality or just blasts the extreme indulgence of ancient Rome. Practically however, this is rant influenced by the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon on sex and idolatry. But by referring to whatever precisely same sex as “degrading passions”, “shameless acts” “degrading of the body” etc “for which they deserve to die” this part of scripture works out as hate speech and a life sentence if not a hell sentence for anyone remotely same sex attracted. It is what makes for a great proportion of the homeless of America being gays thrown out of the house by “good” Christians. Christian rejection was the reason of the now eternally remorseful Linda Robertson’s son took to drugs and overdosed at eighteen. Romans 1 would have been better never written and it should be excised from our bibles for the damage it does. For vastly less good reason even the sola scriptura Luther declared the epistle of James “an epistle of straw” that should be censored from our bibles. At the same time, it must be allowed Paul and Christians past and present have a perfect right to maintain that “homosexuality” like heterosexuality can be the basis for excessive, immoral, decadent behaviour (such as really does exist in America as in ancient Rome) It is troubling that the defence of gay rights now so often today also seeks to indite all and any criticism of gay behaviour as “homophobic”, even an indictable offence. Queer theory doesn’t accept the notion of morality in any normal sense and there is much to legitimately question in the work of leaders of gay/queer theory.
[6] i.e. associating sex with nothing but reproduction like the pagan Stoics which is scarcely biblical – Paul seems not to have read or absorbed the Song of Solomon..
[7] Paul’s diatribe is owing to the Apocyphal Wisdom of Solomon and is not untypical of his society and times – numbers of pagan writers like the satirist Juvenal spit out hatred of effeminates or any male who seems “different” from some militaristic masculine norm. The subject was confused by various class and military factors that no longer apply today. Any male passive towards another male was disgraced, the reason sodomy was used on prisoners of war. Masters could use slaves sexually. Doubtless because so many non gay persons were made to function that way that St Paul confuses values to this day by talking about “and such were some of you” ( 1 Cor 6:11) still the scriptural basis for praying or exorcising the gay away.
[8] Acts 10:14. Peter wrongly rejects the vision given him (three times!) because it contradicts or modifies scripture.
[9] The point is little stressed hence unfamiliar, but that the Spirit is God as Truth is indicated by 1 Joh 5:6. It is suggested here that the Spirit oversees/interprets the ages and cycles of time which promote changes and the new which are meant to be accepted.
[10] Numbers 27 recounts how these women petitioned to have the inheritance laws changed. This would imply the Law, (apart from core covenant with its Ten Commandments), is not written to be and beyond questioning and negotiation. All secondary law is besides for organization of the society of the covenanted Jews. It is not presented as any universal prescription and it is controversial if St Paul (and various Popes and councils) privilege and universalize only items almost at random following generalizing philosophical principles which is what Paul does re laws even his Jewish contemporary Philo believed applied to sacred prostitution.
[11]  St Paul did not get on well with the young John Mark, probably because his character was different in some way – perhaps gay/queer. Various controversies around Mark like The Secret Gospel, however heretical nonetheless likely reflect traditional suspicions around this gospeller’s character.
[12] In India minority Christians have successfully joined with Muslims (who elsewhere persecute their faith), to campaign for a recriminalizing of homosexuality laws against which were repealed in 2009. In 2014 conservative Christian pastor and politician Danny Nalliah who has been constantly opposed by or opposed to Muslims in Australia has recently supported them in opposition to gays.
[13]  Paul fails to see the irony that at the same time as he will approve whatever is unnatural, God works against his nature (his perfection) in grafting Gentiles onto the tree of Israel and salvation. Rom 11.24
[14]   Politically correct Gay/Queer rights are theoretically inclusive of atheist or libertarian gays having the right to teach religion classes or run church and university religion clubs etc or, in some radically liberal churches, to be priests without beliefs or usual  moral standards. While religious people can be blinkered bigots,even the individual bigot may still appreciate and support a larger community sense of the sacred which the rationalist libertarian may not. A community should have the right to retain what makes for the sacred, and arguably the owner of property (such as a hotel) should have some right to set the rules which may include a preference against gay couples? Conscience should be educated rather than state  coerced by laws, and where gays conspire to coerce Christians they are not better than those they oppose. Presently churches  are just being split apart and charity services curtailed due to arguments and court cases over gays and their rights.
[15] kveth is Yiddish for ceaseless outlandish complaining, grumbling, blaming. It is suggested St Paul somewhat indulges this in Romans 1
[16] St Paul famously states we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12), a principle forgotten when writing on things and persons “unnatural”!
[17] 1 Cor 7:39. It seems controversial that in pronouncing on marriage and divorce St Paul can only say he “thinks” he has the Spirit of God on the matter. He should surely know in making rules so vital to people’s lives, though one could say it’s liberating in that it leaves the door open for alternatives and exceptions. But if he only “thinks” re divorce, how much more likely is it he would have “thought” what he claims about same sex loving and lovers about which even just humanly and socially he would know so much less?
[18]  Matt 20:16

NOTE: The Christ/Euripides/Dionysius Connection.   I hold it significant if others don’t (or just won’t) that the ignored but remarkably efficient and always relevant data I have long claimed to possess for Christ’s birth (see http://goo.gl/HEpQRE) improbably support the connection made in the above poem and notes. Christ’s destiny and reputation Midheaven which is  in shocks and surprises Aquarius, is conjuncted by Euripides from the ninth house of religion. Something about Christ connects with Euripides and can use his voice. In turn, Euripides is in what’s called quincunx to Paul, an aspect commonly meaning “adjustments must be made” which plainly as regards Christ, Gentiles, Euripides and gays Paul badly needed to do. Moreover  Paul is opposite the Bethlehem star (Jupiter) conjunct Saturn showing the degree of challenge Christ and Christianity represented and his willingness originally to be simply opposed. The Bethlehem star conjunction is in Pisces, the sign normally associated with Dionysius by astrologers. There is a Dionysius asteroid but it cannot be reckoned for remote dates. This apart, and perhaps because all time is one at a certain level, all the asteroids whenever discovered and named will work accurately, retroactively, for Christ’s birth as for all historical births. The naming/discovery seems to obtain a life of its own and the Psalms do claim God names the stars (Ps 147:4). It is interesting that the same Christians who oppose gays, oppose astrology on the basis of the bible. They are as wrong and as Paul on gays, not hearing what God intends them to hear for, as again the Psalms say, the night skies utter knowledge (Ps 19:1). They don’t and won’t if you stop your ears to astrology and damn it for “divination”.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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