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1793: THOUGHTS BEFORE THE GUILLOTINE, A POEM

[Of all the poems issued on this blog and elsewhere I have the least understanding of its original impulse.. It has something to do with impressions of places and people experienced while living in France years ago. In that sense it was always around; but I finally put things together because an overseas radio programme which invites poetry but accepts nothing already published, even on the Net, wanted complete novelty. So I made an effort to oblige. But from long experience I know that sadly media can’t be trusted to be reliable or helpful. After hearing nothing from the given address I was improbably told nothing had been received but I could apply again to a certain person but it might take up to six months for a decision. Which seems about right as I re-applied and have never heard again, not so much as a line of acknowledgment. So I shall “publish” to the net which disqualifies me from being broadcast. The literary scene or those who manage it remain as objectionable and tortoise slow as they ever were across the centuries. …..Perhaps.I should write a poem in the style of Juvenal warning against the folly of writing poetry for anyone or anything today].

1793: THOUGHTS BEFORE THE GUILLOTINE

Crisp as fresh bread day dawned
The air was still as marble steps, the sky
Serene as female faces calmed –
Such mild and quiet harbingers of good you’d say.

But now past noon there’s just this noise
The crowds, the faces I refuse to see,
The narrow streets, the high and dusty
Tenements, their shadows pressing down
Towards our destination in a wider space
Beneath a harsher light where all is seen.
Till then across worn cobbles
On and on wheels grate and tumbrils lurch
Behind slow beasts born strangers to
The grace and speed of race and hunt.

Shut quickly as a fan our hunting parties
Like the dance were gone with all
Our private pleasures and affairs.
I’m all that I have been and done
This self which half evaporates amid
What’s so immediate, so material.

Yet what’s mundane may still conceal
Some mystery a shade sublime
When like a ritual it repeats. How strange
The cock crows all days good and ill,
And sun shines down on war and peace!
Small doubt it’s Nature is supreme
Although it posts no messages of hope
Nor tells of life beyond our end.
But who’s to say, who even could,
What is our purpose and the Truth?
Philosophies of God or gods or none
Are quests in vain unless perhaps
The atoms re-engage in much the way
Lucretius thought they formed at first.

Yes, Nature is the Absolute and beneath
Its sway there’s always inequality and rank
Such as with pride I rightly show
And such as some will always own.
There’s continuity of sorts in that
As in the dialogue of selves. The mind runs on
To insist “I am”, the reason why perhaps
Mad legend tells how on the stream
A poet’s severed head still spoke and sang.
For when it seems there is no more to say
There always is; there’s always will.

Show well I must, defy all Hades that is dark…
Towards the fated square wheels grate
And tumbrils lurch. Breathe deep, dream
Summer skies, be calm. Release.

Readers can find other poems of mine on this site and in the books  Puer Poems, New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas and Raphael and Lucifer and other Visionary Poems all available from Amazon and the Book Depository. Still other poems if more occasional can be found at the less used, McCleary’s Additions, blog     https://mcclearysadditions.wordpress.com/
This blog currently contains some different perspectives on Australia’s marriage equality debate

 

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Posted by on September 13, 2017 in Poetry

 

PRINCE CHARLES AND THE POETS: A CONUNDRUM

 A CONUNDRUM

charlespoet

Thinking outside the box, being or just seeming eccentric has its uses. It has had the latter In the case of Britain’s Prince Charles in everything from useful experiments in architecture and the environment to the training of unemployed youth. When it comes to literature and despite Charles being a patron of the arts (and known for a highly traditional Shakespeare fan), the picture is more complex, peculiarly so and with what looks like subjectivity to the point of self-contradiction.It does so not least in relation to poetry as the expression of beliefs, an area in which Charles once famously declared he wishes one day to be “defender of faith” rather than “a defender of the faith”.

Yet if Charles’ major predilections when it comes to poets and poetry was anything to go by, it might be more accurate to describe him as defender of unfaith. His personal relations with especially two notable poets presents nothing short of a conundrum, though I have begun to see the conundrum entails a form of understanding that makes his position almost inevitable.

As described later, I have had dealings with at any rate one of the two poets considered here. They were two very different individuals who were rivals for the position of poet laureate – Ted Hughes (1930-1998) narrowly beat Kathleen Raine (1908-2003) to the position in 1984. Hughes, easily Britain’s most controversial poet since Lord Byron, despite all the scandals became almost family to the royals. A great natural storyteller he often read bed time stories to Princes William and Harry and since his death in 1998 Charles has erected a shrine (with stained glass!) to the poet at his Highgrove home and given permission to a hidden memorial on crown land in Dartmoor. Charles used to fish in the wilds and dine at home with the poet and his grandmother was, the poet alleged, almost flirtatious with him.

THE WILDEST POET SINCE BYRON 

by Rollie McKenna, bromide print, 1959

Women tended to find Hughes irresistible and were the problem of his life starting with the brilliant but difficult poet Sylvia Plath whom to this day many feminists choose to regard as virtual murder victim because Hughes’ infidelity drove her to suicide. The claim gained weight because death seemed to cling to Hughes like a leech. Assia Wevill, the married woman for whom Hughes left his wife, duplicated the gas oven suicide taking her daughter by Hughes along with her; another lover, Susan Alliston, died young of cancer, and Hughes’ son by Plath suicided in a fit of depression  – in this some saw genetics, some saw a curse, some said Hughes had been a domestic tyrant in a way to affect his son’s mind.

Bad though his record was, I feel it is possible to overdo the scandal of Hughes with women and similarly his reputation as virtual black magician due to his (rather Jungian) interest in the occult, alchemy, Cabbala, astrology, and shamanism – he deemed poetry a form of magic. If Hughes’s sexuality could, like his poetry, be volcanic and even sadistic, it’s a fact that when he first kissed Plath (who wanted to be a Cathy to this Yorkshireman’s Heathcliff) she drew blood from him like a vampire. But the faithless Hughes did love and respect Plath deeply (his last major work Birthday Letters is testimony enough to that) and arguably lifelong there would have been fewer flings and infidelities if the romantic pair had reconciled as intended and Plath survived. As it was, an irresistible man left rudderless and confused by his fate, followed the line of least resistance. Hughes may never have been the ogre many believed, but in one less obvious sense he was one.

As modern and especially British poets go, Hughes can be considered spiritual but not healthily so. Indeed, especially if poetry has anything like the magical function the poet assumed, then Hughes has purveyed little short of spiritual pollution itself. The early poems which brought fame in such collections as The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal represent his Tarka the Otter or Kiplingesque line in verse. They project unusually forceful feeling onto the life of fauna and are healthy enough. After Plath’s suicide a new more shamanistic, less coherent, incomplete but highly dramatic and mythic form of verse takes over in the collections Crow and Cave Birds and this colours Hughes’ work across the next two decades.

THE TED HUGHES MASTERPIECE

The genesis of the cryptic Crow – Hughes’ masterpiece in his estimation  and that of at least some critics – arose from more than one impulse, but coming to terms with the death of Plath definitely had something to do with it.It’s a protest against common existence and notions of fate and God, to which it supplies alternative answers of a sort, even if because for Hughes poetry is “magic”, an act, resolution is like a shamanic dismemberment and reconstitution of self.  If the answers are personal they are perhaps perhaps indirectly also for England whose national psychology fascinated Hughes (author of the difficult but important Shakespeare and The Goddess of Complete Wisdom which  addresses this). And Britain for Hughes was symbolized less by its heraldic lion than the enterprising crow, the Celtic god Bran’s totem.

In the beginning was Scream

Who begat Blood…..
Who begat Adam
Who begat Mary
Who begat God
Who begat Nothing
Who begat Never
Never, Never, Never

Who begat Crow…..

hughescrow

It is hard to summarize Crow or even adequately excerpt from it; one can at best supply something of its flavour, relentlessly negative, profane, grotesque with its essential protest against creation.

“A final try’ said God. Now LOVE’
Crow convulsed, gaped, retched….
….And woman’s vulva dropped over man’s neck and tightened

The two struggled together on the grass
God struggled to part them, cursed, wept….”

Adam and Eve along with God regularly diverge from all canonical portrayals.

God ran and told Adam
Who in a drunken rage tried to hang himself in the orchard

The Serpent tried to explain, crying “Stop”….
And Eve started screeching: “Rape, Rape!”
And stamping on his head”

After creation God had been called upon to take it back and he suffers a nightmare which tells him to do better. Crow, a trickster figure, emerges to help correct things in the course of which he invents the chaos of sexuality and goes in quest of his female half.

At this level of story some might take Hughes’ picture to be almost humorous in a Monty Pythonesque fashion. But there’s enough of it and it becomes clear the inversions and negations of the canonical are a launch pad for the development of statements that cannot be taken as other than abusive and profane as Crow becomes some kind of image or shadow imitation of a Christ figure as in The Risen

When he soars his shape
Is a cross, eaten by light
On the Creator’s face…..

…In the wind-fondled crucible of his splendour
The dirt becomes God

And though the particular words aren’t within Crow itself but Cave Birds, one could guess that essentially the poet’s beliefs and attitudes as in A God, amounted to the following insulting grotesquery directed upon crucifixion and notions of salvation.

Pain was pulled down over his eyes like a fool’s hat…
He was helpless as a lamb
Which cannot be born
Whose head hangs down under its mother’s anus….

His patience had meaning only for him
Like the sanguine upside-down grin
Of a hanging half-pig…

He could not understand what had happened
Or what he had become

Though the verse is complicated, I doubt that the attitude that gives rise to them is. It may be almost too easy to make diagnosis of Hughes’ spiritual condition. Around the time of Plath’s funeral, Hughes had said he did not seek to be forgiven and if there was an eternity he would be damned (1). Did Hughes mean he would suffer his own guilt forever in refusal of all grace and redemption, or, since refusal of forgiveness can entail refusal of repentance, at some level there was nothing to repent of anyway? Either way the attitude seems singularly harsh and negative and it duly gives rise to negative effects. Almost everyone would agree there was something for Hughes to be sorry for. An attitude of ongoing self-criticism that tries to learn from failure, is almost fundamental to the Christianity that married and buried Hughes but did little else for him. Whether psychologically or spiritually, the guilt or unrepentance envisaged could automatically cut the individual off from God leaving them in precisely the death-dominated nay saying dark in which Crow operates.

CONSEQUENCES OF A SINGLE CHOICE

If Hughes had reflected more upon even just the symbolism of his beloved occult sources, he might have learned something. The images of alchemy include the mutilation of the screaming lion’s paws, an image of the lion (Hughes was astrologically a Leo) needing to be cured of his defiant pride if the process is to continue. Arguably Hughes represents only the latest among notable Leos engaged upon some theatrical collision course with deity. One thinks of Jack Miles God: A Biography, which aims to cut God down to size. Among poets there is Robert Graves who invented the White Goddess and more famously Shelley who waged a long war against a half believed in deity. Some critics have seen revolt against God in the both the fiction (Pierre) and poetry (Clarel) of Hermann Melville. Leo philosopher, Feuerbach, reduces God to nothing but a reflection of the human mind. Jung’s The Answer to Job does much the same. Leo simply does not readily admit to faults minor or major, is not humble…..like the devil one might say – in my always correct data for Christ, Lucifer (the asteroid) appears in the sign of Leo. (2).

So much of Hughes poetry is insalubrious and gratuitously violent (persons fainting outright at readings was not uncommon), one is inclined to think Prince Charles didn’t absorb too strongly what was written or said beyond the earliest offerings. Or perhaps core messages were passed over as being akin to merely Monty Python entertainments to which, like the Goon show before it, Charles was partial. (Eric Idle’s popular but distinctly godless song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the Python team’s The Life of Brian, was performed for Charles’ sixtieth birthday).

KATHLEEN RAINE, UNEXPECTED ROYAL GURU

reinebook

Though the intrepid Kathleen Raine who died at ninety five after being hit by a car didn’t qualify for a Highgrove shrine, a personally commissioned  bust of her stands in Charles home among others representing a special influence. Some have called the pair soul mates. Exceptionally for royal custom, Charles attended the poet’s anachronistic funeral in Westminster Cathedral (anachronistic because Raine considered her brief conversion to Catholicism a mistake out of harmony with her beliefs and life work), and with the Queen’s permission he arranged a memorial service at the St James’ palace chapel. At that service it was mentioned how Raine regarded her connection with Charles as a fated part of her life mission. So this was a poet who had become another of those almost but not quite family figures. Prince and poet engaged a lively correspondence and Charles used to call in at the writer’s Chelsea home in Paultons Square for tea and cakes and pep talks where he was distinctly encouraged to pursue paths less travelled, was assured his position was the hardest and loneliest in the world but that he must  not surrender one inch “to the riff raff”.

In contrast to the relation with Hughes, Charles had to have been very certain about what Kathleen Raine represented as chief co-founding editor of the magazine Temenos (founded 1984). It began as a review “devoted to the arts of the Imagination” with the understanding that most meaningful  expressions of art are related to the sacred). Suitably impressed, Charles became its patron and later gave room space and lecture time in his new Academy of Architecture to those engaged on Raine’s project. He was so impressed by it the magazine became the Temenos Academy Review, effectively the review of a school Charles sponsored that was devoted to promotion of the Platonic Good, True and Beautiful across cultures. Charles himself contributed an article, A Sense of the Sacred – Building Bridges between Islam and the West. The magazine had been originally inspired by the work of Henry Corbin in France, an Islamic scholar who taught the fundamental unity of the Abrahamic faiths, though I think that emphasis minimally reflected any beliefs or interests of Raine who was drawn more to the faiths of Asia.

IN PARENTHESIS: BELIEFS OF PRINCE CHARLES

charlesmus

Charles’ Temenos contribution is the sort of thing which especially early in the century fostered rumours about a private conversion to or profound affinity for Islam, a point on which I shall briefly digress though I can’t possibly know truth in this matter. Undeniably there were visits to Muslim shrines, a donning of Muslim garb, controversial words uttered about the possible integration of Sharia Law to Britain and at least one Sheik (Mohammed Naim al Haqqani, Mufti of Turkish Cyprus and a Sufi Grand Mufti) would affirm that Charles was unofficially Sufi, a Muslim in his heart as Allah accepted (3). It could however be that HRH’s enthusiasm (he has spoken of “the perfection and beauty of original Islam”) was the expression of an earlier era when few knew the finer or any details of Sharia, when Islamism had not emerged and appreciation of world faiths had a stronger aesthetic emphasis (If Charles is enamoured of Islamic art he fancies Greek icons too in harmony with Raine’s connection of the aesthetic with the sacred).

It belongs with Charles’ “out of the box” treatment of themes that recently he has bemoaned the relative silence of media in the face of the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians. This is not like a convert’s talk. What is known and certain is that Charles has been strongly influenced by the universalist religious ideas of Swiss writer Frithjof Schuon, who regarded at any rate mystical Islam as a potential unifying force in the world and converted to Sufism, though also being associated with Amerindian tribal religion and other systems in his quest for primordial faith and perennial wisdom.. Mark Sedgwick in Against the Modern World probably gives the best description of Charles’ belief and I cite this in note. (4)

RAINE: LINKING THE AESTHETIC AND THE SACRED

As said, Raine founded Temenos to promote precisely   “imagination” and a sense of the sacred. This was to be furthered amid modern deserts of materialism and ultra-rationalism. She considered all true poetry a form of Platonism and genuine poets Platonists at heart, though perhaps like Hughes she believed verse could be “magic” too. At one time and in imitation of Yeats, Golden Dawn ceremonies got performed in her home. At least a couple of poems seem to indicate she saw or was visited by spirits (The Elementals, In Paralda’s Kingdom).

A major, ground breaking  authority on William Blake, and a noted admirer of Yeats, (both figures seen as representing “imagination”), Raine was a distinguished critic and significant advocate of neo-romanticism in especially poetry. She was herself by general consent an accomplished poet if unevenly so as she half admits in her final Collected Poems. This  excised some pieces, the sort of soppy, sentimental, rather confused personal stuff you feel shouldn’t be there – KR’s love life had always been troubled and in the case of gay author Gavin Maxwell, guilt-ridden as she had (some said successfully) cursed him in a fit of rage when he couldn’t reciprocate her desires.

When not about love or urban and rural scenes, the more mystical or philosophical of Raine’s verse tends to oscillate between awareness of being isolated as perhaps a fragment of a larger whole and awareness of somehow being or warmly included in that whole.

Thus:

I am a wave
That will never reach the shore

I am an empty shell
Cast up upon the sand   (The Unloved)

……It is enough now I am old
That everywhere above, beneath
About, within me is the one
Presence…     (In my Seventieth Year)

I am old and alone but boundless
All is everywhere
Once is forever (A Love remembered)

This emphasis early on and continuously supplied KR a kind of spontaneous affinity for Hindu identity mysticism, though she did not realize this till late and the last two decades of her long life. Before that and as the daughter of a rather repressive Methodist preacher, she had been in flight from Christianity, unclear even what the word “God” meant. Earth’s great cry of joy and woe that KR hears and then a consubstantiality with the earth she feels is perhaps…..

….What men called God
Before the word lost meaning. This
That needs no doctrine to make plain,
No cult to offer or withhold
A union more intimate
Than breath of life…….  

Sometimes rejection of or by God (however described), strikes a strange note.

God in me beats my head upon a stone   (Storm)

Stranger still are statements as from Judas Tree to the effect that if it was remarkable Judas was a betrayer, it was almost more remarkable the other disciples, “So stupidly, so tentatively faithful” were stayers. The poet realizes she has more often been a betrayer (of Christ?) than Judas, but sorrowed less for it and isn’t like Judas hanging on a tree.

While Raine could hardly claim to have betrayed anyone to death, it seems plain enough that between her critical and poetic work for much of her life she was a nay saying neo-pagan. It was the combination of a belated discovery of India and then the discovery of herself by Charles, that gave Raine more purpose in life and something approaching specific direction of faith. It then took the form of hymns to Shiva (Prayer to the Lord Shiva, Nataraja, Millennial Hymn to the Lord Shiva) and even addresses to the sun

Sun, great giver of all that is……
How address you greatest of givers,
God, angel, these words served once, but no longer…
But no myth, as before our eyes you are or seem…
Am I in you or you in me….?                          (To the Sun)

In some sense and in a poem dedicated to Charles, she could see how by tradition kings were sun identified. (Legendary Kings).

The Millennial Hymn to Shiva, asks who else can we pray to with the days of praising the Creator over and so much of the world being destroyed, than the Lord of destruction, a destruction that purifies. In the violence of Shiva, Raine seems to find some resolution of the passive and aggressive elements of her divided self.

MEETING KATHLEEN RAINE

raine        rollan-1

                         Kathleen Raine                                               McCleary in 1987

Back in 1987 I knew Ms Raine chiefly for her well informed, insightful critical work, but I knew she had founded Temenos and was generally a promoter of the neo-romantic. I was hopeful she might perceive myself as a neo-romantic, more especially in poetry where I had produced material working towards a loosely tantric, East-West aesthetic. Earlier in the decade I had enjoyed an international critical success (in prose) on East-West cultural and religious issues as a result of living many years in Asia, but poetry was a sudden new arrival in my life. Even today I remain surprised at just how proficient some of the work like the Anuradhapura I offered to Raine, actually was given that it came without any real precedent. The poems now in Puer Poems (the title influenced by Jung’s theory of the Puer archetype I somewhat celebrate) (5), had nonetheless hit a brick wall. There wasn’t a magazine or publisher would give it the time of day for almost any reason. It’s wasn’t the writing itself was bad, it would have been hard to maintain precisely that. It was always something else. You must go through magazines first, magazines objected the poems were too long or exotic. It was quite clear anything neo-romantic,  East-West or “occult” (one of the poems evoked theatre in terms of kabbalistic concepts) was simply not to be considered. You need to be Yeats or Ted Hughes before you can be tolerated for such interests.

Since I lived in Chelsea when I wasn’t overseas, I decided to wander down the Embankment and call at Paultons Square and ask for a poem or excerpts of some to be included in Ms Raine’s esteemed magazine so that I might have the recommendation of it to wave at recalcitrant publishers. As I thought it might appeal to her, I was even bold enough to present myself as having some affinities for the world of Yeats. This was not as foolish or presumptuous as it might sound. Even a department head for my first degree on meeting me years later, remarked he wasn’t surprised at my development as he had always registered me as a type of young Yeats and within a year or two of meeting Ms Raine, a rara avis, a poetic drama based on a Celtic mythic theme, had been accepted by the ABC in Australia. Contemporary Irish verse which has largely followed the British modernism Raine abominated,  contains little or no romantic, mythic or religious content. I can state unequivocally I am closer to Yeats than any of Irish nationality writing today. (I could also claim to have been continuously discriminated against because of it too!).

So…. theoretically there was no special reason for Ms Raine to refuse me the favour of a page or two of print in a sizeable review. I knew I ticked most of the boxes or seemed to.

Having described Ms Raine and meeting her in my memoir, I won’t say much more than this. When she got round to checking me out more particularly CV wise, and I mentioned that my internationally well-reviewed The Expansion of God had been published in Britain by SCM (a respected publisher of theology and philosophy), she almost choked with horror gasping “Oh, so you’re a Kistian!”. And while I sat (quite likely where Charles would sit in full view of her dancing Shiva bronze), she launched into a lecture, almost a tirade, about the superiority of India over the West, the nonsense of Europeans trying to bring any religious wisdom to it, etc etc.

Raine’s biography states that some considered her an autocrat. Sensing as much myself, I felt virtually certain in light of her shock that I would not be accepted whatever I said or did and that I would be sentenced without trial. Unsurprisingly, the details of the later refusal proved not just mean in the context of my thankless task of being published for the kind of material Raine should support, but suitably absurd. How could someone admitting I had something of Wordsworth, then object I exceeded his expression of the egotistical sublime by admitting the purely private to my verse. Here was an objection (surely a Jungian projection!) from someone herself embarrassingly personal in her own verse to the point of complaining (since Raine was once celebrated for beauty) of her thin hair and old breasts and whose revelations include how she managed her cat, “Is Pussy coming to bed?”  (I see my little Cat). My own work would seem downright impersonal by comparison. And any religious prejudice was ironic too since, however Christian I might be personally or in the published book I’d mentioned to her, the reality was that the material that would constitute Puer Poems unlike more recent work such as Raphael and Lucifer and Other Visionary Poems, (6) had nothing Christian to it at all. Conservative Christians might even have objections to the content, and given the way I’d employed religious and mythic imagery I didn’t believe in, I could almost have been taken for a Buddhist or Yeatsian theosophist.

POSSIBILITIES AND LIMITATIONS OF POETRY

Poetry can be and do many things. At its higher reaches it can function to change perspectives, further unity through new thought syntheses, grant vision to people. Accordingly it can be all of Ted Hughes “magic” and national definitions and likewise Kathleen Raine’s “transcendence” and evocation of the Beautiful. However, even Raine’s devotion to the Platonic Beautiful cannot avoid the Good and True.

The greatest originality can never entirely circumvent basic psychological and spiritual principles. If, like Hughes, one refuses anything like “repentance”, one will be left raging in the dark, and if like Raine one dismisses all issues of truth-in-belief in favour of the claims of tradition, love, inclusion or whatever, one will merely finish in self-contradiction…. not to say the discrimination that officially one’s position may claim to be opposed to.

Raine may establish Temenos to unite cultures, beliefs and creativity across the board, but practically she would be strongly opposed to and exclusive of all Christianity (outside possibly the Meister Eckhart ultra-mystical “heretical” kind) and caught in the branches of her own Judas Tree. The position exemplifies the biblical statement “Whoever is not for me is against me and whoever does not gather with me, scatters” (Luk 11:23).

THE UNIVERSALIST PIPE DREAM

Prince Charles has never been notably fortunate in his gurus – the “Jungian” adviser the late, Laurens van der Post (another Chelsea resident and a friend of Raine) has been shown to be such a lying fraud and some claimed a pedophile, he is today best forgotten and unmentioned – but I suggest that where poetic gurus are concerned, the complication repeats itself if more mildly. More mildly, but not with less potential significance for the Prince’s credo, and perhaps increasingly that of many who incline to the same would-be universalist views.

One sets out to include everyone, to defend “faith”, to love the world over its component national or whatever parts, but one finishes with discrimination in fact. At its worst, it is precisely tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of all people, races and faiths that in Britain has allowed the Trojan horse scandal in education and the sexual exploitation of minors through police fears of “racist” charges if they point to crimes and values protected within specific cultural and religious groups. In this way the moral ideal breeds the immoral one and the religious ideal fosters spiritual pollution.

Arguably the truest., most appropriate poetry for our times would be prophetic satire, nothing more, nothing less. I could envisage a sort of update of Pro 7 with this time a lost, aimless Europa and her unruly offspring wandering “in the twilight, in the evening, in the time of night and darkness”. But I sense it is already too late to tackle the momentous subject of rapid western decline in all its daunting complexity. Albeit from a different perspective, I share some of the pessimism of Raine’s Millennial Hymn to Shiva. in which already there is something less to warn against or correct than to resign to and mourn. It is has become apparent to me that writing well and relevantly today only raises insecurities and resentments in those who determine the face of literature. I mentioned last article the case of a leading Australian poet who while giving me the back-handed praise rather like Raine’s Wordsworth compliment that I had the musicality of Virgil (not a bad hit – tell the Dartmoor shades of classics translator and astrologer  Ted Hughes that asteroid Virgil conjuncted my sun at birth!), the fact I had included such “hopelessly archaic words” as “conduct” and “bestow” meant I could not be published with Penguins.

The rapidly increasing decline of the West is due not just to its materialism and PCness but among other things its artistic decadence, pundits like Raine invoking light but too often fostering darkness. As said, this decline is a theme already almost too large, too late for any one person or artist to tackle and after much striving to be allowed any kind of voice, finally I refuse to attempt such tasks, though my Beyond Dover Beach is a gesture in the direction (7). As the Taoists have it, “to retire is best”. In my own case I am satisfied that retiral and silence are the appropriate response. “Where there is no vision the people perish”. But if help is not wanted, often it is not right to insist upon giving it either; casting pearls never helped anyone or anything.

As to Prince Charles and because he does enjoy influence, one can only hope he is more fortunate in future with his gurus of art, avoiding the contradictions into which they could lead him and others.

NOTES

1) Jonathan Bate, Ted Hughes: The Unauthorized Life, p.219
2) Testament of the Magi: Mysteries of the Birth and Life of Christ, goo.gl/I28aCm
3 ) Alleged Sufi conversion https://goo.gl/MF2qYF and  for continuous updates over the years on Charles’ statements and gestures vis-à-vis Islam see https://goo.gl/YnNndW
4) “…..Charles’ own position might be described as anti-modernist Jungian and Emersonian universalism. At the opening of his Institute of Architecture he defined “spirit” as that overwhelming experience of awareness of a oneness with the Natural World, and beyond that with the creative force we call God which lies at the central point of all….It is both ‘pagan’ and Christian and in this sense is surely the fundamental expression of what we call religion”. In the same speech Prince Charles spoke against “scientific rationalism:” as “destroying the traditional foundations on which so many of our human values had been based for thousands of years” Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History. Mark Sedgwick. Oxford University Press 2004. n. 45 p 328.
5) Puer Poems  (2011) goo.gl/ymnMmr
6) Raphael and Lucifer and Other Visionary Poems (2016)  goo.gl/Xqd5BF
7) Beyond Dover Beach: A Poem of our Times http://wp.me/p2v96G-gY

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2017 in aesthetics, Poetry, religion

 

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RAPHAEL and LUCIFER: Religion, Vision and Verse

raf fix 2

Lucifer, the Prince of Air, descends to the lower hells to teach his minions how to launch a great deceit upon a sophisticated but unsuspecting humanity. Elsewhere the foreseeing Archangel Raphael explains and reveals what this will be, but will his warnings be heeded?

RAPHAEL AND LUCIFER and OTHER VISIONARY POEMS is unusual as poetry today and definitely different in its ideas.

VIDEO  recording from WildSound of Part  One of the four part  Raphael and Lucifer  mini-epic is available at this address: https://goo.gl/SkBFL1

THE BOOK with essay and notes is available on Amazon  at http://goo.gl/C32i3H\  and The Book Depository at  http://goo.gl/YOyEB0

(The book’s brief INTRODUCTION is reproduced below).

IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING – THE PROMOTION QUESTION

It’s not because Raphael is  “just” poetry, and certainly not any kind of “bad” poetry that this published author’s rather ambitious project doesn’t come with the imprimatur of  standard publication and promotion. One of the few UK publishers who accepts both religion and poetry today, acknowledged this is poetry to the highest  standard; but since I am not known for a performance poet nor am resident in UK for promotion purposes (so vital in publishing today), they couldn’t afford the risk of taking me on.

Actually they suggested  a certain Australian publisher might oblige. Of that story perhaps another time, but sufficient to say any religion/poetry combination is seriously hard to get through any hoops anywhere today. Agents don’t normally reckon to represent verse of any sort. Also I am not living in a metropolitan area to be in contact with the club of “right” literary persons and circles – who probably wouldn’t be interested anyway. Years ago a leading Australian poet refused me for Penguin New Poets for presuming to include – despite what they admitted was some superior “Virgilan”  writing –  “such hopelessly archaic words as ‘conduct’ and ‘bestow'”. …..

With almost everyone and everything to hinder  – the reason I abandoned anything poetic as a waste of time for over two decades – all the more reason  if you appreciate this project, that in the interests of supporting a wider range for poetry today (not to say freedom of thought more generally) you care sufficiently to  “like” it, review it, buy it, share it but essentially do whatever helps spread the word in a world of social media.

RAPHAEL AND LUCIFER:  THE INTRODUCTION (REPRODUCED) 

All the poems in this collection are to a lesser or greater extent visionary or metaphysical in a way poetry today doesn’t tend to be. Even so, they are still much involved with contemporary issues, persons or feelings. In theme and style however, Raphael and Lucifer stands apart from the rest of the collection as being a mini-epic.

Raphael is a deliberate experiment on two levels. First and obviously it is an exercise in poetic composition, specifically an adaptation, or at least evocation of, the now half lost traditions of epic and the Miltonics of especially Paradise Lost. (Mini-epic looks back to Catullus).

Second, there is an exercise in presenting and representing some often ignored, virtually censored but still developing ideas with regard to human origins. My own views as a doctor of religious studies are more fluid and liberal than those of any true blue creationist would ever be, but broadly I accept notions of theistic creation and ID (intelligent design which last, incidentally, is not the province of specifically Christian thinkers only). Given my bias, I have become increasingly aware how such belief can too easily finish treated in ways which leave meaningful argument, new facts and simple logic out of the picture. The situation can be unhelpful to the cause of truth generally and the spiritual life more particularly (even the question of divine existence and speaking of it in schools may now be involved) and we need to consider this.

Poetry is one medium that has always supported wide and sometimes unusual perspectives on things. Also, from the mythical Orpheus on through the Roman Lucretius and the English Milton and numerous tribal bards around the world, poets have been concerned with the nature of things, the mystery, spectacle and origins of life. Modern poetry has largely abandoned the theme although Ted Hughes stirringly translated Ovid’s curiously biblical evocation of a creation in the celebrated Metamorphoses. In my own case it has been appropriation of the mysteries of existence (and effectively the popularization of unbelief too) by media gurus like David Attenborough and Brian Cox, spurred me towards some poetic reaction.

Though both creationists and evolutionists can be charged with a literalism that insufficiently appreciates Genesis as poetry, it could be objected no one not a scientist, whether evolutionist or creationist, can really enter their arena of contention today with much authority. I disagree. It is well known and notoriously so, that the greater part of the educated public that bought Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was not able to understand it. The smallest minority of us are qualified scientists (or theologians) but this need not preclude us from drawing a few general conclusions about life and our place in the universe. Sometimes the issues science presents to laypersons invite almost more the application of some logical and philosophical thinking than negotiation of the most rarefied physics and mathematical theory. If Richard Dawkins openly disdains even to reply to dissenters, it is maybe time for dissenters to dismiss the blizzard of scientific data thrown at them in favour of more insistence upon examination of the basic reasoning involved with it.

Apart from the fact – a generalization but not unfair – that the operation of evolution is extrapolated from evidence for examples of micro-evolution not notably demonstrated at the macro level (which instead reveals sudden changes), essentially we are faced with two parties who claim a guiding authority for whatever declarations they make. In one case the authority is the bible and on the other “science” with its methodology. But just as biblical studies can open upon considerable divergences of opinion over sources and the interpretation of texts, so the empirical science which gets packaged for popular consumption makes claims which often conceal the range of speculation, theory and disagreement behind them. It is not unreasonable for example, to stress, as would especially creationists, that there can be quite a gap between “observational” science which treats of data reliant on tests that can be repeated, and “historical” science which offers data not directly testable and observable.

Since moreover even evolutionists are compelled to concede the limits to any account of origins via natural selection and genetic mutation alone, practically much of the argument beyond the welter of facts boils down to two differing treatments of a time factor. There is the story of a development across a time span necessarily assumed rather than absolutely proved to be almost infinite in order to cover for observed changes in the absence of a Creator to guide them. Then there is the narrative of a more designed creation over a short, or at least shorter, time span by a Creator who wouldn’t need time on an extreme scale for the often statistically improbable accidents and transitions of evolution to arrive at present human life. For both parties so much is involved with just interpretation of their facts and a species of faith that there can never be too much agreement. At most one can hope for the open discussion by no means always in evidence.

We hear much of the prejudices of creationists because they can seem obvious – almost everyone knows at least a little about Genesis which can then be dismissed as mere myth as against recently made scientific discoveries whose authority will go unquestioned. We hear less of the insufficiently examined a prioris, prejudices, even eccentricities of atheist evolutionists. These are well symbolized by the way in which the distinguished Genome Project scientist, Francis Collins, an evangelical but one who nonetheless accepts evolution, is still dismissed as a clown by most fellow scientists simply because their position is effectively that today no one but an atheist can be a true scientist. This is unacceptable and absurd, especially now there are some scientists in the style of Francis Crick, the pioneer in DNA research, prepared to attribute life on earth to extraterrestrials because of the difficulty of letting evolution account for just everything.

No more need be said in introduction. Any further points can be referred to the notes and the postscript since otherwise there is a danger the reader will not open themselves to the spirit of the poem and will approach it with already too many arguments to absorb it for what it is on its own level.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2016 in aesthetics, Poetry, religion

 

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BAROQUE: A POEM

BAROQUE

(The impressions in this poem are a composite of several experiences; no single baroque church is described and I am aware that not all baroque churches are dark and shadowy but sometimes quite light)

BAROQUE

Below weighty pillars and arches
Unpraying eyes in silence observe them:
Donors all richly attired attending the Virgin,
St Helen in triumph for tomb find and cross piece
Alexandria’s Catherine presenting her wheel.
They, like Jerome in wilderness tatters nursing
A lion, all once shone in their frames now
Much lost to high gloom, their oils half rotted
And bled into canvas that age, incense
And candle smoke darken. The coloured remains
Bear witness, fixed by grand gestures, to
Saints’ tales, pious half truths dependent
For meaning and standing on rivers and fires
Of God’s story otherwise lost to shadows or absent,
A stranger to even side altar themes.

If faith should be seen, of divine source
There’s nothing to view save the host, “he”
As wafer behind a cabinet’s doors (1)
And hidden entirely if no monstrance (2)
Bears him about in brief sunburst of gold gleam
Or above a high altar no agony’s glimpsed. There
A figure more darkened, the crucified
Hangs nailed as though it might be forever,
Sad eyes directed to heaven, limbs strained
To pure immolation. He, less Lord than an
Ever sacrificed lamb, is still caught in a
Hell world scarce overcoming earth’s ills and
The curse, unless by whatever it’s trusted
Can be re-enacted by priest’s hands amid
This scented but mouldering pomp. There
Celestial power must be drawn through
The shadows, upheld and furthered by prayers
Of the many but lessening faithful… (3)

There’s a life I am drawn to outside.
No dome to enclose nor candles to soothe me
Air, sunlight, earth and luminous sea
Let these meet and surround me. With these
Rising Godward I’ll speak into heaven
For miraculous change having chosen
Self within light, promise taken from (4)
Dawn Star and bright noon of sure resurrection. (5)
Without you, pure elements sensed and
Desired I cannot own fullness of Truth,
Cannot obtain what soul should acquire
With strength of corporeal feeling and
Nature, holding thoughts and images naked
As Francis in quest of meaning and grace. (6)
The point of reception is here, now, even
This temple, the body; with this I greet change.

NOTES

1) cabinet i.e. the tabernacle where the host is reserved
2) An implicit critique of the transubstantiation miracle whereby  Christ is not a sacrifice once offered (Heb 9:28) but repeatedly offered when the priest transforms the bread and wine.
3) A monstrance is a vessel that carries the host in processions behind glass typically surrounded by a sunburst design in gold with a cross above it.
4) Miraculous.change i.e. of soul preceding and leading to change of body (resurrection) rather than trans-elementation of bread.
5) Christ is the Morning Star (2 Pet 1:19, Rev 22:16) though Lucifer can be called that but not the Sun in full strength (Rev 1:16) i.e. noonday. A new dawn promises the various fulfilments of noonday.
6) Francis is St Francis who divested himself of his clothes to return them to his father. He also preached a sermon in the nude.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in Poetry, religion, Uncategorized

 

JEREMIAH’S LOINCLOTH: A POEM OF FAITH AND PHALLOS

I am publishing this controversial poem ahead of this week’s unprecedented address before the Pope on the 24th by a gay Catholic to the World Meeting of Families convention in Philadelphia, USA. Though the speaker Ron Belgau himself elects for celibacy, because conservative Catholics believe no one is born gay and so should not identify as such but rather seek cure (the position of most conservative Protestants), they are still opposed to the convention. Likewise liberal Catholics who think eros has some rights to expression. Obviously the would-be generous Pope still wants to uphold tradition. But the reality is the tradition to which conservatives are attached is not nearly as scriptural as imagined, not least as regards how people are born. No poem could fully cover all the points I make or try to suggest as a theologian writing  some considerably  didactic poetry, but the notes below will be some guide. (Some notes are offered more like suggestions to further inquiry and conversations and a precis of the poem or what used to be called “the argument” is added ).

loincloth JER'SLOINCLOTH

JEREMIAH’S LOINCLOTH: A POEM OF FAITH AND PHALLOS

Baruch had indeed been a blessing. (1)
In the calm of his secretary’s eyes
Their attentive, aware, knowing gaze,
What imaged futures, what revelations
Could not find reflection, not shine back
If with traces of more earthly wisdom.

Surely the Lord had granted him this. It
Was, he had privately felt, convenient
Being forbidden free choice among
Daughters of Zion.(2)  Most too easily
Turned aside to the wrong – a heavenly Queen,
In love with her and powerless idols (3).

Strong, firm, unyielding, bright as a flame
Mounts devotion to God. Woman will stray.
Her talk and her feeling imagines, suggests;
Naming, language and words were from Adam
His directions came first like an essence
Of action and order, not life’s adornment (4).

Yet even bound to and led by Law’s orders
And counsel, were any attached to the
Father Creator with genuine fervour?
Could devotion more purely or only ascend
To that sapphire of heaven, God’s floor (5)
Above limitless, testing bright sands?

Admit that beyond the desert of trials
And even by streams and waters of quiet
The holiest passions knew wrestle and
Struggle more fit to male circumcised’s will. (6)
Before love for his women the sweetest
Of psalmists could still rate a man. (7)

In Eden’s new symbol, the Temple, (8) near
The ark amid quiet flame and ascension
Of incense, peace like blue heaven’s repose
Might enfold such as he was, a priest, or
That Psalmist desiring to dwell there.
But where was rest for the many outside?

————————-11———————–

“Go”, said the Lord “and buy yourself linen”.
The linen was fresh as priests’ garments
And linen are pure. Its use was as loincloth  (9)
But not to be washed, worn only as sign.
Could a prophet complain? Isaiah was bound
To live naked, Micah determined the same. (10)

“Go” said the Lord and “in what you are wearing
Make way direct to the river Euphrates” (11).
Once arrived and removing the loincloth
There, as instructed, he had hidden his linen
In a hole to be dug in a rock by the waters.
The act was a mystery, no reason disclosed.

For long its purpose remained a deep secret
But during the interval sometimes he’d
Wondered, not least why unwashed, thus impure,
The cloth was a sign outside custom of Law.
Were not emissions by nature occasion
For dipping and corporal cleansing? (12)

Even so, might the intention be something
Of self to be gifted the rockface? –
The imageless Lord is imaged as rock.
Yet beside river waters, digging there
Had he enacted or seen something
Not of himself but other of Woman?

For was there not always a presence of
Lover, Wife, Mother, always emerging,
A something divine that’s also of Woman?
Surely God’s prophet Isaiah proclaimed such, (13)
And had not Elohim, that form of the
First name addressed to the Highest, implied it? (14)

Yes, water like flowers were blesséd, yet
For himself, for the height and depth of
His longings, did he not almost prefer
To see, touch and feel the rough naked rock
On which sun so fiercely beat down that day,
Elemental as he applied to the task?

Rock, stone, first and firm out of chaos
When all else was still waste and void! (15),
Primal, enduring, thrown up amid quake
And volcano, strong from the urge of
Creation and making! Clinging fast to
That rock was like love for God and the earth.

And the highest reaching of mind and of soul
Its purest, most undistracted direction
Was it not based on, did it not rise from
The pillars of earth and the root of himself,
Above and below joined in one psalm, one
Vibration, knowing praise of God’s force? (16)

Love moved and was where? At home, in the heart
In the heavens, with the children of men?
No matter where always with faith, its nature
Often departing from what was familiar
Taking the path of the rawly essential….
So, what had he learned beside a far river?

Long he mused. He’d returned but little conveyed
To Baruch. Sometimes we hold and desire
Secrets from even those dear. The relation
Of two may be helped by a third, spirit
And mind will sometimes demand it. Was not
Elohim the divine One as plural?

————————-111——————–

Many days having passed, the Lord said
“Go, return to Euphrates and what you
Once dug there and hid, now withdraw”. Yet
That seemed a hard labour for nothing
When the cloth emerged rotten. He was near
To complain task and sign must be worthless.

Except that all thought of the kind was not
Of the Lord, Who himself would declare
The linen was useless and as such, like
The prophet’s own people, prideful and
Evil in service of gods and of deeds so
Unrighteous they invited destruction.

 He was reminded his people were made
To be always distinctive, a house
Possessing a name, its function a praise
And a glory, its men – if only they
Saw it, if only they’d listen – bound,
Attached to their Lord like loincloth to loins [17].

The prophet knew and as well as the Lord
Jerusalem’s rebels would not grant
Him hearing. Yet the message left questions.
Which he addressed less to God than himself,
For a word once delivered and clearly,
The rest should be grasped through knowledge and faith.

Grasped no matter how novel or strange.
For now, no longer a serpent opposed to
The Lord nor a sword in conflict with life,
The member long hidden and shamed became
Symbol, with the priest’s rod that budded, sacred, [18]
Part with that all-self the Psalmist said praises. [19]

Being threefold in form it reflected
The powerful One of the plural
Elohim (20) and like prayer in its rising,
It joined with creation. Though of bodily
Form but one part and compact, its urgent
Desire might possess the whole frame.

Nor was it true, if folly compared it
With bodily features designed to allure,
Love’s member owned nothing of beauty;
In that is was closer to what is unseen,
Insubstantial, but sweet to the senses
Like incense aroma or notes of a harp

But raw too, kin to fires of God at the first.
Recalling the shaking and motion of
Earth drawn from chaos. Creation itself
Rose in explosion, foaming and violent
Darkness advancing to light and to order
Fierce and tender to nature emerging.

True, like nature, woman gave birth and helped
Finish creation; but though of its kind
Her own force was vital and flowing
As man’s, still it came after, was second,
More strong for response and reaction.
That much even the eunuchs could tell…(21)

Also one like the prophet barren of
Offspring and, wifeless. As such, why was he
Called to learn from the loincloth? Could he
See, sense or enjoy all the more strongly
The male side of God or even the female
But without bringing life to the world?  (22)

Yet even Isaiah, married with children
Spoke of a place that was higher, one
Reserved for the eunuch (23); and if for the
Regular man lost seed (because it spelled death)
Was impure, had not his own seed remained,
As though pure on his way to the river?

While some might be whores, he knew
That not all who were eunuchs were evil,
Though the Law refused them the temple (24).
Some were most righteous, God’s very own
Angels as was one who delivered him
Out of the well-pit when no one else would (25).

Of God or the most sacred urges what
Did these barren ones know? Though by law
No man could lie with a man, these did so,
Brazenly dressed and painted as women (26)
Shrieking and squealing , completely abandoned
In service of God or the gods, so they thought.

And they lived, for though Leviticus’ rule
Required execution, in practice (it might be
Because scribes endeavoured to change things (27)
Or even great Moses himself was unsure),
Deuteronomy let them to live but not
To give offerings to God from their wages (28)

And the same book excluded such men
From the list of those other ones cursed
For perversions (29). Perhaps some mercy
Had thought they arrived at their whoredom
As slaves or that, from birth little fitted to
Custom and home, in confusion they’d strayed.

Hardly he knew, though even he was aware,
Having taught no leopard will ever change spots,(30)
Major change was unlikely. At least
They were not quite the same as the violent
And greedy of Sodom, those who had lusted
Not just for women and men but for angels (31).

Yet they seemed, though Law had not added
Its curse, much self-harmed by addiction,
Disease or even by early decease
And – if they desired such – hurt by lack of
Relation for having too much, too long
Remained bound to their lives of sensation.

For unharmed, the body of soul could never
Sustain the effects of those many profane
And too meaningless couplings (32); and through
That same body it was, prophets knew,
Soul entered to different places and times,
Grasped more of earth and of heaven with God.

But then he recalled that dark time back when,
In anger with God and depressed, he’d charged the
Creator himself with great wrong: his rape (33).
Meaning what? So often in contact with God
His soul with its body was touched high and low
At base of the spine and the crown of the head (34).

Few lived or connected that way with life
Or the Lord. With or without the Creator
The regular man and his spouse, learned more
And were joined chiefly through body/soul centres
Of navel and heart as was, he could tell,
Israel’s wise king with the woman most loved (35)

It was why man and woman would always
Feel more materially owned by each other
Than prophets obsessed by God and addicted
Or those men in their shadow, the eunuchs,
For whom the life stream through body alone
Seemed like their only and dangerous truth.

When, reversing the order of female
To male, the Shulammite offered first of
Herself and her body, that way the
Male force was and could be contained;
And from there was the basis of pleasure
Prolonged, even savoured, not wasted away (36).

And so it should be, for indeed man having
Once entered the garden of woman, to her
He belonged and always – something of soul
Was absorbed to her being forever (37) Soul
Knew that, it’s why man could hate with great
Violence what he knew was great power.

Since divine grace and power are still stronger
Even two of same sex might  join as though one (38)
-The Psalmist assumed he could marry a man – (39)
But could that express the commonest way
Two men would know and enjoy who they were
Linked in spirit and mind but together distinct?

The eunuch, whether made or just born
Had more of man and of women together;
To appreciate, not to create seemed his role.
Bliss, nature or God through him all passed;
As witness he stood to lament or rejoice [40]
Or else with prophets enact and forth tell.

Not possessing but sharing, two persons
One teaching, one learning, (41) mind and will
More than body containing the life flow,
Such might be ground of attachment and not
Of necessity all and always forever (42).
When one loved without home, wife or child….

It was true that for him a man’s presence
And form might be a delight lower yet
Somehow akin to communion with God. But
How hard to admit such as prophet of all
That was pure in the land, a voice to
Recall his own people to keeping the Law.

The Law was imagined or wooed by some
As a woman, its rulings and words deemed
Adornment; but no, for him all pattern was art.
Law shaped, it fashioned a house, when it did
Not strip bare, returned man to nature and Adam,
Man unadorned, truth’s most beautiful form.

How much there might be to change and re-think!
But then, nothing was harder than what,
Quite apart from these musings of his, was that
Message revealed and to him quite uniquely,
How, in the heart and in people one day
A new covenant law would be written (43).

And dimly he thought he saw ahead to
That time a messiah regarded the eunuch
As symbol of difference and strangers
Of whom, to avoid hatred and violence
In self and more widely the nation,
It brought curse to treat with only contempt (44).

———————-IV———————-

Some of this he tried as he hadn’t before
To explain to Baruch. This proved rather
Hard and he failed, though being astute
Baruch half understood. He even laughed
Just a little, if lightly and sighed as
He sought for the words that wouldn’t offend.

“You are such a gloomy bear of a man,
Serious always! And I know it’s been
Hard for you, often quite lonely, but
I think you may now have found some new truth
With you as my teacher I’ll always learn more
And I knew you quite liked me – from that look
In your eye I’ve sometimes felt owned. Let’s not
Rush to conclusions, it’s no good idea.
But I too have thoughts I’d like you to hear ..”

NOTES

1) The name Baruch means blessing

2) Forbidden to marry Jer 16: 1- 4

3) Queen of Heaven Jer 7:18, 49:19

4). It is interesting that Adam names things before Eve’s arrival. According to theories of Écriture Féminine (Women’s writing) promoted not least by French Jewish writer, Hélène Cixous, language is phallocentric, forces woman to express a patriarchal worldview. She maintains in effect that woman is entirely a sexual organ who has feelings and impressions in numerous ways and directions that current language and writing do not express. Maybe and if so, one has to admit that the impression of this female alternative however suggestive and expressive would never make for an efficient organization of the world!

5) Reference to a description of heaven in Ex 24:10

6) A founding father, Jacob, wrestles with the angel at Peniel by the stream of Jabbok. (Gen 32:22-32)

7)  2 Sam 1:26. The love of Jonathan is rated as “passing the love of women”.

8) New studies of the Jewish Temple, especially from Margaret Barker stress the connection of Temple with Eden.

9)  Loincloth as sign, Jer 13:1-4.

10) Isaiah naked 20:2, Micah “I will go naked” (Mic 1:8). Originally prophets were often naked apparently fully as the story of Saul amongst the prophets would indicate (1 Sam 19:24). One might suspect not simply a sign as with India’s Jain monks of dedication and separation from norms, but unstated esoteric considerations (opening the whole aura to spiritual influences which clothing may prevent).

11) Tradition and this poem for convenience assumes Jeremiah went to the distant Euphrates 350 miles away indicative of the direction the future exile of Jews would take (and perhaps the direction in which Eden had lain) but the Hebrew is problematic. The prophet may as easily have gone only three miles away to the river Para and this might have better suited giving a sign to the people.

12) Any seminal emissions involuntary or otherwise occasioned a brief ritual impurity which required cleansing (Lev 15:1-3).

13) Isaiah is only one of those prophets who introduce female imagery to the predominant male imagery of deity. For Isaiah God can be a woman in labour (Is 42:14), a woman who has nursed her child (Is 49:14-15), a mother comforting children ( Is 66:13). This is necessarily, logically valid if both male and female are said to be created in the divine image (Gen 1:27). It is just (as per note 4) that in some fashion and way whatever the male force is, though it need not be superior it is still “first” in order and thus perhaps better or more spontaneously images the Creator.

14) Elohim, the first name of God is a uniplural word. Eloh is feminine singular while im is masculine plural.

15) The prophet had a vision of a world laid waste and void Jer 4:23

16) Especially Ps 103:1 but in anticipation of later claims regarding the soul which for David is the nephesh or animal soul which sustains the whole body, not the para-intellectual spirit..

17) Jer 13:11.”for as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord…”

18) Num 17:1-8. Though potency and fertility are not the prime consideration in the story of Aaron’s rod, obviously in an episode involving authority that kind of symbolism attaches to it as it did for D.H.Lawrence, author of Aaron’s Rod

19) Again Ps 103:1 “Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name”. Soul (nephesh) has implications for soul body or aura while all within me is all of the body the soul sustains.

20) In Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions, NewYork 1964, p. 88), the pornographer declares, “before me always the image of the body, our triune god of penis and testicles…” The point might be obvious and even profound as a possible basis for more mystical treatments of sex, but being neither religious or mystical Miller gets it theologically, kaballistically and almost any way wrong. He identifies the penis (which would need to be the Creator, Keter the Head) with the Spirit. It is Son and Spirit who proceed from the Father/the Head and together they are like the Ying/Yang that realize and carry creation and thus would be beneath and symbolized by the testicles. In numbers of books and articles I take the position that the Eastern churches who insist that both Son and Spirit proceed directly from the Father represents the authentic, original  quasi-subordinationist Christian belief, not the Augustinian western formulation which makes the Trinity mathematically equal while claiming the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son).

21) The word “eunuch” is used rather loosely in this poem and thus more in the way of Jesus’ time than Jeremiah’s, namely as covering for anyone, often gay, who is different and apart from family rather than only a castrate.

22) Masters and Johnson research found gays seemed to enjoy or manage sex more than straights who could be bumblers by comparison. Assuming gays are more adapted in some ways to sex, (even if this might be linked to other energies more esoterically), how much should gays be denied it? St Paul controversially advises heterosexuals it is better to marry than to burn (1 Cor 7:9) but doesn’t advise this for gays. Christian therapists with experience of gay cures have other perspectives. For a critique of St Paul on maybe “homosexuality” (a word he didn’t use) see the poem and notes at http://wp.me/p2v96G-yS  However, if sex somehow pours through a person without procreative  aim, this must say something about libido as something larger, “eros” an energy which is somewhat its own justification. That gays can be  channel pleasure but not be merely addicted to it seems implied by some exercises of the Erospirit variety in which gay men once brought to “full body orgasm” (which has something in common with woman’s orgasm), addictive sex seems overcome.

23)  Favour to eunuchs Is 56:4,5 “in my house….a monument and a name better than sons and daughters, an everlasting name”

24) No eunuch admitted to the assembly Deut 23:1

25) Jeremiah delivered by a eunuch Jer 37:7-13

26) Lev 18:22 The first century Jewish philosopher understood the celebrated Leviticus ban as most essentially a ban upon what is technically called “sacred” prostitution. The difficult even corrupt Hebrew of the text is hard to understand outside that context. (After all, how could a man lie with a man as with a woman, which is hardly what most guys would care to do, unless as often occurred in ancient prostitution for heterosexuals, the role of women was taken by men in drag?). It is most likely the aim was to avoid association with the idolatries of surrounding peoples. In ancient times sex was always a religious statement of sorts. Whether execution was ever literally intended and commonly applied in early times is debateable. A lot of ancient codes ruled execution in unlikely cases probably just codifying by it what was deemed unacceptable.

27) Jeremiah accused scribes of tampering with scripture (Jer 8:8) and it is hardly sensible of fundamentalists not to perceive at least some elements of editing and development in the Torah. Not all need be deemed tampering either but just updating. After all, the individual is supposed to reason with God –  “come let us argue it out (Is 1:18)” . The core covenant was essential but at the margins change was possible as it was for the daughters of Zelophehad who questioned revealed Law on rulings as regards female inheritance and got this changed (Num 27). One could say Yahweh is an absolute ruler who is also democratic.

28) Male prostitutes not to give offerings of  their wages. Deut. 23:18

29) The twelve curses of Deuteronomy (Deut 28:15-26), though they include upon incest and bestiality do not include same sex activity, though conservatives always like to lump the latter together with them. This looks like development in the attitude towards same sex issues.

30) That leopards don’t change spots nor the Ethiopian his skin is affirmed Jer 13:23. In ironic contrast,  religious conservatives today are convinced no one could be born gay and change therefore must occur although even Jesus affirmed some are ‘eunuchs”, i.e. gay, from birth (Matt 19:12). Extremes of extraversion and literalism cannot envisage homosexuality as any mind state or world view but only a series of sex acts.

31) Although even a modern translation like the NRSV will speak of the men of Sodom as pursuing “unnatural lust” (Jude 1:7) which makes it sound like another terror text for gays, as a footnote concedes, the Greek literally says they pursued “other flesh” or “strange flesh”, meaning angels. Along with gang rape and general violence, lusting after angels is what the story of Sodom is much about.

32) The soul (Heb Nephesh), the aura, subtle body of esoteric traditions is assumed here and also common views as regards its damage and pollution through promiscuity. Nowhere is the doctrine explicit in the bible but it seems everywhere assumed especially among the prophets and through the different words covering notions of spirit and soul. The notion a soul body that departs the body at death is perhaps most explicit in Christ’s parable of the rich fool: “this night your soul is required of you” (Luk 12:20), a soul independent of the dying body..

33) Jer 20:7. Scholarship is divided and translation likes to be discreet using words like “overwhelmed me”; but a strong case can be made for the prophet accusing God of seducing and raping him like a woman – the vocabulary echoes Deuteronomy on such matters. This is more explicable if one assumes a gay psychology and inbuilt cultural fears of the period of the disgrace of being shamed and disgraced as a man and then factors in the esoteric factor (see next note ), then it all makes sense.

34) An esoteric objection in world religions to sodomy, especially as rape, is that it can interfere with the lowest, base of spine chakra, which some systems, notably the Buddhist, won’t even deal with in meditation. It is a powerhouse for the rest of the soul body (aura/subtle body), primal, elemental, animalistic yet linked to the highest chakra to. Some may be born with automatic connection to this and controlled it allows great power, but if this region is blown open uncontrolled it can open to all kinds of imbalance, obsessions, addictions, bad kundalini trips, possession states etc. (We have hints of this in the classic gay poet Cavafy’s poem Terror, an appeal to Christ against the stalking demons who know his secrets.

35) Heterosexual sex is less potentially multi-dimensional and complex (straight, straightforward!) than gay eros and does not usually include highest and lowest but the mid range of the soul/body connection. Rather emphatically so as in some imagery of Solomon’s Song with such as “your navel is a goblet”…   Song 7:2.

36) Prolonged, savoured…. suggestions that Solomon’s way is at least partly tantric see my Solomon’s Tantric Song: Questions of Spiritual Sexuality http://amzn.to/14aa5Qe

(2012) To achieve real satisfaction beyond obsession and violence heterosexual sex may need to absorb something of the kind. Note that the poem having earlier indicated that woman comes second, suggests in sex she does and should be first and the energy flow reversed.

37) Early Israel did not even have formal marriage ceremonies. Marriage was sealed by no ceremony but intercourse. The assumption always was and remains, (as when St Paul speaks of believers marrying prostitutes I Cor 6:16)  that a male is married to whoever he has sex with. The notion seems meaningless outside of more universal esoteric traditions embracing doctrines of soul bodies which blend whenever full penetrative sex takes place. Therefore each partner joins with and imprints the soul. This would explain why the varieties of “fornication” (originally meaning prostituted sex) and divorce without good reason risk exclusion from the kingdom. Casual partners can be at variance representing different spiritual fields and beliefs like Corinthian prostitutes attached to other deities. Chastity seems less a matter of purity than safety and observing boundaries!

38) It is possible for same sex partners to become one. See my A Special Illumination, Equinox, London, 2004 which includes alleged revelation from Jesus to Christine Troxell see pp 117/8 about this. One can dismiss this as heretical private revelation but not only did enormous sincerity surround the reported experience but arguably the Davidic experience supports the notion.

39) King David made a berith (covenant but a word that can be used for marriage) with a person of same sex. While undoubtedly the biblical ideal and norm of marriage is one man and one woman, it is to ignore the fluidity of biblical thought when conservative literalism insists biblical tradition teaches only one norm and never could or should envisage exceptions. This position’s only real claim to authority is Jesus’ single reference to an original Edenic (“in the beginning”) ideal (Matt 19:5), and Eden is not the world we live in. While believers can hope to realize that ideal, they still do not have automatic authority to impose it on all.

40) In the ancient world eunuchs had ritual functions being employed especially in lamentations. It is quite clear that at the other pole gays are good at celebration; some would seem to wish to be at perpetual dance!

41) A suggestion that something nearer the Greek model might suit some gays. Also that anything like “tantra” (gay tantras have been theorized) might more intellectually than physically “contain” the energies involved, but that any arrangements need to recognize difference. The gay marriage movement is the product of American desire for equality and social sameness, whereas what is significant about gays for themselves and society is their difference rather than sameness. Keeping to and developing gay “unions” might have better reflected and served that. Like gay activist Ken Mills in Ireland who opposed the nation’s marriage equality referendum, some gays have realized the new drive has almost more significance for children and family, adoption, surrogacy etc (things some gays like Dolce and Gabbana and actor Rupert Everett don’t favour), than simply marriage.

42) Stress on difference might better illuminate ethical issues. If the sexual and psychological basis of gay relations are different, should one expect the same kind of contracts and values?

43) Jeremiah is known as the prophet of the New Covenant,  Jer 31:31-34

44) Matt 5:22   In the Sermon on the Mount’s section on anger, it is forbidden to dismiss anyone as “fool”/worthless person. This is almost inexplicable in context unless one realizes racah  could function as Aramaic slang for something like “effeminate pervert” or “faggot” (according to the Peshita Aramaic bible). Cursing persons for a faggot then appears to be symbolic of all and any angry dismissive rejections that risk generating violence in self or others towards  outsiders, sexual, social, racial or whatever.

PRECIS/ ARGUMENT

The poem begins with suggestion of a possible more than business feeling between Jeremiah and his secretary. J, forbidden to marry but not unhappy to be so, suspects some connection between male impulses in establishing attachment to the Creator (the poem implicitly questions contemporary theories of “woman’s writing” where such as religion is concerned). God soon imposes on his prophet the task of a mysterious sign with a loincloth. J wonders about its meaning, not least since not washing what he must wear seems to run against the purity laws. Despite himself, and even while performing the sign of hiding the cloth beside the Euphrates, J recognizes something feminine in God but for himself instinctively still prefers the “masculine” side of God and himself and nature. He also wonders about love. Its demands can separate (as he had to do from Baruch to go to the Euphrates) as much as join. And again even love seems to him somehow elemental, raw and male. He also realizes true love between any couple might require something like love on the side to survive – a love affair with God? Later with the loincloth gone rotten the prophetic sign seems valueless but God agrees about the negativity. The sign was about a faithless Israel needing to be as attached to God as loins to the loincloth. J doesn’t interrogate God about the revelation but realizes that among other things the penis is assigned new dignity and symbolic meaning. It also appears to certify his intuition of the role of the masculine in the roots of spirituality and life organization, but if so it still makes no sense that a celibate should realize it. The revelation makes for questions about sex and its expression , especially given that for Israel sex is about reproduction. But there is the further problem  that J had himself once accused God of raping him. What did that really mean, why would he even think it? The secret lies in the hidden (esoteric) features of sex which could include heightened awareness of male or female energies or both within the self and relative to God through reception of divine energies/eros but through different parts of the soul body (aura). The idea is unfamiliar so  the prophet can only look at the case of the eunuch and/or male temple prostitutes as any point of comparison. Truth about them then proves to be more grey biblically and socially. Their unsatisfactory lives could nonetheless be influenced by mismanagement of inborn tendencies that engage different parts of the soul body that the prophet himself naturally intuits. As J has always taught the leopard doesn’t change his spots, likewise the relevant impulses would need less change than recognition, use and proper management distinct from heterosexual sex and its organization. As had been in the case of Solomon, the latter might ideally be quasi-mystical or tantric to be fully successful. The role of the born eunuch type by contrast was more (angelically) about vision and praise than reproduction, family or exclusive bodily possession on the material plane. If it was to be expressed at all, (and the “eunuch” role seemed natural and necessary including for clarity and inspiration itself), its own form of relating might be more akin (by implication) to the Greek teacher/pupil relation  than the regular marriage by whose standards it could not automatically be judged (an implicit critique of modern marriage equality as universal panacea). Not that the prophet, who does not seek to justify simple licence of relations,  is quite sure. He is left with much to consider. He nonetheless acknowledges he is designated prophet of “the New Covenant”, so new views of life and sex could be included. He looks towards a future Messiah’s declarations. He can’t explain his many thoughts to Baruch who proves a bit coquettish,  conceding in response he was always aware J rather fancied him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Poetry, religion

 

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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 the 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 that 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 attachment 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. Poets and artists of the Romanatic era 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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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.
One of two arms was wholly lost,
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 is

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

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2015 in Poetry

 
 
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