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IRISH CHANGES (A poem in a time of endangered free speech)

   

[On 16th July, a distinguished, award  winning investigative journalist, Gemma O ‘Doherty, who had been highlighting disturbing levels of crime, corruption and cover-ups in modern Ireland, had two youtube channels permanently removed by Google – its European headquarters are in Dublin’s docklands – including  for alleged  “hate speech”. Prose  comment on the issue follows the poem  along with Notes]

IRISH CHANGES

By a city’s black pool where lodged
The unbanished raven of Morrigan, who,
Doom’s queen, cast dark shadows on Erin,
Will and fancy would choose for avoidance ]1].
And Dublin, against what centuries
Dealt it as fate, would achieve that. It became,
Despite all, a theatre of life, half rococo,
Ironic, where, like mistress and flunkey
Arriving to further a turn in the plot,
Each dweller would add their own story
Would bespeak some new sign, at best
Gifting by chance an epiphany’s light.        [2]

Greece, Rome, Middle Ages, Baroque
Aren’t strongly evoked by symbol or relic,
(The feeling for these is near wholly absent),
And no force of invasion would quite
Leave its mark…Unless you’d insist that
Through love of pure abstract opposed
To the real, the inhabitants joined with
Colonial power to let Georgian angles
Direct lines of sight. Such might seem a reply
To the circles of Kells and a natural motion
Still central, essential, embracing the all. [3]

Between the lure of sea and bay and
Sight of cloud-swept hills beyond,
So little fixed by monument and time,
The city set more store elsewhere: in thought
And myth, the last self-made, divided up,
Renewed by who within themselves became
The tales and most points in between to find.
No calm and darkened sanctuaries
With altars and their candle flame
Preserving mysteries of eternal kind,
Could quite engage to stop or slow
A circulation of ideas with images,
Some from afar, Formation’s sphere,
Some local only, near as terrace door. [4]

James Joyce, I never liked you much
But take for truth you understood the
Genii loci of your home, its formed and
Re-formed mysteries, their darting motions
Of exchange. But little more you grasped
Because, to speak in tongues – which was your aim –
You were not aerial enough to raise
Even your Talmudic mind above
The barren Qlippoth zones of earth,      5]
The tar black pool. You wanted matter
Meshed with spirit, strove for union of
Midden heap with air; you hoped for
End to boundaries, borders, tribes.
It can’t be done, a reason why
At night in dream it’s always done
Replayed forever with the same result,
And plain to see no washerwoman cleans
The linen’s stains in waters of your riverrun.

But woken in the realms of day (where
Bloom selves would be better left
To liminality of gays), the nightmares     [6]
Leak their poison out. It falls on free society
Where dislocated characters of dream assume
Real life; and they undo what lies between
Howth’s Giant Head and Castleknock
And lands beyond the monster feet with fields
You thought were lasting, but are not.    [7]
You should have known, you maybe did,
Your Daedalus maze leads but one way. It goes
By secret path direct to Babel’s tower.
Delusion-ridden, proud and doomed.    [8]

It’s true this time the imperial plan         [9]
Rules fields go last, not first. Already towns,
And suburbs wither, seedy in decline.
And though a Liffey bridge now bears your name
Near towers of sleek modernity
(Prime centres of the censors too),
Essential unities are lost. It’s said
The rural parts (that bear tradition, but
At cost too great) will follow suit
Its populations must depart, make way;
In time replacements will arrive,
Already in the towns they do, sometimes
By stealth, if need be, night – it’s justified,
It’s unopposed. If voiced, a people’s pain,
A nation’s right, will stand condemned as
Merest race, or border-conscious sin,
At best an ignorance that should become
More generous, more pleased to “share” [10]

Long centuries which denied the name
And land too many gave lives to reclaim,
Are in brief years ignored, dismissed
And near erased supporting aims of
New imperialists, the bureaucrats and
Mediarats that oversee a holocaust
Of inclusion. Acceptance too for even those
Without intention to belong or learn, the
Unappeased, the mad enraged, all judged
As equal with the rest, new sudden inheritors
At law, of land and place that some
Would even spit at while – near
Dispossessed and drowned in debt –
The new despised scarce dare complain.
But then, why bother to resist
When all from priest to media,
As though a basilisk rose and stared,
Can offer only silence or more lies
When vandals strike a sacred place?     [11]

Fit for a Finnegan’s list but little else
There’s hardly more than names remain. There’s
No Sinn Fein, (ourselves alone), nor is there
Fianna Fail for warriors, (they’re nowhere found),
Nor Fianna Gael, tribe of the Gaels, (they’ll soon
Be a minority), all names like these
Are meaningless in light of day;
When crime gains hold across the land
And many who rule, or so pretend,
Do so through only lies and from amid
Enlarging swamps of rank corruption.

It once was said that Albion gnawed
At Erin’s flesh, a planter where he’d
Neither owned nor sown. Now prisoned again,
At first unwittingly, to new plantation lords
Europa’s progency sucks Erin’s blood,
This time it’s likely to a lingering death.
She is too limited, too almost delicate
And new remade to bear the rude
Attentions of a ravening beast.
But lulled by bribes and blandishments
She still consents, sleep-walking to extinction,

Indecent from the first, Europa’s line,
Which birthed the monster widely feared
Awaits to snatch the maiden for its
Nimrod’s plan of babbling building Babel’s
Tower of artificial unity again.
So, here at last from nightmare steps, Yes, HCE
That’s Mr “Here Comes Everybody” himself
With Mrs ALP, this time a shambling, ambling,
Trousers only Deutsche Frau, a Washerwoman
Smacking stains, flip flap, flap flop, who wants
To talk, to be familiar, put up welcome signs
To one and all at your expense for your own good. [12]

Ireland you could resist, you maybe will, but,
Like a Noah’s generation, one who                         [13]
Eats and drinks and lives the usual way
Right to the end, heedless of darkening skies
And thunder’s roll, you may accept to hear
The lies, put off the day, prefer deceptions
Of a dreaming sleep to revelations of
A risen wake…. Whatever’s chosen and
Is done, there’s no eternal round to trust,
It’s but a fable for the blind; the truth is
What is gone is gone and neat avoidance
Has its term. Your utter end, so Patrick                 [14]
Thought, is drowning flood. But whether that’s
For near or far, meanwhile from Dublin
To remotest field you’d need to wake
To ban the raven and reclaim a name.

 

NOTES

[1] Dublin is literally Dubh Linn, Black Water or Pool. Morrigan is goddess of doom, death and chaos. One of my Ireland-related articles theorizes this goddess is an important archetype for Ireland, never quite confronted or exorcized. Her depiction in a central Dublin sculpture is meaningful, albeit she is not expressly Dublin-related in myth. See “Ireland’s   Old/ New Spirituality problems” https://wp.me/p2v96G-126  especially sub- sections, “Who owns the Sovereignty of Ireland?”  and “Soul and Face”.
[2] James Joyce had a theory and aesthetic of “epiphany”, explored especially in his Dubliners stories.
[3] Kells i.e. the Book of Kells illuminated manuscript which contains not only circles but swirling patterns which embrace human and natural
[4] Even where Ireland has been dominated by Catholicism there has always been an alternative thought mode, close to native temperament and imagination. It is mystically independent of Catholicism and similar to the likes of Jewish mystical Kabbalah. The latter  imagines reality in spheres like the Sphere of Formation joined to a whole tree of life scheme by lightning flash.
[5] Qlippoth is the lowest of spheres or the evil reverse of all the spheres in mystic Kabbalah, a sort of earth hell.
[6] In his Ulysses and Us, critic and doyen of Irish studies, Declan Kiberd, supplies an account of Bloom’s character as an experience of liminality almost gay. However, an authentically gay character along these lines (and arguably the value and meaning of homosexuality is involved with a socially needed liminality) might  produce something more poetic and affecting as in the case of Jamie O’Neil’s accomplished novel in Joycean mode, At Swim Two Boys.
[7] Finnegan’s Wake envisages Dublin as a giant spread out between Howth to Castleknock, suburbs of the city.
[8] Babel and its associated tower is associated with Nimrod (Gen 10:10) whose name means “rebel”. Babel was built to prevent the spread and formation of people and nations (Gen 11.4)  which God then insures by imposing the variety of languages. A distinction of nations is assumed to the last page of the bible. Anything other than nations is an imperialism, something  which belongs only to God. The “broken” half finished design of the  Parliament of Europe building (see image above) is variously seen as modelled on the tower of Babel, either suggesting an incomplete work of unity awaiting fulfilment in our days, or as (unconsciously at least)  symbolizing  the traditionally recorded judgement upon such efforts. But the point is that any New World Order risks becoming like conquering Nimrod a species of human imperialism. See next note.
[9] This stanza is much involved with journalist Gemma O’Doherty’s expose of  various aspects of social and political life in Ireland. According to Michel Gorbachev, March 23rd in London, “the EU is the new European Soviet”. What critics of the EU like O’Doherty maintain is suggestive for  this idea, is not least the censorship and ideological labelling which renders all dissenters, “far right” enemies of state, “racists”, or something negative. Such  labelling aimed at suppression of free speech and regardless of plain facts  is characteristic of the communist systems in the  initial stages. O’ Doherty regards Ireland as a chief zone of experiment in this direction being small enough to impose upon and exploit.
[10] The extremely pro-Europe, Soros friendly Irish President, Michael. D. Higgins, has made clear in a recent Leipzig speech that Ireland iexists simply to “share”. But who shares what with just whom and why? Why should Ireland, long exploited and colonized suddenly be a still more invaded home for the world”?
[11]  Echoes of events in especially the cathedral city of Tuam, (often called the most Catholic town in Ireland), and its surrounds. Churches have suffered attacks on their images and in the Cathedral square the elevated statue of the bishop who helped found the cathedral, has had its head sawn off. If reported at all, such events are improbably dismissed at the work of drunken louts ignoring for example that the bishop’s statue would require a  planned midnight operation with tools and ladder while a pattern of decapitation bespeaks a specific ideology and a warning to religion in Ireland. But fear prevents the truth being spoken.
[12]  HCE or Humphry, Chimpden Earwicker, alias Here Comes Everybody,  and ALP or Anna Livia Plurabelle are main all-embracing, all -inclusive symbolic if not always quite archetypal characters in Finnegan’s Wake to the point of dissolution of identities. But in fairness to Joyce’s dissolution of things to the point of chaos  and his basic rejection of any conventional patriotism,  the linguistics of his vision are still to be seen as a revenge upon a form of imperialism Joyce did question, namely, the  imposition of the ultimately alien English language. As  regards ALP, and because archetypes are real, Mutti Mummy Merkel is well and truly a Great Mother Washerwoman with natally five planets in water, four in mother sign Cancer, the sign most associated with chaos.
[13]  Noah’s generation. “As it was in the days of Noah….”Matt 24: 37/8
[14]  Re St Patrick’s supposed forecast of Ireland’s end, see “Is the Patrick Prophecy for Ireland Encoded?”  https://wp.me/p2v96G-MR

GEMMA O’DOHERTY, CENSORSHIP  and a “HATE SPEECH” CHARGE

You don’t have to endorse everything Gemma O’Doherty says to be appalled at the action taken (16.7.2019) at Google Ireland to close down the two youtube channels of this veteran, award-winning investigative journalist. Over the years O’Doherty has researched numerous issues and exposed too many crimes and abuses to merit quite this kind of treatment. Ironically the charge against her includes “hate speech” against gays, i.e. homophobia.

I happen to be gay and published on gay issues and I don’t buy it. I am not so thin skinned, easily offended and needing protection as to dismiss all O’Doherty says about crime, corruption and cronyism in today’s virtually Mafia Eire merely because she finds LGBTQ rather “silly” and potentially dangerous if pushed on young children in schools. These are anyway ideas that many people have. Gemma could be said to have a blind spot and/or information gap as regards gays, but it’s hardly a major subject with her in the first place, and should not justify a case against otherwise important work. Providing it’s decently enough expressed, best leave contentious matters, anything from gays to immigration open for debate rather than automatically censor them out on some PC basis. The decline of free speech of all fronts is currently a great problem of our times as O’Doherty  has often had occasion to declare.

What like many people O’Doherty fails to understand when she generalizes on sexuality issues, is that there is considerable difference between gay and queer theories and identities as I recently stressed in an article. (“Rainbow questions in a gay month” https://wp.me/p6Zhz7-66 ). Moreover, if there is a connection between LGBTQ and globalism as O’Doherty now suspects (which may sound mere conspiracy theory alarmist to those totally unacquainted with these matters), it has something to do with highly politicized, basically hard left Queer theory. This, while it talks individual rights and may get called liberal progressive, can entertain more radical agendas many would baulk at if they were clearly acknowledged. As it is, there is increasingly ’s a hard left tendency to use all and any sexuality issues,(along with exaggerated talk of “racism” and “patriotism”), as a pretext to accuse society and individuals of prejudice. They then employ the laws rather than the wider democratic system to alter society’s direction, early moving to close down consensus politics  and free speech as in Communist societies,  and tyrannizing over what are matters of conviction for people.

An  example would be the recent UK sacking of a doctor for refusal to accept as a woman and address as “madam”, a six foot tall man retaining  a full beard,  (the refusal was deemed infringement of equality laws). This, belongs with the kind of social revolution entertained by Queer’s Cultural Marxist agendas. It does not belong with gay theory nor the opinion of the average gay person.

As someone who carries no card for left or right but votes according to whatever strikes me as the best in policies and persons at the time, perhaps I should look to be suing people if they opportunistically judged my poem guilty of one or other PC failure.  Would I be supported? It’s most unlikely and I would be wasting my time to protest. Today’s political talk is very one-sided, considerably media supported in what is altogether an increasingly serious situation about  which people  need to be more aware. Whatever…if Google (its European headquarters are in Dublin and O’Doherty and supporters have been demonstrating outside it these last few days) dislikes “prejudice”, then I dislike the censorship of free speech….. And if anyone cares to be aware of the kind of censorship from the Irish establishment I have myself suffered and for issues quite removed from O’Doherty’s concerns, see the final  section (“To lay my burden down”) of my article “Staging Sweeney Frenzy: Irish parable or problem” https://wp.me/p2v96G-1b2

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2019 in culture, current affairs, Poetry

 

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THE WHO, WHAT AND WHY OF MARY POPPINS

Where and How and When and Why – had nothing to do with them [The Banks children].They knew as far as she [Mary Poppins] was concerned those questions had no answers. The bright shape speeding through the air above them would forever keep its secret”

Late last year,  after more than fifty years and much fanfare, the film Mary Poppins Returns reprised the charm of the original blockbuster Mary Poppins.  This time the update actually had a credible cockney in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Jack;  but despite being a bit closer to the  spirit of the original Mary Poppins books, it still didn’t take us nearer to the mystery  of the peculiar nanny of Pamela Travers’  books – a saga oddly described by her  as her  “autobiography”. Without being either a Travers scholar or a strong MP fan, the following aims to satisfy some curiosity by hopefully solving a few supposedly unsolvable mysteries. (A whole range of academic essays on Poppins and her author does of course exist for those who want theories, and a standard text for those who want to know many facts is Valerie Lawson’s Mary Poppins She Wrote, 2010).

My  Who  of  Mary Poppins defines who Mary Poppins most nearly and essentially is. The What will describe Pamela Travers’ relation to myth and mysticism she is dealing with. The How will examine, in line with Travers’ own fascination with astrology, her birth chart that considerably describes this person who didn’t wish others to know much about her. I believe the following is sufficiently accurate, even definitive. What I remain least certain about is the extent to which some of Travers’ ideas were arrived at, intellectually by research (she was a keen mythographer as her study What the Bee Knows,1989 indicates), or more spontaneously from archetypal affinity and symbolic logic.

That MP remains quite such an unsolved mystery is regrettable. Travers, whom writers like Yeats and AE believed had a touch of genius, despite her general popularity, remains  somewhat unknown and underrated as a writer with  messages to convey. And among other things, Travers, who called herself, not an Australian but “an Irishwoman with a Scotch mother”, represents an interesting and significant case of Celtic displacement. Some things said here complement other observations re Irish life and culture on this site like ” ‘Real Irish’ and Irish Reality” https://wp.me/p2v96G-17D. The subject of Travers is even a bit personal to me because of Ireland, having lived like her  in Queensland, in Dublin and London’s Chelsea, travelled in Asia (where I’ve also lived) and been in and out of love with various Asian ideas and art forms. Travers’  questing thus has some  resonance for me…though I don’t think  I should have greatly enjoyed MP if I had read her as a child!

AUSTRALIAN BEGINNINGS  AND PROBLEMS 

If she had ever been more obviously an Australian writer, P L Travers (1899-1996), who always aspired to be a poet, might have been more appreciated above the entertainment level. However she was seriously out of love with her place of birth where in her late teens and early twenties before leaving Australia in 1924, she had been a successful enough journalist and Shakespearian actress. But though her father had died suddenly of an epileptic seizure when she was only seven and a half, as very much her father’s daughter, she didn’t even wish to belong because he certainly hadn’t.

Pamela Travers was born in 1899 as Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland (the Helen name got dropped and Pamela assumed around the time PL was a Shakespearean  actress in Australia). Ever the fantasist, she claimed her father owned a sugar plantation there, though wealth and standing of this order applied more to her mother’s side – her mother was sister of the premier of Queensland. In fact, her father who remains a bit of a mystery to biography, was a bank manager (shades of Mr Banks) later demoted to a bank clerk possibly for health reasons (he was probably alcoholic). Travers, a name his daughter later assumed for literary reasons, was her father’s first name. His surname was Goff but Travers Robert Goff, who had arrived in Australia via a stint in Ceylon, was related to the Davis Goffs of Wexford and Galway. These were Anglo-Irish, probably rather horsey ones, who would later find PL’s obsession with Irish myth and life alien.

Travers Goff was, or strove to be,  ultra-Irish, carrying Ireland around with him (much as Joyce did Dublin) and insuring everything from horses to clothes would be Irish. Weeping over Irish poetry and past national woes, he was un Goff-like in everything save being Protestant, and managing to be born in London. The family disconnect seems so strong it’s tempting to speculate Travers Robert was illegitimate. (I find that idea more satisfactory than notions he was a talkative East Ender son of a shipping agent with an  improbable obsession with Erin’s isle! But even if his Irish origins constituted an elaborate deception, it should be recalled the mother’s side was Scottish and we are looking at some kind of Celtic family set up).

Though Travers Robert died young and after the family had removed to Allora in New South Wales, he was not the only Irish member of the household which included an Irish maid who liked to cast an air of mystery around herself and who cherished a strange umbrella with a parrot’s head – a first image supplied to the composite of being that would be MP. Although it was northern hemisphere mists and fantasy held the real glamour for PT, Australia had its influence. While PT complained Australians lacked a proper sense of tradition and the light Gaelic (rococo?) touch, numbers of her characters like Nellie Rubina,  Miss Quigley and Mrs Correy are based on persons known and observed in especially Bowral where the family removed after Goffs’ death. But arguably the greatest influence from Australia was the nature and atmosphere. The unusually brilliant and “near” outback  night skies made for a lifelong obsession with the heavens that Mary Poppins is able to touch, arrange or paint. But even more haunting were the  vivid twilights which seemed to convey some principle PT wanted to grasp, a  point and place of transition to which Mary Poppins belonged.

According to Travers, Mary Poppins had “arrived” to her  as a  fully fledged person or vision in 1934, but we know she had written a tale back in 1926 which included a Mary Poppins. So at least the name was well established but; her general  tutelage under the poet AE,  (who recommended letting fantasy emerge unfettered and writing something about the adventures of a witch), had been edging the author towards the magical nanny for some time.

Travers is supposed to have seen the MP name written in a book and just liked it, but I suspect she invented it. She possibly saw herself as a Mary from Maryborough who, like MP, who insists her  home is wherever she resides, “popped in” to people and places all the time.  Travers herself would voyage a great deal  internationally, but her true “home” remained an issue for her. However, reaching Ireland and getting involved with especially AE (George Russell), the Irish Blake, an economist, poet and painter, was the beginning of it. It marked her first engagement with her gurus (who would include Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti) because ever since the death of her father troubled the author’s childhood faith, she was on a quest for God and Truth liable to be confused with attachment to father figures.

Seen by many in England as a crackpot, AE  (for  Aeon of the new era)  was editor of The Irish Statesman and respected in Ireland but positively feted as a sage and prophet in America where he dined with Roosevelt and advised the administration. Travers could only feel flattered to be able to be mentored by AE (her “Zeus”)  and stay with him when he was away from Dublin at  Horn Head, Donegal, which he considered the power centre for Irish myth and revelation. There was no  affair – the married AE admitted not quite to understand women and was rather puritanical. And something in the romance of connection began to go wrong and it was Travers’ health. Possibly it was more psychological than physical, but the ailments began that would never quite leave her. AE recommended regimes and diets which sometimes worked but nothing ever really cured. AE recommended Travers live in England and visit Ireland rather than settle there, as the effect of the nation was so strong she could use the distancing. She went along with this and the first version of MP got written in Pound Cottage, Sussex (not to be confused with Stone Cottage in Sussex where Ezra Pound and Yeats sometimes lived and wrote). Later, and remembering AE’s recommendations, Travers, who spent most of WW 11 in America, on the suggestion of the Minister for Indian affairs passed a couple of fruitful years in Arizona. It was a region AE  had loved, and since Travers was relatively healthy there, one suspects she needed Australian or the similar Arizonian climate  for her precarious health as much as Celtic zones for mind and soul!

AE supplied Travers ideas and riddles to last a lifetime. Calling himself a Pantheist, AE had been involved with Mme Blavatsky’s theosophy which meant that Celtic myth blended in his mind with Asian themes (which they sometimes can do). Travers would both assimilate and question themes like the unity of all things. It was a huge loss to Travers when AE died in 1935. It was like another loss of another father and was the first loss of a guru.

The parent/child, teacher/pupil relationship would be more important for Travers than regular love. She never married having loved and lost in relation to the lazy, boozing and affluent bohemian lady’s man, Francis Macnamara. Everyone seemed to like him, even Yeats was willing to help him improve his writing, but he couldn’t be bothered. Despite the manifest weaknesses, Travers seemed able only to idolize him and even confessed that if she had written of MP for anyone it was for this “Irish poet” – who, ironically, admitted he had no care for children’s literature. She had intense relations in Sussex with Madge Burnand (a companion recommended for her English existence by AE) and  Jessie Orage.  There may or may not have been lesbian attachments involved but the greater obsession would finish by being the overwhelming desire of an unmarried woman of forty to have a child. In a sad, mad moment in Dublin in 1940, Travers selfishly and life-destroyingly intervened to adopt only one of two twins, grandsons of  Yeats’ first biographer, Joseph Hone, whose son’s family couldn’t cope with more children.

The repercussions would prove deadly.  The twins, one raised in wealth and one in poverty, accidentally met and finally discovered their identity aged seventeen. Neither quite recovered from the shock and the lies they’d been fed and both would fall victim to alcoholism. If Travers had wanted to assume the role of an intervening Mary Poppins, the experiment seriously failed. Or had she unwittingly demonstrated what was wrong with the character and ideas of her fictional creation whoever precisely she might be?

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WHO: THE KEY QUESTION : WHO IS MARY POPPINS?

     

It’s notorious, and the subject of the itself somewhat fictionalized Saving Mr Banks film, that the author was twenty years wrangling with Walt Disney over how the mysterious nanny should be portrayed. Initially she wept tears of rage over the final result, (though she later settled down and decided the film was good at its own level). But just who and what was the Mary Poppins (i.e most essentially as she combines some traits of the author’s and other people’s character), writing of whose departure caused the author to drench her typewriter with tears. This itself points some  very deep complex and bedrock of feeling –  despite the fact that the nanny was anything but obviously appealing!  !n fact, hardly has children’s fiction ever contained a less attractive lead figure. Julie Andrew’s MP is “never angry, only firm”, but fictional MP is no fairly godmother, rarely smiles, almost always scolds and glares, threatens and berates and proves singularly unsympathetic to any condition a child could suffer like toothache. The children love and cling on to MP and want her back but only because they know, or just suspect, she is the pretext of their unique adventures and she will at least keep them safe.

Mary Poppins is, as the author kept insisting to Walt Disney, a character “with a dark side”. There is a lot of the witch about her and in awareness of the contrary,  difficult side of Travers’ character, her Irish mentor/guru, AE, had suggested she should write something fictional about a witch. However it was merely a trait in her character AE  felt she should express; there was no suggestion she was or should become a witch.  And despite her mystical explorations, Travers never became one, nor did she especially approve of the nowadays often related feminism. It was more a case, Jungian style, of seeing what the shadow self could be made to render up and transform into something positive. However, not to give too much credit to AE, although I have not read any James Stephens in years to check it out, I would suspect this member of AE’s Dublin circle and author of very ironic fantasy tales in urban settings was a likely influence upon Travers’ literary development.

MP wasn’t even conceived as a basis of children’s fiction but for anyone. The first pages were only written by the author for herself (i.e therapeutically), and only got further developed and offered for publication at the insistence of Madge Burnand. So while, for publication and remuneration purposes, it was expedient to keep the connection with children  once begun, I think we could say the real affinity is more with some writings like those of Kafka which will employ a fairy tale format to convey basically philosophical, often dark and grim messages. MP invites inquiry into reality because things aren’t what they appear. There is a whole world of marvels, dreams and mysteries that we should welcome and explore….but not uncritically either.

At their friendliest, MP tales have something of Wisdom literature about them, fable and parable or lyrical moments a bit like the poems of Rilke especially those where he personifies nature.  MP destabilizes and questions. In “Faithful Friends” Michael would repair some items with putty but has been forbidden to do so by Miss Andrew who wants them to stay exactly as they are. “Nothing does that”, interposes MP.  From the life and pen of Travers this  is almost guaranteed to be one of her nods in the direction of Buddhist impermanence teaching. So MP is first and foremost a teacher, more governess than nanny. When she leaves for the last time it’s said, “in the summer days to come…..they would remember Mary Poppins and all she had told them” almost as though some body of doctrine were involved.

Travers was notoriously secretive about herself and her work adopting her mother’s and the admired Beatrix Potter’s “never explain” principle. Accordingly she simply refused to answer questions about her chief creation.  The stern  manner and plain appearance of MP nevertheless owes something to Travers’ calvinistically unbending but well-intentioned Scottish great aunt, Ellie, who was generous towards Travers in her will. I should say, too, that the severities and austerities of the western guru, Gurdjieff, under whose spell Travers existed at one point, added to the emphasis on discipline and severity. The already mentioned Irish maid with the parrot umbrella played her part in building the mystery.

In a more than usually frank interview for the Paris Review but given when she was in her eighties, Travers insists the origins of MP were “entirely spontaneous and not invented”; however she admitted that despite always having had an interest in the Mother Goddess, it had “only recently”[!?] struck her that if one were to look for mythological origins of MP  then she “is either the Mother Goddess or one of her creatures” (1). She didn’t state which one, but I do so below with the greatest certainty possible.

Much earlier on Travers explicitly described the whole MP series as “autobiographical”. Apart from the fact the Cherry  Tree Lane setting is said to have something to do with a corner of Chelsea Travers often lived in (but with no park opposite and whose model might be Kensington Gardens), “autobiographical” has to mean philosophically and mystically. Travers explored many mythical and mystical traditions, East and West, though keeping close to the a degree of western Platonism as seems fairly clear from such as The Children in the Story where the three princes Floritain, Veritain and Amor are the Platonic trinity of Beauty, Truth and Love. The trio also seem to be on a casual basis with MP, able to laugh at her as the Banks children can’t. Again, it might be relevant that AE’s Dublin friends included Oliver St John Gogarty (the Buck Milligan of Joyce’s Ulysses). He took a fancy to Travers that was unreciprocated (perhaps because he was married), but she may have assimilated some of his ideas about bringing Celtic and classical culture closer together (in a sort of revolt against Yeatsian culture that Gogarty shared with Joyce).   

I think we can assume with AE that MP represents a figure of myth, a goddess. Even AE  wasn’t sure which though he suggested Maia who does appear in “Christmas Shopping” but according to the Paris Review article, he  had hinted to her MP might even be a modern version of Hinduism unsettling goddess Kali.  One of the key stories for the identity problem is,  in my opinion,  Full Moon from the first book. This  has adults locked in cages and treated like zoo animals waiting feeding time and the almost morbid atmosphere recalls a tale like Kafka’s “The Starved Man”. (The feeling of being trapped and punished is quite strong in the stories and “Lucky Thursday” in which children are left apparently permanently trapped in the kingdom of the cats, is hardly reassuring bedtime material).

Full moon celebrates a birthday and it’s not a birthday in winter as the children don’t drift out to it in winter clothes. The children  meet the  king of the beasts who is a Lion. The birthday turns out to be   Mary Poppins own, a fact drawn attention to by the hissing voice of a Hamadryad (normally a tree or tree spirit but apparently in this instance a snake)  near to the snakes who bow to her. A bear tells the children the Hamadryad is “Lord of our world” (the animal’s world) – “Lord of the jungle” hiss the snakes and in honour of the nanny the Hamadryad sheds a skin for her. The company call for “The Great Chain” presumably the Great Chain of Being of medieval philosophy. The children eventually wake from a dream but as though in proof it wasn’t that, find the shed skin is around MP’s waist.

This is not a story  that, so far as I know, has captured neo-pagan imagination like the celebrated Pan episode in The Wind in the Willows,  but it is in its way very pagan. It is  certainly making out MP to be a species of deity who has a life apart from that of mere mortals. Indeed, the point is made clear enough early in the first book when Amelia in “Bad Tuesday” asks what MP is doing. She receives the response, “”Oh, just going around the world you know’ said Mary Poppins airily as though going round the world was something you did every day”. So how do we see this? We know that the nanny arrives in Cherry Tree Lane on the East Wind. This could of course symbolize the author coming to Europe from the East, but it can also symbolize a deity nearer to home than Australia. In “The Marble Boy,” we learn MP is close friends with Neptune  in the Isles of Greece.

I think these details, plus the fact that the very last MP story has the nanny as niece of the Man in the Moon, hence lunar related, are enough to be getting on with and even to solve the problem. Travers was born on August 9th, so she is a Leo/Lion traditionally Lord of the Beasts. Is there a deity specifically celebrated in August? Yes. It is the moon goddess Diana, who was born on a Greek island, Delos, and who is herself  a lord of animals, of the hunt and nature. Traditionally Diana’s day could be celebrated in mid August or on any full moon of that month. Diana the huntress is typically portrayed with a hunting bow, but she can be portrayed with a poppy. Does Poppins, hide Diana Poppy? Diana is unmarried and childless, possibly lesbian, yet she can be a patron of children (Travers would disastrously adopt a child) as also, in the ancient world, the common people  and slaves. The latter point, despite Travers’ manifest snobberies and increasingly wealth, fits with her vague quasi-socialism which owes something to AE, to her admired Bernard Shaw and conflicts of her time in the context of which she declared, forced to a choice between Fascism and Communism she would prefer Communism by a small margin.

But Diana equates with MP in another way. Catholicism as opposed to Protestant and Orthodox churches,  holds a doctrine of the Assumption (or Ascension) of the Virgin into heaven. This festival, probably in rivalry with Dianic/ Artemis cult, got set for 15th August. There seems no question that in “The Other Door” which describes MP’s last of three departures and effectively ends the saga – later written tales would belong to earlier times within it – the highly emotional feeling is a form of Assumption, a religious event. “Then darkness folded its wing about her and hid her from their eyes”. This is a clear echo of the biblical “He was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9), especially as it’s said the Banks children will remember what MP has told them as though it’s a body of doctrine to be preserved.

Does the Diana association mean that Travers had crypto-Catholic yearnings or neo-pagan urges? While that could be, at least consciously I think we are obliged to say she didn’t. To insist otherwise  comes up against hard fact that she remained an Anglican Protestant and when living in Chelsea was a communicant at the local Christchurch.  Her case is a bit like that of the Anglican T.S. Eliot who also underwent a Gurdjieff phase and peppered his verse with references to Asian scriptures. Also, as regards Asian religions Travers significantly denied one of their  fundamentals, namely belief in reincarnation. Travers perceived herself as a pilgrim in line with the famous Bunyan hymn sung at her funeral. But the peculiarly religious tone to MP’s assumption seems underlined by the way in which Travers signs off from this crucial story of the third book with the inscription “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (Glory to God in the highest). This, if it doesn’t render MP a divinity or convenient literary divinity substitute in some fashion, at least suggests writing about MP is felt to be Travers’ life vocation fulfilled.

Anticipating the why section at this point, I will suggest that MP is definitely a modality of Diana (Gk Artemis), an assumption surely certified by Travers’ birth chart. Original Uranus rising in her chart at 4 Sagittarius, fortunately trines asteroid DIANA at 4 Aries in the house of creativity and which in turn is in positive trine to Venus at 5 Leo in the ninth house of religion and classic writing. As further proof, the Greek equivalent, ARTEMIS, is at midpoint Sun and Venus in the philosophy and classic writing ninth house (Sun 16,  ARTEMIS 10 Leo, Venus at 5 Leo).

 A possible objection to the Diana identification is that MP with her parrot headed umbrella like the maid of Travers childhood ought surely to be a Celtic goddess. The weakness of that idea is that though there are many Celtic goddesses, no single one has the range of functions and characteristics attributed to Diana, a desideratum if one wants to mull widely over philosophical questions or help shape people’s character. (At a pinch, but at the risk of seeming too trite and popular, Travers might have taken the figure of the pagan/Christian Brigit, who cares for children, nature and fire and is an all-rounder Celtic goddess/saint). A lot of Irish goddesses are however either goddesses of war or healing, and plainly MP is not that.

But if MP is ultimately Diana/ Artemis, a Graeco-Roman goddess, why is she so ill-tempered as opposed to being transcendently self-controlled and benign? I suppose we could say that like St Paul she and/or her author  would never “suffer fools gladly”; but one can’t easily mention the apostle and the Travers’ alter-ego together as though they were naturally allied…. St Paul was very much critic and victim of precisely Dianic cult whose devotees caused riots in Ephesus over her. It can be allowed that the cranky side of Travers is reflected in MP’s “philosophical” teaching nanny role, but that can’t cover the whole picture, so one has to ask what else might be involved? The abrasive manner of MP invites questions as to the  teachings the children are meant to remember she told them…

11

WHAT is she saying and showing?

MP and her manner are really one of a piece.  Against neo-pagan romanticism, I would submit that the mythic as opposed to the outright divine will  always and inevitably finish to some degree like MP’s persona, a bit ugly, dark and/or unjust. Fairy tales from the Christian era may end happily ever after, but most pagan myth from almost anywhere comes with a sting in the tale, compassion very much a second thought I,f any.. A lot of even elegant Ovidian myth presents situations of rape. Celtic myth which was central to Travers inquiries into existence and “how we should live” questions, is less immoral than amoral. In the introduction to my play “Daughter of the Sea King”, an adaptation of a tale of the Welsh Mabinogion,  I reflect on my realization of the difficulty of working with Celtic material for dramatic purposes. (2)  This is due not only to the abundance of hard to include marvels, but to the lack of moral  structure that normally supports drama whose basis is an element of conflict. For the early Celts, where there isn’t the curse that makes for stasis, there is the mother culture’s all-acceptance that doesn’t lay blame where it could well be laid. Its all-acceptance belongs with a kind of  all-is-one, unitive, near pantheistic philosophy present in the early medieval Irish philosophy of Erigena.

I think that amid the mental corrections, play of ideas and imaginative perspectives of the Mary Poppins saga, Travers demonstrates –  with some honesty and symbolic logic – what certain problems of the imaginative life actually are, especially in relation to any starting point in the legacy of Celtic myth. The strangely dark and Dianic dominated world is where the Celtic dreaming may lead. Travers reveals the structure of myth (or a type of necessity within it), where it wasn’t quite admitted or perceived. We have indications of this in the following which is at once the possibility and limitation of all mythic  and mystical claims that all is one….which is where AE’s Pantheism would lead anyone to suppose it was possible to go. Travers allows for, perhaps hopes for, a mystical/alchemical union of opposites, but cannot honestly affirm that it is a particularly reasonable or likely prospect. If there is unity at some level there is plenty of duality at others. In “Happy Ever After”  unity’s existence at the moment between the old year and the new suggests virtual impossibility. Sleeping Beauty declares:

“And inside the Crack all things are at one. The eternal opposites meet and kiss. The wolf and the lamb lie down together, the dove and the serpent share one nest…..This is the time and place, my darlings – the only time and the only place – where everybody lives happily ever after”.

It is controversial enough, especially in writing supposedly directed to children, even if that isn’t quite the case, to assert there can almost never be happy endings; but it belongs with the way of myth, perhaps especially the Celtic.  I have written elsewhere on this blog of something approaching a Celtic curse and involved with a domination by the wrong archetypes. What is certain about Celtic myth is that, as in for example “The Dream of Oengus”, it has an exquisite, rainbow like beauty based on great longing and that could always be the basis of music and high art, but such writing singularly lacks   satisfactory  endings; and the compromise of having Oengus fly away with his love puts nature and fate well above the human value.

Arguably the most representative Irish myth –  and one can see a modern sculpture of it in Parnell Square, Dublin and  even in Antrim, N. Ireland – is “The Fate of the Children of Lir”. In this a king’s children are placed under a curse and turned into swans by an evil step mother and when they have suffered and survived everything for centuries and the curse is lifted, it is only to find they have so severely aged there is nothing to do but die.

More recent Irish fantasy such as might be compared with Grimm’s fairy tales, doesn’t notably improve on this. The Grimms tales are about problems, mostly overcome with some input from human will and a bit of outside magic, and they finish with happily ever afterwards situations, usually of marriage. There is a clear moral structure informing the whole  – though that could owe something to the Lutheran Grimm brothers’ anxiety to supply improving, positive messages and censoring their sources more than much early Irish myth got censored by the monks. Equivalent Irish fairy tales which usually involve  leprechauns and the little people, are more likely to end unfortunately. The little people are almost objects of fear, their assistance almost a liability and they too can be irritable  like MP. It’s Irish American with a dose of American optimism to arrive at fun and funny leprechauns!

The point of entry to the magic sphere is different. In the Grimms tales this can be familiar and domestic and almost anywhere from home to forest. While this may also apply in the Celtic, there is an undoubted association ever since the druids, of magic, vision  and the Otherworld with the twilight time that so fascinated Travers. In short, magic and its Otherworld source is involved with an alteration, not just of situation but of consciousness itself. It certainly also engages a degree of longing, but the longing may itself prove vampirish.

Faced with two twins  and ignoring advice to adopt both, Travers simply took the more obviously attractive one who also seemed the more manageable to her bossily Poppins-like fancy. Though a weakness for beauty is hardly unique to the Irish, it is sometimes enlarged among them because their Otherworld, when it impinges, is so exceptionally, obviously exquisite  nothing else appears desirable and worth striving for in compariso. The effect is to encourage belief with the (non Irish) Keats that “truth is beauty, beauty truth”. Which can be fatal to judgment as some of the most corrupt persons and cultures can present the highest levels of outward beauty and adornment. Lucifer and his offers can be beautiful, it is part of the seduction. “When the woman saw that the tree…..was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit” (Gen 3:6). The fruit can then be handed to the husband who as male would have been less spontaneously likely to associate Truth with beauty alone, (though many still will do that). In Ireland’s Old/New Spiritual Problems https://wp.me/p2v96G-126  I example the case of Brian O’Donohue author of the bestselling Anam Cara for whom beauty of nature and soul are effectively sufficient in a way that cancels out more  Christian perspectives the ex-priest  could, superficially, be thought to be defending. 

Once the Edenic style misjudgement has taken place, and the thought initiative in a sensitive area for perception has gone to the side of yin or the female, whose energy is primarily reactive rather than active, psychologically woman takes over….. As she largely does in Celtic myth and then, instead of men speaking it, Truth gets strangely identified with hags who must be taken on trust by revolted males and aspiring kings. It’s the matriarchal situation. Accordingly it is with symbolic logic that Dianic Mary Poppins, the truth teller, though not outright ugly, is certainly not any pretty, graceful or charming woman. If she were to be otherwise within Travers imaginative and Celtic universe, she would be either the goddess herself that St Paul was at variance with, or the Catholic Mary with which some Christians later tried to supplant the goddess.

So, with MP as  Travers’ voice of wisdom,  on the one hand  –  however consciously or unconsciously –  she  finishes with a Christian compromise of sorts. But as her thought develops she also rightly suspects there may be  need to be room for a special kind of realization or teaching beyond the Celtic dream; or put another way, she is on the lookout for a solution mystically, esoterically  by or through “spirit” as opposed to just  O’ Donohue’s “soul”. This is the basis of her (rather Yeatsian) sympathy for especially Japanese culture and Zen because this is a system that wakes people out of the enveloping dream into sudden awareness. Celtic myth contains the latter just a little – homes and palaces may suddenly disappear! – but overall, awakening and Zen’s secular Pentecost seems less desirable than the dream because it is not salvation to another place but rather a new response to the present world. And even Travers herself didn’t like this world  too much! (Some of her demanding nature and snobberies are of the Celtic variety that can never be impressed by anything or anyone of this world because they don’t belong to heaven itself – the novelist Sean O’Faolain, another of AE’s circle, described his mother as someone who could turn the world to ashes!.

111

WHY is she like she is?

Pages could be written on Travers’ very revealing and apparently very accurate birth data. Salient points are the following.

Travers was born Aug 9. 1899 at around 12 pm with the sun in dramatic Leo at 16 degrees conjunct her 17 degree Midheaven career and reputation point and then Saturn in Sagittarius fortunately trines it. Just by itself this combination would incline to success and fame if with some Saturnian struggle and effort along the way not least through the parents and home base. Also, given that Saturn within the core combination is in the religion/philosophy sign, there would be an on-going struggle for self- definition and “meaning”. (Travers’ life story is the story of her reflections, the reason the MP books are “autobiography”)

The sun in regal Leo with Sagittarius rising describes a person with a great sense of entitlement in the course of their progress through life; Sagittarius rising supports, moreover, a self-image as seeker, pilgrim, philosopher. Leo is a sign much associated with children and popular, classic writing for them (Enid Blyton, Edith Nesbit, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, JK Rowling). The tenth house is anything to do with the career; so with communicating Mercury there Travers was well set up to become first a journalist, then a writer…but very much on her own terms. The affliction square (90 degrees) of Mercury to eccentric, nervy Uranus in the first house of style and persona and in the sign of often tactless, bombastic Sagittarius, bespeaks the native worry and celebrated cranky eccemtricity. It gives fair warning of the endless, bizarre quibbling with Disney over Mary Poppins. It is almost certainly only because Disney was a Sagittarian that he put up with quite so much from Travers. And it is only because Jupiter as ruler of a rising Sagittarius pattern rules the whole chart, could Travers lifelong get away with the behaviour and attitudes that would sink many another person and career.

But specifically writing of Mary Poppins was Travers’ fated role. The nanny is mouthpiece of her questing and is fortunate for her because asteroid MARY at 1 Scorpio conjuncts expansive, philosophical Jupiter at 2 Scorpio. The fact that this conjunction is in secretive, fixed sign Scorpio in the twelfth sector of hidden things and the unconscious, bespeaks the fixed and almost exasperating secrecy around MP. The author won’t tell; but sometimes she doesn’t herself know all the answers because this Mary is hidden away in recesses of the mind.

With the sun opposite the Aquarian 4th house cusp of home and father, there could be uneasiness or conflict around home and father, especially with the ruler of the paternal sector being erratic, separative Uranus. Travers would memorably leave home and her father would early depart from her. The apparent accuracy of the chart to what must be within a minute or two of time correct is signalled by, for example, the way that Travers’ sun, ruler of her Leo sign and destiny, would conjunct by transit her fourth house cusp of family, origins and home on the very day, Feb 9,1924, that she memorably sailed away from Australia – she only ever made one return visit..Not liking Australia is reflected in the way asteroid AUSTRALIA at 6 Scorpio is in tension square to Venus (any likes and loves) at 5 Leo.

This compares with the way the moon, a general ruler of home affairs and feelings, at 14 Virgo stands in opportunity aspect to IRELAND at 14 Scorpio. So the Irish affinity was authentic – but in a haunted way as the asteroid is in the 12th of the unconscious and hidden influences. But the fact that IRELAND is also square the author’s sun bespeaks the beginning of health problems there – I said that Australia would probably have been better for Travers’ health and with a sun line through Queensland according to Astrocartography that is likely. Ireland could also compromise Travers’ reputation as much as inspire her. The adoption of the Irish baby, Camillus Hone, was a fiasco that shames her and is Leonine feeling for children gone horribly wrong.

In mitigation it could be said that Travers was not particularly well set up for either marriage or motherhood. Marriage would always be problematic given separative Uranus rising at 4 Uranus opposing the seventh house cusp of unions at 2 Gemini. The house of children (the fifth) is ruled by Neptune in the sign of Gemini (twins) It follows the disaster of her adoption of one of two twins is reflected in the fact Neptune is in affliction square by Mars  – misjudgement about a male child! Between the square of Uranus to Mercury and then of Neptune to Mars there is major potential for bad nerves and ailments of all kinds.

Also for potential bisexuality. It is often speculated that Travers was a lesbian, the theory supported by the intensity of the attachments and arguments between Travers and the women at Stone cottage, the fact that Gurdjieff had a notable lesbian following in Paris where Travers like T.S.Eliot would visit the guru, and because before the time such things were so accepted, Travers let herself be photographed in semi nude shots. The matter of nudity can be discounted in the case of a Leo for  whom it’s almost par for the course. Even Leo Jackie Kennedy was happy to be photographed in the nude; it belongs to the general sun worship and “exhibitionism” of the sign. The long standing crush on Francis MacNamara doesn’t bespeak a lesbian. However, I have always contended that above all other supposed possible signifiers, the basic building block for bisexuality needs to be a stressed/afflicted Neptune –  when Neptune doesn’t idealize and romanticize it dissolves boundaries, sexual, ethical or whatever and under affliction aspect does so in ways that can be problematic. So it looks as though, like Susan Sontag (Saturn opposite Neptune), Travers was bisexual reluctantly and by default from frustration.

It may or may not be coincidental and relevant that at 23 Aquarius the asteroid LONDON is in Travers’ fourth house of home but also, when relevant, any last home. Despite travelling and residing in numbers of place, the author did spend a lot of time and certainly her last years in London’s Chelsea, which had been home to everyone from Henry James to AA Milne of Winnie the Pooh, Some Irish notables like Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) had also lived there but they didn’t gift the area with the fairy dust treatment of Cherry Tree Lane.

Leo is a sign much associated with children and popular, classic writing for them (Enid Blyton, Edith Nesbit, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Beatrix Potter, JK Rowling). The tenth house is anything to do with the career, so with communicating Mercury there Travers was well set up to become first a journalist, then a writer…but very much on her own terms. The affliction square (90 degrees) of Mercury to eccentric Uranus in the first house of style and persona and in the sign of often tactless, bombastic Sagittarius, bespeaks the native worry and crankiness. It gives fair warning of the endless, bizarre quibbling with Disney over Mary Poppins. It is almost certainly because Disney was a Sagittarian that he put up with quite so much from Travers. And it is only because Jupiter as ruler of a rising Sagittarius rules the whole chart, could Travers get away with the behaviour and attitudes that would sink many another career. Capricorn and its ruler Saturn ruling the second of income and possessions bespeaks both the wealth and fears around it – Travers never left banks, lawyers, agents alone for constant checks and worries about income possibly engendered by some Leonine extravagance but mostly just her bad nerves. Saturn in or ruling the second can indicate the extremes, little or much money or both conditions in the course of a lifetime.

Specifically writing of Mary Poppins was Travers’ fated role. The nanny is mouthpiece of her questing and is fortunate for her because asteroid MARY at 1 Scorpio conjuncts expansive, philosophical Jupiter at 2 Scorpio. The fact that this conjunction is in secretive Scorpio in the twelfth sector of hidden things and the unconscious, bespeaks the fixed and almost exasperating secrecy around MP. The author won’t tell, but sometimes she doesn’t herself know all the answers because this Mary is hidden away in recesses of the mind.

With the sun opposite the Aquarian 4th house cusp of home and father, there could be uneasiness or conflict around home and father especially with ruler of the paternal sector being erratic, separative Uranus. Travers would memorably leave home and her father would early depart from her. The extreme accuracy of the chart to what must be within a minute or two of time is signalled by for example the way that her the sun, ruler of her Leo sign and destiny, conjuncts her fourth house cusp of family, origins and home on the very day, Feb 9,1924, that she memorably sailed away from Australia – she only ever made one return visit..Not liking Australia is reflected in the way that asteroid AUSTRALIA at 6 Scorpio is in tension square to Venus (any likes and loves) at 5 Leo.

This compares with the way the moon, a general ruler of homes and feeling for such, at 14 Virgo stands in opportunity aspect to IRELAND at 14 Scorpio. So the Irish affinity was authentic – but in a haunted way as the asteroid is in the 12th  house of the unconscious and hidden influences. But the fact that IRELAND is also tension square the author’s sun bespeaks the beginning of health problems there – I said that Australia would probably have been better for Travers’ health and with a sun line through Queensland according to Astrocartography that is likely. Ireland could also compromise Travers’ reputation as much as inspire her. The adoption of the Irish boy, Camillus Hone, was a fiasco that shames her and is Leonine feeling for children gone selfishly wrong.

In mitigation it could be said that Travers was not particularly well set up for either marriage or motherhood. Marriage would always be problematic given separative Uranus rising at 4 Uranus opposing the seventh house cusp of unions at 2 Gemini. The house of children (the fifth) is ruled by Neptune in the sign of Gemini (twins) and the disaster of her adoption of one of two twins is reflected in the fact Neptune is in affliction square by Mars. Misjudgement about a male child! Between the square of Uranus to Mercury and then of Neptune to Mars there is major potential for bad nerves and ailments of all kinds.

Also for potential bisexuality. It is often speculated that Travers was a lesbian, the theory supported by intensity of the attachments and arguments between Travers and the women at Stone cottage, the fact that Gurdjieff had a notable lesbian following in Paris where Travers often pursued wisdom  and because before the time such things were so accepted, Travers let herself be photographed in semi- nude shots. The matter of nudity can be discounted in the case of a Leo. Even Leo Jackie Kennedy was happy to be photographed in the nude; it belongs to the sun worship and “exhibitionism” of the sign and recently fans of the Leo tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas were surprised by his Instagram declaration “I like me better naked”. The long standing crush on Francis MacNamara doesn’t bespeak a lesbian. However…..I have always contended that above all other supposed signs, the basic building block of bisexuality is an afflicted Neptune – when it doesn’t idealize and romanticize, Neptune dissolves boundaries, sexual, ethical or whatever and in affliction does so in ways that can be problematic. So it looks as though, like Susan Sontag (Saturn opposite Neptune), was bisexual reluctantly and by default from frustration.

It may or may not be coincidental and relevant that at 23 Aquarius the asteroid LONDON is in Travers’ fourth house of home but also, when relevant, any last home. Despite travelling and residing in numbers of places, the author did spend a lot of time, and certainly her last years, in London’s Chelsea. The place had been home to everyone from Henry James to AA Milne of Winnie the Pooh. Some Irish notables like Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker (of Dracula fame) had also lived there but they didn’t gift the area with the fairy dust treatment of Cherry Tree Lane.  And some fairy dust might as well have been thrown about. In her final years the extravagant Leo settled for an address in the royal borough and, no matter that it was only a terrace house in Shawfield Street, nowadays and not far away I see from press report that Chelsea Crescent is Britain’s most expensive street. The average property price is  x74 the national average and  small terrace  houses sell for 12 million GBP. What  might Mary Poppins say to that, one wonders?

NOTE:

(1)  Paris Review, PL Travers: The Art of Fiction, No 63, Issue 86, Winter 1982

(2).  New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas   https://goo.gl/uz7m95

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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IS THE PATRICK PROPHECY FOR IRELAND ENCODED?

irish-flood

THE ONGOING MYSTERY OF AN ANCIENT FORECAST

A net article recently caused me to recall something long forgotten, namely that St Patrick and also St Columba are supposed to have forecast the flooding of Ireland before “the last day”. To the extent that geographically Ireland is something of a bowl with its interior bog lands near or below sea level, I suppose a great ocean flood was never impossible. (The above picture derives from records of the rather ghastly floods of 2015) . But a wipe out? Does this mark just fantasy or spurious prophecy?

For little more than idle amusement I switched on the 1949 foundation chart for modern Ireland to see if there was anything remotely suggestive of such a fate. I was surprised by what I found using especially the new evidence of  name, place and concept asteroids which are found to be unusually descriptive and effective. Might the ancient prophecy be encoded there? In this instance you don’t even need to be an astrologer to appreciate what I basically saw and form some opinion.

A nation’s destiny and reputation is linked to its tenth house. In Ireland’s tenth sector sits Neptune, planetary symbol of any floods. This Neptune is then conjuncted by the asteroid Fini (French for finite and finished) and Fini is meaningful. It was for example definitely involved in the sudden, totally unexpected retirement of Pope Benedict.

I then observe Neptune and Fini exist in tense axis opposition to the asteroid Flood. This in turn is in exact degree aspect to Oceana (ocean flood?). Perhaps more significantly, Flood is closely conjunct asteroid Atropos. Though astrologers don’t often speak of it, it’s generally accepted nowadays that Atropos is much involved in highly fated events and death patterns.

The natal  Flood/Atropos combo is in exact, so-called stress square to the drowning asteroid, Ophelia, itself in a water sign (Cancer) in Eire’s death house.  When Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland in Oct 2017, potentially deadly, destructive Pluto was at 16 Capricorn i.e dangerously opposite natal Ophelia at 15 Cancer

The fourth sector in which Flood/Atropos are placed represents the nation’s land and territory. Also its weather conditions and any places of ending like graves. The cusp of this house is exactly conjuncted by Patrice. There is no Patrick or St Patrick asteroid but Patrice is French for Patrick. So might this encode Patrick speaking for the nation’s endings?

WHAT WAS THE SAINT THINKING AND WHAT SHOULD  WE?

If Patrick ever made the forecast attributed to him, we may well ask what he meant about an event seven years before “the last day” and with a disaster deemed a favour. It looks like his scribes or those who remembered him had insufficient knowledge of “the last things”.

It looks as though Patrick believed Ireland could disappear before either the so-called Tribulation, Revelation’s seven year rule of the Antichrist, (or perhaps before the Great Tribulation which is begins at the midpoint of the seven years). However, this dire period is not  strictly speaking, followed by “the end of the world”. It would simply be the end of the era. Christ’s advent destroys the rule of the Antichrist and inaugurates a millennial rule through Israel. It signals neither the end of the world nor the Last Judgement, only the end of the world as people at the time would know it and with a judgement of nations only  If such apocalyptic events occurred within our times, plainly this would correspond astrologically to the end of the age of Pisces which Christ’s birth introduced and which is ending perhaps to the tune of tsunamis since Pisces is a water sign of the seas.(Relevant could be “distress among nations confused by the roaring of the seas and the waves” Luk 21:25).

St Patrick evidently thought if Ireland drowned (and tsunamis would involve almost instant death as flood walls hit) that this was a deliverance of sorts from the pains of the Tribulation period with its temptations to take the damning “Mark of the Beast” imposed in the second part of the Tribulation. The fact that the mentioned Patrice makes exact tension square to Achristou, an asteroid I’ve long found associated with Satanism and Antichrist themes, could just encode such a train of thought. The theme of deliverance by flood contrasts with the theme of deliverance by Rapture which has become much associated with Ireland (see Ireland’s Apocalyptic Puzzles https://wp.me/p2v96G-19s

NOT TO FORECAST BUT…

No astrologer in their right mind would or should forecast such extreme events as the Patrick prophecy envisages. The most they might affirm is that various time periods exist that held potential for heightened tensions and danger.

However….for those who crave a frisson and would wish to relate the whole idea to our times, one could state this much. The late Catholic Seeress, Jeane Dixon, (celebrated especially for forecasting JFK’s death), claimed to have had vision of the birth of the Antichrist – she even maintained the entire purpose of her life and gifts was to receive especially that vision. Undeniably the birth pattern for the time was both unusual and suggestive.

If Dixon wasn’t deluded and the person of her visions happens to exist, then I would  be confident he must greatly advance and almost certainly appear before the world before the present decade was out.  If not then probably never, since there would be increasingly less opportunity before he was too old (b. 1962) to make sufficient, persuasive impact.

I am obviously not prepared to forecast that the conclusion of this decade marks any final rendez-vous with destiny for Ireland. But if one wanted to try that sort of thing one could always look for theme-giving eclipses that would favour periods of advancement and activity for Dixon’s figure at the same time as they could signal stress times for Ireland, always remembering that stress and difficulty is not the same as wipe-out.

One such stress trigger could be the eclipse of Jan 6th 2019 when a  partial solar eclipse (effective for the whole year) falls very closely opposite Ireland’s plainly sensitive drowning asteroid Ophelia –  from 15.25 Cap to Ophelia’s 15.34 Cancer. One could argue affliction to an asteroid is not as potent as to any planetary energy.

2020 looks stressed given a solar eclipse in late December 2019 squares the IC angle that affects land and weather, and then in January 2020 lunar eclipse squares the national sun. This and more could reflect tensions in the wake of Brexit and of course (if disputes and negotiations were ongoing), tensions over Ireland’s border;  but land and climate could well be major issues too….. Perhaps astrologers should be supplying regular updates on the safety levels or otherwise of the Irish chart as indicated by especially theme-giving eclipses in coming times!

[ A version of this article was proposed to a couple of leading Irish papers in May/June 2016 when I was visiting Ireland. Both refused. I believe this belongs to the rabid, dismissive secularism of the new Irish elite which has no time for even just mysteries; also a kind of parochialism which no longer considers the Irish diaspora has any use or meaning and can be safely ignored! ]

For more on Ireland and prophecy see “Ireland’s Apocalyptic Puzzles https://wp.me/p2v96G-19s

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2016 in Mysteries

 

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

   Judas    Dublin

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

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

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

PART ONE: POLLUTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

PART TWO: ABLUTION

DALKEY  Dalkey Bay Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BONOKennelly2

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

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

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

NOTES TO THE POEM

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

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in aesthetics, Poetry, religion

 

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SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

Yeats2YEATSASTRO    (click to enlarge)

SECRET YEATS AND THE IGNORED ARCANA

[re Ireland’s Yeats 2015 see feature:  http://goo.gl/T3AUV9%5D

In the extravagantly magical/mystical life of Yeats, astrology was major and arguably this strangely secret public figure is insufficiently understood without factoring in this aspect of the esoteric. The poet frequently cast horoscopes or, because he hated the maths, got his maternal uncle George Pollexfen to do it for him, and he was always noting transits to his pattern (terrible argument tonight under Mars square moon; Venus to Mars, meeting Maud Gonne today etc). Yeats’ affinity for astrology is obvious – he even had the planet of astrology, Uranus, conjunct his sun if widely. But then this same Uranus exactly trined the also astrology associated asteroid Urania. Even so, it was mainly for practicalities of life and some basic decision making that Yeats had recourse to horoscopes.

Had Yeats accepted that the pattern of a natus also and even especially speaks for the unconscious, inspiration and thus art, he might have been less confused and confusing in his curious understanding and core doctrines of the self and much more. However it’s also true that on the best reading for his times, what Yeats most needed to know, (similarly to critics and biographers subsequently!), would remain largely hidden. That includes even as regards his relation to the modern Ireland he helped define. Possibly the only meaningful item of information he obtained from the disillusioning séances he attended was to be told his horoscope was “incomplete”.

Actually it was. For purposes of understanding the mind of a notable literary/historical figure, perhaps few horoscopes read along standard lines would seem more “incomplete”. But today more information is available, not least because such factors as Pluto, Chiron and the name, place and concept asteroids can all be added to the picture and they prove remarkably descriptive and informative. It is for example impossibly correct that for the man who so long desired marriage and family yet who married past fifty only to come within days to the painful realization he’d made a serious mistake, should have his Part of Marriage conjunct the wounded healer factor, Chiron. The marriage only worked, survived and was sufficiently “healed” one might say, after the pair managed to collaborate on their mediumistic project of The Vision. But there is much more to say.

I have long admired Yeats’ work, not just for some very fine specimens of poetry and drama  – even if some of the early and late material is a bit dated or just weak – but his invaluable critical capacity to summarize across the too long fragmented Irish/Celtic tradition which he helped save, revive and popularize. Yeats was not just a poet and dramatist but an important prose writer of many ideas. Nevertheless what appears to be the truth about Ireland’s unofficial poet laureate is not as reassuring as one might wish. It raises questions, and I do mean more seriously so than, at the gossip level, how much his otherworldly visions may have owed to hashish and mescalin imported from Paris rather than the collective Celtic unconscious most of us, even including co-workers like Lady Gregory, may have supposed. Yeats, the poet and theorist of the mask, tended to show people the face he knew they wanted to see.

What concerns me is more radical. And the personal interest I bring to it and whose reasons will become clear by the conclusion where I ask what is poetry today, is linked to my own poetic and dramatic work published this month, New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas  amzn.to/1eJXHGC. This is material closer to at least elements of Yeatsian tradition than majority literary trends current within Ireland today. (Perhaps it helps to be outside Ireland in this generation to cultivate a certain type of vision!).  First however, I will briefly describe main features of Yeats’ natus as it would be known to the poet and then describe the  more acute and disconcerting truth, secrets in effect, that a modern reading can supply.

BASICS OF THE NATAL CHART

Yeats was born in Sandymount Dublin on June 13th 1865 at 10.40 pm. This means he was a divided, intellectually curious, multi-tasking Gemini with eccentric, independent, often rebellious Aquarius rising at 0 degrees. There is more than one type of Gemini, and ascendant signs physically modify any sun sign, but Yeats still strongly corresponded to the textbook typical Edward Snowden image of the Gemini – tall, slim and intellectual looking. The poet’s birth time seems more or less correct. His career/destiny Midheaven at 4 of philosophical Sagittarius is on what is called a strong, “critical” degree. And the fact that at birth the Part of Fortune falls exactly on Gemini’s “ruler”, Mercury, the planet of writing and writers, itself in Gemini its sign of rulership and in its natural house the third too, all augurs well for the data of a celebrated writer and indefatigable conversationalist. For that matter so too does the Part of Soul conjuncting the rising. Yeats is about nothing if not the colours and intuitions of “soul” as against the para-intellectual directions of spirit. So the birth time appears correct.

Since the moon was rising for Yeats in Aquarius at 19 degrees (a reason he always regarded himself as “lunar” not “solar”), this strengthens any Aquarian input and personal style as well as inclining him to be either dominated by or associated with women as we know he was. Also, not only could Yeats prove astonishingly, ultra-Aquarian eccentric on occasions such as cutting up a fur coat in order not to disturb the magic sleep of a cat lying on it, but he was oddly accident prone in Aquarian style – like scoffing a box of cough drops mistaking them for regular sweets and sending himself to sleep for 30 hours as a result. Also his spelling and punctuation could be amazingly idiosyncratic for a writer, and it’s odd he could never master French despite often visiting France and even dying there.

The fact that the ruler of this Aquarian rising, Uranus, falls in writerly Gemini widely conjunct Yeats’ natal Sun (the core self) further entrenches the eccentricity of style at the same time as it promises great originality of personality and/or creativity (his love of the avant-garde in theatre and design was notable) especially from within the creative fifth house. (Shelley, Yeats’ early model, likewise had Sun conjunct Uranus in the fifth house so Shelley would naturally stir Yeats, especially as that Romantic era poet’s Sun/Uranus conjuncts Yeats’ own Mars in Leo).

Yeats’ Gemini Sun trine Saturn in the arts and genteel society sign of Libra shows Yeats can get somewhere through great effort, but also good patronage like that of Lady Gregory and the tea heiress Annie Horniman; also that he can live long enough to do so unlike one of his siblings who died young. Jupiter in Sagittarius inclines to religion, philosophy, the kind of big generalizations Yeats directed upon Ireland – unlike his father who had been intended for the church, Yeats admitted to be unable to live without some kind of religion.

Mars in spectacular, dramatic Leo in Yeats’ unions house promises plenty of argument and problems with associates, spouses or long term lovers. Very much so as Mars stands in affliction square to a close, obsessive, Venus/Pluto conjunction in fixed, immovable Taurus. Though Yeats wouldn’t have known of Pluto unless in his latter years, the combination describes especially the lifelong obsession and frustration with the fiery, theatrical Maud Gonne, an image of Ireland itself/herself – Ireland, by tradition at least, has always been under Taurus though Gonne herself wasn’t. (Gonne was a Sagittarian which means she could dominate, as she certainly did, in the sector of Yeats’ career and destiny. But as the tormented Venus/Pluto falls in the 3rd of writing, Gonne and love’s frustrations can be much written about personally and also nationalistically as a Cathleen ni Houlihan image).  I should perhaps mention that we arguably only  know Yeats’ poetry because of the (seventh house) agency and original support, including financial, for the poetry and its publication by the retired Fenian John O’Leary (b. 23 July 1830). O’Leary’s sun at 0 Leo falls exactly on Yeats’ seventh house cusp of  agency. Moreover O’Leary’s 23 degree Venus in Gemini falls conjunct Yeats’ sun so that he really liked and favoured the poet who would later suitably write  of him, “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”.

To be mystical, one normally needs something in the 4th, 8th or 12th houses which will reflect the types of mysticism. Yeats only, but importantly, had Saturn (and itself exalted in Libra) in his eighth of sex and mysteries, (i.e. the occult) and death. Yeats’ mysticism does in fact incline to the occult or sexual/tantric and he was obsessed with contacting the dead via seances. Saturn here can make for a lot of testing, structuring or ritual in the realms of the erotic. Saturn could nonetheless also indicate some sexual limitation or frustration which Yeats had an admitted fair share of despite his many affairs, and/or Saturn could reflect the sheer effort of attempting union with especially the elusive Gonne via astral means (which apparently Yeats was able to do in the form of a serpent!). We also know that in old age (Saturn) Yeats underwent the Steinach operation (apparently a partial vasectomy) to release more libido. But it worked (Saturn helpfully trine Sun) even if it proved a bit embarrassing. Such are the main, visible features of a horoscope Yeats would recognize. But what of the rest of the data that the poet didn’t know and which almost better describes but also rather betrays him?

WHAT YEATS DIDN’T KNOW

At first glance the new information is satisfying, especially if we pose it a question the traditional data can’t quite answer like: was Yeats fated to be the poet, voice and revealer of specifically modern Ireland to itself?….The answer is yes and the efficiency of the supplementary data able to demonstrate just that should be proof to the uninitiated that it reliably works. The asteroid Yeates (interpretation of asteroids follows sound not spelling) conjuncts the asteroid Ireland and The Part of Revelation. These three factors then fortunately trine asteroid Poesia (Yeates at 22. Pisces conjuncts The Part of Revelation at 21 Pisces and Ireland at 20 Pisces, which trines Poesia at 19 Cancer). Then too, Erato (traditional muse of specifically lyric poetry) rises at 15 Aquarius (a world point, helpful for fame) loosely conjunct the poet’s rising moon – asteroid aspects don’t exceed 2 degrees unless as here to sun or moon.

Erato itself is closely and surely significantly conjunct at 16 degrees to Lugh, traditionally the versatile Celtic Mercury whom the gods of Ireland made the chief ollamh (poet) of the land. This tells us what seems true: Yeats’ Ireland-centred lyric poetry is more notable than the dramatic. And much of the lyric output is linked to an atavistic, ultimately pagan worldview (Yeats, though descended of Church of Ireland clergymen, would write of “my unchristened heart”) which reckons to speak, and is mostly accepted as speaking, for all Ireland. But since the 19 degree moon is favourably exact to Prometheus at 19 Aries, we can also appreciate why for Yeats, Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound provided his virtual call to the bardic role. Also why the youthful Yeats rated Shelley’s work not just good poetry but truth-in-itself, something to rank with world scriptures, a strange and significant point to which we can return.

In view of things said later, I should stress that the muse Erato can be taken as the equivalent of Yeats’ all-powerful “daimon”, that principle without which he believed no true poetry could be written. The “daimon” could however only possess and inspire if one had assumed the “anti-self” or “mask”. Yeats’ concept of “mask” is interesting because the first house in which Erato is found is always the house of any persona, the filter or mask for the core will and personality of an individual’s often different sun sign. However, Yeats’  poetic “anti-self” is an awkward, misleading word (much Yeatsian jargon is confused, not least because he was bound not to reveal secret society principles). Essentially it designates the unconscious as opposed to everyday consciousness. But ‘anti-self’ can get combined with theories of the (astral) mask because in the rituals of the Golden Dawn and its Isis-Urania temple, Yeats learned to reach unconscious planes invoking spirits while wearing the appropriate god mask which obviously would seem the antithesis of the human. With the “anti-self” concept (which might also be involved with orgasm and the sex magic Yeats sometimes practiced but didn’t discuss), we can see how Yeats is going to trap readers and even confuse himself because modern psychological astrology would not allow that the unconscious has anything to do with the first house energies in which the nearest thing to Yeats’ daimon resides.

It seems no accident that many of Yeats greatest poems as in The Tower are about simply himself and his various roles and masks rather than unconscious deeps! We can also see that asteroid Memoria (i.e. memory but also the ancient world equivalent of the unconscious or Yeats’ “Great Memory” or “Great Mind”) is not in aspect to Erato. Instead it afflicts the writer’s Mercury and his IC angle (base of chart). Small wonder Yeats is going to make poetry amid conflict, misdirecting himself as regards inspiration and arriving at any “anti-self” closer less to the unconscious than to precisely an opposite of the self in terms of roles, an opposite with which he struggles like Jacob with the angel.

If you enter the unconscious to mine inspiration, you do so via your 4th, 8th or 12th houses. These are untenanted by any planets for Yeats – except as we have seen for structuring, limiting Saturn which, though planets as opposed to asteroids are symbolically multivalent, by tradition has been the devil symbol.  And Saturn is at very least the archetype for any fear. Yeats, whose name in magic is devil associated, reaches the “anti-self” through precisely fear. Admittedly at the planetary level (as opposed to the mentioned levels of houses) the moon just by itself enjoys some traditional associations with the unconscious as opposed to the consciousness of sun. This is one reason that Yeats’ own “masks” tend to be golden and glittering or yellow reflecting things solar, or complete silvery lunar to rouse unconscious energies. Even so, Yeats’ moon by being in the non-mystical first house and in a masculine (i.e. extravert) sign, is poorly placed to assist him in his strivings towards sublime oppositions or magical unions of conscious with unconscious for purposes of magic, poetry or whatever. This may also be the reason Yeats was so reliant upon women – he wanted or needed them to do his mental and symbolic work for him!

I at first wondered why Yeats’ crucial Poesia should be in his 6th house (even though I maintain it’s in the same house for Shakespeare) as opposed to somewhere obvious like near his destiny/reputation Midheaven as for the career poet Rilke. However the 6th house is not just work (and Shakespeare apparently regarded his labours in dramatic poetry as a bit beneath him, a kind of money spinning venture allowing him to become a big property owner) but the house of any “practical magic” i.e. magical operations. Magic was Yeats’ mysticism, but magic is very much what a lot of Yeats’ poetry aimed to be, whether readers realize it or not. Many poems like Wandering Angus are evocations, symbolizations, active dreamings along occult society lines. And note too that the Shakespeare of at least The Tempest, seems to identify his poetic labours with a species of magic, “but this rough magic I here abjure” etc.

Yeats however never abjured any magic. Magic was his religion. The Part of Occultism exactly conjuncts the cusp of his ninth house of religion/philosophy. Suitably for this, if possible Yeats would have founded full blown Celtic rites at Key Lodge, Galway and he certainly put much work towards that. Like many readers, aware how haunting and beautiful the long slow twilights of Yeats’ western Ireland could be, I managed to overlook how Yeats’ obsession with “The Celtic Twilight” was less poetic than a reflection of the principle that druid rituals to raise power were performed in hour before sunrise. Yeats is all about bringing back the light of the god Lugh! Significantly Yeats’ Part of Race Consciousness at 24 Aries conjuncts the Part of Religion at 24 Aries. Accordingly he even maintained it was essential to experience Ireland rather than Judaea as a, or the, holy land, an idea which has a touch of pagan Nazi love of die Heimat and unsurprisingly Yeats had a brief flirtation with the Nazis. That his aim for a new Celtic religion did not fully succeed is involved with the fact that Saturn opposes these factors from 23 Libra. In this case forces of tradition (Saturn) oppose it.

WHAT DID YEATS BELIEVE (BEYOND THE SACREDNESS OF IRELAND)?

To the extent that Credo at 20 Gemini (near to Yeats’ sun at 22) trines his lyrics-associated moon at 19 Aquarius we might say that women and poetry constitute Yeats’ “truth”; but real poetic truth for Yeats began with Shelley and not least because Shelley was Promethean. Shelley’s Prometheus and The Witch of Atlas also seemed after a fashion so magical they were the inspiration for even Yeats’ fellow Society of the Golden Dawn member, Alistair Crowley, the Satanist who (though no great truth teller) accused Yeats of being a demonologist who used black magic against him. In turn Yeats accused Crowley himself of being a disgusting person who used black magic.

But why did both Yeats and Crowley find such inspiration in Shelley? Shelley was self-described and often thought of as an atheist, but he admitted to belief in an immanent Spirit of Nature and he was chiefly “atheist” against the Christian God. He had invoked the devil while still at Eton. Prometheus Unbound is effectively Shelley’s response to Milton’s Paradise Lost with Prometheus as a kind of do-good devil, a Lucifer light challenging God. Seeing that Yeats called Prometheus Unbound a scripture, we notice that at Yeats’ birth asteroid Shelley at just 1 Scorpio opposes Isa (Ar. Jesus) at nearly 1 Taurus, while in parallel to this the Christ asteroid at 19 Taurus is in afflicting square to Yeats’ lyrical moon. This is not a person who much likes Christ and Christianity and Yeats indicates as much in many places like the conclusion to The Magi who are left “unsatisfied with the mystery of the bestial floor” and in the dance drama Calvary which assures us God has not died for the white heron (meaning Yeats himself who in one of his last poems insists he wants no conventional phrase and who certainly had no cross, on his gravestone at Drumcliffe where his ancestors were buried). We should take this more seriously than many critics do. Susan Johnston-Graf’s important study (W.B.Yeats: A Twentieth Century Magus, 2000) seems correct to maintain the occult side of Yeats is insufficiently known, understood or acknowledged by scholars of Christian or Jewish background who finish up giving Yeats’ occultism a merely secular humanist reading it shouldn’t have.

If Yeats really had any feeling for Christ and Christianity as some Christian critics imagine, it is unlikely he would have taken as his first lover the strange and some said decadent Olivia Shakespear whom Ezra Pound declared “hated Christ like the devil” or let Nietzsche, the author of Der Antichrist and radical critic of leading Christian values become a major influence. We know Yeats declined to attend church with the fairly devout Irish Anglican Lady Gregory during his extended residences with her at Gort. More to the point, he surely would not have associated with Maud Gonne, a woman who admitted to having sold her soul to the devil (though she did feel some remorse about it when her father died shortly after the event!). Later after a pragmatic conversion to Catholicism to marry someone from whom she soon separated, Gonne reckoned to work with Yeats to unify Christianity with paganism having decided the devil was simply England.

Gonne is the model for Yeats’ drama The Countess Cathleen whose eponymous heroine, surrounded by predatory demons, sells her soul on the behalf of the Irish peasantry, a Shelleyean sort of good diabolism. This odd, Faustian style drama was the first offering of the Irish Literary Theatre aiming to change the face of Irish national culture. It would be hard to describe just how mad the real life, but by all accounts stunningly beautiful Gonne was, and how much she drew Yeats into her madness which in a lucid moment he confessed to Lady Gregory would be sufficient to have her locked up. Despite despising marriage and apparently sex too, unbeknown to the besotted Yeats she had an illegitimate child by a French lover, a child which died and which she then tried to get reincarnated by having occult sex with the father in front of the child’s tomb. (Regrettably there are no asteroids for either Maud or Gonne). Even Yeats’ attitude towards Christ is however only an aspect of a wider negative feeling about God and religion about which I feel the chart is fairly graphic in line with the fact that at the Golden Dawn Yeats assumed the remarkable name DEDI or Demon est Deus Inversus (the Demon/Devil is God inverted). The initiate name seems involved with Yeats belief in Blakean, Gnostic notions of Good needing Evil. What does the horoscope show?

YEATS AND GOD

There are two deity asteroids Theotes (Godhead) which is more like Trinity and there is Bhagwat which is in effect Lord as in Bhagwat Gita (Song of the Lord). Both of these are notably afflicted for Yeats. Bhagwat at 25 Virgo is in affliction square both to Jupiter, the planet of religion and beliefs (and some of us would say the Bethlehem Star), at 24 Sagittarius and to Yeats’ natal sun at 22 Gemini while Theotes at 28 makes square to Uranus at 29 Gemini. This suggests more than enough tension and oddity in the outlook. If there is a planet of God as biblically understood it is unquestionably Pluto. Since this planet can symbolize both creation and destruction and on the human plane obsession and hatred, its inharmonious conjunction with Yeats’ Venus belongs with lines like, “Hatred of the soul can bring the soul to God”. Except that it never especially did so for Yeats himself for whom God is at best a symbol of the All that embraces Good and Evil (hence Yeats’ name in magic circles). God is not any creator or end for Yeats. In typical Gemini fashion he prefers journey to arrival, and can thus feel free to describe God in many ways, none definitive, unless possibly as “The Great Mind” – but including if need be as demonic energy. At this point we come across the real problem, the vital question regarding Yeats’ beliefs and identity. Was he, as Crowley would have it, (virtually) a Satanist? Was Yeats himself merely bragging when he told the artist Beardsley that he had been much taken up with and studied what he called “diabolism” in certain occult circles in Paris? (R.M.Foster. W B Yeats, A Life, p, 158).

YEATS AND THE DEVIL

The evidence for at least some degree of attachment to “diabolism” or Satanism seems clear enough since we find that Lucifer at 20.16 Pisces is conjunct both Yeates and Ireland. Granted that on a matter so controversial one needs what any astrologer would look for in such a case which is some back-up (after all, there are many asteroids and all must be somewhere so they are not automatically significant for everyone!) but we do have this. There are two devil asteroids as there are two deity asteroids. They are Lucifer which seems to represent Satan as St Paul’s deceptive “angel of light” and Satan as darkness which is Malin (Fr. Devil) of which presently. There is however a possible, “sort of” third devil asteroid and it is Sethos, Greek for the Egyptian devil god Set or Seth. Sethos at 19 Pisces is conjuncting Yeats’ Lucifer at 20 Pisces. This obtains more significance in light of something else. Yeats (like the Golden Dawn) was quite taken up with Egyptian symbol and ritual – in the famous and rather sublime Second Coming poem Yeats pretty well identifies his second Christ/Antichrist with Egypt through a sort of Sphinx or Sekhmet solar figure. Suitably, therefore, Aigyptios (Egypt) at 23 Aquarius fortunately trines Yeats’ Saturn at 23 Libra in his mysteries-linked eighth house, while in the other direction his Aigyptios is favourably placed towards his beliefs-signifying and determining Jupiter at 24 Sagittarius.

Beyond and outside of the  Ireland he wanted to become the new Holy Land, Yeats believed in some kind of light from Egypt (“Swear by what the sages spoke/Round the Mareotic lake”) as did Crowley who received his essentially Satanic Book of the Law for the coming (Aquarian) era while in Egypt. And though she represented no secret occult orders, for what it’s worth the late Catholic seeress, Jeane Dixon, who notoriously claimed the Antichrist was born under Aquarius in 1962, maintained much of that individual’s youth was passed in Egypt. So if we follow the astrologer’s law of sensitive degrees, we could ask in heaven’s name what vibe might Yeats have been in touch with in this vision poem of an avatar seeing that the alleged birth time of Dixon’s false prophet shows that person’s moon at the same fated 23 Aquarius? Moreover if this person actually exists, Yeats’ relation to him is between astonishing and sinister. On the Pied Piper’s birth chart Yeates falls at 18 Sagittarius i.e. in favourable aspect in one direction to the prophet’s Venus at 18 Aquarius (Yeats could love this person) while in the other it makes favourable trine to the nodes at 18 Leo (planets in the degree of the nodes have something fated in terms of connection). Before we dismiss this as purest coincidence, let’s note that Nietzsche, himself author of Der Antichrist, has an exact Nietzsche asteroid in agreement to the 9 degrees of the avatar’s power and authority Pluto. There may even be, given Yeats’ visionary anticipations of an avatar, a further subtle message in the fact that the poet’s Sethos falls at 19 Pisces. I believe as per my Testament of the Magi http://goo.gl/SkWyf5 this degree is very provably that of the Bethlehem Star. Thus Yeats unconsciously (prophetically?) places Egypt, the new era and Antichrist against Christ and Sethos on what is in effect the chief degree of the Christian revelation and era.

YEATS AND AN OCCULT IRELAND

Yet with even this I digress because what is more immediately relevant here is that having determined there seems to be some kind of identification of Yeats with the demonic, we find that his Lucifer at 20.16 is to the minute of a degree exactly conjunct Ireland at 20.16. I believe this could be linked to a certain ideological identification of Yeats with Mme Blavatsky and her theosophy that influenced the Golden Dawn. (Yeats even described the Russian Blavatsky as like a wise old Irish peasant woman which I imagine recommended her to him!). Blavatsky taught (shades of Shelley’s Prometheus again) that the true ruler of the world is the light-bearing, heroic Lucifer. This could well mean that Yeats would assume Lucifer, perhaps identified with god of light, Lugh, was the true hidden ruler of Ireland for any invocation purposes. In a roundabout, unintended way Blavatsky was of course correct. The NT acknowledges that the devil is currently “the prince of this world” (Joh 14:30) and declares, (as most Christians never do lest it seem to compromise divine omnipotence), that the world has been given over to the forces of evil. Christ’s incarnation is a major stage in combating that – the devil offers Christ the world as the final temptation. The difference is that Blavatsky, like Shelley and almost certainly Yeats, regarded Lucifer’s rule as beneficent. DEDI Yeats probably believed that Lucifer is just God/”The Great Mind”/”The Condition of Fire” seen through another lens amid the endless perning of gyres, turning of ages and incarnations.

The destructive, often hate-bearing, sold soul Maud Gonne who for years was willing to birth Ireland in violence, took Yeats in directions he wouldn’t otherwise have chosen. Gonne, though she managed to mellow somewhat, was in many respects Yeats’ own Lucifer Light and Devil Dark together. Provided Lucifer was, so to speak, politically supreme, there was room of sorts for Christ and Christian mysticism more spiritually – the later Yeats could even allow for the notion of a future Irish druidic Christ, and when he talks about nations needing prophet, priest and king he can even sound like a kind of Christian; but this merely reflects the way he always lets good and evil merge. Nevertheless the 0.59, i.e virtually 1 degree Isa (Jesus) asteroid in Ireland-associated Taurus makes opportunity aspect to Malin at 2 Cancer, the sign, if any, of paganism and polytheism. I should say that Yeats just never bothered about any form of truth that didn’t seem “visionary” or symbolic. Not only can his sign of the Twins be notoriously dark/light, a Dr Jeckell and Mr Hyde because its intellectualism dissociates easily, but we do find the asteroid Lie, at 9 Pisces conjunct the poet’s Part of Boredom and Indifference. To discover the truth in the ordinary sense whether practical, philosophical or theological was almost too much trouble to a person like Yeats who found common reality a bore. Sometimes just superficial in a way most common under the air signs, he was usually unburdened by what he was teaching and the energies he was possibly releasing….Except in one major case. A séance could unnerve him and attendance at one in January 1895 seems to have been definitive for much subsequently and it was years before he would consult mediums regularly for mundane guidance.

YEATS IN POETRY AND THE ASTRAL LIGHT

It was at a séance that Yeats was suddenly jerking and shuddering uncontrollably in ways that frightened those in attendance like Kathryn Tynan and are suggestive of something akin to kundalini experience or possession by a spirit. We have echoes of the kind of experience, but in a more positive light in the poem The Cold Heaven, where the poet describes himself as “rocking to and fro riddled with light”. I don’t have a chart for this but plainly it would have something to do that month with transiting Jupiter in Gemini conjuncting and setting off the “electrical” natal Uranus. Jupiter trine Uranus in specifically fire was in evidence in Pentecost AD 30 when the Spirit fell on the disciples. But if Yeats was, let’s say, mildly rather than madly possessed by a spirit (his Discoveries portray him as already hearing voices and under certain “influences” from an early age), that would only be consistent with his early established belief that a poet was essentially someone possessed, a go-between earth and heaven and revealing messages accordingly. The Yeatsian experiential reality (as opposed to the convoluted theory!) was that daimonic/poetry experiences were, at best, of lightning and hence Uranus. The reason that in later life Yeats bought and assumed residence in the Tower of Thoor-Ballylee was because, practically, he associated true sudden inspiration as akin to the lightning of the lightning struck Tower of the Tarot card archetype. He also knew from the Cabbala of the Golden Dawn, loosely based on elements of Jewish mysticism, that lightning descended from the height of the God/Mind/Higher Self dominated Tree of Life for those who knew the right keys, symbols, deity names and vibrations, these being much associated at the Golden Dawn with Isis-Urania.

It is beyond present scope, but I would insist as per certain statements in my Puer Poems one of whose offerings is itself based on the structure of the “Tree” which links the names of God in a pattern, that the three highest nodes from which any lightning descends in fact correspond to the Trinity. Astrologically the Trinity can be symbolized by Pluto (the Creator), Uranus (the Holy Spirit) and Neptune (Christ). Yeats and Golden Dawn magicians who made alternative, less convincing astrological correspondences with the Hebrew divine names were not receiving from the Spirit but at the Isis-Urania temple spiritist energies related to the Urania representing whatever, which exactly trines Yeats’ Uranus, or perhaps in Yeats’ case the light energies the ancient Celts associated with Lugh. Any Uranian lightning for members of The Golden Dawn was also the “astral light”. Through Eliphas Levi and the French Occultism that also influenced him, Yeats obtained the notion that the astral Light is the vehicle of magic and inspiration. It can be variously God’s power, the awaited Holy Spirit of the coming age and the Edenic Serpent’s power all in one field.

YEATS AND MODERN IRELAND

But if Yeats (most of the time) didn’t care what he was doing and remained largely agnostic about who or what the spirits he invoked truly were, there are reasons why we, and I, might have some reason to care. The first point concerns the nature of Ireland and the second the perennial nature and meaning of poetry. Like it or not, modern Ireland inherits something from Yeats. I am certainly not suggesting modern Ireland should not have come into being, but the when and how of its doing so seems a little dubious and national self-understanding of the process to some extent the product of the Yeats/Gonne (mis)alliance, their symbol formation and policies. And we may recall that the English originally dismissed the Easter Rising as “a poet’s revolution”, just more Irish theatre and show. Granted that Yeats himself, who was more implicitly than overtly political, did not take part in the uprising whose immediate leader was the poetic and mystical Padraic Pearse with his loosely Christian theories of sacrifice. However, Gonne, though she hated Socialists along with Jews, had some history of stirring Pearse’s co-revolutionary, the socialist James Connolloy into action. Overall, what took place on April 24th 1916 was in many respects the effects of a Yeats/Gonne cultural revolution that was building for years. Stephen Gywnn famously observed after a performance of Cathleen-ni-Houlihan he wondered “if such plays should be produced unless one was prepared for people to go out to shoot and be shot”. Yeats if not Gonne did have a few twinges of conscience as in The Man and the Echo where he asks, “Did that play of mine send out/Certain men the English shot?”.

Revolutions are of Uranus……Yeats’ poetic birth moon at 19 Aquarius was exactly conjuncted by Uranus in Aquarius that Easter of 1916. The Venus of the day was fortunately trining it. Neptune was degree exact semi-sextile (any meetings of mind) to Yeats’ Uranus so he can glamourize the revolution – which he did. Mercury had just passed conjunction to his Venus/Pluto (it’s the basis of his famous poetic reaction “a terrible beauty is born” Venus being beauty and Pluto being the terrible!). And though Mars representing conflict at the time was at 16 Leo (rather than Yeats own 12, itself one of the reasons he did not actively engage in the revolution), what was happening was nonetheless very much in his spirit. And his spirit and values would endure.

If we look at the absolute foundation of modern Ireland, i.e. its complete, final republican rupture with England (April 18th 1949 at 12 am), a decade after Yeats death, we find Jupiter (religion/beliefs) at 0 Aquarius, the degree of Yeats’ rising. The novelty and eccentricity of this position, especially as it trines Saturn in Eire’s religion house gives, I believe, long term (Saturn) promise that despite the nation’s conservative, enduring, sad and bachelor signifying moon in Capricorn, entrenched traditional values and Catholicism would not be so secure. Instead, as has happened, they would considerably succumb to disillusion, scepticism and revolt. There would be a quiet revolution in many cases prompting return to a sort of Yeatsian style paganism. Uranus at foundation time at 27+ Gemini was conjunct Yeats’ 29 degree Uranus and asteroid Yeates was conjunct Eire’s Mercury (its writing, its thought patterns).

However, more significantly for permanently linking the poet to the life and arts of the nation, Eire’s sun and Venus in Aries exactly conjuncts Yeats’ 27 Libra/Aries nodal axis. But as one might suspect, the contact is not altogether fortunate or inspiring in the right way – one thinks for example how much the design and feeling of Samuel Beckett’s depressing nihilistic dramas owes to such as Yeats’ drama Purgatory. It is always the North Nodes which point the way forward and to what is best for person or entity, Eire’s 27 Aries falls on Yeats’ backward looking South Nodes. A little more positively, the one time “Isle of the Saints’ rising sign is 5 degrees of (religious) Sagittarius itself conjunct Yeats’ destiny and reputation Midheaven which was 4 Sagittarius. Ireland will always be thought of as religious even if it isn’t very notably so and it will always be somewhat Yeats country as to tourists it very much is. Taken all in all, I can imagine that those of charismatic persuasion or Catholics re-instating exorcism might think that the almost perpetually unfortunate, economically vulnerable, population haemorrhaging Ireland, could use a few banishing rituals at sacred sites where Yeats tried either to call down the gods or to confirm their fairy rule – even the unusually down-to-earth Seamus Heaney could say of Yeats “Reading Yeats, I can feel at times a transmission of dangerous force”. With that thought in mind what I will explore in conclusion is the question of what poetry is and does because for me that becomes a personal and oddly Yeatsian question.

YEATS AND THE IDEA OF POETRY TODAY

This month I have published New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas. The sometimes polemical poems have sundry themes but the dramas are based on the Welsh Mabinogion legend of Branwyn and various Irish legends of Oengus the love god and also Graine and the Fenian men. I think it can honestly be claimed and claimed as simple fact, not boast, and as something anyone reading the material could be hard put to dispute, that though I belong to no occult societies, since 1949 (or even 1916) no poet or Protestant claiming Irish nationality will have been closer to the spirit of Yeats and many (though by no means all) of his interests. In the interim as in Seamus Heaney’s to my mind ghastly The Vision (it leaves me feeling claustrophic and a bit queasy!) “imagination” has been downplayed in favour of an overwhelming, sometimes vulgar earthiness. And even the quasi-Yeatsian 1916 revolution, which was a revolution of consciousness as much as politics, is just a little bit mine to do something literary with because Ireland at my birth was conjunct the fatal Easter’s 16 degree Leo Mars, itself conjunct my almost 16 degrees Mars. When at the beginning of my writing career I wrote rather combatively on The Irish Nation, I was as unaware of this celestial tie-in as Yeats was of so much else in his chart. Whatever revolution of consciousness Yeats aimed at, I, spontaneously and broadly somewhat take up again, and even when not in specifically poetry have done so in prose as in works like Temple Mysteries and Spiritual Efficiency  ( http://amzn.to/Xz9L7X ) which effectively assume a hidden occult order of reality and which in their way are expressive of a Yeatsian ideal – “love for the Unseen”.

I could perhaps hardly help going in the direction taken. Mercury and Venus again in the house of writing, Uranus again in late Gemini, Jupiter again in Sagittarius (which with the Leo Mars makes for a somewhat similar emphasis upon the hieratic, the priestly, prophetic role etc), the Neptunes of both on an axis and unsurprisingly too I find, even Catullus. So… here we go again, except that now it’s poetry in itself, not specifically Irish poetry,that chiefly concerns me . After all, I don’t live in Ireland and for perhaps that reason have not been generously treated by anyone in literary Ireland for whom it seems I am merely someone outside and beyond, perhaps even a kind of inconvenient truth safely dismissed in the way I properly mock in my satirical Catullus Redux (http://bit.ly/1ci1WMX ).

POETRY AND SOME “MAGICAL” SYNCHRONICITY

New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas marks a new departure for me after nearly a quarter century’s poetic silence. I had abandoned poetry with the offerings of Puer Poems ( http://amzn.to/11i5hkI )because of the endless, sometimes quite hostile rejections which not even broadcast of a poetic drama on the ABC could overcome. But while, as I thought, I had abandoned poetry for good in disgust, there was a touch of relief that accompanied it too. Poetry and its effects had also begun to puzzle me in certain areas, especially in the way described in the introduction to Puer Poems. There, and citing a peculiar experience surrounding one of my poems, I perceive possible justification for the most traditional bardic/druidic notions that Yeats picked up and ran with, namely poetry as magic and spell à la Prospero or even as the Bible has it, “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21). Poet and poetry as the druids assumed can bless or curse. In modern times and outside Ireland both Ted Hughes and Robert Graves would have at any rate the curse associated with their work.

A lot of modern poetry is “ekphrastic”. It describes objects to offer possible epiphanies – even if these  are often told in flat, bald tones which depart from almost all previous poetic tradition stretching back into the night of time. It’s poetry for the agnostic, materialistic society Yeats abhorred, as I do myself. Traditional/classic poetry, even if it’s blank verse, has rhythm and aims to memorably compress certain ideas. The combination of rhythm and compression and then its repetition seems capable of assisting trance or creating something like thought forms or situations. (Modern exorcists for example find that many possessions can be traced back in the first instance to the psychic wound opened up by parents or associates just repeating to a child that they are ugly, worthless and so on). If Shakespeare was a Prospero, it is notorious that many actors are highly superstitious about “a certain play” (Macbeth) because of the amount of bad energy or ghosts its incantatory verse seems to generate in performance.

As recounted in Puer Poems, I presented what would become the first poem of that collection to a fairly celebrated Australian stage and TV actor as a present. Included were references to typical features of the Puer archetype with which I associated the actor in question so that I wrote “and if he fell he’d bleed and bleed”. Within days of presenting the poem the actor happened to switch to a leading role in the play Blood Brothers and not long after that was hospitalized because there was blood all over the place either in some dressing room fight with another actor (now internationally famous star of screen Russell Crowe), or something that occurred on stage where the future star was reckless – it has never been clear to me which since I have heard and read different stories. I don’t say I “caused” the fiasco, and it’s possible my timing was purest coincidence, but at very least it looks like there was what Jung would call a significant “synchronicity”. It was as though I had timed, declared or released effects of the Puer archetype. Moreover it wasn’t as though there hadn’t been people to have experienced my poetry of  entities that I didn’t believe in, as though I believed in them and that they were somehow real. The thought leaves one feeling a bit more cautious or responsible about literature and its potential to influence. A lot of art, I don’t say all, seems occult either in its generation or effects, or both. The world of Yeatsian poetic stands somewhere between celebration of things Celtic and (magical) imposition upon the culture with any distancing being purely aesthetic as in the admirable experiments with Noh drama. My own effort to achieve a needed distancing for especially the Celtic material of the dramas is through letting the characters establish certain understandings about the culture, history and psychology within which they exist. They are not all Yeatsian heart and emotion but intellect.

SO WHAT IS POETRY TODAY?

So what do I think poetry is? Of course it’s not one thing and some it will always be just entertainment like nursery rhymes or more seriously devoted to the history and myth of the people as in ballads. There is a variety of forms and functions. However, “serious” or “classic” poetry I do believe is “magic” or “mysticism” to the extent it is transcendent of the everyday. Its words, its rhythms, its different organization of language defamiliarizes us with common existence, encourages us to imagine different things, ideas, situations, perhaps begin to do so through a degree of participation in the different reality itself. The movement into the other plane can be either through a hearing or a seeing. Some classic poetry like Shakespeare’s is highly auditory, others as in much Latin verse and Ovid is highly visual; either way one goes beyond in a way that prose which belongs with the ordinary movements, observation and memories of life doesn’t.

In some respects poetry is, or borders, philosophy as witness Lucretius, Dante and in his way Yeats; but if poets have offered philosophy it is more like the work of the pre-Socratics who open minds towards the more developed schemes of the philosophers working with reason in prose rather than imagination and creative imagery. Poetry’s “magic” can be prophetic – much biblical prophecy is delivered in poetry rather than prose – but its messages can also be perennial, drawing us back into the essential and eternal underlying or overseeing our existence. At this point in time I should say that Auden was correct in looking forward to a return of “high style” which is to say a more transcendent poetry. It is time to say goodbye to modern or even post modern experiments in poetry and return to the art as the wisdom and vision which, no matter how much we may criticize and reject his particular beliefs, the legacy of Yeats represents and which no contemporary poet should disdain to follow.

My poem Under Parnassus: An Under Ben Bulben Variation  can be found at https://wp.me/p2v96G-vy

 

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REMEMBERING SEAMUS HEANEY : A POEM

REMEMBERING SEAMUS HEANEY : A POEM

[Seamus Heaney was born the same year Yeats  died (1939) but arguably, nationality and the reputation of poet apart, that is the only real link between them. Five weeks after Yeats’ death the poet Auden published his ironic In Memory of W. B. Yeats. Five weeks after Heaney’s death, in similar spirit or perhaps the spirit of the Irish wake, one offers Remembering Seamus Heaney followed by a short essay, Beyond the Cult of Seamus the Famous, on poetic reputation].

REMEMBERING SEAMUS HEANEY

You have returned to the place of your muses, the earth.
There you rest after having your naturalist’s death
And naturalist’s life of digging with pen where even
A spade might not usually go in cow dung and
Spawn slop. You have now reached the ‘something more’ of
‘Somewhere’ which you felt that the faith you had
(Or you hadn’t) but wouldn’t discuss, is about.

Should one mourn or make the jolly of wake for you who,
Breath sometimes fragrant with whiskey, were ever
Present to Ireland, itself ever conscious of you,
Alert to your most distinct person out walking, offering
Always a smile as though to bless every inch of the turf
And splinter of shale from Arklow to Aran’s wild shores?
“Top of the Morning to Seamus the Famous!”,
T’was a great day to sow seed or mow. You
Might have been as you looked, a master of Tao,
But heat never reached the retort, so
No alchemist’s flower, no part of the tincture
That wasn’t manure could enrich barren fields.

In your garden the rat lurked like half poisoned fruit,(1)
Your verses were thick with the shock of the ugly
Oysters you fancied like talk for its own sake (2)
Touching and squeezing anything soft was your love.
The world and endeavour of heroes you
Judged by farm labour, men busy at work,
Its image, the ‘straining rump’ of your da,
That aisling sky maidens would not have observed (3).

You had virtues of which, shining forth above all,
Was how humble you were, admitting yourself
To be valley to mountains like Goethe and Yeats.
Which was true, for you had not clearly the vision
Of any that’s easy to name – if your chief guide
Was Wordsworth could anyone tell? – but few
Could deny the exchange of AE and Earth Breath
For the farting of frogs. Even so, you left
The wide world in thrall, not least great lands
Of the North as though to pure magic or Ibsen.
They felt assured you conveyed them mysteries
Untold for which they were morally bound to
Award you “the” prize. In the north it seems
Harder to see what’s body and clothes and
You dealt with a conjuror’s skill in the
Naked delight of imperial robes.

The confusion of death-bed once over,
Will you be sent beneath a cold heaven
Onto streets all unclothed as Sligo’s poet
Would say? (4) Certain is you do not await
What you readily deemed a Protestant fate –
A last Trump arising to factory horn….(5)

Shout, wail, mourn, crack the wake jokes. In the
Drizzle of morning and mists of the evening,
Treading through swamps of the Earth Mother’s sow
To a naturalist’s vision your nation will bow.(6)

Copyright: Rollan McCleary 2013

NOTES

1) “Outside the kitchen a black rat/sways on the briar like infected fruit” Heaney, Glanmore Sonnets, Sonnet 9.
2) The poem Oysters in Field Work is word rich but largely barren of meaning. The poet’s mouth is less a vehicle to convey messages than  an “estuary” for sea food.
3) “My father digging, I look down/ Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds/Bends low….” Heaney, Digging.…. This contrasts with the inspiration of the Aisling”, a form of vision. Irish bards regularly pictured an archetypal, muse-like figure as a sky maiden supplying their vocation or themes. Even Yeats had Maud Gonne, AE Susan Mitchell and McCleary’s East-West Puer Poems incorporates the symbolism of the Vedic goddess of dawn as muse. In Digging, which is Heaney’s declaration of vocation and poetic intent, there is no connection to vision or even just a concept of muse. Unless it would be the devouring earth mother herself, Joyce’s “sow which eats its own farrow”, an earth muse or muses can hardly be said to exist; they are psychologically counter-intuitive for poetry generally.
4) “Confusion of the death-bed over/Is it [the spirit] sent out naked on the roads…” Yeats, The Cold Heaven.
5) “A factory horn will blare the Resurrection”, Heaney Docker, (his rather negative portrait of a Protestant worker).
6) If anything cravenly bow. Enda Kenny’s tribute is impossibly excessive. “Across the world Seamus Heaney was and is seen not alone as Ireland’s better self but I believe its best-self possible”. This best-self possible is one “open to the potency of myth”, something if not undermined (except in his translation work) at bare minimum in Heaney.  North can look at the ocean and write of “the secular powers of the Atlantic”. And what mythic mind could refer to “the unmagical invitations of Iceland” ?! One cannot escape the suspicion that in a rapidly secularizing Ireland with traditional reverence for the priest much eroded, the substitute becomes the poet as voice of a hoped for spiritual truth.

BEYOND THE CULT OF SEAMUS THE FAMOUS

In its way my poem  – however coincidentally – parallels and suitably follows upon last month’s blog with its Mother  Teresa, Mother Confusion. The subject is similar and it’s the big con, and both poet and saint were trained within Ireland even if MT wasn’t born there. Obviously one doesn’t suggest Heaney lacked technical proficiency as a poet,  insight as a critic or skill as a translator (his Beowulf translation raised him to bestseller status), still less that he was other than the genial,considerate person he is widely reported as being. Arguably  however his popular success undermines and threatens something in poetry itself as Mother Teresa has subtly undermined modern Christianity with work not all that  it seemed to be.

Just as with Mother Teresa, the adulation of Heaney – “genius”, “giant”, “superstar of literature” – has been astonishing. The Independent’s obituary of 30th August observed, “the list of his honours is breathtaking….few available honours passed him by”. Quite so. Breathtaking is the only word. And meteoric  must describe the rise in public esteem  if one considers that nowadays schoolchildren study Death of a Naturalist  often as their introduction to verse itself, whereas back when it appeared in 1966 critic Eavan Boland could observe, “unless it conceals a profound allegory [it] is a lengthy, disappointing description of frogs”. . In all history, unless possibly Virgil taken under the wing of Caesar Augustus, no poet, not even a poet  laureate, has enjoyed anything like the accolades.  A father of poetry in the modernist mode, T.S. Eliot, an artist of  wider range and accomplishment, received nothing like it (though possibly in his case  he is to blame in that elements of anti-Semitism tainted his reputation).

Heaney is not and never can be the successor to Yeats he has often been called and as obituaries  have been repeating. For a start Yeats believed in the virtual identity of poetry with religion. And most essentially poetry is about a degree of transcendence – certainly it arose out of the ecstatic/religious function. Ignoring this dimension for only the familiar, for the brown bog of life one might say, poetry falls flat (or gets stuck). Even a perfectly modern poet like Adrienne Rich eventually came round to the view that poetry can never hope to stray too far from spirituality. Which it can’t.

If serious poetry is mostly out of fashion and lame today it is because it exists within a secular world in which its exponents feel obliged to observe things, mostly just objects, like a scientist in a laboratory while they work with and possess only disjointed words, scarcely a language  to express real ideas.  Moreover  contemporary poetry almost flees developed ideas and philosophies. It has certainly abdicated virtually any species of “prophetic” function and unlike Yeats Heaney, who thought of the poet as if anything a contemplative, tried as far as possible to avoid socio/political engagement. One response in the face of his native Ulster’s problems which otherwise he tended simply to regret, was an early retreat across the border to Wicklow’s countryside. It was however perhaps half intended as its own political statement.

Without usually expressing any very marked views, and even because he didn’t, Heaney slotted easily into the secularist role of detached artistic observer, the word spinner and wordsmith  (even if some were determined to read meanings and magic into his words that weren’t especially there). His observations were enlivened less by deep emotion than an intense quirkiness that easily led on, as realism easily does, to a gratuitous ugliness which further escapes the function of transcendence which it’s poetry’s role to cultivate. It is no objection to this point that Heaney was deemed so popular,  “the most widely read poet in English”, “the greatest living poet” and “irreplaceable”, “one of the greatest poets ever”. Beyond what owes here to some media/publishing hype and the impositions of academic curricula, the fact is that Heaney does appeal – to those today who don’t readily “get” poetry and don’t terribly wish to be challenged by it and its more ascensional, idealistic impulses.

Presented almost humbly and apologetically by him, Heaney’s opus undeniably  soothes and reassures a certain sector of the public that half craves mediocrity at the same time as it relishes admittance to the esoteric, elitist literary circle that employs unnecessary obscurities and technicalities by way of variation upon the otherwise  unbridled realism. The glum, rather deadpan, monotone muse, voice of the grey day making declarations about life and just anything in virtual prose rather than poetry, is one authentic expression of the modern. (Most modern poetry could even be defined as lesser Heaneyism or would-be haiku).  We scarcely hear anything else and maybe because it bolsters many people’s democratic aspirations  to – one fine day – assume the poetic mantle and write in similar mode. However….in the past and still today both  ordinary people and specialists like critics Harold Bloom (who can allow Heaney to be a good poet but not a Yeats) and the late Kathleen Raine, a proponent of neo-romanticism, have only devoted themselves to writing or appreciating poetry with the express purpose of transcending normal expression and perception, at least on occasions (there are none in Heaney) touching the sublime. This is something any national poet can usually be expected to do, rather than getting mired in the sordid, trivial  or just embarrassing….

But that is what Heaney too often does, including in relation to his unfortunate father whom he might have spared. If his earliest work in Death of a Naturalist, draws the readers attention to his father’s straining rump, his last work as in The Human Chains’ poem The Butts draws attention to the “tonic unfreshness” associated with memory of his father via his old suit and the need to attend to sticking a sponge into the  “meagre armpits” of the aged parent to wash away the smell of oxter sweat. (Should we call Heaney’s materialistic poetry a new form of body poetry with a trajectory from rump to armpit?). A second cousin who fell victim to the Troubles didn’t fare much better by way of memorial. His corpse is recorded as having “blood and roadside muck in your hair and eyes.” (The Strand at Lough Beg). Other relatives in their coffins in Funeral Rites are  described with their “puffed knuckles” and “igloo brows”.  This is the poet the singer Bono calls always “elegant”. (No need to wax facetious about his claim that Heaney’s poetry has helped to keep him “afloat”).

Yet typical of the emperor’s clothes misreadings of Heaney’s recourse to  details of the sweaty oxter kind, there  has even been comparison of this to the paintings of Vermeer. Vermeer’s brand of tranquil, luminous realism is so special it has something of the mystical sublime about it. The comparison with Heaney’s delight in just the tasteless or coarse cannot and should not even begin to be made. Only a society which has lost all bearings where art is concerned could give it the time of day; and if it were really true as Ireland’s Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, had it upon announcement of Heaney’s passing that he was “the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people,” then it would have to be an Ireland in a down and lost phase. It belongs more to any Irish essence to boldly declare rather than like Heaney to camouflage the self and opinions with words.  Also as the above notes indicate, Heaney doesn’t assimilate the more usual  imagery and psychology of the Celtic (and almost archetypally universal) muse, opting psychologically instead to be swallowed by the sow/earth mother.

Some may dismiss all reflections of this  (effectively neo-romantic) variety  as expressive less of conviction than resentment.  Though there might be justification enough for precisely something in that vein given statements like those in Catullus Redux, (see August blog)resentment is not true as regards the spirit in which this particular blog was written, which was rather one of humour. Never having principally aspired to the rare career of poet, for this writer of mainly prose it’s not a case of an entire life having been highjacked through the direction upon it of  certain negative values where publishing and the arts community are concerned. In the face of the Heaney phenomenon and despite the unacceptable situations evoked by Catullus Redux  (even if for a quarter of a century they convinced me poetry must be deemed a defunct medium for the artistic expression and social communication of anything), only hilarity is possible.

Looking through Heaney’s verse with what Bloom kindly calls its “soil sense” and then at images of him to accompany this blog  – a pic with the appearance of  gesturing critics away seemed the most appropriate! – had the effect of bringing on irrepressible laughter. There truly is a dimension of Hans Christian Anderson and the emperor’s clothes about it all and in the long term this will be realized. It should already be apparent from how, privately, Heaney really thought of poetry and other poets (how he felt about Yeats was rather disgusting. See  http://dlvr.it/43p7NS  ….where of course automatic admiration describes it not as indecent but “surreal”).

Seamus Heaney, rest in peace! Without envy for your particular setting or career triumphs and without personal malice at your passing, it’s possible to say thanks, bro, for all the laughter you’ve provided. You really were rather dreadful, eccentrically so, but you meant no harm even while you managed to hoodwink society and devotees as surely and successfully as Mother Teresa. How clever you were and also how fortunate!  As regards your relation to the state and standards of contemporary Irish culture, perhaps one should think along the lines of your comment to Christina Davis, the winner of an Oxford poetry competition you oversaw:  “Well your poem wasn’t very good now was it, but it was better than everyone else’s.”

[I have belatedly seen that an article by Sean Thomas for The Telegraph in England is much in accordance with  my revisionist position on Heaney]

http://bit.ly/GHiVdc

 

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in aesthetics, creativity, culture, Poetry

 

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