Friday, December 15, 2017

Suppose it were Friday cxliv: Venturing a point of view

Partners to a quarrel have a way of proposing themselves for that purpose to each others' eyes, whom natural selection identifies, pretty well. One's acceptance is only slightly less predictable. Had the photographer seen the gaping mouth formed by the elbow, holding the umbrella, as a cry of pain from the hatcheting fender and license plate behind, or was the precision of the parallel borders of black above not arranged to frame the extended neck so perfectly? The purpose of the quarrel is to displace acute considerations of quite another kind, to a field agreed upon for the familiarity, the security of its footing. Chaos, however, looks on with all the opportunism of any player, alert to the other's vision.

Ralph Gleason

Pablo Picasso

Jegor Venned

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Origins of Wednesday lx: Hurry, now, to drain the silo

  Forasmuch as God hath showed
  thee all this, there is none
  so discreet and wise as thou
  art ..

  In a hot and rapine haste
  to grab, now, tax reform
  for their pleasure - to
  empty every silo of the
  Treasury for their own
  revolting fattening - a
  Party in precarious pow-
  er in the United States
  have suppressed an erst-
  while proclivity to hec-
  tor us from sacred texts.
  To what remission of de-
  lusional pride are we to
  ascribe this omission?


  Who could have expected
  such modesty among the
  great, as to resemble a
  carelessness to compare
  with Pharaoh's butler?

The Leader of this flimsy
hegemony in the Senate has
opined that Alabama's new
Senator could not possibly
be seated - what with all
days - until some distant
date which must convenient-
ly follow the pending rape
of future generations. And
how baffling this is, may
be measured in the Presid-
ent's certitude, that the
new Senator would aid it.

ii  Comme des Garçons

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alabama goes voting

All that was missing from the Fauve master, Louis Valtat's depiction of the President's great rally for Alabama of last week-end, was the pointillist sea of little red hats. 

How well the swooning basses mimed the maestro's anguished spine, the brasses and the drums arrayed to let the true faith shine. 

To each his own mode, I suppose, 
of delineating the pendancy of a
great moment. Valtat painted the
alternative interpretation, him-
self, to the aroused, fused, and
thundering mass in his orchestra
canvas: the other state, so to
speak, of mind enacted in the
same great moment, of voting. We
have a President who relies upon
the one, and a culture cognizant
of the other. Each of his canvas-
es gives us the glimpse into the
aspirations of the act, indeed
their wellspring, which marks it
as subject to the greatest vari-
ation. Now we test the power of
privity, to counsel this conduct.
I do not believe any Alabamans
are impervious to the finer sec-
rets of this moment, their own.

Louis Valtat
1869 - 1952

The orchestra
ca 1922

Boy drawing

Matthew Holt
  Sara Reverberi, photography


Monday, December 11, 2017

Shaving fair

A problem with being willing
to confess to permitting one-
self a degree of enjoyment in
poetic imagery, not fully ad-
apted to that pleasure, is a
reputation to which this can
give rise, of unfairness to
the work of art. I find I am
habitually unfair to the work
of Anne Carson in this way,
and it's not much exoneration
to confess, she is not alone.

And one does like exoneration.
It's just not why I read her.
I find a music in her phrases
I could not exchange for any
glossary, any rosetta stone.

Some may call one to surren-
der naïve belief, given the
catastrophe pending from it
every day, by cruel design.
What evangelic genius is at
work, to serve such scorn?

          It takes practice to shave the skin off the light.
                        plus or
          Penguins topple like astonished dice
              New York
                      barbers are good
          Morning swings in a moonsplashed hole
                     jam together
          His scissors blaze on open black water
                        quiet she

          "Whatsoever of it has flown away is past.
          Whatsoever remains is future."

             (Augustine, Confessions, XI)

Anne Carson
Men in the Off Hours
  The Barber Shop
Random House, 2000©

Louren Groenewald
Johannes Westerwald
Bettina duToit, photography

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Princeton Classics don funks Ferry

Were you there, in your in-box
yesterday afternoon, as the
weekend Book Review from The
Times dropped in for tea? It
was a convenience not to be at
a window when the hyper-link
opened upon a classic monkish
defenestration, of David Ferry's
radiant Aeneid. It brought to 
mind the Great Purges of the
1930s, or Lawrence Stone's be-
ing "smote, hip and thigh," in
the English Historical Review
by Trevor-Roper, heretofore a
benchmark of defrocking inde-
cency in the guise of punctilio.

That this thrilling "trumpet
blast," not to be more Puritan-
ical in its appreciation than 
it is in conception, should 
have emerged from the Classics 
department at one's own alma 
mater, is proof of the pres-
tige of the underlying text,
albeit an irresistible incite-
ment to expose a critic's am-
bition. Who can doubt, that
Princeton's Professor Fagles,
himself an auto-didact in
the language under discussion,
is rolling in his grave, over
the allegations steeping from 
a putrefaction of pettiness,
a self-contradictory brew of 
academic bile:

The book is justified only by
the curse of trendy topicality.
Zounds, it contains no glossary!
It contains no essay on the
literary tradition, no refer-
ence to its historical setting.
It is not a term paper! Worse
than that, it isn't a raw leap
of re-imagining, in the unlic-
ensed vein of Logue and Pound!
It's no romp of heroic couplets
from 17th Century English,
either! I even counted errors!
How dare his publisher fail
this innocent, when already he 
is tainted by enviable esteem
in my profession, and distin-
guished by more modesty, po-
etry, and empathy than I?

We recall this critic's seat
as a setting for learning to
play fair. His review of the
new Aeneid overlooks how en-
tire swaths of the text have
been ignored in the literary
tradition of its translation,
and quite routinely recomposed
in the best of it. His silence
on these realities mirrors a
shocking omission of "flaws"
in everything he praises in
this review. This behavior is
beneath the earnestness of un-
dergraduates, and stains the
place they learn to love it.

Denis Feeney
The New York Times
December 5, 2017

Friday, December 8, 2017

Suppose it were Friday cxliii: If you do not come this day

               Morning and the snow might fall forever.
               I keep busy. I watch the yellow dogs
               chase creeping cars filled with Indians
               on their way to the tribal office.
               Grateful trees tickle the busy underside
               of our snow-fat sky. My mind is right,
               I think, and you will come today
               for sure, this day when the snow falls.

               From my window, I see bundled Doris Horseman,
               black in the blowing snow, her raving son,
               Horace, too busy counting flakes to hide his face.
               He doesn't know. He kicks my dog        
               and glares at me, too dumb to thank the men
               who keep him on relief and his mama drunk.

               My radio reminds me that Hawaii calls
               every afternoon at two. Moose Jaw is overcast,
               twelve below and blowing. Some people . . .
               Listen: if you do not come this day, today
               of all days, there is another time
               when breeze is tropic and riffs the green sap
               forever up these crooked cottonwoods. Sometimes,
               you know, the snow never falls forever.

We marvel now, to be shacked up
with a Party devoted to humili-
ation as the destiny of human-
ity - or, at least that portion
under its grasping governance:
marginalized as vulgar, in-
effectual, superstitious, cap-
tious, and cruel in the eyes
of the world, and subordinate
to exploitive layers of incor-
porated priests, mediating be-
tween ourselves and authority.
They set their face against
time, and anything that endures.

It is remarkable, David Ferry
wrote in his preface to Virgil's
Georgics, how the triumphs and
sufferings of the creatures other
than man are fully meaningful 
and substantiated in themselves;
they're never merely background
for, not merely metaphors for, 
the story of men. The dignity of
what they are is never exploited
as pathetic fallacy; there is no
condescension toward those others
who share our fallen world with us.

In the Classics we situate our
endeavors in a context of vastly
less illusion than our Parties
condition us to crave, but this
conduit is not content, it is
method: the eyesight of poetry.
This is why, after any reflection
in the world of Virgil, one turns
seamlessly effortlessly to the
poetry of the American, James Welch.

In this wonderful week, when an Am-
erican President stripped protec-
tions of preservation from a great
natural monument, and hurled the
ancient peoples of Palestine into
a vastly more volatile conflict
than international accords have
ever condoned, it is apposite to
see the trees, the dogs, the snow
invoked, not as background for re-
volting violations of promises. As 
very real sharers of our condition.

Riding the Earthboy 40
  Going to Remake This World
op. cit.
Penguin, 2004©

i  Edward Dimsdale

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Some kind of kinship: the Virgilian prefaces of David Ferry

             I will be gone from here and sing my songs
             In the forest wilderness where the wild beasts are,
             And carve in letters on the little trees
             The story of my love, and as the trees
             Will grow the letters too will grow, to cry
             In a louder voice of my love.

A friend of mine, living in Brooklyn
and awaiting at any minute the birth
of his first child, wrote to me of a 
scheme to recite from The Aeneid dur-
ing the interrupted nights he expects
from the nursery. Widely and learnedly
traveled as he and his wife are, it
seemed to me that some of the harbors
in that poem might be deferred for a
child's later contemplation, but that
the same poet could serve in the pas-
toral mode of his earlier writings.

I sense that it is next to impossible
to discuss the positively immortal
beauty of Virgil's poetry in our in-
teresting culture, without sounding 
a little arch. But this is not true
of everyone, and it is probably least
true of one man, who could say this,
in a preface to The Aeneid from one 
of the finest houses in publishing:

I love the way that opening line in
the Latin ends with "almam" . .

Aurora interea miseris mortalibus almam

Aurora rose, spreading her pitying light

In Fagles, this is "the light that gives
men life." In Ruden, it is similar, "nur-
turing." In Fitzgerald, it is "kindly."
Sadly, every single one of these associa-
tions is not what Virgil had in mind at
this moment of spectacular mourning. Yet
each of these translations is commendable
for its industry, learning, and modesty.
I live with these exemplary translations
in grateful companionship, but this poet
has not shaken the soul of our "living"
language, to be forsaken to immortality.

One thinks of a new child and her father in
the nursery late at night, as the least neg-
eligible of all respondents in communication.
The corresponding burden, although light,
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
But there is wisdom, and there is more. 

In this preface, and in the two he wrote
for Virgil's Eclogues and Georgics, David
Ferry has quietly promulgated a manifesto
on translation which every reader will wel-
come in many ways - on meter, on vocabulary,
on literary structure. The problem, more to
be relished than ignored, is how arduous
the choices are, how infinitely demanding
of the inherent gifts of poetry, itself,
in both voices in translation's dialogue:

The effort is to achieve a representation, 
in the lines as they move forward, line 
by line, telling the tale, some kind of
kinship not only to the sense of the Lat-
in but also to the expressive complexit-
its of implicated discernment and emotion
in the lines. 

In so many ways, the poetry of Virgil
projects that protection and libera-
tion through form which bear the
least dissonance with the greatest
love. I cite David Ferry's translation
of these lines from Gallus' song in the
Tenth Eclogue, as some evidence for the
ardor living in the Latin for the Eng-
lish listener, to respond to disbelief 
that it can be done. This is no tour de
force, merely of linguistics. It is con-
duct of the highest moral liveliness,
by which, I should think, we are all
awakened. And so one goes on, singing,
in the very weather of one's own time -

          But I think it is not out of order for me to say
          that "completing" this translation of the work of
          such a great poet means a great deal to me person-
          ally, since I have previously translated his Ec-
          logues and his Georgics, and I am in love with his
          voice as I hear it in all these poems,

          telling how it is with all created beings, the very
          leaves on the trees, the very rooted plants, the
          beasts in the fields, the shepherds trying to keep
          their world together with song replying to song re-
          plying to song,

          the bees in their vulnerable hives, doing their
          work, the soldiers doing their work of killing and
          dying, the falling cities, and the kings and fathers,
          and their sons, and Dido, and Palinurus, and Deipho-
          bus, and Mezentius the disrespecter of gods, and the
          mortal son of Venus, the creature Aeneas, carrying
          his household gods to build a city, heroic and vul-
          nerable, himself subject to monstrous rage, himself
          not always unconfused. All of them, all of us, crea-
          tures, created beings, heroic and vulnerable, and
          Virgil's voice telling it as it is, in his truth-
          telling pitying voice.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999©

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005©

University of Chicago Press, 2017©

Photography, here