Saturday, 8 December 2007


line 72

As when, upon a tranced summer-night, those green-rob'd senators of mighty woods, tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars, dream, and so dream all night without a stir, save from one gradual solitary gust which comes upon the silence, and dies off, as if the ebbing air had but one wave; so came these words and went; the while in tears she touch'd her fair large forehead to the ground, just where her falling hair might be outspread a soft and silken mat for Saturn's feet. One moon, with alteration slow, had shed her silver seasons four upon the night, and still these two were postured motionless, like natural sculpture in cathedral cavern; the frozen God still couchant on the earth, and the sad Goddess weeping at his feet: until at lenght old Saturn lifted up his faded eyes, and saw his kingdom gone, and all the gloom and sorrow of the place, and that fair kneeling Goddess; and then spake, as with a palsied tongue, and while his beard shook horrid with such aspen-malady: " O tender spouse of gold Hyperion, Thea, I feel thee ere I see thy face; look up, and let me see our doom in it; look up , and tell me if this feeble shape is Saturn's; tell me, if thou hear'st the voice of Saturn; tell me, if this wrinkling brow, naked and bare of its great diadem, peers like the front of Saturn. Who had power to make me desolate? whence came the strength? how was it nurtur'd to such bursting forth, while Fate seem'd strangled in my nervous grasp? But it is so; and I am smother'd up, and buried from all godlike exercise of influence benign on planets pale, of admonitions to the winds and seas, of peaceful sway above man's harvesting, and all those acts which Deity supreme doth ease its heart of love in. - I am gone away from my own bosom: I have left my stong identity, my real self, somewhere between the thone, and where I sit here on this spot of earth. Search, Thea, search, open thine eyes eterne, and sphere them round upon all space: space starr'd, and lorn of light; space region'd with life-air; and barren void; spaces of fire, and all the yawn of hell. - Search, Thea, search! and tell me, if thou seest a certain shape or shadow, making way with wings or chariot fierce to repossess a heaven he lost erewhile: it must - it must be of ripe progress - Saturn must be King. Yes, there must be a golden victory; there must be Gods thrown down, and trumpets blown of triumph, and hymns of festival upon the gold clouds metropolitan, voices of soft proclaim, and silver stir of strings in hollow shells; and there shall be beautiful things made new, for the surprise of the sky-children; I will give command: Thea! Thea! Thea! where is Saturn?"

This passion lifted him upon his feet, and made his hands to struggle in the air, his Druid locks to shake and ooze with sweat, his eyes to fever out, his voice to cease. He stood, and heard not Thea's sobbing deep; a little time, and then again he snatch'd utterance thus. - "But cannot I create? cannot I form? cannot I fashion forth another world, another universe, to overhear and crumble this to nought? where is another chaos? where?"

That word found way unto Olympus, and made quake the rebel three. - Thea was startled up, and in her bearing was a sort of hope, as thus she quick-voic'd spake, yet full of awe... Keats: work in progress.



Hyperion: A fragment
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale far sunken from the healthy breath of morn, far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star, sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone, still as the silence round about his lair; forest on forest hung about his head like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there, not so much life as on a summer's day robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass, but where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest. A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more by reason of his fallen divinity spreading a shade: the Naiad' mid her reeds press'd her cold finger closer to her lips.

Along the margin-sand large foot-marks went, no further than to where his feet had stray'd, and slept there since. Upon the sodden ground his old right hand lay nerveless, listless, dead, unsceptred; and his realmless eyes were closed; while his bow'd head seem'd list'ning to the Earth, his ancient mother, for some comfort yet.

It seem'd no force could wake him from his place; but there came one, who with a kindred hand touch'd his wide shoulders, after bending low with reverence, though to one who knew it not. She was a Goddess of the infant world; by her in stature the tall Amazon had stood a pigmy's height: she would have ta'en Achilles by the hair and bent his neck; or with a finger stay'd Ixion's wheel. Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx, pedestal'd haply in a palace court, when sages look'd to Egypt for their lore. But oh! how unlike marble was that face: how beautiful, if sorrow had not made sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self. There was a listening fear in her regard, as if calamity had but begun; as if the vanward clouds of evil days had spent their malice, and the sullen rear was with its stored thunder labouring up. One hand she press'd upon that aching spot where beats the human heart, as if just there, though an immortal, she felt cruel pain: the other upon Saturn's bended neck she laid, and to the level of his ear leaning with parted lips, some words she spake in solemn tenour and deep organ tone: some mourning words, which in our feeble tongue would come in these like accents; Oh how frail to that large utterance of the early Gods! "Saturn, look up! - though wherefore, poor old King? I have no comfort for thee, no not one: I cannot say, 'O wherefore sleepest thou? For heaven is parted from thee, and the earth knows thee not, thus afflicted, for a God; and ocean too, with all its solemn noise, has from thy sceptre pass'd; and all the air is emptied of thine hoary majesty. Thy thunder, conscious of the new command, rumbles reluctant o'er our fallen house; and thy sharp lightning in unpractised hands scorches and burns our once serene domain. O aching time! O moments big as years! All as ye pass swell out the monstrous truth, and press it so upon our weary griefs that unbelief has not a space to breathe. Saturn, sleep on:- O thoughtless, why did I thus violate thy slumbrous solitude? Why should I ope thy melancholy eyse? Saturn, sleep on! while at thy feet I weep"

... in progress: Keats.

Rubaiyat segments

Looking up to the Tree above Ide, Exeter

...Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise to talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies; one thing is certain and the Rest is Lies; the Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument about it and about again: but evermore came I by the same Door as in I went. With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, and with my own hand labour'd it to grow: and this was all the Harvest that I reap'd - I came like Water, and like Wind I go.

Into this Universe, and why not knowing, nor whence. Like Water willy-nilly flowing in; and out of it, as Wind along the Waste, willy-nilly blowing.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Pomegranets and Pythagoras


Pythagoras was an ancient Greek philosopher-mathematician who lived around 500 BC. Among his claims to fame is the abstraction of mathematics [Pythagoras realised, for instance, that numbers are actually abstract objects. He would assert: 16 is just as real a concept as 16 pomegranates.

From the treasure trove of Amanda

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

We Can Recreate Our Minds

Looking down onto Exeter from the Tree

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 199

What we have to do is to realise that we can re-create our minds, our whole intellectual and aesthetic powers, at our free will. To do this we must have faith. It is absurd to leave such a miraculous power as faith to all manner of mountebanks, charlatans, and quacks. We must have faith in the experiments of our own inmost will. Not a biological change, not an evolutionary change has ever occurred that has not been the creation of a particular organic will. And we must will not only the hardening and tightening of our “ego” but also its loosening, its relaxing, its liquefaction, its becoming nothing… we must become nothing in order to become everything! We must be as weak and ubiquitous and yielding as air and water, in order to be as formidable as space and time…

…what the individual person must do who has discovered the magical secrets of loneliness is to value nothing, hold nothing of importance, except the actual experiences of his own soul. In place of regarding his day-dreams as a weakness, he will regard them as the only reality.

Let Us Confess the Truth

The Horseshoe at Mere

Let us confess the truth. This divine-devilish First Cause is reached by our inmost soul and touched by our inmost soul at innumerable points. We have, each of us, the power of tapping Its magnetic contradictory energies. When we are obsessed by evil, we tap Its cruel destructive energy; when we are obsessed by good, we tap its beneficent creative energy. Between It and us there is an umbilical cord: we are Its offspring – Its latest-begotten. We are It…

Page 198
In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

The Whole Secret of Life

Kimber Hill, North Cadbury

The whole secret of life depends upon the kind of sensuality that your inmost nature allows to itself. There is a witless, restless, brutal, unintelligent “pleasure-seeking” that is the extreme opposite of the diffused sensuality I am advocating here. And it is this garish, frivolous, brainless, restless pleasure-seeking that, more than anything else, is the enemy and destroyer of that delicious, dream-creating, contemplative sensuality which is the purpose of all intelligent life. This crude, brutal “having a good time” is as alien from real ecstatic happiness as is one’s absorption in business. It is far more deadly and far more evil than any practical work. Some kind of work it behoves us all to undergo, thus paying back what we owe to the human race for food and shelter. But we do not owe it to the human race that we should waste our precious time and spoil the sweet privacy of our secret delights by taking the remotest interest in those absurd “sports” as they are called… dictated by the silly fashions of the hour to such an extent that even their vulgarity is not fresh or spontaneous…

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930
Page 190

The Purpose of Life

Looking to Georgeham, from the hills above Croyde

… The purpose of life is entirely individual and personal, a certain secret adjustment between ourselves, as lonely organic unites of consciousness, and the imponderable multiverse that surrounds us. We each, if we have any sense of honour or any virtue in us, feel we must share the practical labour of housing, feeding, and clothing the naked bodies of men; but all this is merely the means of life, Life itself, the purpose and entelechy of life, does not even begin until both the tiresomeness of “work” and the tiresomeness of “play” are laid aside and we obtain leisure to enjoy those dreamy, sensual, imaginative feelings out of which our inmost identity or interior “ego” weaves its unique material material-spiritual cocoon.
Everyone has a natural right to advocate the kind of economic or political arrangements – however shocking to the majority-opinion – that one feels lends itself best to the housing, clothing, and feeding of human beings. But all these matters are irrelevant to the main issue. Whatever economic or political system we ironically endure or passionately seek to bring about, out real life goes on its way, through good luck and bad luck, through comfort, through poverty, seeking its true happiness in the imaginative sensuality of its contemplative day-dreams.

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930
Page 191

A Doctorine Hanging in the Void

Braunton Burrows

… Once more let me repeat. Every Oriental philosophy that would make us indifferent to happiness is a blasphemy against life. And they are refuted once for all by every plant that drinks the rain, by every animal that eats the grass, by every infant that is suckled by its mother , by every lover who embraces his mistress, by every girl who picks flowers in a field. “Let us bear the pain as well as we can, for the sake of enjoying the pleasure.” This is the cry of life itself , life’s one and only cry; life’s cry when it is born, life’s cry when it comes to die.
How, in a world like this – a world calling upon us to respond to so much pain, to so much pleasure – can any being imagine in its mystical folly, that it has made the best of life, when at its death it can only exclaim, “ I have learnt to be indifferent to both happiness and suffering”! Such a last word is the utmost confession of abysmal defeat. And to this defeat, to this blasphemy against life, to this monstrous death-cult, all those Oriental metaphysicists tend who deny the breathing, quivering, vibrating, bleeding difference between happiness and unhappiness, between pleasure and pain.

The doctrine that life could not exist without this dualism of pleasure and pain is a doctrine that no man can prove. It is a doctrine hanging in the void. Surely it is not inconceivable that the First Cause, which is responsible for this dualism, might, by using Its freewill, have managed to reduce the pain of the world to a kind of minimum – just enough of it to break up the paradisic monotony! Instead of allowing the balance on the good side to be no greater than it is? Why could not the First Cause almost overcome, if not quite overcome, the evil in Its own nature? Well, there it is! It is not much help to ask such a question. The First Cause remains, just as we and the universe of all souls remain, with something - a considerable shade, a moiety a fringe, a margin – left over, wherein the good does have an advantage over the evil…

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 188

I Have Deliberately Named My Philosophy

Equinox Fire at Danes Road

I have deliberately named my philosophy by the name “ichthyosaurus” in order to challenge that bastard sense of humour which is always being exploited by the inquisitors of the Status Quo to kill the new shoots of thought…

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 201

All Sensuous Moments

Along from Dunkery Beacon

….All sensuous moments, all divine moments occur in solitude and silence – except in the single case of exchanging ideas with anyone you have singled out to love. And in that one exception it is in the silences that follow the words, where the countenance is illuminated and the eyes wet with tears, rather than in the words themselves, that the ecstasy is consummated, between the “good” in the twi-natured First Cause and the “good” in each of the excited interlocutors of cosmic rapport is reached.

Life is far too precious a thing, far too short a thing, to waste it on acquaintances. But there is no need to be unkind. Propitiate all living creatures. Be reverential and considerate to all living things, human and non-human. Visit the grave of someone who is dead, everyday. Remember that human beings have the power of creating a sort of half-consciousness in dolls and in stuffed birds and in other so-called “inanimate” things. Be religious in the only real, deal sense. That is to say, indulge fetish-worship to the extremist limit. Thus in your imaginative life the beast-gods of the remote Past will beckon to the beyond-human gods of the remote future…

…Between such a one (as John Cowper Powys calls an ichthyosaurus half-god – one who is in the “I am I” state of being, in solitude of thought, without the baggage of the tribe) and the dying leaf dropped in the gutter, or any deserted and broken object that has been endowed with an obscure half-life by the unconscious creative “aura” of the human touch, there is a magnetic link. Thus it may well be said, as Apuleius maintained, that the world is full of dethroned and bewitched and abject little gods. The world is pluralistic and full of magic; and it is a grievous mistake, and one of the chief and most obstinate causes of man’s present misery, that people have given up polytheism. Not to worship the sun and moon and earth and sea, and each one of the planets and stars, is to make a pompous ass of yourself. They are all gods and they can all answer prayers… Every living soul, if it cares to demand it, can be made true even if there is no conscious life after death. There are a great many mores forces at work than the merely conscious ones. Our attitude toward the First Cause (JCPs description of an ultimate creator, a dual natured force behind the cosmos) need not be religious. It ought not to be so unless we are consciously forgetting the evil side of this Ultimate Being and thinking only of its good side. It is best to worship the “little gods” and defy the First Cause. Thus, what we should really aim at is to become idolaters. The essence of poetry is idolatry. Our modern machine-made misery come from the fact that we shrink from natural idolatry. It has become a moral compulsion with us to shrink from this – to be what is considered “reasonable” is the new-fangled fashion. Such arid and lifeless “rationality” is far more removed from the real secret of life than the craziest superstition.

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 88

A Migratory Spirit

Across to the Bristol Channel Through the Trees

To suggest as even possible that one can take a view of life that extends outside the normal human consciousness – that reverts, in fact, to the remote vegetable-world in the one direction, and anticipates some super-human godlike sense-life in the other direction – seems to these ugly watch-dogs of human prisons and privies the last word of the ludicrous.

There is evolution in other respects. Everybody believes that the trunk of the elephant evolved and that the neck of the giraffe evolved and that the prickles of the ea-urchin evolved and tat the uprightness of Homo Sapiens evolved. Why should not this “ichthyosaurus-philosophy” prove to be something that emanates from the beginning of a new evolutionary phase? Whey should not the particular kind of ecstasy, the wretched and crude rudiments of which it has been given me to describe, turn out to be a new evolutionary phenomenon like the elephant’s trunk, the urchin’s prickles, the sea-horse’s scales, the neck of the giraffe, the spots of the leopard?

Happiness, ecstasy, are not entirely material like these; but they undoubtedly have a material basis. Why should not this ichthyosaurus-book be a straw upon the wind, indicating that certain individual human beings are going to develop new powers on psychic-sensual happiness? Man has develop brain power and love-power and torture-power; why should he not develop happiness-power? In fact, it were not offence to the noble and true Rousseau-doctrine of “the equality of all souls” if we maintained that in the world around us now are certain human beings, in every class of society – solitary, fantastic, grotesque, human beings, the laughing stock of the vulgar herd – who have developed a power of secret, overbrimming, exquisite happiness – like the happiness of certain mystics and saints in the past – which is just as different from the rival pleasures and silly boredoms of the others, as the neck of the giraffe is different from the neck of the mongoose.

The great thing is to make perpetual mental war upon the whole tone, temper, and morale of modern existence in a commercial community. The great thing is to convert as many individuals as possible to the idea of living a static life in place of a dynamic life, a contemplative on e in place of an active one. Let all honest men and women earn their living in an honest way, let them recognise that they owe nothing more to humanity. Each must do his job to keep the thing going. But the wiser you are, the more you will reduce the burden of your job to the narrowest limits; and then - send Society to the devil!…

…The thing to do is to think of yourself not as a human being at all, but as a migratory spirit, at present inhabiting a human body. One ought constantly to make a definitive introspective effort to detach one’s “ego” from its human envelope and contemplate that envelope with humorous detachment. There is much more in this particular gesture than has yet been realised. But one of the most natural ways of using it is to separate your inmost soul from its human associations. Thus you can think of your “ego” as your real self, and regard it as a humorous accident… that you were ever lodged in a human covering… It is only then that you find yourself instinctively feeling your natural link with a beetle “rolling a ball of dung,” or a yellow gnat drinking pig’s urine, or a little, soft, green maggot inside a splash of cuckoo-spit.

In Defense of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 201

Monday, 19 November 2007

The Beatific Vision

Looking to Hoy

listen to - Marui Hito: Tenniscoats

... this ecstasy swings for ever backwards and forwards, like the motion of an everlasting pendulum or the advance and retreat of the sea-tide. The male hath his Beatific Vision in his unremitted possession of the female; she in her unremitted passivity in being thus possessed. Their mutual ecstasy is something that isolates them from all the rest of the universe. They come to resemble that strange double-natured being to whom Plato in his Symposium makes such fanciful and playful reference. Before they met each other, they went about through the world maimed, abortive, disillusioned, quasi-moribund. But now that they have met, they have become two in one. They have come to resemble those two horned flames in whose inseparable conjunction Dante beheld the eternal fate of Ulysses and Diomed! It is, indeed, as if, enclosed in the same hollow opalescent shell of ecstatic isolation, the male held the female in a perpetual trance, while the female, responding to this act of possession in an eternal dream of abandoned self-immolation, would as soon perish as awaken!

Love of this kind... could endure in exactly the same psychic-physical state without a flicker of change - the male possessing, the female possessed - for thousands of years. It is clear proof that the patient and subtle Marcel Proust was emotionally very limited, that he should be continually insisting that change and novelty and jealousy and disturbance should be so necessary to love...

...What makes such an encounter so great a thing is that it is the blending of two eternal dialogues in a fivefold eternal dialogue. It is therefore an absolute living quincunx - the number which, according to Sir Thomas Browne, is the most lucky of all. Each of the two lovers is a self confronting a not-self. Each of the two keeps up its indignant dialogue with their First Clause, which is , of course, the hypothetical substratum of every inflowing impression composing both their not-selves. And in addition to this, each converses consciously or unconsciously with the other. Every pair of real lovers in this deep physical-metaphysical embrace make up a third entity, the united multiple of alternate gratitude and indignation - is the cumulative voice of the Number Five. The vast mass of animals, fishes, reptiles, plants, share in this universal planetary love-making and in its fivefold ecstasy. No human speech is theirs; but a vibration radiates from every such perfect embrace, which creates a new pattern in the fluctuating taper sty of the wind-blown cosmos.

Each pair of lovers, isolated in its planetary shell, is for ever gathering more and more magnetic power wherewith to enjoy the good and to defy the evil of that ultimate First Cause which is responsible - through the medium of Chance - for their having come together at all. Never for one second do they forgive this First Cause for the horrible suffering which they know exists around them. From their united ecstasy there is for ever projected a protest against this suffering, and an out-jetting godlike command - quivering with the good-will of thier own chance-favoured happiness - that this suffering should be lessened and that all living sentiences should attain pardon and peace.

page 140
John Cowper Powys
In Defence of Sensuality

Ancestral Memory

Looking to Long Knoll, Maiden Bradley

... when one thinks how many indurated common impressions of the monotonous incidents of daily earth-life and daily seashore-life must linger in the convoluted fibres of ones's ancestral memory, is it any wonder that a touch of sharp-blowing air or a glimpse of fast-driving mist can melt our bones with a sudden ecstasy "too deep for tears"? Oh, it is time, it is time, for an entirely new philosophy to arise - a philosophy setting free the suppressed longings of our nature for cool, large lonely imaginings, for sensuous feelings, vague, delicious, and dim, that are far deeper and more precious than any conceivable overt action!...

John Cowper Powys
In Defence of Sensuality 1930
page 134

Man is a Link

The Omphalos in the hills above Kingston Deverill

Man is a link in a long spiral ascent, not finality. And in all of us there are non-human moods and feelings, some of which release long-buried atavisms from the past, while others contain hints and premonitions of what will be or what might be in the remote future.

The disturbing and magical power of human freewill renders any kind of determinism impossible. All manner of incredible experiences, anticipating the future are to be expected. So also are all manner of incredible reversions. We have no right to assume that in the process of biological variation the whole advantage is with the present condition of human life. In the great process of cosmic change, many states of existence contained elements of consciousness superior rather than inferior to what we possess as human beings to-day. Because there has been change we have no right to take for granted that there has invariably been progress.

The power of the human will in relation to biological evolution is much more important than is usually realised. Certain distortions of human "reason" in the direction of mechanical logic - an altogether misleading and quite paltry by-alley of modern thought - have done untold harm in abrogating from the power and dignity of this creative sorcery within us. The moment any human soul begins to have faith in itself, in its unfathomable potentialities, in its untried powers of will, a great flood of liberation sweeps through it.

Every individual personality is like a vast cavern with endless avenues and stairways, leading up and down, leading north, south, east, and west. All have that in them which belongs to the vegetable world. All have that in them which belongs to a still earlier world inorganic stellar nebulae. And we also have moods of strange prophetic premonition in which we anticipate in our feelings the feelings of those mysterious superhuman beings who in the process of time will take the place of humanity... (!)

In Defence of Sensuality

In Defence of Sensuality
John Cowper Powys
Victor Gollancz Ltd 1930

Page 88

….All sensuous moments, all divine moments occur in solitude and silence – except in the single case of exchanging ideas with anyone you have singled out to love. And in that one exception it is in the silences that follow the words, where the countenance is illuminated and the eyes wet with tears, rather than in the words themselves, that the ecstasy is consummated, between the “good” in the twi-natured First Cause and the “good” in each of the excited interlocutors of cosmic rapport is reached.

Life is far too precious a thing, far too short a thing, to waste it on acquaintances. But there is no need to be unkind. Propitiate all living creatures. Be reverential and considerate to all living things, human and non-human. Visit the grave of someone who is dead, everyday. Remember that human beings have the power of creating a sort of half-consciousness in dolls and in stuffed birds and in other so-called “inanimate” things. Be religious in the only real, deep sense. That is to say, indulge fetish-worship to the extremist limit. Thus in your imaginative life the beast-gods of the remote Past will beckon to the beyond-human gods of the remote Future…

…Between such a one... and the dying leaf dropped in the gutter, or any deserted and broken object that has been endowed with an obscure half-life by the unconscious creative “aura” of the human touch, there is a magnetic link. Thus it may well be said, as Apuleius maintained, that the world is full of dethroned and bewitched and abject little gods. The world is pluralistic and full of magic; and it is a grievous mistake, and one of the chief and most obstinate causes of man’s present misery, that people have given up polytheism. Not to worship the sun and moon and earth and sea, and each one of the planets and stars, is to make a pompous ass of yourself. They are all gods and they can all answer prayers… Every living soul, if it cares to demand it, can be made true even if there is no conscious life after death. There are a great many more forces at work than the merely conscious ones. Our attitude toward the First Cause (JCPs description of an ultimate creator, a dual natured force behind the cosmos) need not be religious. It ought not to be so unless we are consciously forgetting the evil side of this Ultimate Being and thinking only of its good side. It is best to worship the “little gods” and defy the First Cause. Thus, what we should really aim at is to become idolaters. The essence of poetry is idolatry. Our modern machine-made misery come from the fact that we shrink from natural idolatry. It has become a moral compulsion with us to shrink from this – to be what is considered “reasonable” is the new-fangled fashion. Such arid and lifeless “rationality” is far more removed from the real secret of life than the craziest superstition...

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

i thank you god for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of allnothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e e cummings

Saturday, 13 October 2007

An Interpretation of Rabelais

Rabelais - by John Cowper Powys 1948
page 283 - An Interpretation of Rabelais - His Genius

For book-lovers in these Islands - even for those who are not linguists - Rabelais has one peculiarity which sets him far apart from Montaigne and Cervnates and considerably apart even from Shakespeare - though there do exist certain prose-passages in the plays, where pure poetical nonsense approximates to the Hercules-in-his-cradle nonsense of which I speak - the use of planetary babyishness.

The humorous exploitation of infancy, godlike, titanic or human, lies at the heart of Rabelais' genius and is the clue to his whole work. Such megalosaurian burlesquing of babyhood is unique in literature.

It is no wonder Rabelais went such a long way in sympathy with very young children;for in a manner hardly anticipated by Jesus he took the latter's saying about becoming like a little child literally, in the sense of becoming like an ordinary, harmless healthy , sense-absorbed, indecently shameless babe or suckling.

I would not care to use the pseudo -scientific catchword 'infantile fixation' in regard to Rabelais' cosmogogic babyishness; for with a nature so over-brimming with the vital enjoyment of every kind of adventure it is absurd to talk of 'fixation'of any sort...

... Rabealis had plenty of stoicism; but the orthodox stoic ataraxia or indifference to both pleasure and pain, which Pantagruel displays now and again, is a very different thing from the monochronos hedone, of 'Pleasure of the Ideal Now' which is so satisfying to a little child.

I think we might say that the richest release the soul of Rabelais owed to this Herculean Infantilism was an escape from the tyranny of logic.

The most dangerous and wicked aspect of every sort of orthodoxy has always been its deadly, fatal and insane logic. The worst weapon of totalitarian tyrants is always the Syllogism ( insert - definition 1. Logic. A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example, All humans are mortal, the major premise, I am a human, the minor premise, therefore, I am mortal, the conclusion. or Reasoning from the general to the specific; deduction..): and what Rabelais' Noble giants had to contend with were Justinian's despotic logic in Civil Law, and Papacy's despotic logic in Canon Law, and in theology the dolorous choice between the logic of the Sorbonne and the logic of Calvin.

But this tyranny of logic can show itself in the most unexpected places; and one of the most daring Jack-and-the-Beanstalk mischiefs in which Rabelais indulged after cutting the umbilical cord of scholastic theology was to pit the laughing and crying caprices of pure babyhood against the portentous 'cause-and-effect' solemnity of old wives' prognostications.

Yes he would go so far - crazy as the attempt might seem - as to untie the very apron-strings of the ancestral, matriarchal, school-marm orthodoxy of our grandmothers' proverbs.

Rabelais in fact has found out the secret of all 'little children'; not only of the good ones who crowded about the knees of Jesus, but of the bad ones who 'made the fig' and ran away. Rabelais' great Burlesque ought to be performed as a Ballet with all the ethereal profanity and fairy-like obscentiy of his admired clown 'Songe-creux,' and with an orchestra of tragi-comic classical music.

And the grand secret of little children consists in their recognition that the mystery of live, just as it is, makes all philosophical and scientific explanations of it laughable and all relgious ones mad...

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Edwin Smith

Although Edwin Smith made a name for himself as a photographer and writers as diverse as Sir John Betjeman, John Piper and Cecil Beaton praised him as "a genius at photography", "a great artist" and "an understanding and loving connoisseur of his subject", he became a photographer by chance not choice.
Trained as an architect, he thought of himself as a painter: it was only in the last year of his life, when lecturing at Bristol, that he wryly admitted to being a photographer. It was because he did not wish to feel wholly committed to the camera that he refused to install running water in his darkroom until 1967, made do with an antiquated enlarger and only acquired a relatively modern camera, a second-hand Linhof, in 1970. His favourite camera throughout his career was a massive mahogany and brass half-plate veteran of 1904 called the Ruby. It accompanied him on all his travels even after pressure of work had compelled him to resort to more easily portable equipment, hand cameras of the bellows type, at least twenty years behind the times.

Chance plays a major part in all our lives, but seldom so conspicuously as in Edwin's, perhaps because his guiding principles in both art and life—"Bend with the stream" and "Co-operate with the inevitable"—offered little resistance to the whims of fortune. Passionately concerned with every form of visual expression, Edwin was struck by some reproductions of the work of Atget which he saw in the library of the northern Polytechnic in Holloway, where he was a pupil. He decided to get a camera. It was a simple Box Brownie acquired with coupons given away with packets of cornflakes. Despite its limitations Edwin was intrigued by the medium and a year or two later his interest was encouraged by a friend's gift of a quarter-plate camera. It was old and defective and while putting it in order Edwin learned a lot about its possibilities. With it he took some close-ups of ferns, dog daisies and hedgerow plants which already bear the impress of his style. At that time he knew nothing of developing and printing and the photographs were processed by a local Camden Town chemist. Edwin called for them on his way to a party. Among the guests was Paul Nash who looked over Edwin's shoulder when he was showing the prints to the donor of the camera. Generously ready as he always was to help the young and attracted by the freshness of these images, Nash not only enabled Edwin to use the darkrooms of Lund Humphries after office hours and thus to learn the grammar of his craft, but recommended him to the editress of Vogue. It was in this periodical, most unsuitably, that in 1935 Edwin's work was first published. Two of the photographs he took at the Henley Regatta for Vogue are included in this exhibition. Edwin always said the whole episode was the result of a mistake, the editress having wrongly understood his name to be Chetwynd-Smith. As soon as Edwin made it clear that he was just plain Smith the commissions came to an end.

But the photographs had been noticed and from then on the demand for them never stopped. Edwin never once sought work, but without ever having intended it he eventually became an almost full time photographer. The process was gradual and at first it was the publishers of newspapers and periodicals who asked for Edwin's work, reproducing photographs taken for no other reason than to record a particular visual experience. The fairground and circus photographs shown in the present exhibition represent a major interest of these early years. Between 1935 and 1938 Edwin made a comprehensive record of the exuberant, fantastic world of the fairground and circus, many of the traditional elements of which did not survive the forties. A few of these were used by the press; most of them have never been seen.

Edwin always had an amused and sympathetic eye for the poetry of the commonplace, for things seen casually in the street, in shop windows, in pubs and in humble interiors and his photographs of these subjects brought him a number of commissions. His pictures of the street life, the terraces and shops of Camden Town, where at that time he was still living with his mother in the two rooms in which he had grown up, attracted the attention of Sir Arnold Wilson who in the summer of 1936 asked him to record the lives and work of the Newcastle colliers. One wonders what the patron's reactions were to the fruits of this expedition, a small selection from which can be seen in this gallery. For the photographs do nothing to confirm Sir Arnold's political extremism. Edwin's delight in the Newcastle scene was, as with all his subjects, predominantly visual, kindled, as always, by the timeless, aesthetic qualities of tone, light and rhythm. He photographed the people who were part of this urban, industrial scene without any sense of the 'concern' or 'commitment' which his patron felt and about which we hear so much today. Through instinct with his warm humanity, affection and humour these images express complete tolerance and acceptance of the situation. Among others who noticed Edwin's early work was the director of the Focal Press. For him Edwin wrote several books on photographic technique and one of these, entitled, ironically enough for one who never resorted to tricks. All the Photo Tricks, is still being reprinted. Leonard Russell, editor of The Saturday Book was another admirer and Edwin's long association with this popular annual brought him to the attention of many publishers.

Before 1950 photography took up no more of Edwin's time than two or three days a week at the most. It seemed to offer an ideal solution to the problem of earning a living while leaving ample time for painting and print-making. Edwin's knowledge of the painting and graphic techniques was astonishing - later he edited two standard works on the subject - and whereas the most makeshift equipment was good enough for the darkroom, only the best was accepted in the studio. Edwin loved all the materials and appurtenances of the painter's art, always ground his own colours and throughout his life kept a collection of canvases, boards, paper, powder colours, inks, pastels, brushes and pencils big enough to stock a shop. Despite the tremendous pressure of his later years he never ceased to think of himself as a painter and always managed to do at least two drawings every day when he was not travelling.

In 1950 Thames and Hudson commissioned Edwin to take the photographs for a big book on English parish churches. The subject was entirely congenial. Twenty years later Edwin said that the village church had given him some of the most poignant visual experiences of his life. He has described his procedure and it is worth recalling, for it remained much the same whenever he was confronting an architectural subject. When Edwin arrived at a church he would dump his equipment behind a pier, under a bench or perhaps under the collecting box table until he was ready to begin work. He was never seen with his camera draped about his person. It was always discreetly satchelled or, if it was the Ruby, carried in a large suitcase. Edwin would spend some time strolling round the outside of the building, then savour the interior, enjoying not only the immediate pleasures of the eye but thinking also of the needs of the camera. Usually he became excited by a number of possibilities and always worked in the lighting conditions that existed at the moment when he decided to start. He never used photographic lamps except for individual works of art and did not possess any until the late sixties. Interiors invariably necessitated the use of a black cloth over the head and exposures which might last from 10 seconds to many more minutes. The passage of the seconds was measured not by a meter, but by a whispered incantation: "Cat one, cat two, cat three, cat four . . .", while the photographer smiled encouragingly at his subject and, with spectacles pushed up onto his forehead, fixed it with his short-sighted gaze. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement of this use of long exposures in dim interiors was the series of photographs Edwin took in Westminster Abbey at the beginning of 1970. Among them was the jewel-like head of William of Valence which figures in the present selection. So that he should be able to work undisturbed Edwin spent the best part of a night in the great, dusky building, his only companions the effigies of the illustrious dead. It was a thrilling experience, enhanced, when the final prints emerged, by the revelation of details of capital and boss, lineament and dress which eluded the human eye in the full light of day.

The Thames and Hudson book was a huge success and from that time Edwin was deluged by commissions for similar books. His work took him all over England many times and to every part of Europe. Such extensive travel was in itself extraordinary, for Edwin never left home from choice and when I first met him had not been away from London for several years. He would set out on a project with great reluctance. Yet once the break had been made he gave himself up to the visual impact of the journey and worked with the utmost dedication. Generally his authors and publishers supplied him with lists of subjects. They often turned out to be ludicrously unpictorial and Edwin would waste no time on them, directing his lens only onto what moved him. He never developed his plates or films until he returned home and thoroughly enjoyed the uncertainty of not knowing, sometimes for two or three months, whether his work had prospered.
Edwin never thought of photography as an art. To him it was a miraculous recording device. At the time of his death photographic galleries were still almost unheard of and he would have thought it eccentric and pretentious to exhibit photographs. When asked to show some of his work at the Cambridge Festival in 1970 he agreed but felt he was indulging a wild caprice on the part of the organisers. His view of photography remained what it had always been and was expressed in a passage he wrote in a revised edition of All the Photo Tricks in 1971:

"The man who lives in his eyes is continually confronted with scenes and spectacles that compel his attention or admiration and demand an adequate reaction. To pass on without pause is impossible and to continue after purely mental applause is unsatisfying; some real tribute must be paid. Photography, to many of its addicts, is a convenient and simple means of discharging these ever recurring debts to the visual world."

Nevertheless Edwin's photographs, like those of every sensitive witness with a lens, are so much more than factual records: they are revelations not only of those hidden details which delighted him but of the magic and mystery with which light and shadow can invest the most commonplace themes and, above all, of his own warm, emotional and transforming response to the visual world.

With his special knowledge and love of architecture it was not surprising that his books should earn him a considerable reputation as a photographer of buildings. But it was landscape which finally became most important to him. He had always been stirred by the fleeting effects of light and weather, winds and water which he felt that only the camera could capture. Even with his first primitive camera Edwin took photographs of trees and plants and of patterns shaped by storms, tides and frost. In his Bristol lecture he singled out his landscape photographs as his particular testimony. In them, he said, he had perhaps managed to convey something of infinity.

Olive Cook
© The estate of Olive Cook

Neo Romanticism

Particularly this piece "O Lady ! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does Nature live :
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud !"

Read this poem listening to Harold Budd - The Room of Accidental Geometry

Well ! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made
The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade
Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,
Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes
Upon the strings of this Æolian lute,

Which better far were mute.
For lo ! the New-moon winter-bright !
And overspread with phantom light,
(With swimming phantom light o'erspread
But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling
The coming-on of rain and squally blast.
And oh ! that even now the gust were swelling,
And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast !
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,

And sent my soul abroad,
Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live !

A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,

In word, or sigh, or tear--
O Lady ! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo'd,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green :
And still I gaze--and with how blank an eye !
And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give away their motion to the stars ;
Those stars, that glide behind them or between,
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen :
Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue ;
I see them all so excellently fair,
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are !

My genial spirits fail ;
And what can these avail
To lift the smothering weight from off my breast ?
It were a vain endeavour,

Though I should gaze for ever
On that green light that lingers in the west :
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.

O Lady ! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does Nature live :
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud !
And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
Than that inanimate cold world allowed
To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,
Ah ! from the soul itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud

Enveloping the Earth--
And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element !

O pure of heart ! thou need'st not ask of me
What this strong music in the soul may be !
What, and wherein it doth exist,
This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,
This beautiful and beauty-making power.

Joy, virtuous Lady ! Joy that ne'er was given,
Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,
Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,
Joy, Lady ! is the spirit and the power,
Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower
A new Earth and new Heaven,
Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud--
Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud--

We in ourselves rejoice !
And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
All colours a suffusion from that light.

There was a time when, though my path was rough,
This joy within me dallied with distress,
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness :
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.
But now afflictions bow me down to earth :
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth ;

But oh ! each visitation
Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,
My shaping spirit of Imagination.
For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can ;
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man--
This was my sole resource, my only plan :
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.

Hence, viper thoughts, that coil around my mind,
Reality's dark dream !
I turn from you, and listen to the wind,
Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream

Of agony by torture lengthened out
That lute sent forth ! Thou Wind, that rav'st without,
Bare crag, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree,
Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb,
Or lonely house, long held the witches' home,
Methinks were fitter instruments for thee,
Mad Lutanist ! who in this month of showers,
Of dark-brown gardens, and of peeping flowers,
Mak'st Devils' yule, with worse than wintry song,
The blossoms, buds, and timorous leaves among.
Thou Actor, perfect in all tragic sounds !
Thou mighty Poet, e'en to frenzy bold !

What tell'st thou now about ?
'Tis of the rushing of an host in rout,
With groans, of trampled men, with smarting wounds--
At once they groan with pain, and shudder with the cold !
But hush ! there is a pause of deepest silence !
And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd,
With groans, and tremulous shudderings--all is over--
It tells another tale, with sounds less deep and loud !

A tale of less affright,
And tempered with delight,
As Otway's self had framed the tender lay,--
'Tis of a little child
Upon a lonesome wild,
Not far from home, but she hath lost her way :
And now moans low in bitter grief and fear,
And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear.

'Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep :
Full seldom may my friend such vigils keep !
Visit her, gentle Sleep ! with wings of healing,
And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,
May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,
Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth !

With light heart may she rise,
Gay fancy, cheerful eyes,
Joy lift her spirit, joy attune her voice ;
To her may all things live, from the pole to pole,
Their life the eddying of her living soul !
O simple spirit, guided from above,
Dear Lady ! friend devoutest of my choice,
Thus may'st thou ever, evermore rejoice.

Defjection – An Ode 1802
ST Coleridge

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

On the sands

WH Hudson

...But, no, there was one more, one of those rare days when nature appears to us spiritualised and is no longer nature, when that which had transfigured this visible world is in us too, and it becomes possible to believe - it is almost a conviction - that the burning and shining spirit seen and recognised in one among a thousand we have known is in all of us and in all things. In such moments it is possible to go beyond even the most advanced of the modern physicists who holds that force alone exists, that matter is but a disguise, a shadow and delusion; for we may add that force itself - that which we call force or energy - is but a semblance and shadow of the universal soul.

The change in the weather was not sudden; the furious winds dropped gradually; the clouds floated higher in the heavens, and were of a lighter grey; there were wider breaks in them, showing the lucid blue beyond; and the sea grew quieter. It had raved and reared too long, beating against the iron walls that held it back,and was now spent and fallen into an uneasy sleep, but still moved uneasily and moaned a little. Then all at once summer returned, coming like a thief in the night, for when it was morning the sun rose in splendour and power in a sky without cloud on its vast azure expanse, on a calm sea with no motion but that scarcely perceptible rise and fall as of one that sleeps. As the sun rose higher the air grew warmer until it was full summer heat but although a "visible heat," it was never oppressive; for all that day we were abroad, and as the tide ebbed a new country that was neither earth nor sea was disclosed, an infinite expanse of pale yellow sand stretching away on either side, and further and further out until it mingled and melted into the sparkling water and faintly seen line of foam on the horizon. and over all - the distant sea, the ridge of low dunes marking where the earth ended, and the flat yellow expanse between - there brooded a soft bluish silvery haze. A haze that blotted nothing out, but blended and interfused them all until earth and air and sea and sands were scarcely distinguishable. The effect, delicate, mysterious, unearthly, cannot be described.

Ethereal gauze...
Visisble heat, air-water, and dry sea,
Last conquest of the eye...
Sun-dust, aerial surf upon the shores of earth,
Ethereal estuary, frith of light...
Bird of the sun, transparent-winged.

Do we not see that words fail as pigments do - that the effect is too coarse, since in describing it we put it before the mental eye as something distinctly visible, a thing of itself and separate. But it is not so in nature; the effect is of something almost invisible and is yet a part of all and males all things - sky and sea and land - as unsubstantial as itself. Even living, moving things had that aspect. Far out on the lowest furthest strip of sand, which appeared to be on a level with the sea, gulls were seen standing in twos and threes and small groups and in rows; but they did not look like gulls - familiar birds, gull-shaped with grey and white plumage. They appeared twice as big as gulls, and were of a dazzling whiteness and of not defintie shape: though standing still they had motion, an effect of the quiverieng dancing air, the "visible heat"; at rest, they were seen now as separate ojects; then as one with the silver sparkle on the sea; and when they rose and floated away they were no longer shining and white, but like pale shadows of winged forms faintly visible in the haze.

They were not birds but spirits - beings that lived in or were passing through the world and now, like the heat, made visible; and I, standing far out on the sparkling sands, with the sparkling sea on one side and the line of the dunes, indistinctly seen as land, on the other, was one of them; and if any person had looked at me from a distnce he would hafve seen me as a formless shining white being standing but the sea, and then perhaps as a winged shadow floating in the haze. It was only necessary to put out one's arms to float. That was the effect on my mind: this natural world was changed to a supernatural, and there was no more matter nor force in sea or land nor in the heavens above, but only spirit.

Afoot In England 1927

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Poem whilst walking to Croyde

22nd July Barnstaple to Croyde: Taw Estuary

'Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun...' This line was repeating in my head as I walked the South West footpath to Croyde - So it has a place in my blog.

GREAT are the myths
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

GREAT are the myths--I too delight in them;
Great are Adam and Eve--I too look back and accept them;
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets, women, sages,
inventors, rulers, warriors, and priests.
Great is Liberty! great is Equality! I am their follower;
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where you sail, I sail,
I weather it out with you, or sink with you.

Great is Youth--equally great is Old Age--great are the Day and
Great is Wealth--great is Poverty--great is Expression--great is

Youth, large, lusty, loving--Youth, full of grace, force,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal grace, force,

Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun, action,
ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and sleep, and
restoring darkness.

Wealth, with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospitality;
But then the Soul's wealth, which is candor, knowledge, pride,
enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing Poverty richer than wealth?)

Expression of speech! in what is written or said, forget not that
Silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt as cold as the
coldest, may be without words.

Great is the Earth, and the way it became what it is;
Do you imagine it has stopt at this? the increase abandon'd?
Understand then that it goes as far onward from this, as this is from
the times when it lay in covering waters and gases, before man
had appear'd.

Great is the quality of Truth in man;
The quality of truth in man supports itself through all changes,
It is inevitably in the man--he and it are in love, and never leave
each other.

The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eyesight;
If there be any Soul, there is truth--if there be man or woman there
is truth--if there be physical or moral, there is truth;
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth--if there be
things at all upon the earth, there is truth.

O truth of the earth! I am determin'd to press my way toward you;
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in the sea after you.

Great is Language--it is the mightiest of the sciences,
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the earth, and of men
and women, and of all qualities and processes;
It is greater than wealth--it is greater than buildings, ships,
religions, paintings, music.

Great is the English speech--what speech is so great as the English?
Great is the English brood--what brood has so vast a destiny as the
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the earth with the new
The new rule shall rule as the Soul rules, and as the love, justice,
equality in the Soul rule.

Great is Law--great are the few old land-marks of the law,
They are the same in all times, and shall not be disturb'd.

Great is Justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws--it is in the Soul;
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than love, pride, the
attraction of gravity, can;
It is immutable--it does not depend on majorities--majorities or what
not, come at last before the same passionless and exact

For justice are the grand natural lawyers, and perfect judges--is it
in their Souls;
It is well assorted--they have not studied for nothing--the great
includes the less;
They rule on the highest grounds--they oversee all eras, states,

The perfect judge fears nothing--he could go front to front before
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back--life and death shall
stand back--heaven and hell shall stand back.

Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever;
Great is Death--sure as life holds all parts together, Death holds
all parts together.

Has Life much purport?--Ah, Death has the greatest purport.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Writing in Kirkwall

3.30am Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney - thoughts while reading Seamus Heaney writing about Eliot.

And now I am reading words by Seamus Heaney (Finders Keepers Faber 2002). He is writing about the poetry of TS Eliot.

" ...Perhaps the final thing to be learned is this: in the realm of poetry, as in the realm of consciousness, there is no end to the possible learning's that can take place. Nothing is final, the most gratifying discovery is fleeting, the path of positive achievement leads to the via negativa..."

Seamus goes on to assert that Eliot forfeited his "expressionist intensity" when he renounced the lyric in exchange for philosophic song. Seamus suggests that the 'lyric' may even have renounced Eliot. He goes on to expound on the exchange of self knowledge for the renunciation of the lyric, and for Eliot, this proved to be maintaining a "strictness of intent" which allowed him to prove a truth. He showed how poetic vocation ( and you could substitute 'poetic' for 'creative') entails the disciplining of a habit of expression until it becomes fundamental to the whole conduct of a life. Disciplining the habit of creative expression until that becomes in itself fundamental to the creative person.

Eliot defines the auditory imagination as 'operating below the level of sense', but Seamus thinks it operates much more potently when the sounds are given audible expression. In CK stead's 'the New Poetic' he states that Eliot trusted the 'dark embryo' of unconscious energy. Stead reveals Eliot as a much more intuitive writer, "Eliot was a 'rara avis', one whole 'note' was uniquely below the common scale, a thin pure signal that might not wash genially across the earthly reaches of one's nature but that had the capacity to 'probe the universe of spirit as far as Pluto' - a very long way".

Seamus suggests that something fortifying can come from something so authoritatively unconsoling.

A lot of 'artists' set up a corroborative relationship between landscape and sensibility. For writers, the words on the page function in a way that is supplementary to their primary artistic function; they can have a window effect and open the blinds of 'language' on to subjects and places before or behind words.

The appeal is to the soul and actual physical representations are not necessary. The creativity produces an internalised landscape all of its own which feeds the inner space and is not meant to orientate in the external world, only the inner. The inner and outer landscapes are very separate and each needs navigation - only the external world is more urgent and obvious, the internal landscape can be overlooked.

We look to nurture the internal landscape with images, lyrics, poetry and music. Seamus suggests you need to build up a stamina in order to walk around the internal landscape, develop a vocabulary that helps you to go further from your anchor point, like in the external world we build up experience, a vocabulary of orientations points, habits of other creatures, observing the other forces, life forms interacting with us; without this knowledge we are helpless and in danger of injury or even death. We learn how to nurture ourselves in the external world, being fed by our own efforts and by others, clothed, loved - so all this is true of the internal landscape - there are many casualties.

Many of us are guides to internal landscapes, many of us are guided - we are all guides to somebody.

You need to be transformed in order to progress, coalescence together in groups is strengthening, each individual would need to correspond, to have a common connection to the internal landscape of the other. You also need to 'sing', to have your voice heard and reflected back to you. You need to see your internal world through the 'mirror'.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Word of the day

Eirenic, Irenic
promoting peace

I Shall Go Where The Great Trees Stand

Wayland Smithy 2005

Excerpt from Confessions of the Kibbo Kift by John Hargrave.

...Everyone will come at last, into the ship of the earth, but these go now while they yet live to open themselves, to unlock the spirit in timelessness, to receive the impress of the quiet world where no man is, where consciousness is not, where words are dispelled and thoughts hold no arguments but run ahead softly in supple forms, darkly.

Ah, no, no, they do not lose themselves, this is not the hemlock-drink of the soul. This is the time and the place of remaking, where the exhausted mind is laid aside, entering the gloom emptied of the echoes of broken thought and mental clatter carried over from the world of day, and here the whole being is cleansed of the close associations, the nearness, the hot imprint of other personalities, encountered in the day's work.

This is the coming together again, alone, in silence. This is the right and necessary retirement.

I shall go where the great trees stand, deep into the half-light of the woods, whelming upon the giant bodies of the beech. I know the place where the afterglow shines like a pale halo upon the hill, and there the ash and the elm take hold upon the earth, flinging their strength into the sky. And over the summit of the hill on slanting ground a crab tree and crooked thorn crouch and clutch each other.

I shall come round them uneasily and pass under the ash and the elm with an intaking of breath, and so down the valley to the track that runs into a pine wood where the darkness closes in, and the feet tread noiselessly, and the lungs are filled with the scent of the hanging Curtains, the needled carpet and the cones.

Neither to look, nor to hear, nor to think but only to receive. After the work of the day, a little staggeringly, blundering without faltering through the high weeds. Neither asleep nor awake, but open. Not as one who flees the sharp outlines of the daytime, but as one mysteriously dead; quick now to the wide friendliness of the fields and the sudden, unaccountable fears of bracken dell and chalk pit, of softly cushioned ant-heap underfoot, of blossoming elderberry bush,
Melting into the bewildering dusk, looming again, pale and almost colourless.

Tread softly over the grass that springs out of the blood and bodies of old heroes of the Inkneild Way long since gone to dust. Back to the place of dwelling, to the encampment. Plunge, then, into the deep sleep that knows no fitful dreaming...

The Wild Places of the Earth

Dunkery Beacon, Somerset coast - July 2007

...The wild places of the earth do not care much about a man. He can't do much! When the woman appears the aspens shiver and the tamarisks tremble and even the oak is fearful, for a lone man is transitory and woman is permanent; she means a home and a whole lot more men; she is the beginning of civilisation...

HV Morton - The Heart of London 1925

Sunday, 15 July 2007


Stromness Cemetery

Pibroch by Ted Hughes - Pibroch is a piece of music for bagpipe

The sea cries with its meaningless voice
Treating alike its dead and its living,
Probably bored with the appearance of heaven
After so many millions of nights without sleep,
Without purpose, without self-deception.

Stone likewise. A pebble is imprisoned
Like nothing in the Universe.
Created for black sleep. Or growing
Conscious of the sun's red spot occasionally,
Then dreaming it is the foetus of God.

Over the stone rushes the wind
Able to mingle with nothing,
Like the hearing of the blind stone itself.
Or turns, as if the stone's mind came feeling
A fantasy of directions.

Drinking the sea and eating the rock
A tree struggles to make leaves-
An old woman fallen from space
Unprepared for these conditions.
She hangs on, because her mind's gone completely.

Minute after minute, aeon after aeon,
Nothing lets up or develops.
And this is neither a bad variant nor a tryout.
This is where the staring angels go through.
This is where all the stars bow down.

The Heart of London

Outside the Royal Festival Hall, London, 2005

The New Romance
HV Morton 1925

When eight million men and women decide to live together on the same spot things are bound to happen.

London in lineal descent from Thebes and Rome, is one of those queer massings together of humanity which Civilization dumps on a small plot of earth before handing the lease of Destiny, not knowing whether to laugh or cry about it. Great cities are strange inevitable phenomena. It is wrong to compare them with hives, for in a hive the wish of the individual has been sacrificed unquestioningly to the good of the community. Had we ascended from the bee perhaps the greatest happiness we could achieve would be an unspectacular death in the service of the London County Council. But in London, as in all modern cities, it is the individual who counts. Our eight millions split themselves up into ones and twos: little men and little women dreaming their private dreams, pursuing their own ambitions, crying over their own failures, and rejoicing at their own successes.

Fear Built the first cities. Men and women herded behind a wall so that they might be safe. Then came trade; and cities grew into lucky bags in which men dipped for profit. Essentially they remain lucky bags to this day. London's millions pour into London and carry off their loot every Friday; But that, thank heaven is not the whole story. A city develops Tradition and Pride. London has greater tradition and pride than any other city in the world.

So when I ask myself why I love London I realize that I appreciate that ancient memory which is London - a thing very like family tradition for which we in our turn are responsible to posterity - and I realise that I am every day of my life thrilled, puzzled, charmed, and amused by that flood-tide of common humanity flowing through London as it has surged through every great city in the history of civilization. Here is every human emotion. Here in this splendid theatre the comedy and the tragedy of the human heart are acted day and night. Love and treachery, beauty and ugliness, laughter and tears chase one another through the streets of London every minute of the day, often meeting and mixing in the strangest fashion, because London is just a great mass of human feeling, and Man, never clearly labelled "Hero" or "Villain" as in melodrama, is capable of so much moral complexity that you might almost say that good and bad exist in him at the same moment.

Had I been born a few thousand years ago I feel sure that I could have written much the same book about Thebes or Babylon, because the only things that change radically in life are fashions and inventions. The human heat was patented long ago and the Creator has not seen fit to bring out a later model.

After dinner one night a woman fixed large eyes on me and confided that in a previous incarnation she had been Cleopatra. She was my tenth Cleopatra. She told me that there was no romance in modern life, and looking a little withdrawn as if remembering some Alexandrian indiscretion, she said: " No surprise, no - you know what I mean? - not real poetry."

I always think it best not to argue with queens; but I believe that the surprise, the romance, and the poetry of a modern city are fiercer than they were in the past. The drama of the ancient autocracies was played with so small a cast. the rest was suffering. People with large eyes were never in their past lives anything less than queens or princes, and thus their naturally vivid memories of a small and brilliant circle dim a recollection of the dumb majority beneath their wills. In spite of the supply of desirable lamps in Bagdad the census of owner-drivers must have been quite negligible, so that the average inhabitant must have lived through the romance of those days sitting in the same patch of sun, bitten by insects and trodden on by Negros.

In London, and in the free cities of this modern world, the drama of life widens, the characters increase and the unchanging human heart, no happier perhaps in the long run, beats less timorously than it did, yet leaping in sympathy to the same old loves and fears and hates.

Every day our feelings vibrate to some stray unimportance. Life is full of portentous triviality. Is it not strange that our minds often refuse to recognize some sensation - a word like a worn out boot - while they react immediately to something so small as to be almost foolish? You may be bored stiff by the front page of the evening paper, but you go home remembering some common thing seen or heard; some little humanity: the sight of a man and a girl choosing a child's cot, two people saying good-bye at a street corner, the quiet hatred in a man's eyes - or the love...

Sunday, 8 July 2007

If I were tickled by the rub of love

Stomness Cemetery looking towards Hoy 2007

Dylan Thomas

If I were tickled by the rub of love,
A rooking girl who stole me for her side,
Broke through her straws, breaking my bandaged string,
If the red tickle as the cattle calve
Still set to scratch a laughter from my lung,
I would not fear the apple nor the flood
Nor the bad blood of spring.

Shall it be male or female? say the cells,
And drop the plum like fire from the flesh.
If I were ticked by the hatching hair,
The winging bone that sprouted in the heels,
The itch of man upon the baby's thigh,
I would not fear the gallows nor the axe
Nor the crossed sticks of war.

Shall it be male or female? say the fingers
That chalk the walls with green girls and their men.
I would not fear the muscling-in of love
If I were tickled by the urchin hungers
Rehearsing heat upon a raw-edged nerve.
I would not fear the devil in the loin
Nor the outspoken grave.

If I were tickled by the lover's rub
That wipes away not crow's-foot nor the lock
Of sick old manhood on the fallen jaws,
Time and the crabs and the sweethearting crib
Would leave me cold as butter for the flies,
The sea of scums could drown me as it broke
Dead on the sweethearts' toes.

This world is half the devil's and my own,
Daft with the drug that's smoking in a girl
And curling round the bud that forks her eye.
An old man's shank one-marrowed with my bone,
And all the herrings smelling in the sea,
I sit and watch the worm beneath my nail
Wearing the quick away.

And that's the rub, the only rub that tickles.
The knobbly ape that swings along his sex
From damp love-darkness and the nurse's twist
Can never raise the midnight of a chuckle,
Of lover, mother, lovers, or his six
Feet in the rubbing dust.

And what's the rub? Death's feather on the nerve?
Your mouth, my love, the thistle in the kiss?
My Jack of Christ born thorny on the tree?
The words of death are dryer than his stiff,
My wordy wounds are printed with your hair.
I would be tickled by the rub that is:
Man be my metaphor.

Joaney How Cairns

July 8th

Dunkery Beacon

Dunkery Beacon is the highest hill on Exmoor, south-western England, and the highest point in Somerset. It lies just four miles from the Bristol Channel at Porlock. The shortest route of ascent goes from the car park at Dunkery Gate, and is just 1.2 km long. There are extensive views from the summit, including both the Bristol and English Channel coasts, the Brecon Beacons including Pen Y Fan, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Severn Bridges and Cleeve Hill 86 miles away in Gloucestershire. The hill is blanketed in heather and in the summer this gives it a deep purple colour. Ling and bell heather, gorse, sessile oak, ash, rowan, hazel, bracken, mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns all grow here or in surrounding woodland, as well as some unique whitebeam species. Exmoor ponies, red deer, pied flycatchers, wood warblers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, redstart, dippers, snipe, skylarks and kestrels are some of the fauna to be found here and in nearby Horner Woods. Horner Woods are also the home to 14 of the 16 UK bat species, which include barbastelle and Bechstein bats. Dunkery Beacon was given to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Ackland, Colonel Wiggin and Allan Hughes along with the rest of the Holnicote Estate an event commemorated by the summit memorial cairn. There are several Bronze Age burial mounds at or near the summit, two of the larger ones are Joaney How and Robin How. Dunkery is composed of Devonian sedimentary rock, as can be seen in the red soil.

[edit] Trivia

The highest geographical point in Somerset, the tip of the Mendip TV Mast, is higher above sea level at 1924 feet (586 metres).

Based on the formula 'distance of hill from its nearest higher neighbour in km squared, multiplied by its height in metres', Dunkery is ranked 23rd in the UK in terms of dominance. The nearest higher hill is Yes Tor 37 miles (60 km) away.

It is the highest hill in southern England outside of Dartmoor.

Dunkery Beacon 8th July

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Spiritual Geography

Is there a spiritual geography?

Are there certain places upon the earth, which are more or less, attuned to certain modes of consciousness?

And if so, do such qualities belong to the earth itself, to certain qualities of light, or sound, or scent, and elemental spirits who inhabit such places, or kinds of place?

Or do people of a certain cast of mind import to the land their own qualities?

Kathleen Raine, The Lions Mouth (1908 – 2003)

Lincoln Cathedral

Away from time, always outside of time!
Between east and west, between dawn and sunset,
The church lies like a seed in silence, dark before germination.

Silenced after death, containing birth and death potential with all the noise and transitation of life, the cathedral remains hushed, a great, involved seed whereof,
The flower would be radiant life inconceivable,
But whose beginning and whose end are the circle of silence.

Spanned round with the rainbow, the jeweled gloom folds music upon silence,
light upon darkness, fecundity upon death, as a seed folds leaf upon leaf
And silence upon the root and the flower,

Hushing up the secret of all between its parts,
The death out of which it fell, the life into which it has dropped,
The immortality it involves, and the death it will embrace again.
Here in the church, “before” and “after” are folded together.

DH Lawrence 'The Rainbow'

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Monday, 2 July 2007

Silver Dagger

Trad Folk Song

Don't sing love songs, you'll wake my mother
She's sleeping here right by my side
And in her right hand a silver dagger,
She says that I can't be your bride.

All men are false, says my mother,
They'll tell you wicked, lovin' lies.
The very next evening, they'll court another,
Leave you alone to pine and sigh.

My daddy is a handsome devil
He's got a chain five miles long,
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he's loved and wronged.

Go court another tender maiden,
And hope that she will be your wife,
For I've been warned, and I've decided
To sleep alone all of my life.

A particular nice version is sung by Martha Tilston

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


Wood along the windward side of Dunkery Beacon July 2007; a magical place.

From: The Collected Works of Mary Webb, Jonathan Cape,1929

When on the moss-green hill the wandering wind
Drowses, and lays his brazen trumpet down,
When snow-fed waters gurgle, cold and brown,
And wintered birds creep from the stacks to find
Solace, while each bright eye begins to see
A visionary nest in every tree –
Let us away, out of the murky day
Of sullen towns, into the silver noise
Of woods where every bud has found her way
Sunward, and every leaf has found a voice.

Triscombe 2007

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Word of the day

Word of the day 12th June


to blend

Monday, 11 June 2007

11th June Word/Phrase/Phase of the day/week



1. dealing with very profound, difficult, or abstruse subject matter: a recondite treatise.
2. beyond ordinary knowledge or understanding; esoteric: recondite principles.
3. little known; obscure: a recondite fact.


"The human body is vapour, materialised by sunshine, mixed with the life of the stars."



The waning crescent

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Number 26

Of Meaning the Number 26 is PROGRESS(26). In order for your Greatness to shine you must remain strong in who you are and in your better way in Life, this is where PROGRESS(26) will flourish. And within all of this there lies the very reason why Thee Trinity Creation was born into the World, in fact it was born of this: YES I speak of TRUTH(33).