Posts Tagged ‘cultural studies’

New Collected Poems, Tomas Transtromer. Translated and Introduced by Robin Fulton

Robin Fulton in his Introduction to the Bloodaxe edition of Tomas Transtromer’s ‘New Collected Poems’ (2002), writes of the poem sequence Baltic’s ‘arch-like patterning of themes.’ Page 15, Introduction, ibid.
Instantly I was paying attention.

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In the nineteen-seventies Tomas Transtromer published his poem sequence ‘Baltics’.
It is based, we are told, on the writer finding (inheriting?) his grandfather’s ship’s log. He was a sea captain, and sailed the archipelago of islands from Stockholm to the Baltic regularly.
His home was one of the islands of the archipelago. From this grew an exploration of the writer’s family history, and its repercussions and interrelations with history and events.

If we look at ‘Baltics’ for its structure and thematic patternings we can see many interesting features.
It is a sequence of six poems of varying length. Poem Three has a striking structure, the beginning and ending sections enclosing an isolated word in capitals. In the first part of the poem we encounter a 12th Century church font; the writer imagines it revolving in his memory. Immediately prior to the last isolated word (MANDRAKE) we have an image as of a rotating lighthouse: ‘The strategic planetarium rotates. The lenses stare into the dark (…).’

This central division is critical to the sequence as a whole, treating as it does of transition from heritage issues and memories to a more contemporarily responsive approach.

The whole sequence begins with the grandfather in poem one, with the list of all the ships he has worked on; it is in effect a log book and also the diary of a man unused to recording his inner life.
The last poem in the sequence, poem VII, concentrates on the grandmother, and emphasises her unwillingness to dwell on or explore the past of her life. This attitude frees her, we read, ‘to catch what was new/ and catch hold of it.
The grandfather disappeared from sight, the grandmother remained, if only in the writer’s memory.

Many have argued that this sequence marked a turning point in Tomas Transtromer’s writing, from more closed and structurally conservative modes to more open and free-ranging modes.

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Images of wind and water recur in many guises throughout the sequence. We open with fog, a combined air and water image, as the grandfather seaman edges his way through the Swedish archipelago into the Baltic. The air/wind image is taken into the next poem, where the grandmother shows concern for seafarers whenever the wind blows, even inland on her island.
Here it is contrasted with the image of free-flowing life the child surmises the wind to be. The wind can fan the flames, or blow them out.
It is in this poem we encounter the theme of the unknown threat. The threat is turned into a benign image: the sea mine was made safe, used as an ornament. The threat is from outside, whether as here the devices of a nation at war, or later where an imposed political totalitarianism brings in the contemporary reference to eastern Europe in the depths of the Cold War.

This water image recurs in the next poem as an image of peace and safety: the church font depicts carvings of battles fought, the threat theme recurring again, but once more made safe in the use of water as a placid element. In the central section the steamer continues the water and danger themes until, ‘a hundred year’s later’ and shore-based, the threat is made safe once more. The poem is top and tailed with the image of religion paralleled with the superstition surrounding the mandrake. Both are assumed to have magical properties. The writer includes the font water into this assessment by implication. By doing so he smudges any strict demarcation of paralleled elements to great effect.

Poem Four is a short but interesting piece. It is paraphrased in the first line: ‘From leeward/ close ups.’ We encounter Bladderwrack seaweed, a Bullhead fish, then the shore-based rock face on the lee-side.

We again meet the image of water, the Baltic Sea, and picking up on the previous image of the font water as placid, a calm endless roof of sea. The sailing image returns: the flag we sail under washed-out, sun-bleached – a wonderful image of sailing under all flags and none; the parochial and national identity has broken down: the close-ups have given us a sense of perspectives: near and far as a necessary relationship, inter-dependent and mutually productive.
As a poem this too falls into two contrasted halves. Note that they are not opposed but made safe by being put into a mutually reciprocal relationship. Is it another chiasmus? A chiasmus of an order we have not come across before?

Poem Five gives us an influx of jellyfish, they are not a threat so much as a curiosity, a symptom even.
Air recurs as a wordless condition, a mis-condition of the brain – aphasia (Aphasia as a rewriting of history: what was known is devalued, overwritten).
We find here that there can be style without content, there can be language without words. In poem One the grandfather attempts conversations in a kind of English, attempts communication using whatever means he can.

Threat recurs; we have seen the danger of fog at sea, of war and the sea mine, here we have the totalitarian regime that denounces the Conservertoire Director. His response after eventual rehabilitation is aphasia: danger, and its consequences. The close-up of a snail in the grass opens up the vista a time: Franciscans brought them here as a food. The influence from outside again, but this time benign.

Poem VII gives us the grandmother’s story. And it is harrowing: TB and the loss of one’s family, it also looks at the meaning of family: another close up. Family as blood-kin can also mean being used as an unpaid servant. The grandmother refuses to look back, to be caught up in the recriminations and self-recriminations that are inevitably produced by this. 

The poem moves with the narrator whose memory keeps the grandmother alive. The archipelago reappears. This time the narrator uses an island fisherman’s cottage. Wind and water recur as potent images, this time of a sense of time moving on, and of perspectives opening up, newness becoming possible.

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The patternings tie together the poems, rather than opposing them as we might expect with a chiasmus. Nor do we find structurally reversed placing of theme or image between first and latter half of the sequence as a whole.  

Transtromer has noted that ‘Baltics’ marks the writer’s ‘most consistent attempt to write music’, that is, to structure the sequence thematically as a musical piece.
Helen Vendler remarked on Tomas Transtromer’s abiding concern with music in his work, particularly the work of Schubert, Grieg and Liszt, which he could play himself very competently (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/magazine/99536/tomas-transtromer poetry-inexplicit). It has been suggested that his return to piano helped him over a critical period in his life, aged fifteen.

Schubert’s last sonatas in particular make great use of recurring themes and modalities; we find here similar arching structures to what we see in ‘Baltics’. Musically they are called ‘ternary’ structures, and generally have the pattern of ABA, or extensions on that, ABBA  etc.

Commentators on the Bach Cantatas WebsiteBach Contatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Chiasmus.htm, have gone into some depth discussing what constitutes a chiasmic structure in music, and how it differs from a palindromic structure.
These are literary terms applied to music. The chiasmic structure, according to the Bach writers, must needs have more than one term between first and middle part, in each half of the whole; all else is a palindrome.

To apply a musical term in turn, we can say then that a ternary structure does have similarities to a chiasmic structure. In practical terms things are much more complex: tonality and melodic elements are the elements of the structure. Schubert even introduced intermediate tonalities that had only distant relations with the general key of the piece.

Tomas Transtromer’s sequence fits more comfortably with the less oppositional structure of, say, Schubert’s last sonatas, than with strict chiasmus and ring.
His psychological concerns here with conflict-resolution, appeasement of danger, the untying of heritage-issues and parental demands does seem to have accord with Schubert’s possible last accounting and valuing that went into how and by what means he structured those last sonatas.

The title phrase ‘Cid’ is from an Arabic word sidi/sayyid, ‘Sir.
Nor are the Moors in the tale portrayed as badly as in ‘The Song of Roland’. There are many examples of the Cid taking and being received by Moors as friends. There is a lot of in-fighting amongst the Muslim inhabitants in the tale: towns held by the Cid earlier on are grateful to him for his releasing them with property and lives intact as he moved out to take on the bigger rulers, the ones who also had laid burdens on the smaller towns.

We see in the history of the Alhambra in Granada how the delightful gardens witnessed much slaughter and bloodshed by rival Muslim rulers. It is important here to distinguish between the Umayyad Arabic rule, based at Cordoba, and the new incursions of warlike Berbers from North Africa. The Berbers overthrew the settled Muslim rule and threw Muslim Spain into chaos as they vied for power and control amongst themselves (Introduction, Night and Horses and the Desert – An Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, by R Irwin).

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One source states, that the entire work was divided into three parts in 1910. This has significance; although the text itself does divide into sections by explicitly stating ends and beginnings in the places the cantares are introduced. The only ambiguous one is the last one: the cantare begins with the humiliation of the Infantes in the ‘lion episode’, whilst the Penguin Classics edition begins it on the marriage betrothal of the Cid’s daughters, prior to this, and where the Infantes come into the story fully.

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In the first cantare we meet the Cid, his devoted friends, his family – he had just been banished from Castile. We don’t know why, because the first page of the ms is missing, and no copy has yet turned up.

He left his family at the monastery, had a dream of greatness, and then had to go out from Castile. None were allowed, on pain of death, to sell him food, or allow him a bed for the night.
He had to plan a ruse to raise money to fund his foray, and support his followers.
Once outside of Castile he first of all planned and executed raids on Muslim townships along a river course. Each was successful, through the Cid’s use of tactics. He was able to send back his first gift to King Alfonzo. Following this he planned a much more difficult raid among a bigger series of towns. This raid involved planning, trickery and subterfuge; he gained great prestige and booty from this.

We see the cantare begin with the Cid’s banishment from Castile, and it end with the restoration of the Count of Barcelona to his freedom and region. The high point of the cantare must surely be the presentation of the first gift to King Alfonzo. It followed from this act that the Cid’s’ followers were pardoned for their part in helping him, and allowed home.
Home is the hidden theme here, that informs beginning, middle and end of the cantare.

The second cantare has three main raids: one in the Levantine, the second in the towns surrounding Valencia, including the lengthy siege of the city. Then he settled the city as a reconquered Christian city.
The emir of Seville was defeated in battle, and much booty gained.
The Cid set up a Christian bishopric, and was henceforth allowed restitution of his family. They all settled in Valencia.
The last battle was with King Yusuf of Morocco.
This was by far the greatest. The spoils were magnificent. He sent back his greatest gift to King Alfonzo, and won his own pardon.
His renown as a great and wealthy warrior was settled.

The two main battles book-end the seizure of Valencia, whose capture depicted a very prolonged siege as a battle of wills between Spain and Moor. The battle with the emir of Seville ran concurrently with the winning of Valencia.

This is surely the centre of the poem. All changes from here; from now on the whole tone of the poem is different. The latter part of the poem is concerned with justice under Spanish law, whereas the first parts were concerned winning prestige – is there a hint of injustice in his exile? – wealth and a reputation for loyalty and honesty. That is, of winning back his place in the Spanish sphere of civility and legality.

Throughout, the poem set out to prove the Cid’s loyalty and honourable character.
One under-theme image is the beard of the Cid; he vowed never to cut it (or have it travestied) until he won restitution. All through the poem are references to his beard: well, the poem does take years to run the story’s course: even the King was outclassed by the Cid’s beard! Ok, but the point being the beard is a mark of the Cid’s commitment to the cause, and an emblem of his prestige.

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The first cantare saw the Cid banished, cut off from family and legal recourse. He fought three campaigns against the Moors of Henares, the Jalon River, and the Jiloca River. At each he won bounty and wealth.

In the last cantare of the poem we saw three legal challenges to the treachery of the Infantes whereby the Cid reclaimed his generously given wealth; and also three duels – one duel per campaign. He won back, by recourse to Spanish law, his position and prestige.

We began (despite the lost first page) with the Cid realising his banishment from Castile (a metonym for Christian Spain), and end with the Cid helping unite Spain through marriage. The central event also echoed in this, where we saw the Cid settle Valencia and environs for Christian Spain, but also establish a Christian bishopric there under battling Bishop Jeronimo.

The reverse order of events is encapsulated in the court case: the lawsuit, the duels, the marriages (laisses 135-52).

So, yes, it does work. We have a ring of the whole poem, and as in true classical style, the three smaller rings of the cantares.

But where did Per Abbad learn of the structure? So little has come down from pre-Moorish Spain. But what of Mozarabic Spain? I may have to hunt out Arabic sources, but also perhaps Sephardic as well.

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We see in the Penguin edition of ‘The Cid’ what has been called the prosification of the poem. The term is relatively self-explanatory; the implications, however, are not. With prosification goes the break-down of the line; epithets and formulas are lost, as their function in the line is lost.
As we know from chiasmic and particularly ring construction, these play an important structural role, indicating a parallelism, point of special notice or as rhythmic notifier.
Benjamin Smith notes the symmetry that chiasmus gives to a work is important to its message. He examples the interior chiasmic form in the lines 2402-3, ‘Los de mio Çid a los de Búcar de las tiendas los sacan,/ sácanlos de las tiendas, cáenlos en alcazas’, as the form  A B C C B A. This is a particularly interesting chiasmus because it is the only instance where we bridge two stanzas, 117 and 118.
The translation has it: ‘The Cid’s men drove Bucor’s men out of their tents.// When they had driven them out they fell to the pursuit.’
What we see here, what we can say the chiasmus is drawing out attention to, is how the poem is skillfully structured to emphasise an ongoing action that changes as the fortunes of the two parties change. The Cid here encounters Muslim King Bucor outside Valencia, and the battle turns in the Cid’s favour.

 We begin to see here how richly textured the text is in the original Spanish. This written text also appears to be richly structured, with many inner treasures and smaller rings. Perhaps this implies the poem was also a part of a national treasury, for which read a cultural heirloom of sorts.

‘SUNDIATA, AN EPIC OF OLD MALI’ by D T Niane. Translation by G D Pickett

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This Mali epic as we have it now is the summation of a collection of oral legends. The legends are based around King Sundiata Keita, who consolidated and expanded the Mali Empire. His period of governance was 1217 to 1255.

The role of the griot is central to the story. The Preface describes the functions. Furthermore the opening commentary to the tale is entitled Words of the Griot Mamadou Kouyate, and he explains his functions and status. The griot is the King’s counsellor; he keeps the tribal customs, histories, and musical and oral traditions. His role may be similar to what we at the present time understand by the role of what we take to be the traditional Welsh bard. To be granted a griot is to be accorded great status. Sundiata was given Balla Fassekeas as his griot. Balla was later captured by the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante’, however, before Sundiata came into his power.

On one level it is a straight forward story of a king growing to greatness, overcoming a formidable enemy, and consolidating a mighty empire. The telling of the story, however, reveals many levels and complexities. To give an example of the complexity of storytelling let me show you the finding of Sogolon, Sundiata’s mother: 

                          ‘(…) a soothsayer turned up at the village of Niani and prophesied to King Nare`that the would father a great warrior king. Some time later two hunters and a young woman came across King Nare’ and company as they were out hunting. They approached the king and told him this tale: as they were hunting they came across an old woman weeping, she begged them for food, which they shared with her. For their kindness she informed them that she was the spirit of the Buffalo of Do, no warrior could kill her; and she had already killed seventy-seven warriors. There was only one way to kill her, which she told to the hunters, and gave them the requisite tools. They were to take the body to the local king who would be overjoyed and grant the one who killed the buffalo a choice of a wife amongst the women-folk of his town. But, the old woman said, they must only choose the ugly one with the hunchback; she also was an aspect of the buffalo woman. This woman would give birth to a warrior king. After telling the King this they presented him with the woman, Sogolon Conde. She was the one the old woman said; the king married her.

As you can see from this we have a story within a story within a story: three levels of story. Add onto this the symbolic level: the Lion king who marries the Buffalo woman. This also has its own chiasmus, a sequence based on the all-important binding of Sogolon to King Nare’.

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Sundiata grew up unable to walk; the King desperate for a healthy heir married another wife. This set up all sorts of jealousy and supremacy problems between the wives. Sundiata was seven before he could stand and walk. This is a variation on the standard hero presentation.
Just before this time the King had died, and Sundiata, who was supposed to be his choice successor due to prophecy, was judged physically incapable, and he and his family relegated, ridiculed, and subjected to mockery and increasing hostility.

As soon as Sundiata could walk he quickly learned hunting skills, warrior skills. All along his mental acuity had been high, his kindness supreme. The old kings’ new wife plotted against him: she hired nine witches to catch him out and curse him; his kindness towards them, not knowing who they were, won them over. He was warned of the plot.

His mother Sogolon took her family away for safety. She found however that many tribal kings had been bribed to turn them away. They were forced therefore to travel out of Mali and into Ghana. There they met kindness. It was when they travelled to Mema that the old King, Mansa Tounkara, took them in. He had no children himself, and warmed greatly to Sundiata. In all they spent six years with him. Sundiata grew into a strong and tactical warrior.

While in exile, however, the sorcerer King Soumaoro Kante had grown strong, attracted many followers, and moved in on the Mali tribes, and capital Niani. 

Representatives from old Niani travelled around in search of Sundiata. When they found him at Mema they told of what had befallen Mali. Sundiata vowed to return and destroy Soumaoro. The old king however refused to let him go.
It is at this time that Sundiata’s mother, Sogolon; died. The old king accused Sundiata of being ungrateful, and a turncoat. Sundiata, a very powerful warrior by this time was able to command most of the old king’s men. He had to let him go back. He took half the king’s men with him.

As he returned many tribal people who resisted Soumaoro joined with Sundiata. There were three main battles (and one night sortie), each time Sundiata was victorious, but Soumaoro escaped using sorcery. The pursuit of Soumaoro was long and bloody. It is only when Nana Triban, Sundiata’s half sister by his father’s new queen, along with his own griot, joined him, that he learned the way to defeat Soumaoro’s sorcery.

Soumaoro was defeated, but not captured.
Sundiata levelled Soumaoro’s city of Sosso; he re-entered Mali a victor; he granted land and livings to all loyal tribes, showed mercy to the defeated, and rebuilt Niani on a greater, grander scale.

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The whole movement of the epic is based on two arcs superimposed and conflicting with each other, one where we see the build up to Sundiata’s eminence, is contrasted with his unfortunate beginnings: we have the auspiciousness of his prophecy and the inauspiciousness of his childhood.
There are three interpolations by the writer into the narrative; these are
Chapter 1, The First Kings of Mali;
Chapter 8, History; and
18, Eternal Mali

: that is the first, middle, and last.

Each of these chapters has the same structure of author’s assessment of the story, followed by a précis of the following events. These three chapters differ from all others, in that the others consist of direct and engaged narrative of the story. The first and last chapters also are connected in the ways they begin and end the tale.
The First Kings gives a brief history of the Mandingo people and of Sundiata’s genealogy, before introducing us to the story.
The last chapter Eternal Mali, sums up the ending of the tale, and in the latter half gives a brief history of Mali after the time of Sundiata.
The central chapter, History, begins by reverting to the same objective tone of the first and last authorial interpolations; it tells how the story of Sundiata has reached its central point, and how all the auspicious signs of his childhood will now come to fruition. This is followed by a brief précis of the preceding chapter, and introduces us to the proceeding events of the story.M

There is a 13th century German poem, Der Rosendorn, that tells of an overheard dialogue between a young woman and her vagina.
O-k.
But then an excerpt of this poem was found used as the binding of another book. Only this binding excerpt dated at two hundred years’ previous to the complete copy.

The woman and her vagina part company, and each goes off to prove which of them men do really want/love/value.
But we know it will not end well.
Neither comes back with a good tale to tell.
And to to get the two back together again?
With the aid of … some kind of… nail….

This is not about personal emotion or response, but public art/poetry.
It is about bragging, posturing, attitude.
It is essential we do not confuse the two.

The relationship between them, though, is very complexly reciprocal, and constantly shifting, one copying the other which then copies the copy etc.

Wiki tells us:
Poems of this vintage were not uncommon in medieval literature, with other examples known from France, and in England, sexual vulgarity was a frequent theme of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Rosendorn

We see examples in Rufinus from the Greek Anthology parodying the Three Graces. I only have to mention Catullus and Lesbia, and in Medieval Latin: The Virgin and the Nightingale: 1983: Fleur Adcock, Translator, The Virgin and the Nightingale: Medieval Latin poems, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books,[9] ISBN 978-0-906427-55-2

The poem is a piece of purposeful ribaldry.
Take, for instance, the first encounter – that of an enclosed garden.
This is a deliberate parody on the symbolic virginity of maidenhood, through the imagery of the Virgin Mary.

The woman is the inverse of the courtly tradition’s paragon of the female, just as the whole purpose of the piece is that of light/ribald entertainment, and using tradition forms, not heroic stanzas in parody.
Amour courtois comes in for a drubbing.

So, what was the purpose of poems like these? Their use of plain language for body parts adds a frisson – Wiki tells us:
The Germanist Coxon suggests that their closest relative in ribaldry would have been the Fastnachtsspiele of carnival and shrovetide.[8]
There were times, then, like the time of the ‘lord of misrule’ over the Christmas period, like May morning, when laws were relaxed, and revelery allowed.

If you do visit the Wiki page, above, you will see a 14th century metal brooch from Bruges, of a vagina being paraded by three penises.
Apparently metal brooches like this were popular.

What is you lock-down passion/vice/activity that keeps you sane?
We bought-in beaucoup des plantes de maison. It was around Christmas time (ok, a little before, but who’s counting?)
And so we live in a jungle, now. Well, no. But we bought:

Norfolk Pine

Araucaria heterophylla

Currently 10 weeks old.
Their place of origin – sole place of origin, now – we are informed, is a tiny island between New Zealand and Fiji: Norfolk Island. We were also informed that it is a species that predate the dinosaurs. Whatever you say.

I actually looked up Norfolk Island, and, yes, Google Maps have photos. I found them a little dismaying. How populated the place is now, with roads, even a cathedral, and all those people!

We were also informed this little fellas can grow up to 200 foot, in their normal outdoor, southern-hemisphere climates. Continually misted by sea spray – they never like the sea-bit of that, but do need daily misting…
with tepid, filtered, water.

That’s when you begin to wonder what you’ve taken on.

Among our goody-bag of house plants we also bought some Areca Palms:

Not a particularly good snap shot, but… you get the ‘picture’. Oo.

Prayer Plant

Now this is an odd one – lovely plant. At night its leaves all cluster together, almost palm to palm, as in prayer.
Except for the very top leaf.
The very top leaf: as we turn around each night – the plant stands to our backs, near the window – has always turned around 180 degrees, and is facing us! Keeping an eye on, taking notes, ‘observing our species at work and play, for use later.’

But most probably because nightly we face a source of light, the TV.

One of our favourite buys were several successive collections of Hyacinth bulbs. The blue variety scented the room every evening. And it was glorious to come down in the morning to their perfume.

Our other buys were a Yucca, many Parlour Palms, an Aloe Vera, and several other mysterious ones I have not come across before.
Quite a few of these need moist environments, and we have taken great trouble to banish moist from our rooms. So they now dry out quickly; no big deal, just a bit more watering.
Many of these plants were common in Victorian homes – even Queen Victoria was particularly fond of Parlour Palms. This is some indication of just how continually damp their houses – even palaces – must have been. And the chill that’d go with the damp. Hence the need for big roaring fires.

The coal fires I remember from childhood – forget all the cleaning of grates, of spilling ash, and the continual ash-scatter over everything – was how they warmed to too hot our fire-facing parts, while our backs kept almost cold.
Ah, but the smogs, fogs, the bronchitis, childhood asthma, and chest problems.

Where is the best place for old statues of the famous?

First of all, what does ‘best’ mean?
Secondly, what does ‘old statues’ imply?

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One of the first casualties of commemorative statuary is its significance. Its meaning, if you will. And this is usually lost in a matter of a few years, not decades.
No one questions the right of a siting, once placed. And no one questions the statue’s right to be, once the first newsworthiness has been dampened down.
Is this so?
It is all about suitable platforms for concerns: there are ways of stifling ‘voices off,’ for ‘the greater good’.
What was the mind-set in erecting them in the first place? To celebrate benevolence? In a few, mostly much later, cases.
What is greatness? How celebrations of it override all other considerations, the horrors of its means, its chequered achievements.

What then follows a long period of comparative amnesia. In this period all significance, meaning, becomes lost, and what takes over is familiarity. Its good friend contempt tags along, but is usually on the whole well behaved.

It is only a great many years later, several generations, that a new generation of fresh-eyed people are prompted, or are very, very rarely home-grown, to question the validity and probity of these commemorative items.

The only way to keep the more questionable statues ‘active’ is within context, as in a museum. The Colston statue in Bristol https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-56250697 is one currently in question.
A way towards resolution has been suggested by exhibiting the slave-trader ‘s statue in a museum along with Black Lives Matter banners.
It is still within the city his questionable wealth did so much for, but it is kept within contemporary concerns.

The take this:
Canterbury Cathedral has decided not to remove its troubling statues, but has enclosed them within contextual displays:

I have often wondered about statues of Oliver Cromwell.
The one near me is now was taken away from the city centre, and is now tucked away in a suburban park. His name is still a curse-word in Ireland. I should not think Scotland views him well either.:

This graffiti targets his Irish campaigns.
Amongst his horrors, though, he did invite Jewish people to return to England, after a shameful 400 years.
The commission and erection of these statues is an odd case, a regicide commemorated in the midst of Queen Victoria’s imperialist and expansionist reign, at the same time as the burgeoning of the Irish Home Rule political movement.
Cromwell himself oversaw the first wave of colonial transportation to the Caribbean. Writing to parliament after leading the slaughter at Drogheda in September 1649, the general reported that the ‘officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes’: https://www.historyireland.com/volume-25/issue-4-julyaugust-2017/features-issue-4-julyaugust-2017/curse-cromwell-revisiting-irish-slavery-debate/

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There is always a backlash to the backlash.
Will the media smother that? Keep it out of the public eye and mind? That is one way to ‘control’ these things, to use the methods used against you against your detractors. The ‘oxygen of publicity’ (- is that to feed a fire, or to enliven the blood? Language has its own codes).
But is it legit to do this? Or are you tying yourself down/in with dubious systems?

You can also take something as everyday as language.
What often started as a metaphor, either a clever coining, or even a euphuism skirting around some iniquitous doing, in no time at all loses its double nature, and the image used becomes the unquestioned, acceptable, tool of communication.
Terms either lose their meanings, or are used for skewed rather than straight meaning. It is the way time, usage, in other words, people, affect and are affected.

Correction can only be advantageous when done within contemporary parameters, that is, with the understandings and acceptances of current methods.
To revert solely to original meanings would make them redundant for contemporary concerns.
Original meanings coupled with contemporary meanings are essential for the fuller understanding.

Dracula TV Series

Posted: January 11, 2020 in Chat
Tags: , , , ,

The new 3 episode TV series has recently finished.
So now you start to wonder, remember and laugh, and remember and look puzzled, and all the other responses it calls from you.

Was it as good as you hoped?
I’m undead; I’m not unreasonable.‘ was a good start: sharp, snappy, and yet… and yet, in that part of the action he was, yes, very unreasonable, as he sat back allowing his wolves to slaughter all of the nuns. Not for his ‘hunger’, note, but for the wolves.

‘The Dracula effect’ gets its impact, its punch, from transgression. That is its dynamic: something, an evil from long, long ago, bowling into the modern, sophisticated world, and wreaking havoc.
There were moments in this series: released from his Hannibal Lector/Skyfall cell, by his lawyer, and all London open to him…. But no, he did not go on the rampage.
It was as though the writers were ticking boxes on the required-modern-attitudes scale, as well as layering with cultural references. There was even a Dark Lord in there i.e. Voldemort.

Each work sets out the parameters it is constructed, and is to work, within. The older versions of the tale have very clearly demarcated moral and ethical borders and boundaries. Transgression was guaranteed.
In this new series the parameters were open, its was a broad field of equality and diversity. Where were the borders? Where could the energy come from?
Even his cold-bloodedness: the baby to feed on, the killing of the nuns, the apparently conscienceless killing of ship companions, blatant betrayals, and gratuitous self-serving, are all too well known from our recent wars and their attendant war-crimes, recent political regimes, experiences of survivors still very much alive. And in the case of refugee camps, still being perpetrated as we speak/write
It says much in Claes Bang’s favour that he could smoulder and threaten with more than enough contained violence to carry off the larger-than-life character he was portraying.
And yet also a worthiness kept creeping in. And clunkiness: instantly picking up on modern technologies, as well as displaying an expertise? I still have trouble working Skype, but he did it first try – from someone else’s blood-memories, was it? Everyone knows the hand book approach, but the fiddly bits around the functions are something else.
And constant, dependable, broadband?

Which brings us to the most important question: what is the present-day sensibility? What, of what we are doing, will be found to be worthwhile in years to come?
What will survive of us – and not in some comedy channel’s You Will Not Believe This! type formula.

Because these are the questions the series deals with, ultimately.
Here was someone from 15thCentury Central Europe: what did he find, here? And what else did he bring through time with him?
Something that we could recognise, use, applaud?

His vampire parameters: sunlight, silver, crosses… all acquired dependencies? Believing his own, created, myths? Very contemporary.

Reblog: Magic

Posted: October 25, 2019 in Chat
Tags: , ,

With it being Halloweeny time, I thought, Why no reblog that Magic piece again? And so, here it is:

A book I’ve had hanging around for ages: there it was again, so this time I read it:
Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic – Empedocles and the Pythagorean Tradition, by Peter Kingsley.
It was published by Clarendon Press/ Oxford University Press, 1995.

Then there was a free FutureLearn course: Magic in the Middle Ages, run by Barcelona University. Lovely people, by the way.

But, back to that book, first.
Empedocles is the one who coined the four basic elements, building blocks of all things: earth, air, fire and water. Each was also connected with a god/goddess.
The hierarchy was:
Air – Zeus. It was aether intitially, a rarefied form of air.
Earth – Hera
Water – Nestis. She was a localised goddess, native to Sicily.
Fire – Hades.

Empedocles was a native of Sicily. It was to Sicily that Pythagoras came from Samos, Greece. This was all in the 4th centuryBCE.
Sicily, of course, has always been volcanic. Not just the presence of Etna, but Empedocles’ birth town was based on hot springs: the island is full of volcanic-related geography. Then there are the Liparan Islands off the north coast, connecting to Vesuvius.
Is it any wonder the Pythagorians had Fire as the centre of the universe? This was not just ordinary fire but the fire of Tartarus, where the Titans and rebellious gods were confined.
The Underworld, next, ‘as far above Hades as the Earth was above the Underworld’; it was envisioned as a place of rivers of water, and of fire. Nestis was a localised name for Persephone, and she was partnered with Hades, as Hera was with Zeus. We see differences in nature and purpose of each couple in this.
Some initiates took all this later to Egypt. It found a home there, met eastern cults, and became interested in Alchemy (another fire-based ideology).
This was all big-concept stuff – compare it with the Eleusian Mysteries, with closely related Orphism, the mystery cults. They are all surrounded by ritual, initiation, even rebirth scenarios.

The online course was based on documented sources: Papal edicts, religious records, even Inquisition records.
Magic was either earth magic: herbology, charms and amulets, even star reading – and the other: necromancy, prophecy etc. The first were accepted; the latter were considered to be due to demonic agencies.Then they all became classed as the latter kind: who gave you knowledge of these things? Why, demons, of course.
We touched on the Kabbalah: the course leader ruefully commented that this was only intended for those who had studied the Torah and The Old Testament, for at least 40 years. No one went straight into it, that would be seen as utterly stupid, pointless.

So, magic was either big-concept theory with rituals, orgies and bachanalian revels, or it was table-rapping, charms, astrology, and what we now know as spiritualism, automatic writing, dream visions etc.
That was about it.

There are no records outside of the Bible of the dead actually being raised, reinvigorated. Within the book, we have the Witch of Endor who cured Saul/St Paul’s heaven-caused blindness. But there are no extant records anywhere of witches, say, throwing fire balls, of actually being seen riding broomsticks; or of spells compelling living people to do things supernatural. No great wizards with staffs; no actual records of demons raised, djinns released, or even angels on earth.
Simon Magus? You tell me.
The Three Wise Men? Reputation and mystique. Persia was a whole other matter, though.

Curses and charms depend so much on coincidence and interpretation: you need narrow horizons and desperate lives to see the patterns, so to speak.

Everything else had been recorded; you can bet such weirdy stuff would certainly have been recorded too.

*

I have been wondering for some time about, you know, Satan.
Surely he must have begun as a kind of god of the Underworld, like Hades, Pluto.
His penchant for evil. sin, and corruption, are they his because of his role in the cosmos, to rule over all that is antithetical to life?
A fallen angel? You can see the problematical shiftings of old myths in this description: how to accommodate new influences, new characters, from maybe further east, tinges of half-known/remembered Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian cultures.
Evil, sin etc, are so human in nature. It is near impossible to find anything there that goes beyond human capability. Unfortunately.
So, there are no excuses, kids.

*

This bit you didn’t hear from me. OK?
Visions and vision quests.

In each case the person has to put their self in mortal danger.
This is always played down, and tactfully forgotten.
– The quester fasts and purges to the physical limit;
– the hallucinogenic user purposely imbibes toxic material.
– The sun-dancer puts his body through life-threatening torments.

The aim in all cases is to get the body to react to the ultimate threat.
That is not to react consciously, but on a purely physiological level, way below awareness: the body pumps in its danger and panic chemicals, its point-of-death chemicals, that enhance the hallucinations, the visions.
– It has been noted by some clinicians that the brain experiences a burst of activity immediately before death.

The whole vision procedure is a literal life-and-death one.
The result is a glimpse of the death-life relationship, and where, if anywhere, the self fits in.
The problem is, you have to survive, and you have to come back intact (or more or less: even Odin lost an eye!).

Don Not Try This At Home!

Image result for tanabata festival

On the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, is the Tanabata Festival in Japan.
Why only then?
It is all based a story from early Japan.

This is the story, one of the many, connected with the Milky Way in the night sky. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky.

It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent the stars Vega, and Altair. They are only allowed to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, at the River of the Sky.
It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’.  It can be traced back, in turn, to an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. The corresponding Chinese festival is the Qixi Festival, of the 7th of the 7th.

The Weaver Girl,  was, of course, a princess, and… was she weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations? Her father grew concerned that in her lonely profession she was not able to meet any young men. He invited the cowherd (who herded the cows of heaven?), to meet her.

The meeting went very well, and in time they fell in love. They were able to marry.
On marriage, however, they neglected their duties.
It was thought best for all if they were separated, and only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting, though, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. Orihime wept so much and so hard that a flock of magpies took pity, flew down and made her a bridge with their wings.

If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, though, the magpies may not be able to come.

 

Tonight he takes his one journey of the year
             Over the Heavenly River, passing Yasu Beach –
He, the love-lorn Oxherd longing for his maid,
Whom he can never see but once a year,
Though from the beginning of heaven and earth
They have have stood face to face across the Heavenly River

……………………………………………………………………………………….
 Tonight, this seventh night of the seventh moon – 
Strangely it thrills my heart.

(excerpted from: Japanese Love Poems, Selections from the Manyoshu. Edited by Evan Bates, Dover Publications Inc., 2005)

People write messages, poems, prayers, and hang them from trees on this day.

Image result for tanabata festival

Astronomically, on this date, the distance between Vega, part of the Harp constellation, and Altair, The Eagle constellation, is bridged by a group of stars called The Coathanger, more properly Brocchi’s cluster.
This arrangement forms a straight line with a few dotted stars above this in the centre.
hImage result for brocchi cluster

Image result for brocchi cluster

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brocchi%27s_Cluster

 

 

Is this the magpie bridge?

The following blog many will find distressing. Be Warned.

The Liverpool Care Pathway was a palliative care package for the dying.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_Care_Pathway_for_the_Dying_Patient

It could be said that each procedure has its own identifying image.
For the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), it would be the butterfly syringe.

The ‘body’ of the syringe is one main inlet to the patient, while each ‘wing’ has portals for other drips etc to be attached simultaneously. This allows many drugs to be administered at the same time, and continuously.

Once the butterfly syringe has been applied, however, then the person is ushered into the ‘ways of dying’. No food or water is given, a coma induced, and the patient monitored, usually visually, for signs of pain, and then the necessary drug given.
The whole aim is to create the conditions for an assisted but relatively less distressing slide into death.
Once inserted there is no going back, and no stopping: the procedure is taken through to the end, the person’s death.

The main decisions to do with the Pathway are the decisions of usually experienced nursing staff etc.
Mistakes can be, and have been, made. Where  visual assessment of someone’s condition is crucial, it is relatively open to misjudgement: how do you distinguish ‘agitation’, from ‘pain,’ or even distress? For the former the patient is merely monitored, for the latter,   measures are taken.
It has been found that in some cases that people haven continued living ten to twelve days after the pathway was initiated.
To go without food or water for this period, even though the person was comatose, would have produced agonising pains as the basic levels of the body fought.

And so the Liverpool Care Pathway was discontinued.

What has taken its place, however, is a procedure so similar it is easy to confuse the two: is it just the name has changed?

To sit with the dying under normal conditions is terrible enough (a doctor said, ‘Do not die in hospital!’ The noise and lack of privacy take away all dignity.)
But to sit with the dying, knowing that you have agreed to the intrusive procedure being administered… that is on another level.

And so we see a surge in applicants to Dignitas. Dignitas may seem a very antiseptic, clinical, mess-free alternative, but it does allow a person a measure of choice.
The heartbreak, naturally, comes with it.

Religion, it will be noticed, plays no part whatsoever in these procedures.
The Last Rites are administered, as normal, and prayers said, but afterlife considerations play no part in the decision-making.

Let’s face it, folks, our hearts are going to get broken, no matter which way is taken/chosen.

 

Oh, and never agree to have one’s loved one embalmed.