Friday, July 15, 2011
-Richard Fulke Greville, Maxims, Characters, and Reflections
'Mr. Melville was probably quite as entertaining and somewhat less abstruse, when his communications were by word of mouth. Mrs. Hawthorne used to tell of one evening, when he came in, and presently began to relate the story of a fight which he had seen in the Pacific, between some savages, and the prodigies of valor one of them performed with a heavy club. The narrative was extremely graphic; and when Melville had gone, and Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne were talking over his visit, the latter said, "Where is that club which Mr. Melville was laying about him so?" Mr. Hawthorne thought he must have taken it with him; Mrs. Hawthorne thought he had put it in the corner; but it was not to be found. The next time Melville came, they asked him about it; whereupon it appeared that the club was still in the Pacific island, if it were anywhere."
-Julian Hawthorne, Nat. Hawthorne & his Wife, a Biography; Vol. 1
'Melville, as he always does, began to reason of Providence and futurity, and of everything that lies beyond human ken, and informed me that he had "pretty much made up his mind to be annihilated;" but still he does not seem to rest in that anticipation; and, I think, will never rest until he gets hold of a definite belief. It is strange how he persists - and has persisted ever since I knew him, and probably long before - in wandering to and fro over these deserts, as dismal and monotonous as the sand hills amid which we were sitting. He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us."
-Hawthorne, Journal, Nov. 12 1856
'An agreeable day. Took a long walk by the sea. Sands & grass. Wild & desolate. A strong wind. Good talk."
-Melville, Journal, Nov. 12 1856
Monday, June 13, 2011
-Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus
On the morrow I journey to the Land of Eden, my home-stretch, where the noble Dan River flows quiet 'neath the trees. My two years amongst the Germans & Sauvages, have barrister'd & lawyered away at my Conscience, till I can no longer stand to be apart from my beloved red clay.
Half the delight of any Journey derives from the anticipatory pleazure. We recall the roads & byways, speckled with the gold & green shadows of summer. We hope for a flagon of dark Mexican beer & a great Dish of Pollo Mole. We imagine the faces of Friends, so long unseen that they seem to have been Characters in a dream. They may only be revived by offering yourself, in the flesh.
Homer gives us a type of this, when Odysseus must pour hot sacrificial blood on the ground, to attract the hungry Shades. We forget the wide distance between ourselves. Gadgetry & Mechanistickal devices - the Cell-Phone - allow us to appear in Effigy, or to breathe a few words into remote ears. But, being good Pagans in heart if not in mind, we prefer always the flesh, to the spirit.
See what grievous loss Departure wreaks: Dido's lovely flesh, burning on the Carthaginian ramparts, after Mercury tugged Aeneas' spirit onward to Italy; poor Fitzgerald, maintaining his mad wife Zelda, who became only a mannequin of her self. For that matter, wou'd not Troy's high walls stand forever, if not for Helen's duplicitous escape?
But Herodotus tells us otherwise, that Helen hid in Egypt, and it was only an image of Helen in Troy. Indeed, no matter how much she was shamed, and whored by the Heroes & Princes of the Mediterranean, always she was reverenced as pure, indeed as a Virgin. Helen escapes from Menelaus, as she later escapes from Paris & the burning Walls of Ilion - by remaining ghostly, uncommitted. There will always be some part of Helen that survives; like a Tree, ever so harshly scoured by Winter & fire, yet blooming in Spring.
The virgins worshipp'd Helen under the sycamores, near Sparta. & it was fruit from the fig-sycamore, the Mulberry, that Eve ate, that expell'd our noble line from perpetuall Happiness. Who can say what spirit they relinquish'd in that garden? Who cou'd say what spirit we have gain'd, by the Toils of our unhappy flesh?
But now it is time to put away recondite Musings, & attend to my tree-dreams.
Monday, June 6, 2011
-I have learn'd, that there are women who simply enjoy coition. As soon they have stopp'd drinking, depend on it, they will attach themselves to a man. Certainly, they will find many willing to oblige their appetites, which are positively ravenous.
-I have seen these slippers before, but never in lavender.
-But you have that pair - is't not the same?
-Nay, I look'd far for these, and found them finally in a warren of Myrtle Beach.
-I hope that I can calm my twitches before I go to Pennsylvania. The savages are monstrous fierce.
-The subdivisions are fabulous. So beautiful. I go there, and I query myself, where I cou'd find a tie to match these beautiful homes?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
We have now pass'd a full Day since the suppos'd, predicted end of the World, on May 21st, 2011.
It will be quick enough to guess the Counters offer'd by the True-believers of this Profecy. "Perhaps it was no end of this world, but rather the Beginning of the Tribulation, where all our Mettles shall be tested!"
"Perhaps the holy are already disappear'd, and the Wicked discover'd by their continual Residence on Earth."
"Perhaps there are yet geologick Distempers brewing in the molten Innards of our country - ye need look only to the volcanic Belch, again spewing from Iceland's hoary beard!"
Perhaps ministers & schoolmasters enough are convinc'd of this folly, that the next Generation will grow into a fearful & wither'd State, forever apprehensive of their own Failings. Impending Doom will bend the spines of our proud Country, & scolioted Virginia shall have a Hunchback Governor.
But when I hear these easy-enough Cries, promising the Long Grim Slide, I can only give in Echo four-fold Laughter. If there is this God that tends the trees and watches over each Flock after its kind, to what end this general Conflagration, so eagerly awaited by his Followers?
Why wou'd he allow the trees to bend under their darkening greens? Why wou'd he swell the Gerando River with all the rich silt of a Nile, or Tiber? Why wou'd he allow the wheat-fields to whisper with the softness of distant Surf, and yet in a moment peel back the Rind of the earth, to melt & eternally singe us all?
I put my faith in the downy yellow Ducklings that trundle after their mother, near the nest she made of nettles and twigs. I put my faith in the grackle that makes her nest in a Gutter, high above my head, so that I may only know of her young by the squawks that emerge from my roof. I put my faith in the clay-red calf I saw yesterday in the Fort Valley, running after his mother with all the joy of one who has only just discover'd running.
These are better signs indeed than Disorder in the Middle East, which has ever been a blazing, bloody ground, or the misdoings of a few miscreant Politickos. What cou'd a just God care about a politician, when his eye apprehends as well the Duckling?
What a cruel God He is to these Apocalyptites, that they must live another day on the bounteous Earth. Indeed, to such Unrulies as wish the end of the world, What better punishment than a beautiful weekend, such as this?
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I don't care if we spend
the night at your mansion
Prodigious Rain. Never before, in the Historie of Virginia, have I seen such torrential pourings. The Gulf has been a whirl-wind all to its own this year, and some few of their offspring have climbed up the Appalachians to menace the Gerando Valley & its settlements.
It wou'd be easy to imagine falsely that the Mountains afford some protection. But these aged Ramparts cannot prevent a Cyclone from entering our valley, and furthermore, they trap the storm within their Bounds, so that that tornadick twisting will bounce & volley all across the poor Farmland.
Thus the Mountains betray us to another Foe. For the Indians have no reason to pass thro' this Land, but only are funnel'd along our Roads & into our Yards by that Appalachian Highway, the Warrior's Path.
I myself was near frighten'd out my Skin by tornadick Action, a mere few weeks ago. In the midst of darkness, Molly, my wife's Irish wench, sprung into my bedroom. Ah, I thought, the bonny hungers for a Frolick - for oft has this pock'd Aphrodite assum'd the office of her Mistress, when it comes to bed-labor.
"Sir! Sir! Master Bainton! There is no time for such ninnery. There is a tornado about!"
"Well," sd I, thinking this a peculiar phantasy of hers, "perhaps we shou'd spend our last minutes in the fullest ripeness!," and rush'd my Hand to her Quickness!
There was a great scuffing, & unseemly Noises proceeded from my Chambers - this I must admit. But, as soon as I understood the full Import of the Slut's importunity, I struggled like a very Laocoon to free myself from her petticoats! "We must needs retreat! Let us away, to the Cellar!"
But here, I was pinn'd by a most troubling Query: What to take with me? Shou'd I grab my compleat Pliny, or my gilt volumes of Ruskin's letters to the workingmen? Shou'd I remove to my underground Lair with a homey copy of Ulysses, or with Djuna Barnes, or Charles Doughty?
For what profit the Man his Library, if it be scatter'd to wind-blown & wet pages, or torn to flecks & Bits? What profit a Millionaire his Mansion, if the compress'd wood lies again in mulch'd chips, and the christall Chandelier now only shards that may slice his children's Feet?
In the end I threw my Manuscripts into a bag from the Food Lion, & hoped. Molly & I pass'd a diverting, if not altogether Joyfull night in the double-door'd Cellar. The Cellar stank to Heaven, which is fitting, as the stench is an augur of Rain. And in the morning, when my watch told that I shou'd go to my Surveyor, we emerg'd to find the World green, twigg'd & branch'd, but alltogether whole, thank God.
"They pursued their march through the Isle of Wight, and observed a most dreadful havoc made by a late hurricane, which happened in August 1726. The violence of it had not reached above a quarter of a mile in breadth, but within that compass had levelled all before it. Both trees and houses were levelled flat on the ground, and severall things hurled to an incredible distance. It is happy such violent gusts are confined to so a narrow channel, because they carry desolation wherever they go.
-W. Byrd, History of the Div. Line
Monday, May 16, 2011
"I think," said I, "I may infer from all this that you too are a Virginian."
"Of course, I would not suppose you could doubt it. There is a sort of Freemasonry among us, by which we know each other..."
--George Balcombe, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
"Does not the Mantuan swan tell us that amor omnia vincit?" he asked, with a positively Olympian grandeur. "Does not the peripatetic Master -"
"Halt there, my good man," I said. "If love be all, and infuse all with its grandeur & strength, where then wou'd the Love be when no life breath'd on the earth? What wou'd this love be, when the Blue Ridge rumpled to Life like a folding Carpet? What wou'd the loving Heart be, that gaz'd on vast & measureless wastes, with no Breath upon it but the most vile & noxious of gasses?"
The Platonist sigh'd, as tho' I were but a Stripling that needed thorough Correction. "Sir, the love is of course God's."
"But can we call the mind of God by those same words used of man?"
"Of course not." Again, he beam'd with the assurance of a divine.
"Ah. Just yesterday, my Sappony man Ned Bearskin hopp'd into my tent to tell me that his son has taken a Wife. The poor native considers himself in love. Now, tell me, how can your God look upon the Rocks with a swelling tumescence? How can his trousers inflate at the sight of an airless rock, bald of the greenery that fills our hills? What manner of rotten flagpole sitter is this, that wou'd shun the hot doings of a young Sappony & his wife?"
"Oh, M'syer Bainton - you do try my patience. Oh - piss off, sir!"
And thus we parted on the warmest terms of Love
Thursday, March 3, 2011
A peculiar passage of Lucian, which made reference to Sanchuniathon, in whose researches into the cult of Ba'al I was most intrigued. So, determined to find a pagan Idoll, I found a heathen of the Schoolroom - a most desiccated example, Dr. Sledge. This Sledge cou'd not be persuaded to hand me any of the materials I requested. He pluck'd & tugg'd at the flecks of Tobacco on his lips, apparently a Residue of a recent chew, and nibbl'd excitedly at a stack of Potatoe-wedges when I ask'd him of his students. He hurriedly retriev'd a folder, and gave me this paper, telling me that it wou'd explain Idol-ism better than any Canaanite.
Thus, I introduce the following, into the record, as a measure of the present aera. Of it, I may only say that I have never met, nor encounter'd in sundry readings & investigations of the world, so bold a braggart, so defiant a liar.:
"Dear M. :
I am sorry that I looked at Sparknotes and then wrote my paper. I did not intentionally have the same materials as was on Sparknotes. I read the book several times but I wanted a clearer understanding of the characters. I felt that something I was reading aref [sic] something important. I just started typing and couldn't stop until I finished. I did not realize that I just remember things once I read it so I say that I have a photographic memory.
"I visualize things in my mind so I can see what would happen if I did a certain thing. My mind knows what another persons [sic] going to do because of their tendencies. I have an understanding of the human mind and what people are going to do before they do it. I always have a plan when I do something, and once it is set into motion the result never changes even if I try to change some instances.
"I've been having black outs for a while and I completely lost consciouness [sic] in church beto [sic], but I thought it went away...I started to lose my memory and had trouble remembering things sometimes and I knew that something was um [sic].
"I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to let the team down...my brain hurt when I had a thought. I could not focus and my head was killing me...
"When writhe [sic] the paper, I wesaw [sic] satisfied with just one so I wrote several essays. I used to write all the time, and I could write about anything. I did not make different copies as joke [sic], I did it because I love writing, and I love learning about Shakespeare plays.
"I still don't think that I plagiarized because I believe plagiarizing is copying and pasting someone [sic] work and calling it your own. I'm sorry for having the same thing as Sparknotes, I didn't do it intentionally. My paper looks like I just plagiarized, and I admit some words are used, but I honestly don't believe I plagiarized.
"I can't say I plagiarized even when I'm faced with all the facts because I believed I did not plagiarize. I do not lie because I see no need to, I am a person who believes that he don't [sic] need to copy anyone's work because my work is perfect. I apologize for how responded [sic] to you Monday, I'm still recuperating and I just got back and I reacted. What you saw as a threat. This is the reason I was malicous [sic]. I am at fault for this an I am sorry."
What can one say to a prodigy of memory & Forgetfulness? To such a son of Mnemosyne and Lethe?
Friday, February 25, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, February 10, 2011
"People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public..."
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
I have call'd on the Professors of physic; I have no hesitation, when the bloody Inevitable looms over my people. But I am the exception; the most of my neighbors are now afflict'd by that Rottenness, Pilamania.
There are now scores of Pills, each coat'd with a slight Layer of sugar, so that it may rest easily on a tender Tongue. The Tablet, bone-white, of the size of a baby's digit, usually has enscrib'd upon its surface some inscrutable pink Writing; no doubt part of the Apothecary's arcane Arts.
I met Teuffeldreck's beloved Apothecary just yesterday, as I was requir'd to visit town for a most distressing Complaint. I found that, seemingly without connexion to my comestibles, my Buttocks had begun to erupt most fearfully.
I had ignor'd the Problem, and done my best to ignore the complications attendant upon such Issue, in polite Society; that is, I found myself treating my Gas as a kind of Bastard, an offspring unbidden, unwant'd, that I tried my best to pass off as another's Child, all the while nursing a secret, eager Pride. I cou'd stand the grimaces of my serving-People , and the mutters & wafting Paws of Mme. Bainton; but I knew that the End was near, when dear Ned Bearskin ask'd me, Epaph, have ye consum'd the Bear-fat? Or have you been hoodoo'd again, by King Bettie?
This was warning enough, so I took myself to the Dispensary, under the guise of asking for my Wife(which I thought an able disguise). I question'd the counter-man:
-If one was to be unduly troubl'd by wind, what might one do?
-Sir, perhaps eat earlier? For it troubles me mightily to take a meal and then lie abed, and my wife says that I stench up the bed awfully in such cases...
-Yes, yes; but if 'twere more than just a passing fancy - if it appear'd almost as a gaining occupation?
-Sir, there can be no such permanent Flatulence, for it fades, and passes, easy as it comes!
-I tell you, you must needs offer me a Remedy!
And here I slapp'd the counter, with a most grievous Consequence. The Apothecary, reclus'd in a hidden room, leapt forth. "Are ye distemper'd, sir? Are ye troubl'd by the complaint? Dearth of lusty tales? Need ye more Concentration?
He wink'd most lasciviously at me, as tho' I myself were the object of these suggestions, rather than the subject. I told him that I had no such issues, but Issues of a much different kind, that troubl'd me. He grinn'd at me, his leering lip split by a sore, "but surely - sire, - you wou'd find yourself better equipp'd to tackle the Day with a clearer head?"
-I know not what you mean, sirrah. I want only a remedy for my Wife, who is taken to bed with Wind.
-Taken to bed, ma-hah! (here he snuffed at his wrist, and appear'd to lick his cuff, which I believe held the remnants of his sup;)
-She is! I must needs help her!
-You can help her, Sire, by adjusting yr diseas'd Temper! Plainly, you have not flux'd yrself enough of that most perilous bile...
Here he gestur'd me over, but I refus'd, at which time he made various grunting Insinuations, about the wandering Uterus, and the necessity of periodically riding a See-saw, and of mucus collecting in the Brain, because not expell'd via the nostril.
I made neither head nor tail of it, but it was his haggling manner, that most attract'd my attention. He would let himself run riot, and then most disconcertingly quell his tongue, so that I found myself finishing his sentences in my Mind, most uncouth tho' they were. Even the counter-man, who had ample chance to tire of this Hectoring, listen'd rapt, as the Apothecary dispens'd wisdom on:
-the perils of self-abuse;
-inattention, as a valuable trait;
-inattention, as a disgusting canker that must needs medicative adjustment;
-bile, the lava that most overheats the heart;
-creativity, alloy of tar-bile & inattention (ergo, Tho. Jefferson, Geo. Washington, Col. Parke)
-women, a kind of cosmic bile - the primeval ether given appealing shape, so as to encourage unification with it, which we avoid at our peril.
I return'd most dissatisfied. Judging by his disquisition, I assum'd that Mrs. T. would soon discuss with him the dirty books my servants had been passing about, and that soon, he wou'd call at my house, pushing bottles of herbed Honey, & Dates rubb'd in the Waters of the James Flu., as a Panacea for dissolution. For, in such a world, where men candy the pills & dole them as Treats, will the Placebo be mistook for the Panacea.
At night, Mme. Bainton lay with me, reading the penultimate volume of some feminine epic - the disordering of the Curtains by the villainous Miss Mopsley results in, etc., or, the True & disordering Tale of a Poor innocent Handsome Braggart, betray'd by various Harpies who, etc. She is as obscure to me as the far side of the Mountain.
-Epaph, did you visit today the Apothecary?
-Aye (I was at this time translating Propertius into hexameters - a proposition less pleasing, certainly, than pentameter, but one assign'd me by some Freak of will). I ask'd & receiv'd.
-Well, I trust we shall have a calm and pleasing night. Oh, Lord save us - what is that Stench!
"Do you think I meant country matters?"
Shakespeare, Hamlet, III.2
A little Scum of dirty snow; a blasting, whorish wind. Only the slow erection of the Sun cou'd remind us, that soon enough He will stand upright and the leaves bustle again in the trees.
In this season when Persephone carts from her wormy home, Love most frequent visits the Bainton estate. Altho' servants will never exhaust their internecine intrigues, and the burghers and townsmen have fill'd my Ears to the brimming with tales of wintry Scandal, SPRING gives a new tenor & Complexion to the general Flux of emotion. The longer day will rejuvenate the trees; the increased heat will clot the skies with clouds; the grey, ice salt dust will disappear, and the streams fill again, beneath the burst of rain-storms.
But often enough the rain makes for a swampy mire, too. Yest., around four o' the clock, I had ensconc'd myself in the Publick House, attending to correspondence, doodling my tepid imitations of Lucian onto spare pages, et other such nonsense. In the midst of such dawdling repast, I saw enter thro' the door a grievous Couple, the Teuffeldrecks.
Herr T., more commonly Manfred, has been an invaluable Conduit between my fields & the bartering Lines of Norfolk. He keeps a pretty accounting House, uptown of myself, where the rooms are filled with Ledgers, thick & heavy as slabs of granite. His fasitidious habits extend to his quills, which he arranges in various orders (length of feather, thickness of point, speckle of feather, etc.), and sharpens their points every night before returning to his Rooms, back of his business.
There waits for him, Olga. She & I have manag'd a most remarkable peace these past months, & I fully intend to maintain the amity. Thus shall I present my tale without adornment, or comment:
The family T. sat at my Table, Manfred draped at Olga's elbow, despite having a good eight inches above her.
"Well, Epaph," she said, "I see you are busy as ever." She waved her knobby fingers that so emetically remind one of pigs' feet.
"Aye, I have much in the way of corrections to be made here. I apologize that I cannot better amuse refined palates such as yrs." Here, Manfred winced. I am sorry for that now.
"T'would take no refin'd palate for this fare, Epaph. Merely a sturdy Stomach, for when you start spouting your bile." Her lips, rippled like the curdlings of Cheese, jiggl'd in triumph. I had no appettite for this pinioning.
"Ah, ah - Tell me, Epaph, sir - Ah, do you find your Goodman Stubb well?" Manfred pluck'd at his snuffy nose with a stiff cloth. "I haven't chance to speak to him on the Market Days, but I repine most for his company, in this winter." Olga cast a rheumy eye on this comment, blinking with bovine scorn.
"Stubb keeps himself well. It is not Stubb that occupies my thoughts before sleep; 'tis his loutish cousin, Lester Jacob. I have hired him out for these next two years, & his sole industry has been corrupting the ears of my maids. Always & ever I stumble on him, hand buried in a petticoat, himself grumbling lascivious at an innocent ear."
"Oh I'm sure they are not so innocent as you say. Certainly you wou'd have taught them to know something of the world."
The thousand injuries of this beefy matron I could bear no longer. "Aye, worldly enough are they. But I only wish he would not spend himself on such pregnable women - I have trouble enough without children. I do wonder why he speaks of those pornographies so much."
I had said this in passing, but the report from her lips was as if I had skinn'd her back with my Buck-knife. "Why, indecent writings! Speaking of such a thing! We must needs send him away - for Physic!"
Friday, January 14, 2011
"He was fundamentally and outwardly abject, as other men are markedly of a generous, distinguished, or venerable appearance. It was the element of his nature which permeated all his acts and passions and emotions; he raged abjectly, smiled abjectly, was abjectly sad; his civilities and his indignations were alike abject. I am sure his love would have been the most abject of sentiments - but can one imagine a loathsome insect in love? And his loathsomeness, too, was abject, so that a simply disgusting person would have appeared noble by his side."
--Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim, Ch. 29
In our Dominion, we are much dispos'd to laud & venerate good intentions. Let me pry an example from its native Granite, and set it in a golden Band, as an exemplum
Far from WILLIAMSBURGH, the most candy'd corner of Virginia, there are odious tasks to be done, with daily regularity. One of these is the making of syrup, and the further refining of the maple-tree's Sap till it come to pounds of Sugar. Thus, Saponi Ned & I oft take to the Woods, finding ourselves in the darkest Crevices & Hollows. Here, Dame Nature turns a pale Shoulder to the Sun's warming caress, and the ground holds a monstrous chill through the Seasons. Here we tap the Sap as it rises, and gather the sticky Resin while we may.
Yet, I betook myself 'round Joseph Stauber's fields, passing thro' his wife's Kitchen to enjoy the Biscuits she avails, and cross'd the Ridge back to my lands. Here, I find a line of trees quite Rott'd thro', the branches falling apart of their own, like the blacken'd Limbs of a Corpse.
When I queried Mme. Bainton & Ned about this most unusual development, they gave me a most mournful Stare, and then took a close Study of the Floorboards.
"Well?" ask'd I, "what reason cd be for the pestilential death?"
Ned unseat'd himself from his Haunches, and rose. "Epaph., 'twas my young man, Hyco, who belted the trees. They drain'd little sap, but have died in the year since. He is a boy with more enterprise than sense."
"Epaph., do not fly to one of yr Colics; he is but a boy, and that was another season. And, aside, he only had the best of intentions."
What a mockery of Sense! What counterfeit of Courtesy! Allow Folly to go uncorrect'd - and watch the Land become Waste. I have a hillside now, decorat'd & scour'd with the black Hulks of decaying wood, mold'd o'er with glowing fungus & the writhing bodies of Larvae. Anyone may stand at the Foot of Stauber's Oldfield, and watch scores of good American pounds rot before their very eyes!
An edifying Specktacle, and one produc'd all for the Benefit & instruction of the following sermon: that it is not the Result of an Action, but the Aim, that shou'd be consider'd most in judging its moral Worth. Thus, with a pretty Sentiment, we may fill our Bellies, even tho' we starve, by Error. But, all in good Faith!
Thus, I propose, amidst the Rot, a Revival. I open my Tent to the Mean, that I may give measure to their meanness; I give a path to the shiftless & Imbecile, that I may blast their loping step; I unbar my door to the Vain, that I may strike down their pride. I declare, that I will be an Artist, in Disgust!