Thursday, August 16, 2012
enigmas which we all in our innocence believe
I didn't know that I was going to end that last post with a question about Prufrock's soul; the sentence didn't come to me until I'd finished the one that's now before it, and then it presented itself intact and was written down as presented, a sentence that came through trance --
-- (though if I had stopped to reason out an idea I might have said that his creator hadn't given him a soul to ignore, and that was one difference between a Browning and an Eliot, or a Victorian and a Modernist, etc, etc in other words my opinion would have been a simpler and more received opinion, since it would have come more or less from vague memories of places where I'd heard that Victorians were more religious than the Modernists -- and that T.S. Eliot was that thing known as a Modernist -- and Browning a Victorian -- and so forth -- and I have seen what these sort of vague crusts of received thought are worth, I saw it two weeks ago in fact, when I was talking with someone who said that certain smart people in Israel were identifying prophetic codes in the bible with computers and working out the messages therein, himself being serious about this as does one who knows information pertaining to the matter, but when I said, The way they do in kabbalah, he looked blank -- he had never heard the word kabbalah -- and he repeated strongly, You have to know Hebrew, no, you have to know Hebrew -- on reflection I felt myself like a veneer most of the time -- or wing of moth, easily obliterated by brighter fires -- but he was not embarrassed or extinguished and explained that these methods had prophesised famines. Which famines? I asked, but he said, Just famines.
I would have been drawing my conclusion more or less from rumourish info and would have not considered the idea of a concealed soul in Prufrock, even though Eliot converted devoutly to the Anglican faith in 1927 and was therefore, as I should have guessed, interested in the correct mode of spiritual perpetuosity -- liking the Catholic side of Anglicanism, he said -- for he possessed, in his opinion, "a Catholic cast of mind" (On Poetry and Poets, 1957).
Think of Prufrock's guilt, I could have said to myself. Think of that sense of sinning and being punished and of pinnacles unreached. "I am not Prince Hamlet," he says. My own memory of Anglicanism is mainly the paint splatter machine at church fetes along with the Sunday School teacher who confiscated my rubber kangaroo; a long time ago but the desire for vengeance lives in me, lives, lives, lives, which places me I believe temperamentally in the Old Testament rather than the New, though I did get my kangaroo back and so there was no hammering of tent pegs through anyone's head as per Jael, wife of Heber, Judges 4: 21. "Then Jael Heber's wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died." King James version, and makes me think of E.R. Eddison, who was large on the violence and the smoting, yet more about castles than tents; in fact no tents whatsoever but rather stone and gardens, the hard and the soft, peg versus head, and much, as I said, of the smoting. Anglicanism involves cake said Eddie Izzard and that was pretty much my experience.
Then reflect that I don't know anything about Modernism besides reading bits of it, then reflect that I don't know anything about most things, forests, deserts, trees, ovens, etc, which reminds me of a sentence I saw months ago in a post at the good tumblr named Writers No One Reads: "Amongst so many strange things: the predictable sun, the countless stars, the trees that resolutely put on the same green splendor each time their season mysteriously comes round, the river that ebbs and flows, the shimmering yellow sand and summer air, the pulsating body which is born, grows old and dies, all the vast distances and the passing days, enigmas which we all in our innocence believe to be familiar, amongst all these presences that seem oblivious to ours, it is understandable that one day, in the face of the inexplicable, we experience the unpleasant feeling that we are just voyagers through a phantasmagoria" -- from The Witness, by Juan José Saer, translated out of Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa and the translation published by Serpent's Tail in 1990) --
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