Thursday, November 8, 2012
thereof came the likeness
There is an H.P. Lovecraft character called Shub-Niggurath, or "The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young " -- black goat -- but it didn't occur to me, when I was writing the last post, that I should draw a connection between the mosaic in Patrick White's floor and Lovecraft's Goat. I have an impression of Lovecraft and an impression of Patrick White and the possibility that White might have been thinking of the Elder God from The Last Test and The Mound sounds ridiculous; that possibility was rejected so immediately that I didn't even feel it being rejected, and yet the words, "black goat," if they prompted me to write about paganism, and see goats under olive trees, and think of scapegoats, and fly around looking for legitimate connections, why shouldn't I believe that those words tested the knob on the doorway of this illegitimate connection and discovered it was locked? I never felt their hands on the door, no nerves there, a dead spot detected by rational thought now, and not by instant touch.
Mrs Jolley is "evil," quote, unquote, states the book, saying it not shyly but openly. She drives her employer terrified and frantic, and Lovecraft has his evils as well, that drive people mad, like the evil of the housekeeper, which seems to be an indigenous thing, not the result of poverty or of rough parents in White's depiction of her, but an innate quality, as the indifference of the Elder Gods is likewise beyond explanation. Characters who are good or at least harmless like to recoil from both of them -- you'd think this connection between the two goats would be obvious -- but it isn't, I believe it's pointless, and the more congruous I argue it the more I want to point out that I do in fact think it is incongruous, while the connection between the mosaic goat and classical pagan Greece seems obvious; it was a deduction that leapt up naturally and immediately.
Patrick White would have known the pagan goat (I must have said this to myself without thinking about it), and not have known H. P. Lovecraft's goat, or not have wanted to make a reference to that Goat even if H. P. Lovecraft's stories had been his favourite bedtime reading.
He would talk about good and evil in other terms, I say to myself, classical terms with references to works of art whose importance is supported by years of influence and consideration, and witness the chariot in the title, the merkabah, mentioned in Ezekiel, with four animals to correspond to White's four martyred main characters ("Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man," Ezekiel 1:5), though, now, reading the Shub-Niggurath page at Wikipedia to remind myself of the spelling I see that Lovecraft's Goat might have been inspired, like White's black mosaic, by Pan, or perhaps both Pan and Satan: "we may believe that here Lovecraft was inspired by the traditional Christian depiction of the Baphomet Goat, an image of Satan harking back to the pre-Christian woodland deity Pan," wrote the theologian Robert M. Price, quoted there at Wikipedia.
Satan! I think, and a new word occurs to me: the housekeeper's evil is demonic, in the sense that it is indigenous, as a demon's evil is indigenous. And I start to think, "She is kicking the mosaic in two ways. She gets rid of the things she doesn't like but which she isn't, the scapegoat part, for instance, and she denies the things she is, the black demon of her." It is a kick in several dimensions. The evil Mrs Jolley comes from Melbourne and misses the trams, as do I, though the automated ticketing system is stiff and the inspectors in their bundly dark coats look like Paddington Bears.