Sunday, December 2, 2012

in thy heart a child he lies

"Hears not my Phillis how the birds
Their feathered mates salute?
They tell their passion in their words:
Must I alone be mute?"
Phillis, without frown or smile,
Sat and knotted all the while.

"The god of love in thy bright eyes
Does like a tyrant reign;
But in thy heart a child he lies,
Without his dart of flame."
Phillis, without frown or smile,
Sat and knotted all the while.

"So many months in silence past,
And yet in raging love,
Might well deserve one word at last
My passion should approve."
Phillis, without frown or smile,
Sat and knotted all the while.

"Must then your faithful swain expire,
And not one look obtain,
Which he, to soothe his fond desire,
Might pleasingly explain?"
Phillis, without frown or smile,
Sat and knotted all the while.

Phillis is one of the rare times when the woman-character in this anthology of seventeenth-century poetry (it is a book called Seventeenth-Century Poetry, edited by John Hayward, Chatto and Windus, 1961) , seems to have a human presence and is not a conglomerate of flowers, birds, and weather; she is a bare spot in a gross of Arcimboldos. She is described less but suggested more; she is the same word but she is a different species of thing, with different attributes and manners, and though it is hard to believe that all the other poets really did love a woman with hair the exact colour of "gold wire," as they say, it is not hard to believe that Sir Charles Sedley one day in his life did try to butter up a woman who preferred to go on knotting, which, according to an online search I've just done, is a word that slashfic groups use when they want to refer to a subset of porn that goes on mainly between part-animal demihumans who are mostly but not exclusively gay.

It must have meant something else while Sedley was alive in the 1600s but the fanfic porn result sits at the top of my page, and under that the same definition, both from different wikis. Then there is a link to Urban Dictionary, which attributes knotting to dogs, and calls it with this Latin name, bulbus canis.

I start to wonder if every word is not like pink slip in the Matthews poem, a gateway to different trains of thought depending on the railway station: your brain the station, or more the platform, and above you a sign that says, "Epping," while other trains in the near distance pull away to Werribee or Deer Park but only one train is possible at a time for you, you're stuck with Epping, the word that characterises your language.

There are potato cakes in the food stall nearby and a seagull wobbling on the train cable where its feet can't grip; beyond that the block of flats behind the Arts Centre, and this is filling up your Epping-understanding of the world, which is not the Werribee-understanding, or the understanding that lands you in Belgrave among the eucalypts, a smell of smoke from the chimneys of the houses down the road and the corpse of a secondhand bookshop where once upon a time I found for seven dollars John Crowley's Little, Big, a book that seems to have borrowed one phrase from the poem Aramantha by Richard Lovelace (1618–1657), who belongs in this book of poetry (though whether he is in it or not I can't say because between Phillis and the end of this paragraph someone has gone to sleep in the room with the bookshelf).

Fairies (writes one character in Crowley on a typewriter, not using the word fairies), are "made not born." Then she crosses out "made not born" and replaces it with the opposite, "born not made."

Those colour'd things were made, not borne.
Which, fixt within their narrow straits,
Do looke like their own counterfeyts.

wrote Lovelace. And in Peake, the Doctor, giving Fuchsia a drug in a cup, tells her to "drink to coloured things" -- I think I am remembering that correctly but bear with me on some of these quotes -- still -- I think that's when the line comes out. He says it at some point. Put those three together and say that he is telling her to drink to unnamed fairies. The evidence I've assembled points to this conclusion; the conclusion is wrong. It mat be possible that every word in the world, in at least one mind in the world, has no resonance, and indicates no association, but points to nothing at all.

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