Sunday, October 6, 2013

the chains removed

Both Leakey and Clarke have decided that their convict protagonists will be innocent, both of the characters have been sentenced to life imprisonment in Tasmania, both are suspected of murder, both are stern and quiet, both of them are protective when they see a weaker younger person, both are preyed on by other convicts, both are hard workers, both of them resist the prison clergymen who try to resurrect their faith in Christianity. "He finds in me a spirit as proud as his own, and he delights in trying to wring a confession from it," says Maida Gwynnham. "Maida sounds pretty," says Mrs Evelyn, "the other name's rather glumpy."

Leakey the poet never uses "glumpy" or any language similar to "glumpy;" and even the characters in her narrative poems (Dora, The Messenger Knight) are not that verbally eccentric, they don't independently refuse to revolve around the central point, and the central point is not (this is what I learnt when I read The Broad Arrow after Lyra Australis) the absolute indigenous state of Caroline Leakey, but it is the possible requirements of poetic character-diction round about the middle of the eighteen hundreds and her own coincidence with those requirements.

She reaches the prose story, it occurs to her that she can use "glumpy;" she uses it; that series of letters has become acquiescent, out of every set of letters in the world she has found that set.

Every word in a book has been kept.

So when I am surprised by violence in this book, The Broad Arrow (violence that does not seem to belong in the same woman who wrote the poems, because it describes a human being who is hopelessly degraded, not degraded so that a moral lesson can follow immediately with a couplet as in her verse but degraded so that the story is filled just there with horror) I am amazed not that she wrote it but that she kept it, she held it, she allowed the world to know that she had conceived those ideas and that she wrote them down: the most exemplary person in her family, said her sister Emily who published a memoir about Caroline Leakey after her death: "her purified heart had a secret mine of joy and exuberant mirth." (Clear Shining Light, p. 69)

'No, just extricate Pragg from Bradley; but I would not have the chains removed from either,' said Mr. Herbert, who had heard the grumble, though it was not meant for him.

But just out of spite the overseer would release them: he had barely done so, than, with the roar of an uncaged lion, upstarted Bradley, knocked him down, caught up a handcuff and struck Pragg a blow that felled him to the deck and made the blood flow from his head. Bradley then flung himself on his hands and knees and lapped up the blood.

'I swore I'd never rest till I'd spit your own blackguard blood in your face; now, here it is!'

(writes Leakey in The Broad Arrow.)

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