Thursday, July 17, 2014

garlands ye have

Bathgate wants to be understood as well, but he is not like them – in what way? he expects comprehension as well as wanting it -- he is not like the artist that Ruskin describes when he writes about Lord Lindsay's Christian Art in 1847: “we are critically aware of all our deficiencies, too cognizant of of all that is greatest to pass willingly and humbly through the stages that rise to it, and oppressed in every honest effort by the bitter sense of inferiority.” Hill, after quoting Shakespeare at the podium in 2012 or 2013, stops and wishes, out loud, that he had a modicum of talent. On another afternoon he imagines dead writers judging him whenever he gets sloppy. “We are now aroused suddenly in the light of an intolerable day,” says Ruskin, “our limbs fall under the sunstroke – we are walled in by the great buildings of elder times, and their fierce reverberations fall upon us without pause.”

Bathgate feels the dead benevolently in The Clematis, he accepts the poetic language that they have passed to him, “garlands ye have,” “methinks thou dost,” “thee to show thy;” and he believes in the concord that concludes so many poems and books (until the history of writing in the English language could be described as a row of open clasps being spied and fastened – or the struggle for an ultimate representation of Leopardi's translated word, appropriate), the passage of summing-up and unity that Samuel Richardson's books will carry on for pages and pages, the dramatic climax of Pamela occurring just over half way through the story, the rest of the book dedicated to the rapprochement of the characters and the establishment of rules, followed by more issue in which lessons from the narrative are explained efficiently, so that the reader knows what they were expected to have deduced; everything has been concluded now, even their deductions, a state that Hill's later poems avoid, the last line of The Triumph of Love suggesting that nothing has changed except the vital and tiny presence of a solitary comma, which could be understood in different ways.

Richardson's own books have been understood in different ways, in spite of him, with the critics ignoring his notes whenever they feel like it and trekking implacably to their own conclusions. “Clarissa is read as a novel about violability and violation, about the rights of the self to self-determination. I will be approaching Clarissa from a different angle ...” (J.M. Coetzee, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa, from Stranger Shores: Literary Essays 1986 – 1999, referring to a specific area of critical consensus that was current during the 1980s ...)

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