Thursday, November 30, 2006


JH: That writing is a "narrative of fixing onto the inspiration" is a great point - an apt phrasing of something that we've discussed but unphrased. Some poets verbally disown their poems, some physically destroy them. How to remove what never existed materially? To remove a poem from the world is to remove a picture of the poetic. Another picture, similar or identical, will exist again or exists already. To destroy a poem is to provide another example of the impersonality (person, here, in the sense of an individual) of the poet. To disown a poem via speech is story-telling, as much as anything in speech; to disown a poem via writing (essay, letter, poem, etc) is vain so far, yet problematic (especially in the case of the palinode - a poem recanting a poem) in that anything can happen in writing, even the erosion of a bit, or all, of the poetic. Or, once in writing, can a poem, as a representative of the poetic, be disproved? It's impossible to prove or disprove a poem, or one's thoughts about a poem - it's also impossible to prove the preceding words of this sentence. Is proof anything other than rhetoric? A feeling of something behind words lends weight to rhetoric, a feeling of something behind poems lends weight to an idea of the poetic. Speaking of the poetic, could you write something about your Captain Element, please?

Captain Element

Captain Element has a wide array of narrative and lyric approaches, as do many of your long or lengthy poems. The poem is unbroken by these transformations (which are not disruptive to the shape of the poem -- one of the most fascinating aspects of this and other of your poems).

AHB: There's a lot of scientific proof engaged in the poetic. I mean attempts thereof, which fall mostly to naught, I suppose. Tho I agree with Pound that a conscious understanding of one's aesthetic ought to be required, certainly by critics. I used to be in the wine business. there's a mechanical means for tasting a wine. 1st observe the colour and viscosity, then sniff the aroma (which, given our taste mechanism, i.e. olfactory bulb, is where the fancy flavours are perceived), then taste. being so procedural allows one to cast off distracting extraneous concerns. naturally, if you are hooting at a gala thrown by the Comte de Incroyable, you can throw procedure to the wind, one needn't be stiff-necked all the time. I like what you say about Captain Element, that it is unbroken by the transformations. this would be because the narrative is not meant to get the reader anywhere. I like twining these characters, Fu Manchu, Tarzan and the one I made up, Captain Element. the Fu Manchu books are particularly rife with tense moments that fizzle out. Sir Denis Nayland-Smith, Fu Manchu's arch enemy, is pretty much a bumpkin versus the diabolical doctor. but God or Fate favours the English because despite all his advantages Fu Manchu is thwarted by some silly means. the narratives of the various characters are nearly meaningless and certainly just about interchangeable. and maybe archetypal as well. there's something about pop fiction that carries an archetypal zest and essence. full of elemental movement, desirously toward or desperately from some Object. Captain Element seems rooted in these basic actions. the exact goals are not unimportant, just the movement is. so I guess. well let me turn to a poem of yours, for it has 'characters' too. This was posted to the Wryting-L list.

The Edward Gibbon of Phyllis Wheatley




In the second century of the Christian Aera, the empire of Rome comprehended the fairest part of the earth, and the most civilized portion of mankind. The frontiers of that extensive monarchy were guarded by ancient renown and disciplined valor. The gentle but powerful influence of laws and manners had gradually cemented the union of the provinces. Their peaceful inhabitants enjoyed and abused the advantages of wealth and luxury.


mr. snider

The principal conquests of the Romans were achieved under the republic; and the emperors, for the most part, were satisfied with preserving those dominions which had been acquired by the
policy of the senate, the active emulations of the consuls, and the martial enthusiasm of the people. The seven first centuries were filled with a rapid succession of triumphs; but it was reserved for Augustus to relinquish the ambitious design of subduing the whole earth, and to introduce a spirit of moderation into the public councils.








Happily for the repose of mankind, the moderate system recommended by the wisdom of Augustus, was adopted by the fears and vices of his immediate successors. Engaged in the pursuit of
pleasure, or in the exercise of tyranny, the first Caesars seldom showed themselves to the armies, or to the provinces; nor were they disposed to suffer, that those triumphs which their indolence neglected, should be usurped by the conduct and valor of their lieutenants.




The native Caledonians preserved, in the northern extremity of the island, their wild independence, for which they were not less indebted to their poverty than to their valor. Their incursions were frequently repelled and chastised; but their country was never subdued.



The poet Buchanan celebrates with elegance and spirit (see his Sylvae, v.) the unviolated independence of his native country.



Ossian's Poems, which, according to every hypothesis, were composed by a native Caledonian.




See a Memoir of M. d'Anville, on the Province of Dacia, in the Academie des Inscriptions.


The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the East; but he lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Philip.

It was an ancient tradition, that when the Capitol was founded by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided over boundaries, and was represented, according to the fashion of that age, by a large stone) alone, among all the inferior deities, refused to yield his place to Jupiter himself.



St. Augustin is highly delighted with the proof of the weakness of Terminus, and the vanity of the Augurs.





Careless of the difference of seasons and of climates, he marched on foot, and bare-headed, over the snows of Caledonia, and the sultry plains of the Upper Egypt; nor was there a province of the
empire which, in the course of his reign, was not honored with the presence of the monarch.


The terror of the Roman arms added weight and dignity to the moderation of the emperors.




The emperor Domitian raised the annual stipend of the legionaries to twelve pieces of gold, which, in his time, was equivalent to about ten of our guineas. This pay, somewhat higher than our own, had been, and was afterwards, gradually increased, according to the progress of wealth and military

Besides a lighter spear, the legionary soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six feet, and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of eighteen inches.

The European provinces of Rome were protected by the course of the Rhine and the Danube. The latter of those mighty streams, which rises at the distance of only thirty miles from the former,
flows above thirteen hundred miles, for the most part to the south-east, collects the tribute of sixty navigable rivers, and is, at length, through six mouths, received into the Euxine, which appears scarcely equal to such an accession of waters.

The authority of Plato and Aristotle, of Zeno and Epicurus, still reigned in the schools; and their systems, transmitted with blind deference from one generation of disciples to another, precluded every generous attempt to exercise the powers, or enlarge the limits, of the human mind. The beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired only cold and servile imitations: or if any ventured to deviate from those models, they deviated at the same time from good sense and propriety. On the revival of letters, the youthful vigor of the imagination, after a long repose, national emulation, a new religion, new languages, and a new world, called forth the genius of Europe. But the provincials of Rome, trained by a uniform artificial foreign education, were engaged in a very unequal competition with those bold ancients, who, by expressing their genuine feelings in their native tongue, had already occupied every place of honor. The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.

At that time the archiepiscopal throne of Alexandria was filled by Theophilus, the perpetual enemy of peace and virtue; a bold, bad man, whose hands were alternately polluted with gold and with blood.

* * * * *

I hadn't heard of Wheatley before, fault to me, but I found her works at Project Gutenberg, and will check her out. this is one more of your collisions between authors and/or others. please speak on it. oh, Robert Fitterman has a book in which, using Google searches, he updates Decline and Fall.


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