some loose threads pulled together

Interloper from the Early Cyclades, 2800-2300 BC       Museum of Cycladic Art, Greece
2000 years are a small step in time: art leaps millenia with ease

part one: empress of hel
part two: empress of hel
psalm 46


Goddess of Knossos
The Language of the Goddess
Marija Gimbutas

Man's Ideal of Beauty: a caricature in Karikaturen-Album (1887) Vienna.
Reproduced in Die Mode in der Karikatur, by Friedrich Wendel
Paul Aretz Verlag, Dresden 1928, p.191

Three of Robert Graves's most stimulating novels

NEW YORK 1949                            STOCKHOLM 1950                             LONDON 1949

that which we call a rose
    by any other namewould smell as sweet


"I derive the method I am using from Mr Robert Graves' analysis of a Shakespeare Sonnet:
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
in A Survey of Modernist Poetry."   William Empson; Seven Types of Ambiguity, 1930.

Graves, nothing if not a doughty bruiser, called Empson a monkey, and said he didn't like monkeys. His and Laura Riding's book, A Survey of Modernist Poetry, Heinemann 1927, does contain an examination of Shakespeare's celebrated sonnet, but it cuts nothing like as deep as similar dissections by Empson, three years later. The sonnet's analysis by Graves (or Riding?) is greatly concerned with orthographic changes made by later editors: "By apostrophes and accents and changes of spelling the rhythm and consistency in spelling of the original is sacrificed; and without making it an easier poem, only a less accurate one." Thomas Thorpe's printed page, 1609, however, would not necessarily have reproduced Shakespeare's own orthography. Here is the sonnet, as given in A Survey:

Th'expence of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action, and till action, lust
Is periurd, murdrous, blouddy full of blame,
Sauage, extreame, rude, cruell, not to trust.
Injoyd no sooner but dispised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated as a swallowd bayt,
On purpose layd to make the taker mad.
Made In pursut and in possession so,
Had, hauing, and in quest, to have extreame,
A blisse in proofe and proud and very wo,
Before a joy proposd behind a dreame,

All this the world well knowes yet none knowes well,
To shun the heauen that leads men to this hell.

Not entirely easy to accept Graves' argument without reservation. The text seems in need of at least some repunctuation and emendation, especially around lines 9-11. Graves's main failing, as poet, wrote Anthony Burgess, in the London Observer not long before he died, was that the man had a defective ear for the spoken word. I concur, and put it down to his immersion in Latin and Ancient Greek, absorbed by eye alone. I could be wrong.

Sonnet 129 has stayed with me since first reading, with emendations, about 50 years ago. So has Empson's disquisition on the "dead wast and middle of the night", see annotation, ingested 6 or 7 years later. It is rather curious how the narrow waste in the straits of the night, as experienced by the seafarer, repeats in mind. In case you were wondering, these pages still keep an eye on this website's putative focus (is an acorn the putative focus of an oak?) on The Seafarer. The voyager's professed, or suspected, celibate misanthropy, misandry and misogyny (monkish rejection? fear of woman and coition?) and his hope of reaching a haven, by shunning the world, a nameless hell, rumbles at the back of the lumber-room. Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne, He travels the fastest who travels alone. From The Winners, by R.Kipling, the much-maligned. See site, here, for a selection of names for hell, the adobe (?) of departed spirits.

"Poets can be well judged by the accuracy of their portrayal of the White Goddess. Shakespeare knew and feared her." Thus Graves, page 424, in his unauthoritative account of the cloudy goddess. If language is God, as reportedly believed by Aidan Chambers, then Shakespeare is His prophet, in the English-speaking world, if not elsewhere.

Once the pun on "waist" and "waste" in "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame" is recognized, the basic meaning of the line is seen to be only barely veiled by the words employed. There are double-entendres in both "expense" and "spirit". Perhaps that should be demi-entendres. The sonnet, I suggest, expresses Shakespeare's fear of the Goddess, and the impetus of monotheistic religions may be fundamentally predicated on this fear. To climax is to die, in both Elizabethan and Restoration bawdy. This gives the most famous soliloquy in the English language its underlying charge: Hamlet shirks the prospect of making his quietus with a bare bodkin. The seafarer embraces solitude; and his approach to death is the climax of his poem.

"The bawdy personifications of the Dark Lady sonnets come from the essentially solipsistic nature of the experience conveyed, and are of an altogether darker and more gruesome humour:

To win me soon to hell, my female evil
  Tempteth my better angel from my side.

'Hell' was of course the cant term for the pudenda of a prostitute, and the quibble is as unequivocal as in the famous lines: 'The expense of spirit in a waste of shame / Is lust in action.'"

The passage quoted above comes from Who was "The Man Right Fair" of the Sonnets?, by John Bayley, TLS, January 4, 1974; reprinted in The TLS on Shakespeare, p.148, published 2004.

Shakespeare and The Bible: King James Authorized Version


The 46th word from the beginning of Psalm 46 is "shake", and the 46th word from its end is "spear". The finishing touches to the 1611 King James version of the Bible would have been applied during 1610. Shakespeare was born in 1564, and therefore 46 years old in 1610. Account for this he who can. Four + Six = 10.

This mystery is pointed out by Anthony Burgess, in Shakespeare, Penguin 1972, p.233. How anyone discovered it in the first place is another enigma. No scholar, Burgess says somewhere else, pays it the slightest attention. In his commentary on psalms 42-51, Songs from a Strange Land, Inter-Varsity Press 1978, John Goldingay notes, p.109, that "It would be difficult to leave Psalm 46 without a reference to Martin Luther's Ein feste Burg, his hymn based loosely on Psalm 46, but expressive of his own faith and experience --- to which also he called the reforming church of the 1520s. It is said that John Wesley, too, used the words of this psalm's refrain as his comfort as he faced his death." The Anglo-Saxon word wearn would be a good translation of "refuge and strength"; unwearnum would only apply to a non-Christian.

Hoary Old Myth

What Prickett Said

April 23. Hmm. 2 x 23 = 46.

"Hebrew parallelism as a form of verse-construction"

What Prickett Now Says: Jan 13, 2012

Foliate Head from Jain Temple, 8th Century Rajasthan
with surrealistic friend
Jain gentleman from A Little Book of The Green Man
by Mike Harding; Aurum Press 1998

Quote from p.58: "The movement of skilled craftsmen across Europe and Africa [add Asia] may have been far more widespread than we imagine, and cultural artefacts, as part of trade and warfare, moved great distances." Harding freely lumps cultures, art and imagination together: see Bird, Ship, Sun, Sea.

From New Approaches to Ezra Pound, edited by Eva Hesse, 1969, p 35, Introduction: "..... Helen of Troy, of whom it will be remembered that she was no mortal woman but Nemesis' daughter 'Helle' or 'Persephone', a goddess of death and rebirth. The motif of Stonehenge, which is here brought into the context of the oldest British tradition that tells of the direct descent of the Britons from the archetypical city of Troy, completes the cultural cycle." Gobbledegook, I believe, and I don't really see what it has to do with E.Pound, but interesting, nevertheless. Back to Hell, parts one & two.

part one: empress of hel
part two: empress of hel

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