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Very little has been done hitherto to investigate the exact shades of meaning in Old English words.
Otto Jespersen, Growth and Structure of the English Language, Chapter 3, § 52; 1938.

See letter in History Today

to siþe


From Twelve Modern Short Novels, possibly 1949.       Soames & Devil, by B.Biro

and the devil

Admirers, with me, of the matchless Max Beerbohm, 1872 - 1956, will be more than familiar with one of his incomparable stories titled Enoch Soames. Published in 1916, it relates how a miserable and lonely verse-monger, Enoch, makes a pact with the Devil, enabling him to discover his future impact and non-existent influence on posterity.

Re-reading this entertainment today, 17th April 2016 (my birthday), it suddenly dawned on me, and lit up my understanding as by a bolt of lightning, who Max must have surely had in mind.

Consider his description of the wretched Soames:

"He was a stooping, shambling person, rather tall, very pale, with longish and brownish hair. He had a thin vague beard --- or rather, he had a chin on which a large number of hairs weakly curled and clustered to cover its retreat. The young writers of that era ---- I was sure this man was a writer --- strove earnestly to be distinct in aspect." Was Dowson's chin at all hirsute ?

Compare the following: "plump, hunched, soft-spoken, and ill-at-ease, with the limpest of handshakes." A composer of "sprawling, ignorant, indecent, unmelodious, seldom metrical" verse. ? Could this possibly describe Enoch ?

Below is a sample of the verse of Enoch Soames, published in Negations, a title which reminds me oddly of a verse collection entitled Ripostes, 1912.


E.Fuller Torrey, in one of his books, p 29, describes a man who, at an educational institution called Hamilton College, circa 1904, was "Pale, slender, not very healthy looking. .... was always walking about the campus ... walking alone ... lacked companionship, understanding, appreciation." Sounds just like Max's description of Enoch. In time, what was slender became plump.

Above: Poem by Enoch Soames

Right: Enoch Soames, portrayed by Max Beerbohm



Could the above poem come from Negations ?
Yes, it could; but it doesn't.

Left: Enoch Soames again. Unfortunately, Will Rothenstein refused to portray him. He was too dim.

What was wrong with that man ?

Sadly, Max, having published his account in 1916, had not told the full story, as he might have done, since he did not die until 1956. What happened was this: Enoch, when returned from his visit to the British Musem reading room, on 3rd June, 1997 (I was there myself that day, but missed him), complained to the Devil that no-one had heard of him, except a minor writer, named Max Beerbohm. "But that's easily remedied," laughed His Infernality. "Just heil the coming Führer as a Saint, another Joan of Arc, and you will be remembered for ever !" And so it came to pass.

Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, August 3rd, 2015, mentions that Pound, who came to be Beerbohm's neighbour in Italy, "caricatured him as Jewish". As Graves fantasised, I can almost hear Ezra muttering to himself, "Pedant, Jew, pluto-democratic usurer!"

One of Busby Berkeley's masterpieces of cinematic motion, Dames, 1934, is burdened with a ridiculous plot involving a risible character named Ezra Ounce. Who could the writers have had in mind ? Ezra Gram ? Ezra Kilo ? Ezekiel Ton ? Who knows ? Another risible character is called Hemingway.

Poems from Negations ? Doubtful. By a sexual athlete, in any case.

Nikolai Astrup; 1880 - 1928

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour ! Whom resist, steadfast in the faith ...... The gods themselves contend in vain against stupidity, but intrepid resistance is indicated. Silence implies assent, and only a base man will ignore outspoken idiocy, even when its utter inanity appears to be recommending disregard.

"The greater the labour, the fewer the people who understand and appreciate it".
Paul Valéry, 1871 - 1945.

"Every great advance ..... has involved the absolute rejection of authority." T.H. Huxley

" I have been obliged to content myself through life with saying what I mean
in the plainest of plain language, than which, I suppose,
there is no habit more ruinous to a man's prospects of advancement."
T.H.Huxley, Autobiography, p 1, Lectures & Essays, Watts & Co, published 1931.

See here for anfloga BC.

"Scholars belong to guilds held together by common opinions, attitudes, and methods … innovation is welcome only when it is confined to surface details and does not modify the structure as a whole." Cyrus H.Gordon

Ezra Soames: the greatest poet since Dante

try starting from another angle: here

Plagiarism ?

Since poetry is divergent rather than convergent in its use of language (denotation and unambiguity are often less important in poetry than associations and ambiguities), it would be surprising to find long strings of identical words in two original translations of a poem.

So the indicator (of plagiarism) here would be:

a a high percentage of identical strings of words

In order to mask plagiarism, the plagiarist will often resort to shifting syntactic units into different positions in the sentence and/or substituting synonyms for certain words.

a shifting of position of syntactic units

a synonym substitution

If the original translator has chosen either an unusual word/expression or to opt for a different word for other reasons, the plagiarist often has unwittingly copied this.

a the copying of unexpected words or expressions

If the plagiarist is ignorant of (the finesses) of the original language, these synonyms often deviate from the main denotation of the original word, or are stylistically wrong.

a deviation of meaning/style

Furthermore, a lack of understanding of the original means that the changes mark an incorrect shift of emphasis, or even complete omissions

a incorrect shift of emphasis/omissions

See site mounted by John Irons, here. See also here.

And here; and also here.

*** *** ***


"I propose to leave to the reader of the poem to choose that interpretation which suits him best."
Bruce Mitchell

"The biggest myth ..... was that he was insane."
E.Fuller Torrey; The Roots of Treason, 1984, p xix.

essays and papers
site version
journey's jargon one
swedish sprachgefühl
bacon gardner pound williams
beowulf's maritime excursion
pound's jargon

"A" is the same as the letter "A"
Ludwig Wittgenstein

See here for the Central Crux. ll.58-68.

commentaries: one, two, three [60 plus other versions], four, five, six
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a kulchur crowns the poets it desires and deserves

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2016


"The conclusions I have arrived at in these researches differ so widely with commonly held views, that I do not delude myself with the hope that they will be easily accepted. No doubt they will encounter, apart from fair criticism, that opposition which seems to be the fate of every new idea." B.N. September 30, 1965. From the foreword to The Marranos of Spain, from the Late 14th to the Early 16th Century, by B.Netanyahu, New York, American Academy for Jewish Research, 1966.