Thursday, June 09, 2005

To The God of Love

    COME to me, Eros, if you needs must come
    This year, with milder twinges;
    Aim not your arrow at the bull's-eye plumb,
    But let the outer pericardium
    Be where the point impinges.

    Garishly beautiful I watch them wane
    Like sunsets in a pink west,
    The passions of the past; but O their pain!
    You recollect that nice affair with Jane?
    We nearly had an inquest.

    I want some mellower romance than these,
    Something that shall not waken
    The bosom of the bard from midnight ease,
    Nor spoil his appetite for breakfast, please,
    (Porridge and eggs and bacon).

    Something that shall not steep the soul in gall,
    Nor plant it in excelsis,
    Nor quite prevent the bondman in its thrall
    From biffing off the tee as good a ball
    As anybody else's.

    But rather, when the world is dull and gray
    And everything seems horrid,
    And books are impotent to charm away
    The leaden-footed hours, shall make me say,
    "My hat!" (and strike my forehead)

    "I am in love, O circumstance how sweet!
    O n'er to-be-forgot know!"
    And praise the damsel's eyebrows, and repeat
    Her name out loud, until it's time to eat,
    Or go to bed, or what not.

    This kind of desultory bolt,
    Eros, I bid you shoot me;
    One with no barb to agitate and jolt,
    One where the feathers have begun to moult --
    Any old sort will suit me.

    E.G.V. Knox (1881-1971)

St Valentine's Day , for a time was celebrated to make fun of a serious subject. From a close knit and well known family among literary circles E G V ("Evoe") Knox was the son of Edmund Arbuthnott Knox, Bishop of Manchester. Evoe was a journalist and writer of light verse who went on to edit Punch from 1937 until the end of the war. His first wife of twenty three years, Christina passed away and he later married the daughter of Ernest Shepard, illustrator of Winnie the Pooh.

Real humor, his daughter writes in a biography about him, Eddie thought, lay not in ingenuity but in incongruity, particularly to the dignified place which man has assigned himself in the scheme of things."

He had three bothers who also made their mark in history. Dillwyn Knox, (1884-1943) an intuitive cryptographer was able to wiggle his "way in" to Enigma, the Nazis' encipherment machine. A welfare worker and Anglo-Catholic priest Wilfred Knox was known to be "witty, humble, shrewd in his judgment of men and affairs, charitable, compassionate, and saintly ... He never told a lie in his entire life -- he never saw the necessity." Finally, Penelope Fitzgerald comments about the fourth brother, her uncle, Ronald Knox, (1888-1957) Chaplain of Oxford, translator of the New Testament, celebrated writer of detective jeux d'esprit novels (such as his groundbreaking "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes"), he showed, in his popular essays, "that a normal, pipe-smoking, income-taxed Englishman, not a Jesuit, not a mystic, no black cloaks, no sweeping gestures, could become a Roman Catholic priest." One of England's most celebrated contemporary writers Evoe's daughter Penelope Fitzgerald (1916-2000) was educated as a scholar of both Wycombe Abbey and Somerville College, Oxford, where she read English, was taught by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Evoe's dexterity in rhyming, his quick-witted word-play, were legendary, known as Evoe to his audience, pronounced like his initials E.V, it is a Bacchic cry of celebration in Greek. "Wry detachment", he declared in a lecture at Cambridge in 1959, was the proper spirit of the age, "the power to be startled by nothing, however extravagant." The prose is sonorous and deft yet, like a proper gentleman's suit, never draws attention to itself. Except, perhaps, through quotations and anecdotes. A good attitude to have I think.

Sources:

Blair, Bob

Accessed
Feb 14 2002

Fitzgerald, Penelope. The Knox Brothers
Accessed Feb 14 2002

Public Domain text of the poem taken from the Poet's Corner
Accessed Feb 14 2002

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Age Demanded

One of the foremost writers between the two world wars, Ernest Hemingway in his early work depicted the life of two classes of people. One brand consisted of men and women deprived, by World War I, of faith in the moral values in which they had believed, and who lived with cynical disregard for anything but their own emotional needs. The other class were men of uncomplicated character and primitive passion such as prizefighters and bullfighters. Hemingway wrote of their bold and usually vain battles against circumstances.

It was surprising to learn that Hemingway composed poetry and this particularly pithy and to the point piece tells an interesting tale. After the war Hemingway was a correspondent for the The Toronto Star then settled in Paris where he joined a literary group of "young bohemians," giving a voice to "the lost generation" coming to terms with his understanding, over his vanished comrades and innocence. While he was there American expatriates and authors Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein encouraged his style of tough, hard-hitting, no-nonsense poetry.

The Age Demanded was composed by Hemingway at the age of 23 while he was living in Paris in 1922 and initially published in a periodical Der Querschnitt in February 1925. A bookseller, Captain Louis Henry Cohn (d. 1953), was Hemingway's first bibliographer to publish some of his earliest works in a collection titled Four Poems The Age Demanded, The Earnest Liberal's Lament, The Lay Poets With Footnotes, and The Soul of Spain with McAlmon and Bird the Publishers. A dozen printings of Four Poems were supposed to be in print by August of 1930 and done 'behind closed doors' to avoid them from being bootlegged. Due to certain censored words Hemingway had used, the publishers refused copyright and Four Poems never saw publication. Today only the manuscript and galley proofs survive as a part of the Cohn Collection.

Ezra Pound influenced artists as far-reaching as T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Allen Ginsberg. It was in 1920, already in the middle of the first world war, disgusted with a botched society that would sacrifice the blossoms of its youth to the fetid mud of Northern France when Pound declared a new image was needed for the 20th century and demanded change for the modern era through his poetical persona Hugh Selwyn Mauberley:

      II
    The age demanded an image
    Of its accelerated grimace,
    Something for the modern stage,
    Not, at any rate, an Attic grace;

    Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
    Of the inward gaze;
    Better mendacities
    Than the classics in paraphrase!

    The "age demanded" chiefly a mould in plaster,
    Made with no loss of time,
    A prose kinema, not, not assuredly, alabaster
    Or the "sculpture" of rhyme.

    from "Hugh Selwyn Mauberly"
    Ezra Pound (1920)

Mauberly wants to do away with The Attic, a stage in Greek architecture and art. Get rid of these Greek symbols; create his own modern movement. What has happened to art for art's sake? Mauberly illustrates art means 'something', this meaning changes and the changes are the product of an audience, a creator, and a history. The nature of literature is art as expression, art as pattern, art as ornament, art as necessity. Art is made for the masses. To understand the origins and purposes of art is to respond to humanity's changing demands. Two years later Hemingway borrowed the title and rhythm from second part of Ezra Pound's ` Mauberly' and wrote a concise and pertinent rejoinder.

      The Age Demanded
    The age demanded that we sing
    And cut away our tongue.

    The age demanded that we flow
    And hammered in the bung.

    The age demanded that we dance
    And jammed us into iron pants.

    And in the end the age was handed
    The sort of shit that it demanded.

    -- Ernest Hemingway
The similarity is unmistakable. What many poets attempt, and so few get right is that a fanatical sense of moral indignation does not by itself make a great poem - the missing element, which Hemingway's poem has in liberal measure is craftsmanship. This is not a structured versus free verse rant. A certain class of `poets' make disparaging and sniffy remarks about Craft versus Art; blindly reiterating phrases like 'spontaneous overflow of emotion' to rationalize their refusal to labor at a poem. A good poem needs as much exertion as it does inspiration, "It's more a reaction to the attitude that shaping a poem (that) spoils its artistic purity," says one scholar:
    The poem is spare but not minimalist. The terseness is never allowed to get in the way of the smooth flow of the words, but Hemingway nevertheless manages to convey his point with a remarkable economy.
Less than a hundred poems survived Hemingway, his first published book entitled Three Stories and Ten Poems (Paris, 1923), gives them unexpected celebrity. His reputation rests on his finest work, short stories and novels, including In our Time (1923), The Sun Also Rises (1926), A Farewell to Arms(1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952).

Married four times, in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. An avid fisherman, hunter and bullfight enthusiast, Hemingway drew heavily upon his personal experiences. His adventurous life led to several close brushes with death: during the Spanish Civil War shells exploded inside his hotel room; in World War II he was struck by a taxi during a blackout; and in 1954 when his airplane crashed in Africa. His death by gunshot in Ketchum, Iowa on July 2, 1961, is regarded a suicide.

Sources:

Audre Hanneman, Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1967.

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Hemingway, Ernest Miller," Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

ERNEST MILLER HEMINGWAY (1899-1961) THE AGE DEMANDED
Accessed Nov 22 2002


University of Delaware:Special Collections Department

Accessed Nov 22 2002

Public domain text and some information taken from The Wondering Minstrels
Accessed
Nov 22 2002