Thursday, November 5, 2009 55 Comments

Alien Acid Beast

You have seen, on plate-glass fronts,
The frosted, shapeless letters. Kant:
If a lion could talk, we would not
Understand him. If we could read
This, we would not understand it.
Last night some alien acid beast,
Entirely sulfuric in metabolism,
Odious to God and all the universe,
Slithered by and wrote its name
In its own burning fingertip grease.
Lord! We clutch our coats about us,
And move rapidly on. But a thing
I didn't know: today I saw a man
Buffing it off a window with a rotor.
I had assumed the glass was totaled.
Order emerges; acid meets base;
Beast is prey as well as predator;
God is often cruel but never boring.

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the Republician victories in New Jersey and Virginia.

November 5, 2009 at 4:32 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I doubt it.

Perhaps a self-congrats on antiversity?

November 5, 2009 at 5:35 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

I'm too tired. Can someone explain this to me.

November 5, 2009 at 8:12 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Maybe you meant something over my head, but "If a lion could talk..." is actually Wittgenstein.

November 5, 2009 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you meant something over my head, but "If a lion could talk..." is actually Wittgenstein.

this is true. 'twas wittgenstein, not kant.

November 5, 2009 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Hm. MM generally says all poetic "errors" are intentional.

What's the point of mistaking Wit for Kant?

November 5, 2009 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

I'm with the "it's a real mistake" crowd. Last time the errors were intentional, MM actually posted a comment to say that.

November 5, 2009 at 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or from Wittgenstein's "Fog-like sensations" according to Michael Frayn,

"If a lion could speak, it would not understand itself."

http://stevepetersen.net/personal/wittgenstein-fog.html

November 5, 2009 at 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

@Palmer

'Kant' scans?

November 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Phil,

I doubt it.

The first 8 lines scan

x x / x / / /
x / x/ x / x /
x x / x / x x /
x x / x x / x /
x / x / x x / x
/ / x / x x / x /
x / x x x / x x x / x / x

So I don't think MM is trying to be metrical or if he is, um, yeah.

The last "errors are intentional" was an after-edit.

I was more interested in the unspoken punning on "cant" and "wit."

But that might be a bit abstruse.

November 5, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Unrelated but I figured we'd all get a kick out of it.

November 5, 2009 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Hey,

So the Antiversity -- it needs a Rhetoric class. I think we could hook a lot of unassuming people just by offering to teach them how to properly argue in print.

Thoughts?

November 5, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

So here's my stab at interpretation:

First the stuff that is clear to me.

The alien acid beast is clearly MM's bete noir, progressivism, or one of its works. (I.e., perhaps crime in general or some specific crime.) And it is related to the first few lines of the poem in being a writer/graffitist. And in being an alien, of course. So I think that the frosted, shapeless letters are alien (we would not understand even if we could read them). The work of the beast, or some akin to it.

What the windows represent, though, I do not know.

The end of the poem is the least clear part: hope is found in a random sort of man, machining a window. Who?

Order is clearly just that, the end-all of Moldbuggery, thus Good. Base is the effect of reaction, then, even though in chemistry acid/base reactions are messy things. And with reaction, the alien beast progressivism becomes the prey, in a role reversal.

So the main mysteries left here are the interpretation of the plate-glass windows, and the man.

My stab at this, would be as I early guessed intuitively. The window is consensus truth: supposedly a clear thing, but savagely frosted and seemingly totaled by the distortions of progressivism. But sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Moldster here...

Well, by implementing his antiversity, he's gonna buff the progressivism right off the truth.

November 5, 2009 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

I think "Alien Acid Beast" would make a great band name.

November 5, 2009 at 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

There may not be any meaning at all. Remember Nash, that Beautiful Mind guy who was always seeing commie codes in the newspaper? The most elaborate patterns are the ones that resemble white noise most closely.

MM wrote that his Antiversity post would be out last Thursday (or possibly the Thursday before that).

I feel like a chump. Here I was thinking this guy might have something really substantive to say but no. He's just an asshole with a big vocabulary and some kind of Carlyle fixation.

November 5, 2009 at 9:03 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Boy you must have really been pissed off when Return of the King was published 6 months behind schedule. Dickbag.

November 6, 2009 at 4:18 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Palmer,

"I think we could hook a lot of unassuming people just by offering to teach them how to properly argue in print."

later on...

"Dickbag."

Com on, man, be civil. We don't need another pointless flame thread.

November 6, 2009 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Josh, point taken.

I grow weary of folks who complain about free content, as if MM were somehow indebted to them.

November 6, 2009 at 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought it was about FT. Hood-but that's too obvious.

November 6, 2009 at 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

MM is not indebted to me, but to his own words. He said a post would be forthcoming and it wasn't. This isn't a late novel. It's a late blog post. WEEKS late. If he has time to pen an inscrutable poem, then he has time to at least explain why he has failed to do what he said he would do.

No blog post. No explanation. No honored commitment. Who's the dickbag?

November 6, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

Keep in mind that we don't really know shit about MM. We don't know if he's really a male programmer who has a kid and lives in the Bay Area, for example. All we have are his own claims. Now we know that ONE of those claims is verifiably false. That casts doubt on all the others.

Perhaps he really is a Progressive who is seeking to marginalize the opposition by radicalizing us. Perhaps he (she?) is a government agent provocateur or a very nerdy practical joker. I don't think these scenarios are likely, but we should at least consider them possible.

I personally think that MM just some slob with a few good ideas, some that are banal and half-baked and some that are balls-out crazy. The talent to turn a phrase does not magically impart credibility.

A undecipherable poet and an unreliable blogger is hardly the ideal architect for a whole new political system. On the upside, if he never attains the popularity of Marx (or even Ayn Rand), he won't be as dangerous.

This antiversity idea is an unknown at this point. A magical constant that was invented of whole cloth and plunked down in the equation to get the desired results. Until we learn more, it must be assumed that it is bullshit.

November 6, 2009 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

He said a post would be forthcoming

And then he said he would not post it before it was ready. As if that ever needs to be said... but then again, for evidence, we have you.

Patience, grasshopper.

November 6, 2009 at 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

"I apologize for the apparent dereliction of UR. I have been working on a somewhat longer post, on the design of the Antiversity. It will appear this Thursday."
MM Tue, Oct. 20

November 6, 2009 at 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bearded Spock: You are insane and funny. Thank you!

This was really insightful: "A undecipherable poet and an unreliable blogger is hardly the ideal architect for a whole new political system."

We need a new political architect whose poems are easy to understand AND who blogs on a more reliable schedule!

November 6, 2009 at 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anon 101 said...

Celia Green's Oxford Forum is the very seed of an antiversity.

November 6, 2009 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

G. M. Palmer:
Thoughts?
That's just folk activism.


Bearded Spock:
MM doesn't owe anything to anyone but himself. In his last post he said he doesn't want to publish until it's finished, and it still isn't finished.

He has also said that someone (a travel-blogger, I think) has deduced his real identity. Ask that person if he's lying (I doubt it).

November 6, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Malchus X said...

Instead of starting another pointless flame thread (FFS, will the whining about that ever stop?), I thought I'd drop by and pass on the happy news that I sent a Facebook Friend request to
this dyed-in-the-wool, true blue Rightist.

I mean, if anyone has Reactionary cred, he certainly does.

Alas, he demurred my request with a polite FB e-mail that was, in its own way, a fascinating commentary on the state of affairs in Honduras right now.

Also, Richmond, California is much in the news these days.

While in the Bay Area over the summer, I had to pass through this craphole for some reason that eludes me, on my way to the Powell Hotel in downtown SF.

I saw the most fascinating sight at a stoplight in Richmond, one that I wish I'd have taken a picture of with my cell phone camera. It was of a sign on a building that was apparently an official city sign, except that what it was saying was insane (the structure itself was all iron bars at every possible point of entrance, even an air exhaust vent protruding from the side of the building a good 20 feet from the ground).

To paraphrase: it basically said that if you absolutely must break your way into this structure to steal, vandalize, or spray paint stuff, please take care to avoid the hazardous materials stored in the basement.

Perhaps the Richmond city council should consider cashiering the police department, and hiring Billy Joya to take over security duties inside the city limits....

November 6, 2009 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Deducing MM's meatspace identity is not hard, for anyone with decent googlefu. I have done it; in fact I did it back when it was hard to do. He is not lying... at least insofar as one can tell by using the internet to check up on a random man's existence. I.e., there is a person with his distinctive name in San Francisco.

Of course, MM's hidden meatspace identity could be an elaborate plant... facades behind facades... wheels in wheels...

And for that matter, I could be an elaborate sock-puppet. You can try to trace me, too... and you'd find an internet representation of a meatspace identity... but what would that prove?

At some level, you simply have to look at the writing and say: it is good, it is synoptic and univocal, and thus MM is defined to be that which writes it. What he is in meatspace, be he the supposed name I got to or not, or an AI, or aliens, really does not matter much.

November 6, 2009 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

TGGP,

But if the reboot is to come about by the magic way (folks actually vote for it) the rhetoric angle is not a bad one.

November 6, 2009 at 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Wittgenstein said that if a lion could talk, we would not understand him."
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/08/country-that-used-to-exist.html

November 6, 2009 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Just don't read Bearded Spock. I don't. I generally don't read Anonymous either.

'Course I had to glance over this time since others are talking about it...and was amused to find that the only way the good Spock would have any credibility would be to match actions to words and not come back.

What a pity that would be.


I would like to see some debate between an actual student of rhetoric and a possessor of a modern liberal arts education. However, as to marketing, the whims of the people are opaque to me. Due to the Dunning-Kruger effect, even recognizing the rhetoric student's win is hard for someone who doesn't at least know basic rhetoric.


I deduced MM's real identity with my incredible skills of he told me one day.


And, as we can see, if MM posts 'before its time' it's not awesome, and people complain. If he posts poetry to tide it over, people complain. If he simply waits, people complain.

Which goes to prove my point that people always complain and you should, to first order, ignore all of it. (To second order, note what they're complaining about and see if it means anything interesting.) This goes two or three times for the Internet.

November 6, 2009 at 3:38 PM  
Anonymous Molyuk said...

Seems to me making people wait will winnow out some of the less desirable posters. I don't mean Bearded Spock particularly - foul language aside, he has a point. MM owes us nothing, but he really ought not give a date for his next post if he's not sure it will be on time.

As for the poem, I think it is indeed about the NJ/VA elections. I'm probably wrong.

November 6, 2009 at 7:35 PM  
Blogger IVoIIIoVI said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 7, 2009 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger IVoIIIoVI said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 7, 2009 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger IVoIIIoVI said...

The alien acid beast is a reactionary force. Mencius has previously written of looking to the past, to the colonialists and the monarchists, to find truly alien political ideologies, and "acid" reinforces the idea of "reaction". The narration thus presents progressivism witnessing a reaction that it cannot understand.

The alien acid beast is odious to "God and all the universe", which I take to refer to the Cathedral.

The alien acid beast writes its message with a finger; progressivism cannot even make out the letters, and even if it could, it wouldn't understand the words.

This is a clear reference to the story of Daniel in Babylon in which a supernatural hand writes "Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin" on the wall of the royal palace. No one can read the writing. From wikipedia:

The King sends for Daniel, an exiled Jew taken from Jerusalem, who had served in high office under Nebuchadnezzar. Rejecting offers of reward, Daniel warns the King of the folly of his arrogant blasphemy before reading the text. The meaning that Daniel decrypts from these words is based on passive verbs corresponding to the measure names.

And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

The phrase the writing on the wall has come to signify a portent of doom—or the end of an organization or activity. To attribute to someone the ability to "read the writing on the wall" has come to signify the ability to foresee (not necessarily supernaturally) an inevitable decline and end.


Thus, the end of progressivism is foretold in the wisdom of the forgotten reactionaries, but the progressives have no way of comprehending the alien, no Daniel to interpret the words.

It seems horrible - we clutch our coats about us; the system seems totaled. But the window is cleaned with a rotor, history comes full circle, acid meets base, the beast is tamed. Order emerges.

November 7, 2009 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The reactionary beast is not only alien and acidic, but neutralized more easily than the narrator had imagined was possible. Societies progressive facade (Cant) didn't even need to be replaced, so easily was the beast's mark buffed away. The beast isn't tamed (although he does become prey), just the mess he left behind. The "limitations of critique" interpretation does seem to undercut the whole antiversity idea though.

November 8, 2009 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Pause for applause, MM has the only US site where non-poets/english majors discuss poetry.

w00t.

November 8, 2009 at 6:44 AM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

It would be fun to make other content related to MM's ideas. You know, a podcast, a book club, etc. Maybe even a few movies and television series, hell, maybe even a TV network -- show the world how liberal Fox News really is... because it takes speaking to the heart to electrify people.

November 8, 2009 at 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just can not believe the alien acid beast, that calls up the invincible "Aliens" monster, could probably, or even possibly represent reactionary government as viewed by the modern progressive (draws coat around). I think the modern progressive is absolutely sure the redneck, the monicharist, the conservative, the fundemental christain, are all totally defanged and de-acidified, as they are. You need an alternate reading

November 8, 2009 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Actually, in some of his earliest posts Mencius claims that the problem with universalists is that they think the right is still powerful and dangerous. He wants to convince them that they're thoroughly victorious and the right is neutered.

November 8, 2009 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger IVoIIIoVI said...

What passes for the right these days is pathetic and neutered, and no threat to the left.

But Mencius has specifically used the word "alien" when referring to reactionary ideologies such as Carlyle's - he is not talking about fundamentalist Christians or Neoconservative Republicans. He is talking about the ideas of colonialists and intentionally forgotten reactionary geniuses. Such alien belief systems truly are frightening to progressives.

How discombobulating it is to read an idea from one of those old, reviled racists, expecting your modern education to make you their better, expecting comical, fundamentalist stupidity, only to find that their words are unmistakably true, and your beliefs are unmistakable lies.

Recall the recent drone debate Mencius linked to: a comment thread composed entirely of progressive platitudes and U.S. military wisdom, completely dominated in three or four posts with references to Pink and Cromer. They were left so confused and incapable of response by this alien mode of thinking that they could only respond with hysterical accusations of Zionism.

This is the power of the Antiversity: it can destroy progressivism because truth now is alien. Its ideas will spread like smallpox through Indians.

November 9, 2009 at 2:30 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I have no problem with 435's reading of the first part of the poem, as MM adopting the viewpoint of a progressive, although I do not find it as probable as my initial reading. Certainly from the progressive viewpoint, reaction is far more alien than progressivism is from the reactionary's viewpoint. And the verb "clutch" is particularly suited to use on opponents, due to its association with clutching at one's pearls.

I think that "windows" can be understood as history, or perhaps more literally as old books (i.e. the Sith library). Thus, the "man" might be google, or it might be more generally the whole non-progressive web. Either way, that which has been obscured (history) and presumed gone is being buffed into clarity. I.e., the reactionary past is being made legible.

To make this reading work, you have to read the final three lines of the poem as having moved viewpoint, from a progressive to an omniscient one.

The line "beast is prey" is still a little hard to parse, though.

November 9, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

My reading is as follows:

There is writing on the wall. We cannot read it. When we can read it, we cannot understand it. Not because we don't know what it means, but because we are afraid of it. The warning is of course, quickly removed despite seeming like it would have cut through the wall of glass and made it permanently marred. The deliverer of the message, who to us seems demonic or at least, dangerous and alien, becomes prey himself, as he can be as he is not God. The structure devours him as well and order is restored.

I think that 'Kant' is probably a pun on 'Cant' (as suggested) but also a twist on the Wittgenstein to make it Kantian. I.e. suggesting that the nouemena (the logos of the written word) is unreachable from the phenomena of the letters and that reason or order is not recognizable just in the seeing. But then, this is ironic because the indication is that the Kantian reality is self-imposed; we see the letters and already know or understand their content. We avoid it.

Also I think with the alien acid beast itself there is the notion which he has expressed before about the uncertainty and more or less impossibility of success; no matter how fierce the beast it can still be killed or its existence forgotten and its mark removed.

'Order emerges' is probably a reference or allusion to Chaos theory about 'when a system reaches a state far enough from equilibrium a new order emerges spontaneously...'

The acid beast functions in a role of destabilizing the system enough to put it on a new course. The beast is of course neutralized in the process, thus 'God is often cruel...'

Though the better the poem the more consistent interpretations possible (up to a certain point of course.)

November 9, 2009 at 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Minder said...

This is off topic, but I'm a relative newcomer to this blog and was wondering if Mencius Moldbug's name had anything to do with him having sympathy for the original Chinese philosopher Mencius' views. The original Mencius said that the government should own the principal industries and closely control the rest.

From what I can gather Mencius Moldbug doesn't comment, so if anyone could answer this it would be greatly appreciated.

November 9, 2009 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Minder, they are not related; see:
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/07/miscellaneous-answers-to-unanswered.html

November 9, 2009 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Thanks for that blast from the past, Leonard. I guess we probably won't get a review of "Americanism" here. I had given up looking for the John Lott post I linked in a comment there, and now I can't remember in which posts/threads I wanted to reference it.

November 9, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

TGGP, I've got a few minutes to find some bits around "Americanism" which might explain what I think MM means by it:

Americanism links:

As the Catholic heresy:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americanism_(heresy)

The slogan “Communism is 20th century Americanism" linked to the cultural left:
http://www.city-journal.org/html/15_3_urbanities-communist.html

Here's a wiki bio of that Browder fellow:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_Russell_Browder

You can find your references to John Lott here.

And, of course, this old post about anti-americanism:
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/08/secret-of-anti-americanism.html

I might be waaay off of what you are looking for...

November 10, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

The trouble with interpreting any such brief but allusive expression is that the allusion the interpreter perceives may not be, and probably is not, the one intended by the author.

In full knowledge of that, here's my take. The 'alien acid beast' is the same one to which Giordano Bruno has reference in his satirical work "Lo spaccio della bestia trionfante." The "triumphant beast" is the prevalence of vice. In a series of allegorical dialogues, Bruno describes the deliberations of the gods of Olympus, who decide to remove the constellations from the skies, because they reflect crimes and iniquities.

Jove, he says, would banish these 48 beasts or vices, and replace them with images of the moral virtues. By expelling these beasts, the soul will be purified and adorn itself with the virtues through love of their beauty and through fear and hatred of their repellent opposites. In MM's poem, the beast's signature on the plate glass is an image like that of the constellations, reminding us of vice; the "man/Buffing it off a window with a rotor" stands in for Jove, who wants to remove the offensive reminder. Order emerges, and beast becomes prey as well as predator; in the history of order, as Voegelin observed, is found the order of history.

As a Jacobite, perhaps MM is familiar with Thomas Carew's masque of 1633/4, entitled "Cœlum Brutannicum," performed before the court of Charles I. It is pretty straightforwardly borrowed from Bruno's "Spaccio". In Carew's telling, the example of Charles and Henrietta Maria has induced the pantheon to give up their vicious ways and cleanse the heavens of any constellation remindful of impiety. The stars are quenched and an election takes place to fill the empty space in heaven - resulting in Charles and his queen becoming the chief constellation. Carew's masque thus transforms Bruno's fable into a propagandistic spectacle for Charles's absolutism and its policy of "Thorough," at the same time embodying play-acting, music by Lawes, ingenious stage machinery by Inigo Jones, all under the roof of the Banqueting House at Whitehall - in other words, everything a Puritan could have been expected to detest.

November 10, 2009 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Jesus, Michael S, where did you dig all that up? Hiding a PhD in Elizabethan&Restoration literature somewhere in there?

November 10, 2009 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

juantblanco:
In Leonard's link Mencius refers to David Gelernter's book by that name.

Michael S:
I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

G. M. Palmer:
You said it. I'd have assumed he was an academic if he hadn't said he was a banker. Definitely should be blogging rather than just commenting. I reiterate my invitation for him to join mine.

November 10, 2009 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

TGGP; damn, and I thought I was being helpful for once.

Quoth someone completely different:

"One of the ironies of history of ideas is the way that so many cultural themes that surface in avant-garde intellectual circles are dismissed out of hand by the grandparents of those who will one day treat them as obvious facts. Modern nationalism, to cite one example out of many, began with the romantic visions of a few European poets, spilled out into the world largely through music and the arts, and only then turned into a massive political force that shredded the political maps of four continents. This is the intellectuals' revenge on an unreflective society: the men of affairs who treat the arts and philosphy as worthless abstration spend their workdays unknowlingly mouthing the words of dead philosophers and acting out poems they have not read on the stage of events."

--John Michael Greer, The Ecotechnic Future: envisioning a post peak world, p. 227.

November 10, 2009 at 11:46 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

I tie my last post with this quote of MM:

"No - the program of the archist is not destruction, but restoration. A more palatable synonym, perhaps, for our grand design of thorough and uncompromising reaction, which will reforge the sword of the State and spread peace, order and security across the democracy-scarred earth. Indeed you will learn to welcome your new, reactionary overlords... but I digress."
From:
http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/02/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html

--

And something like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V92OBNsQgxU

November 10, 2009 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

TGGP, just read that Anti-Americanism post you linked to. Very nice. It is a shame you and MM can't write something together, as I think he has the edge and you have the hilt, to make a weird metaphor.

It is a genuine shame he won't comment out here (or recently anyway) but I would attribute that from my observation to the difficulty of making any kind of point amongst so many dissenting voices. Arguing one man who has come to tell you how it is is difficult enough, but to argue a whole legion - ? - madness.

I like Michael's interpretation a lot, as it fits the motif of what I call 'strong' or 'deep' poetry; wherein the poem maps to an important event or story in an allegory, but the allegory is purposefully mismatched as to prevent the left brain from simply converting the symbols. (See the problem of nearly all modern interpreters of that first century masterpiece, The Revelation.)

Then again, I have found when I write poetry my unconscious mind draws up the parts while my conscious mind does another (I dream vividly) and my dearest can draw an entirely different but yet not disagreeable meaning from the poem which I did not intend, but in some cases would have loved to!

Which is to say in a complicated and long way that MM might have just written the poem like a Jazz musician; his mind is quite filled with the sort of things Michael is mentioning so much that it is bound to agree with their archetypic content.

Bravo! While modern art is not so enjoyable to read or behold, it is a fun exercise to exegete.

November 11, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Another piece of which MM's reminded me - though it took me some time to dig out - is Robert Penn Warren's "Dragon Country: To Jacob Boehme." Excerpts herewith:

"This is the dragon's country, and these his own streams,
The slime on the railroad rails where he has crossed the track.
On a frosty morning, that field mist is where his great turd steams,
And there are those who have gone forth and not come back.
...
"So what, in God's name, could men think when they couldn't bring to bay
That belly-dragging earth-evil, but found it took to air?
Thirty-thiry or buckshot might fail, but then at least you could say,
You had faced it - assuming, of course, that you had survived the affair.

"We were promised troops, the Guard, but the Governor's skin got thin
When up in New York the papers called him Saint George of Kentucky.
Yes, even the Louisville reporters who came to Todd County would grin.
Reporters, though rarely, still come. No one talks. They think it unlucky.

"If a man disappears - well, the fact is something to hide.
The family says, gone to Akron, or up to Ford, in Detroit.
When we found Jebb Johnson's boot, with the leg, what was left, inside,
His mother said, no, it's not his. So we took it out to destroy it.

"Land values are falling, no longer do lovers in moonlight go.
The rabbit, thoughtless of air gun, the nearest pasture cavorts.
Now certain fields go untended, the local birth rate goes low.
The coon dips his little black paw in the riffle where he nightly resorts.

"Yes, other sections have problems somewhat different from ours.
Their crops may fail, bank rates rise, loans at rumor of war be called,
But we feel removed from maneuvers of Russia, or other great powers,
And from much ordinary hope we are now disenthralled.

"The Catholics have sent in a mission, Baptists report new attendance.
But that's all off the point! We are human, and the human heart
Demands language for reality that has not the slightest dependence
On desire, or need - and in church fools pray only that the Beast depart.

"But if the Beast were withdrawn now, life might dwindle again
To the ennui, the pleasure, and the night sweat, known in the time before
Necessity of truth had trodden the land, and our hearts, to pain,
And left, in darkness, the fearful glimmer of joy, like a spoor."

When I first read this poem many years ago, my immediate thought was that Warren worked very hard to find a plausible way to rhyme "Detroit" with "destroy it". That's real craftsmanship!

More seriously to MM's train of thought, I recall his point in a previous post that he found it much easier to believe in the Devil than in God. Warren's last two stanzas are of special importance here. As my old friend Mel Bradford wrote about this poem,

"In subtitling the poem 'To Jacob Boehme," Warren raises the question of why there should be suffering and evil and uncertainty in a world controlled by a just and loving God to whom the Baptists and the Catholics in 'Dragon Country' have prayed for deliverance from the 'belly-dragging earth-evil.' These prayers are 'off the point' in the context of Warren's natural theology ... because Warren's focus is on human nature, not providential design.... The moral universe which the dragon stalks by night is post-lapsarian. It is ruled over, according to Jacob Boehme, by that chief of all dragons, who once had a brighter, fairer shape but grew to admire himself too much in contemplating his own perverse freedom. In the view of a modern interpreter, Boehme himself was 'tormented' by the reality of evil, by the presence in the world of powers irrational and malign in their impact on the fortunes of men. But if we are incapable of 'admitting the element of horror in life, conceding the element of mystery, facing the terrifying truth,' then, as Boehme realized, we cannot think of ourselves as free or hope by our actions to know any of that joy in the hope of which we persist."

November 11, 2009 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

Michael,

Seems like a good story for St. George to be in. I guess they threw out all of his relics...

November 12, 2009 at 1:52 PM  

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