. . . Thomas Campion

. . .

Cold Feet, Bedroom Eyes

Beauty, since you so much desire
To know the place of Cupids fire:
About you somewhere doth it rest,
Yet never harbour'd in your brest,
Nor gout-like in your heele or toe;
What foole would seeke Loves flame so low?
But a little higher, but a little higher,
But a little higher --
But a little higher --
There, there, o there! lyes Cupids fire.
  Thinke not, when Cupid most you scorne,
Men judge that you of Ice were borne;
For, though you cast love at your heele,
His fury yet sometime you feele;
And where-abouts if you would know,
I tell you still, not in your toe:
But a little higher, but a little higher,
But a little higher --
But a little higher --
There, there, o there! lyes Cupids fire.
- Thomas Campion, 1617
  1. This conspiracy of mind and foot against the groin seems to've been much on Campion's mind or groin at the time he assembled his Fourth Booke of Ayres, as, only two songs earlier, he'd complayn'd:

    Then downe my pray'rs made way
          To those most comely parts
    That make her flye or stay,
          As they affect deserts:
                But her angry feete, thus mov'd
                Fled with all the parts I lov'd.
      Yet fled they not so fast
          As her enraged minde:
    Still did I after haste,
          Still was I left behinde,
                Till I found 'twas to no end
                With a Spirit to contend.

  2. Many a bawdy song has been burlesqued from a Plutarchian lyric, as many a sentimental or childish-foolish number has been bowdlerized from a bawdy song.

    Twentieth-century American pop musicians often commuted between gospel and secular genres (which themselves mandated varying degrees of directness), and sometimes carried specific songs with them. But pretty much all the earlier transformations I'm familiar with were cross-author, and often conceived of as parodies, with the Earl of Rochester's memorably horrific (and Bataille-trumping) Scroope-over one of the most vicious.

    Exceptionally, Campion was here burlesquing one of his own. From the first Booke of Ayres, published in 1601:

    Mistris, since you so much desire
    To know the place of Cupids fire,
    In your faire shrine that flame doth rest,
    Yet never harourd in your brest;
    It bides not in your lips so sweete,
    Nor where the rose and lillies meete,
    But a little higher, but a little higher:
    There, there, O there lies Cupids fire.
      Even in those starrie pearcing eyes,
    There Cupids sacred fire lyes;
    Those eyes I strive not to enjoy,
    For they have power to destroy;
    Nor woe I for a smile, or kisse,
    So meanely triumph's not my blisse;
    But a little higher, but a little higher,
    I climbe to crowne my chast desire.

    (The fine editor of my Campion, Walter R. Davis, oddly refers to the later version as "slightly revised.")

. . .

"I fall upon the books of life! I read!"

For the very most part, what Leggott finds in the genealogical record of Zukofsky's book is other books (including Zukofsky's own earlier work). There are some notes on the Zukofskys' retiree garden, whose progress guided the composition schedule, but (to judge from Leggott's presentation) as usual the material world impinged on Zukofsky mostly as calendar: dates of flowering join birthdays and Valentines as occasion for verse, while botanical expedition reports and seed catalogs join the shelves of poetry and philosophy.

As anyone who's ever written anything knows, the relation between preliminary notes and a finished work isn't simple derivation. If it was, there would be no point to the finished work, and we could stop reading any novel at its epigraph. (Not a bad idea in most cases.) The raw materials -- which is to say the words -- of Zukofsky's poems are drawn from other sources, as they are for most of us. The question is: what got made with them?

It's a question Leggott treats with understandable caution, given the extremity of her straddling. As a Ph.D. candidate, she shouldn't have to defend exemplary primary research; as someone who's publishing 400 pages about an inaccessible book by a not-yet-industrialized writer, she's got some 'splainin' to do. The lines between "ideal reader" and "genealogist" are blurred in self-defense.

She's careful in her talk about intentions; the intentionality she writes about is always tactical (and always tactful, given Paul Zukofsky's iron grip on the copyright), never going so far as to claim readerly recognition of Zukofsky's sources as Zukofsky's goal. When she says of Paradise:

"The garden must be like a real garden, with cycles of growth; blossoming and witherings."
the cycles are those of the writing, not those of the reading.

On the other hand, she knows hostile suspicions might be aroused when one seems to make interpretation and enjoyment of a supposedly functional work dependent on ancillary scribbledehobble, and so she defends the practice as a pragmatic smoothing of the way: Zukofsky was always ahead of his time, and this book, being newest, is ahead furthest. To help its time along, crafty Zukofsky deliberately dropped off its blueprint (in the form of notes, drafts, and galleys) at U. Texas. (Being from New Zealand, Leggott might not have realized how financially dependent American poets have become on archival donations to state universities.) And in using that material so extensively, Leggott is merely following Zukofsky's implied wishes. After all, it's always easier to inhabit a house once you've seen the blueprint. That way you can find the kitchen when you need it.

Leggott relates the material in Zukofsky's notesheets to Zukofsky's finished poetry using the Poundian-and-Objectivist dictate of "condensare" ("condensation" in Zukofsky; in Niedecker's exquisite American, "this condensery"). Now, besides being somewhat self-destructive (in both good and bad ways), "condensare" is ambiguous. In Pound's and Zukofsky's critical writings, "condensare" sounds something along the lines of Strunk & White or Readers Digest: don't waste words; don't dude it up; get to the point. Niedecker, for example, could often be said to follow the poetic practice Zukofsky recommended: notice something, reduce it to its essentials, and make it musical. (Not necessarily in that order, of course.)

In Pound's and (particularly) Zukofsky's poetic writings, what happens is less often condensation than fragmenting. The effect isn't of a cleanup or a liposuction or a diagram or a sketch or even an ideogram of "the original source"; the effect is of "the original source" being busted to bits and used to tile a more-or-less abstract mosaic.

Busting doesn't come much finer than in 80 Flowers. (Jackson Mac Low's mechanical word crushers don't count, since his original sources are explicitly cited as the subjects of the work.) No matter what the diligent scholar finds in the manuscripts, when a "quote" consists of a single word or two, or a punning transliteration of a single word or two, in what sense can 80 Flowers be said to reference Theophrastus, Juvenal, Horace, Chaucer, Gerard, Shakespeare, Thomas Campion, John Adams, Henri Fabre, Thomas Hardy, Albert Einstein, or private correspondence from Guy Davenport?

. . .

Emily Dickinson : The Poet as Selflorist, 2

I would have no newes printed; for when they are printed they leave to bee newes; while they are written, though they be false, they remaine newes still.
- Ben Jonson, Newes from the New World Discover'd in the Moone
Literature is news that STAYS news.
- Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading

It's traumatic when performed art becomes recorded art. (Gawd, do I really sound that whiney?) And poetry's been traumatized longest. Sure, we have all that noise; sure, we can pattern it. But what's the point post-literacy?

So, there's been the pleasure of showing off, when someone's willing to be impressed, or when we can pretend that someone is. There's been seduction and devotion and advertising, when we want our words to stick and intrude far from support of paper. There've been brief re-marriages of written word with notated music before career ambitions drove them apart again. Pound and Zukofsky sincerely believed that poetry became corrupted as it drifted from song, but that didn't make them want to become Sappho or Thomas Campion or Smokey Robinson: it made them want to become a textual version of Brahms or Bach or Webern.

And then there's nostalgia for the days when sound made sense, because it was all the sense we had, even if we usually couldn't say what it actually meant, Remember the good times? Couldn't we bring them back before they're completely lost? The familiar problem of Ossian and Wordsworth, Olson and Rothenberg....

Traditional ballads and heroic epic didn't play much part in the social life of mid-nineteenth century Amherst, Massachusetts. To take them as role models would have been a purely literary affectation rather than a return to orality.

Dickinson's community did, however, include a lyric form comparable in centrality to (say) folk songs for Robert Burns: the hymn.

Of course the Protestant hymn was a written and notated form, but it was expressed in oral performance in public, in the family circle, and presumably within the concert hall of one's skull. (Limited seating, but excellent accoustics.) Would it be possible for an atavistic poet in a literate society to take that written devotional lyric as an origin for oral composition? What might such a throwback look like?

Well, we might expect a reversal of the written lyrics' preference for eye-rhyme. We might expect a return to assonance and slant-rhyme. We might even expect hypercorrection.

We might expect the formal grammar of written sentences to be replaced by the looser, more dramatic and fragmented syntax of spoken English. Since formal syntactic punctuation then loses its function, we might expect a simpler notation of phrase breaks and emphasis dashes, say, and an occasional exclamation mark.

We might expect the literary meter to revert to some features of traditional ballad metrics. That is, a simple regular form might serve as a reference point for ear-and-mouth, perceived as a default mode even if frequently varied in practice. Again positing hypercorrection, it might be deviated from so often that irregularity became the real but imperceptible rule. (And we might expect a great deal of posthumous meddling from editors who prefer the properly regular.)

Dickinson is mostly thought of as a poet of hymnodic quatrains, and there’s no doubting she was partial to hymn meters. A survey (see appendix) of the first quatrains of the 295 poems she wrote in 1863—her most productive year, in Franklin’s dating (which I follow here), and the year that saw the creation of most of her renowned poems—yields one hundred in common meter (8686). At a distant second, comprising about one eighth (37) of the total, come the short-metered poems (6686). Another familiar meter, long meter (8888), Dickinson used only six times, each time rhyming it as couplets. There are also three poems in the sestet variation of common meter known as common particular meter (886886). But the surprising and wholly unrecognized feature of these celebrated poems is that Dickinson worked most frequently in none of the above, often inventing a meter for a poem and using it just that once. The number of poems Dickinson composed in 1863 in patterns rare or unheard of in religious or secular lyric poetry, including her own, surpasses even those in common meter.
- John Shoptaw, "Listening to Dickinson"

We might also expect a re-re-definition of "verbatim recall".

... to be continued ...


Stand not upon Formality / For it leaves an Imprint

That poet-with-swing Jonathan Mayhew writes:

Some have repeated the claim that all of Emily's work can all be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." This is clearly spurious, given the number of invented forms she wrote in.

"All" is a great exaggeration, true, but not so exaggerated historically speaking, since Dickinson's early editors mercilessly regularized her into acceptable common meter -- which is indeed singable to "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and probably hundreds of other tunes. (I mean, there's a reason it's called common meter!)


Copyright to contributed work and quoted correspondence remains with the original authors.
Public domain work remains in the public domain.
All other material: Copyright 2015 Ray Davis.