Thursday, April 23, 2015

Something I Read #13 – Bernard Benstock

I have been brought back into the dreamworld of Finnegans Wake. These from Bernard Benstock's Joyce-Again's Wake:


It logically then follows that the sons in the Wake are at various instnaces unified into a single figure, are themselves as a pair, and are multiplied by Joyce's "inflationary" process into a trio. In the last group they are most often the Three Soldiers, therefore Tim, Dick, and Harry (an obvious threesome in "thump, kick and hurry" [285.6], but disguised as two in "tomthick and tarry" — 291.7); Shem, Ham, and Japhet ("shame, humbug and profit" — 582.10); the Roman triumverate ("Oxthevious, Lapidous and Malthouse Anthemy" — 271.5-6); the three "musketeers" (64.22); the brothers in Swift's Tale of a Tub ("padderjagmartin" — 86.2); perhaps Pegger Festy, Festy Kind, and the Wet Pinter; or just A.B.C. ("Arty, Bert or possibly Charley Chance" — 65.16). As two they are the well-defined pair of hostile opposites, too long considered to be always in opposition, whereas there are many instances in which they are not in conflict necessarily, nor even distinguishable from each other. Horsa and Hengest have already been mentioned in this context, and so might be: Time and Tom; Olaf and Ivor ("an Ivor the Boneless or an Olaf the Hide" — 100.25-26; with Sitric they form a threesome: "Olaf's on the rise and Ivor's on the lift and Sitric's place's between them" — 12.31-32); Romulus and Remus ("rebulous rebus" — 12.34); and Saints Peter and Paul ("Sinner Pitre and Sinner Poule" — 192.13). On the individual level, they unify harmoniously for a jount purpose (usually the same one that creates three out of two: to plague the father) as Buckley, Tristram, St. Patrick, St. Kevin, Hosty, and the Cad. A single-minded view of Shem and Shaun exclusively as antagonists, therefore, dismisses various important ,ayters of significance in Joyce's scheme in the Wake, two of which are probably as significant as the Bruno theme: the overthrow of the father figure and the cyclical evolution of historical patterns.

In all, the problem of identifying a Wake character by his associated historical or mythical prototype is often oversimplified and can be rather misleading. (19-21)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Something I Read #12 – A.D. Hope

From A.D. Hope's "'Tamburlaine': The Argument of Arms" as found in Christopher Marlowe: Modern Critical Views (ed. Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers: NY, 1986; pp 53-54); also found in A.D. Hope's collection of essays The Cave and the Spring. (The essay can be found online.)

In one sense the coherence of the play [Tamburlaine Pts I and II] resides in its poetry. Taken in terms of the action alone the play is not free of absurdity. If Tamburlaine were merely a supreme military genius, the argument which asserts his total superiority and perfection would be unconvincing. But Tamburlaine is a poet. He conceives poetry as concentrating in its highest conceivable form, the whole of beauty, imagination and music into 'one poem's period', just as he concentrates all power in himself. It is in this alliance of the poetic imagination with temporal power, in a sense of their identity, that the magnanimity of Tamburlaine consists. Poetry is his medium, as power is his nature and his genius. Poetry shares the supremacy of nature, for it is the natural language of beauty, of intellect and of power, the three perfect things. It is poetry alone which makes all three comprehensible:
Wherein as in a mirror we perceive
The highest reaches of a human wit—
The poetry of Tamburlaine is indeed the poetry of power, and the absolute morality of power which the play exemplifies is allied to the absolute standards of poetry, which it recognizes. For poetry accepts only success, and grants lasting life only to absolute success. It recognizes no gradations and no second best. What Hazlitt, in a very curious passage for an avowed republican, says of Coriolanus, is even more apt of the poetry of Tamburlaine:
The language of poetry naturally falls in with the language of power.