CURTIS FAVILLE AND THE MODERNIST FALLACY

Curtis Faville was a regular anti-Quietist commentator on Silliman’s Blog before Silliman’s squeamishness cancelled conversation.  Since Emerson’s surly “jingle man” remark, the puritans of modernism have frowned on rhyme.  Now Mr. Faville, on his own blog, The Compass Rose, in “The Meaning and the Structure of Rhyme, parts I and II,” this month, keeps alive Emerson’s animosity with a didactic assault on beauty and expression.  Thomas Brady’s comment (to Part II) and Faville’s response is now an addendum to Part I.

Here is Thomas Brady’s comment:

Faville objects to the glorification of rhyme, which he thinks is nothing but a parlor trick. I have news for Curt. A poem is nothing but a parlor trick and, as far as we know, life, which is made of dust but exists as we see it, is a parlor trick too. Life, the Big Parlor Trick, can deliver more joy or suffering, but with the Little Parlor Trick, what matters is: is the Parlor Trick amusing, or boring? And whatever is not a trick, has no theological or aesthetic interest whatsoever.

Faville is certainly justified in wanting his ‘meaning’ straight, without jingle-jangle. But he is confusing the parlor trick with the parlor. Aspects of the parlor are important, sure: Isn’t that paint starting to peel? Does the parlor need dusting? When is the pizza man coming? Should we use more lights in the parlor? Is there enough diet coke in the mini-fridge? There’s all sorts of things to consider.

Rhyme is merely emphasis, but of course emphasis is a whole world when it comes to music, and expression. There is no ‘meaning’ in a certain word rhyming with another, but neither is there ‘meaning’ in a Beethoven symphony, which again, is a mere accident of sound. But why does a Beethoven symphony have more interest—as well as more ‘meaning’—for us than any prose passage of Curtis Faville’s? Well, it’s nothing but a trick, of course.

Faville admirably defends his position:

I am always amused at how nonplussed people can get when you presume to criticize traditional poetic structures.

First, I don’t object to rhyme. Historically, it enabled a lot of interesting poetry, much of it brilliant and impressive. The astonishing thing is, how monotonous posterity was in adopting it as almost the only crucial element in poetic composition. Is the fact that brilliant minds chose to slave away at rhyme for centuries a proof of its worth? Or is it merely evidence of a sad futility, a signal lack of inventiveness and imagination? Rhyme, in its place, is a sort of game. Do we play it forever, or regard it, as I suggest, as a mildly diverting pattern which ran its course long ago?
Life, despite what Tom says, isn’t a parlor trick. Matter and animate protein aren’t parlor tricks. Not bad jokes. Not simplistic games of chance. Reducing poetry to a branch of clairvoyance, or sleight-of-hand, is a belittlement of literature. I don’t see serious literature as needing to furnish meaning “straight” either. Au contraire.
The parlor used to be a room in the house where private and public met, a kind of limbo space in which visitors could be admitted, without relinquishing the privacy of the family living spaces. The parlor was where manners and propriety were observed, and things were kept trite and harmless. Parlor games were diversions–cards, checkers, etc.–which had no ulterior consequence(s). To be amused or mildly diverted.
Rhyme may be used to create “emphasis” but that isn’t its only purpose. (Unfortunately, that’s often how it’s often employed.) As I tried to make clear, words are not notes, and trying to think of poetry as a kind of musical expression is an error, because the two media are different in their effects and underlying bases. Which is partly why the meaning of rhyme is purely gratuitous. Beethoven’s symphonies aren’t “meaningless” as Tom asserts. There is nothing accidental about musical composition. But it is a mistake to think that meaning in music can be constructed in the same way that it is in verbal composition. The two are analogous, but not parallel.
Comparisons may be invidious, especially when used in an obviously sarcastic way. It is very flattering to have my “prose” compared to a Beethoven symphony, but I’m afraid this is merely a silly misapplication. In no way is a blog essay intended to stand as an aesthetic performance–either as poetry, music, or casual journalism. Tom knows this.

Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.

Let’s cut right to the chase: Faville singles out rhyme as an object of contempt without taking rhythm into account—even after I pointed out in my first response to his essay that to rhyme nicely one must use rhythm nicely. Faville applied Robert Frost’s “playing tennis without a net” to rhyme, when Frost’s subject was “free verse,” not rhyme.  If Faville is merely objecting to doggerrel, that would be one thing, but like the modernists and New Critics who heaped scorn on their illustrious predecessors such as Shelley, Poe and Byron, Faville chose to pick on Andrew Marvell, describing as “trite” and “gratuitous” the rhyme and metre of “To His Coy Mistress.”  The 900 pound gorilla in the room, as usual, is Edgar Poe—who anticipated Faville’s vague objections with scientific rigor and ingenuity.  Let us grant that poets mindlessly jingling and jangling century after century is a legitimate concern.  Here’s Poe:

Rhyme is supposed to be of modern origin, and were this proved, my positions remain untouched. I may say, however, in passing, that several instances of rhyme occur in the Clouds of Aristophanes, and that the Roman poets occasionally employ it. There is an effective species of ancient rhyming which has never descended to the moderns; that in which the ultimate and penultimate syllables rhyme with each other. For example:

Parturiunt montes et nascitur ridiculusmus.

and again—

Litoreis ingens inventa sub ilicibus sus.
The terminations of Hebrew verse, (as far as understood,) show no signs of rhyme; but what thinking person can doubt that it did actually exist? That men have so obstinately and blindly insisted, in general, even up to the present day, in confining rhyme to the ends of lines, when its effect is even better applicable elsewhere, intimates, in my opinion, the sense of some necessity in the connection of the end with the rhyme—hints that the origin of rhyme lay in a necessity which connected it with the end—shows that neither mere accident nor mere fancy gave rise to the connection—points, in a word, at the very necessity which I have suggested, (that of some mode of defining lines to the ear,) as the true origin of rhyme.

I quote the above not to refute Faville, for Poe agrees with Faville that rhyme can be “obstinately and blindly” persisted in, but Poe, in this brief passage from his Rationale of Verse, gives us history, rationale, and material solutions.  In his Philosophy of Composition, which reconstructs “The Raven,” Poe does not mention rhyme once.  In one interesting passage, he writes:

And here I may as well say a few words of the versification. My first object (as usual) was originality. The extent to which this has been neglected, in versification, is one of the most unaccountable things in the world. Admitting that there is little possibility of variety in mere rhythm, it is still clear that the possible varieties of metre and stanza are absolutely infinite—and yet, for centuries, no man, in verse, has ever done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an original thing.  The fact is, originality (unless in minds of very unusual force) is by no means a matter, as some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to be found, it must be elaborately sought, and although a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its attainment less of invention than negation.

Now Poe is perhaps the most original author who ever lived; Faville holds a vague opinion that rhyme is rather silly and has gone on for too long; Faville has not written a “Raven” or a Rationale of Verse or a Philosophy of Composition, but it is nice to know that Faville, as he says:

First, I don’t object to rhyme. Historically, it enabled a lot of interesting poetry, much of it brilliant and impressive. The astonishing thing is, how monotonous posterity was in adopting it as almost the only crucial element in poetic composition. Is the fact that brilliant minds chose to slave away at rhyme for centuries a proof of its worth? Or is it merely evidence of a sad futility, a signal lack of inventiveness and imagination? Rhyme, in its place, is a sort of game. Do we play it forever, or regard it, as I suggest, as a mildly diverting pattern which ran its course long ago?

Faville doesn’t “object” to rhyme, and admits that “historically, it enabled a lot of interesting poetry, much of it brilliant and impressive.”  But after saying this, where is the force of his complaint?   It’s sort of like saying, ‘words were once rather wonderful things, but posterity now slaves itself to a monotonous use of them—perhaps it’s time we did away with them.’  Just like that?

As we can see from Poe, the ‘jingle-man’ himself, verse depends on rhythm, line, meter, stanza, an undercurrent of meaning, and even more fundamental things like unity, limit, duration, and variety.  Rhyme is the icing on the cake, or the percussion in a symphony orchestra, or the glint in a beautiful eye.  To weigh against rhyme is the mark of a dour theorist, indeed.  Shall we censor what can make language charming?  Really?

Faville, with single-minded, modernist glee, having no understanding of the rationale or the history of what he dismisses—“traditional forms”—pursues the general, well-worn path of loosening our collective mental grip on “the poem,” towards any number of holy grails: freedom, realism, social justice, prose-variety, prose-insight, prose-seriousness, prose-acrobatics, prose-morality, and prose-dignity.  But what the modernists have done, starting with the exceedingly clever R.W. Emerson, was not to chuck “the poem,” but to transfer its properties (and more) in a mysterious manner to whatever prose-pursuit happened to be going on at the time, whether it was Yvor Winters yapping about “moral form,” or the Imagistes’ slightly Westernized haiku, or Eliot’s morose pastiches with footnotes, or the Iowa Workshop’s “the poem is my diary!” or Ashbery’s Dr. Seuss-for-grownups-minus-the-rhyme.

The modernist agenda would be necessary if the two centuries previous to the 20th had produced bad poetry and stupid criticism—but it didn’t; Pope to Tennyson was quite remarkable, and Gertrude Stein huffing on her professor William James’ nitrous oxide didn’t exactly improve it.  But fellows like Faville, swept up in the nitrous oxide fun, feel it is their duty to tell everyone not to rhyme. You’ll sound like Shelley which means you’ll sound old-fashioned, so stop is the philosophy in a nutshell.

Like any agenda or manifesto put forward by clever people, it has a grain of truth, a ‘little learning’ about it which is on target.  We Quietists, we defenders of “ye olde traditional forms,” we dinosaurs, wearing big hats and stiff collars, would, with a single hit of nitrous oxide, get it, and groove with Lyn Hejinian at academic conferences all-around-the-world-yea, except for one small detail: Pope thru Tennyson did not produce limericks.

Faville would have a case, if, beginning around the middle of the 17th century, there had been an onslaught of limerick-appreciation, and it quickly infected every poet and critic: Shelley’s A Defense of Limericks, Poe’s A Rationale of Limericks, building on Pope’s An Essay On Limericks, to Tennyson’s Maud: A Limerick, which drove reasonable men to build the Iowa Writer’s Worskhop and write New Critical texts to save us from the limerick-menace (though T.S. Eliot would still allow us to admire the ur-work: The Divine Limerick).

But now, thank God!, there are poets like Rae Armantrout, who decided deep down in their souls they were not going to write limericks—and we are saved.

Poe ‘splained “the Poem” as belonging to the province of Beauty, not Truth or Passion, and Faville may think Beauty means pretty, but it does not; what modernists like Faville need to understand is that “the Poem” requires a length, and that mere fact brings us to the question of how we divide that length, which inevitably encompasses issues like the line, rhythm, meter, stanza, and finally, rhyme—mundane material considerations which good poets bother with and bad poets do not.  Faville would pluck the rhyme without comprehending the whole flower, including root and stem—the whole plant to him is nothing but prose meaning, and everything else that the genius Poe is concerned with, he, Faville, can just throw away.

The limerick belongs to the parlor, obviously, but it also belongs to poetry and, as such, can be made the center, perhaps (is there a modernist who would even dare?) of compromise between my position and Faville’s.

Faville probably thinks “The Raven” is a limerick, or might as well be; he has already demonstrated he thinks “To His Coy Mistress” is a limerick, with Marvell’s “jews” and “refuse” rhyme-combination a bit of silliness no serious, contemporary, educated man should tolerate.  Faville, as a schooled modernist, fears limit.  Faville feels the tiny, artificial pool of “jews, refuse, lose, and ooze” rhymes, which Marvell swims in, is a big slap in the face to one as intelligent as himself.  Faville roams the Towering Forest of Prose Ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson And John Ashbery with his gun—to kill any limerick-rhyme he might happen to see. Faville, unlike Marvell, wanders an autumnal landscape that stretches for eternity—there is Henry James on the right and Walter Benjamin on the left—and contains no parlor games or parlor tricks or anything that could be put neatly inside a game-board or a stanza.  Faville is a colossus—and strides a colossal world.

29 Comments

  1. August 2, 2011 at 3:22 am

    Tom:

    I should like to respond at some length to this broadside, in a civil manner, but squawk-boxes don’t provide enough leg-room.

    This is the second time I’m aware you’ve held me up for scorn, each time on account of my supposed “modernist” tendencies as expressed.

    Fortunately for me, you’ve misconstrued my positions. Perhaps it’s because clear targets are more useful than ambiguous ones, and eloquent condescension needs a whipping-boy.

    I did enjoy your essay here.

    In any case, you’re wide of the mark. If you furnish an e.mail address, I’ll undertake to reply. –C Faville cmfaville@sbcglobal.net

  2. August 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Good discussion, gentlemen!

    I’m inclined to favour the pro-rhyme poets, especially when rhymes can be very cleverly (and stylistically) used as internal rhymes, half-rhymes, etc. Poets like Auden and Swinburne proved that rhymes are vital (but, again, only if competently used)

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks, Conrad.

      The province of rhyme is really nothing more than an embellishment of the essentiallities of verse (Poe, Rationale of Verse, Library of America, Essays & Reviews, p. 41) and springs from the same idea that informs the refrain and alliteration. E.A. Poe: “It would require a high degree, indeed, both of cultivation and courage, on the part of any versifier, to enable him to place his rhymes—and let them remain—at unquestionably their best position, that of unusual and unanticipated intervals.” (ibid)

      T.S. Eliot says essentially the same thing 70 years later: “There are often passages in an unrhymed poem where rhyme is wanted for some special effect, for a sudden tightening-up, for a cumulative insistence, or for an abrupt change of mood.” (Reflections on Vers Libre, Praising It New, Garrick Davis, ed, p. 200-1)

      If the versification is strong, rhymes can be anywhere they want to be, but I’m also a sucker for simple ballads, too.

      Tom

  3. August 8, 2011 at 12:25 am

    Tom,

    you might find Timothy Steele’s book Missing Measures: Modern Poetry and the Revolt against Meter a very good gateway into the discussion of sadly discarded poetic techniques in general (though ‘meter’ is the focus of discussion).

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 8, 2011 at 4:12 am

      Conrad,

      Thanks for the suggestion!

      I own Timothy Steele’s book and once played fantasy baseball with his siblings. (O small world!) Poe’s “Rationale of Verse” is heads and shoulders above everything else, though. It really is. Poe is the best verse theorist of the 19th century, and Eliot of the 20th–because Eliot read his Poe.

      Tom

  4. Beauregard said,

    August 8, 2011 at 12:40 am

    A reaction to modernism (and to modernist snobs such as Faville) is understandable–yet rhyming lyrical poetry should probably be put to rest, unless maybe set in an interesting way to musick (Annabel Lee, made a nice tune tho probaby a bit plebian–Dylanesque, even– for Scarrietites, or…Favilles). The writing of yr heroes Shelley and Poe grows a bit weary after a half hour or so. Both Poe and PBS may have penned some profound verse (including blank verse, as in PBS’s Alastor) yet at times both jangled nearly street-minstrel fashion IMHE. Poe’s genius seems more obvious in his stories where he doesn’t need to play a fiddle–the Masque of the Red Death is a fine poem in a sense and doesn’t rhyme. Melville and Steven Crane slung interesting verse at times, but …compared to Moby Dick or RBOC, their poetic sketches seem rather trivial. Ishmael on The Masthead needs no ditty.

    That said, re the Assburied/haiku/beatnik school–fuck those people (per HS Thompson).

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 8, 2011 at 4:17 am

      Beauregard,

      Sure, a lot of stuff gets tiring after a while. Some people can listen to the blues forever, but others might finally say, ‘enough, already.’ I can’t read 99.9% of novels. I’d rather read Shelley, his prose, or poetry. There is a greatness which keeps on giving—which I appreciate. Also, ignorance, knowing ignorance (including my own) is an endless challenge to fix and, a delight. I don’t spend my days worshiping a mountain-top. I’m going to expose Eliot’s “Reflections on Vers Libre” next. I don’t know if it’s ever got a proper reading.

      Tom

      • Beauregard said,

        August 9, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        Perhaps you should inform Sir Faville that your name is Tom Brady, not “Tom Graves”. He’s laboring under an illusion that it’s Graves. Or maybe he’s just drunk ( rumors are that’s most of the time). That is, unless the Tom Brady–ie, you– here is not the Tom on Compass Rose? That’s hard to believe.

        Actually I share your enthusiasm for EA Poe (and 19th century as a whole–Hawthorne, and Melville, Ambrose Bierce, and Crane–a somewhat different writer [ie realism sneaks in], but a Great IMHE), but I am inspired by his stories, which at times are near perfection, in a sense . His verse seems…jangly, though not the worst I guess (but I’m not much of a poetry fan–trad. or modern. Though given a choice ..say when nature calls, Ill peruse like Coleridge before looking at the hepcats Faville reads (well..I like Pound’s essays. His early poetry amuses but rather….English and theatrical. But some powerful images here and there–Bosch-like). As many have said. I listen more to Chopin than jazzy stuff but spin a Theolonius Monk CD once in a while. Or Steely Dan.

        • thomasbrady said,

          August 11, 2011 at 3:20 am

          Chopin is a god!

  5. August 11, 2011 at 1:57 am

    I’m not even remotely pro-rhyme, and I’ve run afoul of more than one neo-formalist, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the sarcasm here. Thanks for an entertaining essay.

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 11, 2011 at 3:26 am

      Arthur,

      My point is that one can trace an excellent rhyme back to an excellent rhythm back to an excellent stanza back to an excellent idea, the way one can trace a delicious piece of fruit back to a tree and its plot of earth. Yes, not every tree is a fruit tree, but it’s no use to sever rhyme from the deeper things.

      Tom

  6. August 11, 2011 at 2:18 am

    Tom…you do know who ‘Beauregard’ is, don’t you? Check latest on Favilles Rhyme post for a clue.

    • thomasbrady said,

      August 11, 2011 at 3:19 am

      Gary,

      I think we care too much for ‘who’ someone is, these days. I’d rather not know ‘who’ someone is. As Wilde said, “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.” Blogs are ruined, literature is ruined, when we start to fuss too much over ‘who’ we are. There is an electricity that connects us all—our writing which reveals our thoughts. Let the sorry rest of it remain invisible, at least for the time being.

      Tom

  7. August 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I sure would have wanted to know ‘who’ Charles Manson or Ted Bundy were before I invited them into my home.

    I looked up ‘naive’ in the dictionary so I could post the definition here.

    Son of a gun…right next to the entry was a little picture of Tom Brady.

    • Beauregard said,

      August 11, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      Some of your heroes, Gar?

      Im not the irrational psychotic or philistine here. That would be you–tho’ you are talented enough to confine the psychosis to….. sonneteerings!

      Really I have no axe to grind, gents. I’m not Faville. I agree with Tom’s points contra-modernist “poets”, usually. But I find the Cantos somewhat interesting–politically as well– though granted Pound’s writing often seems formless and obscure. But where is the modernist writer (even in fiction) who has produced work which matches Poe’s great tales, or Hawthorne? Rappaccini’s Daughter –worth a boxcar of Cafe beatnik decorations.

      Tom–Recently I re-perused Hawthorne’s essay on Lincoln and the Civil war-written late in NH’s life:quite interesting views on the CW. Some have argued Nate, a dem., was ….pro-south. I don’t think so. He doesn’t really care for Lincoln or repubs, but after Fort Sumter and Bull Run, he appears to have joined with the North. Could be a fruitful topic, given the CW nostalgia season and all.

      • thomasbrady said,

        August 12, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        There’s a new big book out on our Civil War from the English perpsective, which I plan to read. Some say our Civil War was a plot by Europe to destroy the United States. The horror and slaughter of it must have given everyone pause, and the horror of WW I should have been no surprise, given our Civil War was a prelude, and yet nearly all of Europe was gung-ho before that war. Emerson was in England quite a bit when Civil War tensions were mounting, and his “English Traits” was very pro-Britain, they had the best race, etc and Hawthorne was abroad during the Civil War, dying in the middle of it, I believe.

        • Beauregard said,

          August 12, 2011 at 4:08 pm

          Yes, but at one point back in the States–like ’62 I believe–Hawthorne did meet with Honest Abe himself —

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiefly_About_War_Matters

          “But, on the whole, I like this sallow, queer, sagacious visage, with the homely human sympathies that warmed it; and, for my small share in the matter, would as lief have Uncle Abe for a ruler as any man whom it would have been practicable to put in his place.[12]“

          Savage Hawthornian irony, or genuine? Tentatively, I say the latter. In other words, Nate the demo he doesn’t like the idea of the War–but doesn’t quite approve of the Secession either. So Lincoln and the Federals was the lesser of two evils–though….NH did approve of the hanging of John Brown–one R.E. Lee supervising– and as you have pointed out was no pal of Emerson & CO. I’ve read somewhere that Abe and RWE were pen pals of a sort).

          • thomasbrady said,

            August 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

            The Emerson adorers would love it if Abe and RWE had some sort of relationship—they didn’t. Abe would have trusted Emerson as much as he trusted Horace Greeley, another dubious character, a pal of Boss Tweed and Griswold…

            • Beauregard said,

              August 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm

              No, Emerson was a Repub. and voted for Lincoln, and applauded the Eman.Proc. Im pretty sure he and Lincoln had communicated–also Whitman and Lincoln were acquainted…oo la la. Lincoln actually scrawled some poetry.

              You have to remember that the Repubs where the Northern party, and mostly anti-slavery–ie that was Lincoln. The southern Demos were the secessionists (led by Breckinridge, really until the CW started). The Northern Demos–a bit more complicated. Most were anti-slavery (like Stephen Douglas). But not all. The question is whether Hawthorne was …one of the “doughfaces” (ie, Northern demo, but southern sympathizer). Also called mugwumps at times. NH was close to Peirce, was he not? Worked for the Peirce admin. Peirce was….not in favor of abolition. In fact Peirce supported the South once the war started–and was a pen pal of..Jeff. Davis. That said, I think the “War Matters” essay makes it pretty clear that Hawthorne had decided in 61-62 to support the North and cause of the Union, even if he considered Lincoln a miserable wretch.

              • Beauregard said,

                August 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm

                Pierce, that is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_Pierce

              • thomasbrady said,

                August 13, 2011 at 1:37 am

                Beauregard,

                You’re not looking at things from a global perspective. Emerson and Whitman had no significant relationship with Lincoln, none. That was Bryant. Lincoln actually wrote very good verse, and loved “The Raven.” Speaking globally, Emerson was very tight with Great Britain, who were supporting the confederacy. You are forgetting Britain’s global designs. Britain wanted the American South’s cheap cotton for their mills, and they didn’t want to compete with the American North to get it. You have to remember that back then, Britain was Goliath and the U.S., David. A lot of people were putting their money on Goliath, including Emerson. Britain was scared if they supported the South more forcefully and openly, which they wanted to do, the North would say, ‘OK, we’ll fight you, too.” In the War of 1812, the U.S. won the great majority of the major naval battles against the greatest Navy in the World. The English PM at this time was Lord Russell, grandfather of Bertrand Russell—who mentored the right wing anglophile, TS Eliot. Russell gave Eliot a place to stay, if he could sleep with Eliot’s wife, which he did. This is the kind of person Russell was, and Eliot did whatever it took to advance in English society. Anyway, England and France were now allies during our Civil War, not enemies as they had been in the past. That made a big difference on so many levels. It’s the reason decadent modernism developed the way it did. Napolean III, an imperial creep, met with Horace Greeley to end the Civil War in 1862, giving the South victory. Lincoln went ballistic. This is a very little known aspect of the global picture at that time. Greeley and Griswold conspired to cover-up Poe’ murder. Greeley was the most powerful newspaperman of his day and ran for president against Grant. Greeley published all of Emerson’s friends in his Tribune, also Karl Marx. Greeley came across as a anti-tobacco progressive, politically, while secrectly working with Boss Tweed to sell cigars. You can’t understand history just looking at all the players at face-value: north, south, anti-slavery, pro-slavery. You have to dig deeper, my friend. Poe was a key figure here because he was hated by Emerson and Greeley, and later by Henry James and Eliot. Lincoln was disguised to escape an assassination plot in 1860 passing through the same neighborhood in Baltimore where Poe was murdered. By the way, when Greeley ran against Grant for the US presidency, Greeley carried the state of Maryland.

                Tom

                • Beauregard said,

                  August 13, 2011 at 1:15 pm

                  Not exactly. Emerson carried a great deal of weight –he was one of the chief abolitionists. And RWE did personally meet Abe: “In 1862 Emerson met president Abraham Lincoln. Later Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 inspired Emerson to write another essay named “Culture.” This essay was later included in a book entitled “The Conduct of Life.”” Search around–there’s more. And Abe at least had corresponded with Whitman once. Now, the South did consider Lincoln and the North decadent in a sense–there was propaganda with Lincoln as queer with some of his cabinet, even, IIRC–is that sufficient for supporting the rebels, Davis, Lee, Beau.etc?

                  England was officially neutral in CW, but both sides appealed to England. I think the South had more ties–there were arms shipments to the rebels. Not that pertinent. The Enfields used by the Rebels were English. The South also appealed to France, but they didn’t help much. As far as the materiel issue goes (ie, weapons, ammo, etc) the Union had numerical superiority from the start, even if at times the rebs outhustled them–after Buell took Tennessee and controlled the copper mines, the South’s ammo was greatly reduced. One might argue the south–at least apart from Virginia–was already neutralized. Eng. and Fr. had little to do with it.

                  Greeley was a whig, and sort of a quack–mostly liberal however–as with many politicians/editors he would have had some connection to Tweed/Tammany Hall-. Most east coast Demos of the time did–for that matter, Tammany was not completely sinister. He did play both sides, however. Perhaps Greeley approached the Southern leaders at times–but for the most part he was with the North. I think he was mad.

                  I’m not a big fan of the English either, but the ad hominems on Russell are trivial at best.

                  • thomasbrady said,

                    August 14, 2011 at 5:47 pm

                    I’m reading the new book, “A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War” and it opens up another dimension to the war, so long ignored. We forget the animosity that existed between U.S. & Britain before the Civil War, especially after the U.S. began to swell with Irish immigrants in the 1840s. Many Liberals in England supported the Confederacy. The Confederacy was building ships in Liverpool. Slavery was a political football more than a moral concern. The “anti-slavery” Brits didn’t want to free the slaves—they wanted to see the U.S. in flames.

                • Beauregard said,

                  August 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm

                  PM John Russell (Bert.’s grandfather) was initially a Tory but became a Liberal (the Russells were associated with JS Mill and that group) . Russell opposed slavery. Not perfect but somewhat progressive. Gladstone was the Simon Legreee– at times pro-slavery, and did support the South. (I believe Disreali was for the North) So you’re not being specific enough.

                  Bertrand Russell was not his grandfather either–he was a progressive, even socialist at times. A yankee if you will (he disses the Klan in one essay…and nazis for that matter). Politically he was not with TS Eliot or Pound either–actually Russell’s a Shelleyan in a sense. So not sure what your point is there. At times you sound southern, but then, not. Eliot and even Pound were ….probably crypto-confederates (wasn’t Henry James, one of their heroes?). Though not consistently. Pound also had great respect for JQ Adams–then, they’re literary men, not statesmen.

                  • thomasbrady said,

                    August 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm

                    Beauregard,

                    Of course Bertie was “progressive;” that’s why he slept with Eliot’s wife. You can’t understand history (or literature) by simply labeling people “progressive” or “southern.”. When did Pound profess respect for JQ Adams? Before or after Pound felt betrayed by England? Tracing all this is difficult, and it would be silly for me to play superior to you, and if I seem to be doing so, I apologize. The study of history is a lost art, and I have too much respect for that art to win easy points. I’m still learning myself.

                    Tom

                    • Beauregard said,

                      August 15, 2011 at 8:09 pm

                      There’s a political dynamic between romantics and modernists which I don’t think you’re quite getting, Tom—I read it as republicans (in the traditional euro. sense..ie IRA). vs monarchists/aristos. In that sense, I would interpret Pound as romantic for the most part–ie Byronic–and opposed to monarchy (including the British)–as was Shelley as welll (PBS praised Bonaparte on occasion). TS Eliot however favored monarchy and the ancien regime. Other subtleties could be fleshed out–ie, Pound was Jeffersonian rather than say…Federalist-Hamiltonian. Russell was not opposed to the ideals of Jefferson and Paine, but he was opposed to Byronism, and I would say statism–including the quasi-Hegelian state favored by the blackshirts (or ….classic republicanism). Lord Russell probably exited the room when TSE showed up with the diabological EP in tow.

                      But history itself becomes problematic–at times the rightist republicans —ie falange–would side with royalists (in Spain under Franco, etc). In the USA as well–Lincoln was republican, but conservative sort (not IRA sort). But in general Pound like most Romantics supported the ideals of the French and American revolutions (tho perhaps not …Robespierre)—at least it seems so to me. At other times he does seem quasi-royalist in a sense . He was not entirely consistent.

  8. August 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    “I think we care too much for ‘who’ someone is, these days. I’d rather not know ‘who’ someone is. As Wilde said, “To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.” Blogs are ruined, literature is ruined, when we start to fuss too much over ‘who’ we are. There is an electricity that connects us all—our writing which reveals our thoughts. Let the sorry rest of it remain invisible, at least for the time being.”

    Well said, Tom!

  9. David said,

    January 13, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I like the rhyme scheme and rhythm of this one, which I just stumbled across:

    Death Gets into the Suburbs
    By Michelle Boisseau

    It sweats into the tongue and groove
    of redwood decks with a Tahoe view.
    It slides under the truck where some knuckles

    are getting banged up on a stuck nut.
    It whirls in the egg whites. Among blacks
    and whites spread evenly. Inside the chicken

    factory, the Falcon 7x, and under the bridge.

    There’s death by taxi, by blood clot, by slippery rug.
    Death by oops and flood, by drone and gun.

    Death with honor derides death without.
    Realpolitik and offshore accounts
    are erased like a thumb drive lost in a fire.

    And the friendly crow sets out walnuts to pop under tires.

    So let’s walk the ruins, let’s walk along the ocean
    and listen to death’s undying devotion.


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