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Index: Principal Articles

Shakespeare’s ‘Islamic’ poem, part II.

Nigel Wheale: ‘”Let the bird of loudest lay” is a far/near song, no song, which suggests so very much. The absolute concision, the perfection of these lines make any attempt to ‘expand’ or ‘unpick’ them seem infinitely lame; they are, in a real sense, unapproachable…The utter strangeness of Shakespeare’s poem in English literary convention is revealed by comparisons, and connections, with texts from older, more exotic traditions – Indian, Persian, Arabic, Berber Numidian, which have resonances with these verses from the English Midlands, around 1601.’

The New Beauty.

Anthony Howell: ‘As an aesthetic ideal, wealth stimulates a veritable culture of prizes, breaking down the divide which has traditionally separated art from sport. It’s an ideal that stimulates competition and incites envy, isolating one creative from another and thus ensuring against revolution. Very neatly, the rebellious “tradition” of the salon des refusés has been annulled by the oligarchs. ‘

Shakespeare’s ‘Islamic’ poem.

Nigel Wheale: ‘Salusbury the dedicatee has rarely been considered or even recalled as a context for understanding ‘the most mysterious poem in English’. What he or his family, his literary and musical acquaintances, might have made of ‘Let the bird of loudest lay’ is beyond recovery. But from a brief review of his biography and family circumstances, we can surely be confident that these were committed readers and writers of poetry, amongst whom Shakespeare’s poem circulated, and we can imagine, stirred interest. ‘

The Panopticon.

Neil Davie: ‘It was this combination of omniscient surveillance and unquestioning submission that made the Panopticon such a powerful symbol in the hands of Michel Foucault; a place where the prisoner “is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.”’

Thoughts on Germany.

Orson Welles: ‘His most recent set-back is popularly supposed to have taught Fritz to abhor the sight of uniforms and forever after loathe the sound of march music. Tourists from the victorious democracies can’t seem to get over their astonishment at finding German instincts less damaged than German cities. The truth is that human nature in this forest land is neither an invention of Doctor Goebbels nor an easy target for bombs.’

Modern Nō theatre.

Oswald Sickert: ‘Every subsidiary detail of the performance possesses, I don’t know how to say, but a solidity. It’s there God knows how it came there; but there it is, and it’s not a contrivance, not an “idea.”‘

Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Alan Wall: ‘Although many of the pieces published in these two impressive volumes would be known already to Wittgensteinians, many more would not. Unless you have not only bought anthologies like Rush Rees’s Recollections of Wittgenstein, but also followed such publications as Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Irish Medical Times, or Hermathena, then some of these essays will be new to you. Together they present a composite image of the man which is hugely impressive. Perhaps each century can produce one man like Wittgenstein; certainly not many more. ‘

Brunetière: Critic first.

Yetta Blaze de Bury: ‘I have been particular in exposing those features in Brunetière’s work which underline his own individuality: his worship of human dignity, his contempt of money, his disdain of flattery—all idiosyncrasies which strongly influence the critic’s severity toward the demoralising literature of the “naturalists”; a literature that is generally little else but excitement of the least noble instincts of humanity. In a word, he is chiefly concerned in literature with its ethical purport.’

‘Do you know Brunetière?’

Erik Butler: ‘When Brunetière wrote that “battle looms,” he was not exaggerating. Two World Wars, if nothing else, should have proven as much; the struggles for national liberation that emerged when European empires collapsed have dotted the globe with expanding theaters of conflict. The economic and cultural imperialism of gung-ho American capitalism has begotten a market that can operate perfectly well without its creator. Fundamentalism has only flourished in response to “progress” (including, not too long ago, the “scientific socialism” espoused by the Soviet Union).’

Brunetière and the ‘monster banquet’.

Elton Hocking: ‘Most of all, this banquet was held as a demonstration of protest against Brunetière. Three months before, he had dared to publish in his “Revue des deux mondes” an article which denounced the positivistic and materialistic spirit of modern science, and proclaimed that morality and happiness were to be found not in science, but in the spirit of the Church.’

Asprezza.

Anthony Howell: ‘[In Drummond] one senses an intellectual struggle, a willingness to attempt something new. Drummond should be recognised as a pioneer: a poet prepared to experiment in his day, who made the madrigal his own. He is far more than a footnote in criticism devoted to Milton or Jonson.’

Materializations.

James Gallant; ‘[Jacques] Vallee wrote in Dimensions (1988), that if you were interested in producing a spiritual revolution, you would need to “bypass the intelligentsia and the church, remain undetectable to the military system, leave undisturbed the political and administrative levels of society, and at the same time implant deep within [a] society far-reaching doubts concerning its basic philosophical tenets.” Those effects have been produced by the UFO and aliens, manifestations of the “little people,” and the materializations of the physical mediums.’

Poetry and the fearful symmetry.

Daniel Bosch: ‘The optical is the existential. The instant night falls, we see less well, and conversely—perversely—we “hear things.” Night estranges. The certainties of day-lit labor yield to doubt: What was that? At night our imaginations, less-constrained by the sharp edges of the visible, and, as in childhood, less-convinced by rationalization and counter-evidence, confirm and reconfirm: We are not safe in night. We do not belong to it. Ancient cookfires and hearths—the first footlights—we won dim globes from darkness in which learned to what we do belong. ‘

Octavio Paz in Cambridge, 1970.

Richard Berengarten: ‘In the act and process of reading Octavio, whether his prose or verse, my experience is that I am breathed on by a larger, more oxygenated air, so that whatever may be the othernesses that constitute my ‘I’ (subliminal, hidden, unnoticed, potential, dormant, discarded, dismayed, disarrayed …) which, together with my ‘I’, compose the multiple folia of my Self itself – these all get gathered and re-gathered into an opening of lungs and horizons, into a fuller, richer and more acute alertness of the senses to harmonies and dissonances; to the unique minutiae tucked and pleated throughout panoramas and the panoramas resident and resonant in minutiae. ‘

Fear and loathing in the Royal Festival Hall.

Anthony Howell: ‘There is a lack of breadth that still dogs the selection process, I think as a direct result of prize-winners apotheosising into judges. In the end it all begins to feel samey. There are far too many “of”s – usually attached to death, love, or something equally gloomy, and so the poems not only feel samey, they feel doomy. Again and again we were urged to confront the death of a loved one or our own death. Surely there is more to poetry than a maudlin sense of nostalgia for those no longer with us?’