Daily Archives: September 10, 2018

page 29 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

Stalin has no sense of humor. No, no he did not.

Aram vult nemus = the grove waits an altar, meaning altars were usually found near groves. Eden allusion? Is that why he mentions Lucrezia Borgia, the old femme fatale as a sort of Eve?

tentflaps again, this time no mint. Circus? Reminds me of the whale from Werckmeister Harmonies – total show.

Old world, new world compared.

“We couldn’t sell anything modern”.

page 23 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

He goes on about the Jews then leads into economics. I guess this is his antisemitism rearing its ugly head.

He equates the Russian NEP with “the immolation of men to machinery” – excellent line and observation to equate man, machine, fire, life, death, rebirth all in one.

“philosophy is not for young men” reminds me of no country for old men.

Chaucer would not have liked Pound.

Beauty is difficult.

page 17 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

“The wind is part of the process / The rain is part of the process” everything is a process, but towards what?

Aeneas = Dido?

Ugolino was the traitor politician in Dante’s frozen hell eating the brains of archbishop Ruggieri.

“I don’t know how humanity stands it” – amazing line

“filial, fraternal affection is the root of humaneness” – yes!

“Criminals have no intellectual interests?” Nod to Ugolino? Funny.

page 13 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

Lines 247-257 are fascinating, but I can’t make sense of the image.

Leviticus 19: Here’s all the rules, follow them because I am the Lord – until I come again and then you wan’t have to.

1 Thessalonians 4:11: “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,”

Corruption? Authority? Wasn’t Pound a fascist? He’s like rules.

page 10 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

“sunt lumina” I am the light

“all things that are are lights” true, reflected light. We are not truths.

“Tempus tacendi, tempus loquendo” a time to speak, a time for silence.

Hagoromo: is he making a connection between Buddhist and Christian angels?

diamonds, then “the mind indestructible” .

hamadryas, then “the slaves learning slavery” – is this racist?

“the leopard sat by his water dish” in a zoo, captive.

page 7 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

“created the names” – the names, the forms perhaps, existed before? “in principio verbum” in the beginning was the word.

“and with one day’s reading a man may have the key in his hands” – I like this. Could be church, gospel, mass, homily?

“the voiceless with brumm drum and banners” – fascism on the march.

Lines 120-125 are beautiful.

Linus = 2nd Pope. Cletus= 1138 schism? Clement = apocrypha.

page 3 of 192 of The Pisan Cantos

“a bang, not a whimper” – his friend Eliot. But the possum plays dead, yet isn’t dead. Trouble will always come back to life.

N. Carolina is where Camp Lejeune is, so maybe he means the draft?

“Odysseus / the name of my family” is the name of all our family, at least in the west.

“R.C. chaplain” – Roman Catholic. My dog tags still have the R.C. on them.

Wanjina = Australian rain god. Ouan Jin = educated man

The Consolation of Philosophy: Read from September 5 to September 10, 2018

I have been reading this as part of a course on Chaucer as we explore his inspirations and attempt to gain some insight into why Chaucer wrote what he did. This book in particular was a huge influence on Chaucer, as well as medieval thinking in general, but it’s remarkable in just how modern and personal it still feels.

At the heart of any great work of prison literature is the observation of how humanity behaves (wickedly) while the prisoner (innocent) suffers. Boethius’ motivation is even stronger because he knows he will be executed and so we’re witnessing a person come to terms with their life in an attempt to find some sort of meaning to their own existence. In some ways he’s lucky because how many hundreds of millions of people never got the chance to assess their lives before meeting a tragic end, but he has left behind a document that can do some of the heavy lifting for us.

As with most cases of a person being accused he begins his story at the mercy of the emotional muses. How many people have been convicted – even just by a court of public opinion – because of public emotion rather than sound logic? Philosophy then appears to drive those “sluts” away and attempts to use the gift of humanity, reason, to help him make sense of life, specifically why the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper.

The most compelling argument I found in the entire book was Philosophy’s explanation about punishment. Philosophy tells Boethius that punishment is actually a form of goodness and so when a wicked person is not punished then they are not open to the goodness that punishment offers. This reminded me of the argument about hell and how eternal damnation is actually a form of mercy since to cease to exist would be the ultimate act of indifference. Even in hell the sinners are at least able to be punished for their crimes and sins.

However, Boethius is also concerned about what he believes to be false punishment. He believes he is innocent and that any punishment he is currently enduring is unjust, but this brought up an interesting point in that Philosophy tells him that we can never really know who is innocent or not. We may see someone who we think absolutely deserves to be punished for being wicked, but are we the ultimate arbitrators of justice? Do we know what really rests in the hearts and souls of every person?

Philosophy reminds Boethius about Providence and that while it may seem random and that there might not even be free will, it is only because he lacks the intelligence of the ultimate good (God) that he assumes what happens to him and to wicked men is random, but when in fact it is not. Ultimately the whole discussion boils down to faith, and while this final section of the book makes the most obtuse and obscure argument in the book, perhaps because Boethius was quite soon to be executed, it does reflect the difficulty of having faith, truly having faith, in something greater than ourselves.

We so want for our lives to have meaning and yet so often we feel as if life, the universe, and everything is totally random and indifferent, and perhaps it even is, yet what is remarkable is that this document exists, that a man on the eve of his execution was able to meet the end of his life with dignity and lay out a reasonable argument that could perhaps give comfort to even the most slandered innocent person. And he does so without growing overly religious because he constantly frames his arguments by talking about the good – the ultimate goodness of life, that form we all strive for no matter what we might call us. He is, in effect, showing us how there is goodness even in the darkest of places.

page 137 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius is ultimately asking if this impending execution was inevitable. Does he have any free will? He’s having a genuinely human reaction to his situation.

This final book does feel rushed, perhaps he had only a very short time left to live before finishing this work, and so the argument philosophy makes is much more obscure and hard to follow – perhaps reflecting how faith in Providence is so difficult?