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TSE  October 2002

TSE October 2002

Subject:

Re: TWL epigraph

From:

[log in to unmask]

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 25 Oct 2002 04:54:11 EDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (93 lines)

   Strangely, I received more off-list email about the TWL epigraph then
appeared on-list. I'd like to pursue aspects the Satyricon (or 'Satyrica', as
the translation I'm reading says is the proper name) in this post for
background information. I'm not going to assume everyone on the list is
familiar with the Satyrica. If you are, skip the summaries here that you
consider obvious. I'll also try to find time to present more thoughts about
the way TSE is using the epigraph, but that will have to wait for a later
post.

  Here's part of the translators' (Branham and Kinney) notes on Petronious'
work:

---------------------------------------
"Whether read as the first European novel, a parody of classical romance, a
sophisticated example of pagan pornography or a gay classic, Petronius'
picaresque account of the Priapic adventures of Encolpius and his beautiful
lover, Giton, takes us deep into the underworld of the Roman empire. Told in
the first-person by Encolpius, the Satyrica offers a brilliant comic
exploration of an ancient empire in decline and of the energies released by
its decay. Since it was first translated into English by William Bumaby in
1694, the Satyrica has never ceased to delight and scandalize."
---------------------------------------

The fact that the Satyrica is described here as 'a gay classic' might be
relevant, given past posts that one of the underlying themes of TWL may be
TSE's grief over a male friend (Jean Verdenal).

To provide some context, here's two brief scenes from early in the Satyrica.
Note that Encolpius (the narrator), and his friends Giton and Ascyltos
(Encolpius' a rival for Giton) are all male:

--------------------------------------------------
(9) As if in a haze, I spotted Giton standing at the edge of a path and
rushed toward him ...When I asked what my lover had gotten us for lunch, the
boy sat down on the bed and brushed away a stream of tears with his thumb.
Troubled at my lover's state, I asked what was wrong. He didn't want to tell
me at first, but when I started to get angry he opened up: "That lover of
yours," he said, "your buddy, just came into our room a minute ago and wanted
to have me then and there. When I started to scream, he pulled a knife on me.
. .

(11) I looked the whole town over for myself before returning to our little
room. At last, I could ask for kisses without looking over my shoulder. I
held Giton snug in my arms and was just on the verge of enjoying the most
enviable of pleasures. The party was just beginning, when Ascyltos slunk up
to the room, forced the bar from the door, and caught us in the act. He
filled the little room with his laughter and mock-applause as he pulled off
the cloak that covered me. "Well, well, what have we here, my right
honourable friend? Isn't this tent a bit small for two, soldier?" He didn't
stop there either, but grabbed a strap from his bag and proceeded to give me
a good, thorough thrashing while tossing out taunts like salt on a wound.
"Aren't friends supposed to hold all things in common?"
--------------------------------------------------

Again, from the translators (Branham and Kinney), here are some more notes on
the 'Satyrca':

--------------------------------------------------
Instead of naming his work after its heroes or setting, Petronius chose a
title that evokes two closely related but distinguishable ideas. The first is
that of the satyr, the hybrid of man and animal whose human form is typically
augmented by a bushy tail and horse's ears. The satyr's degree of animality
varies: on vases they can be represented as animals playing the role of men
or as men playing the role of animals.  They also form Dionysus' male
retinue, as maenads do the female. . . The second idea evoked by Petronius'
title is that of the satyr-play, which was performed in classical Athens at
the spring festival of Dionysus following the tragedies. . . .The satyrs were
not the heroes of these plays but formed their choruses and are
characteristically represented as shunning the burdens of civilized life -
such as work or warfare -and as demons of nature who witness with
astonishment the epochal starting points of civilization, such as the
invention of fire, of wine, or of the lyre (from a tortoise shell.) In
general, they are shameless hedonists preoccupied with the pursuit of
pleasures -wine, dance, and music -under the auspices of Dionysus. The
earliest reference to them (in Hesiod's Catalogue of Women) is as 'the race
of lazy good-for-nothing satyrs'. On vases they are typically shown with
enormous erections chasing maenads. . .Thus, as a title. Satyrica
simultaneously evokes the mythical world of satyrs and a specific literary
tradition of representing that world. The novel's heroes, however, are never
called satyrs or explicitly compared to them. Satyrica (the neuter plural of
the adjective 'satyric') is rather a heuristic metaphor for the moral
ambiance of the fictional world Petronius has created. . .It is clear that
among the preoccupations of the satyr-play as a genre were the origins and
nature of civilized life, which the satyrs were ideally suited to explore
since they were partly human and civilized (e.g., they speak Greek and drink
wine) and partly animal and incorrigibly wild. As Nietzsche observes in The
Birth of Tragedy, 'in the presence of a chorus of satyrs the cultured Greek
felt his civilization dissolve.' (On various festive occasions it was
customary to dress up like a satyr.) One of the recurring topics of
Petronius' Satyrica is the apparent decline of civilization and culture."
--------------------------------------------------

-- Steve --

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