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TSE  May 2007

TSE May 2007

Subject:

Re: autobiography & 4Q

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 13 May 2007 00:24:46 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (340 lines)

I'm sure, from one point of view or another, anyone who
supports a spiritual view will seem to talk nonsense.

So who should be dismissed out of hand, viewer, viewed
or neither?

Why?

P.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carrol Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2007 7:49 AM
Subject: Re: autobiography & 4Q


Diana Manister wrote:
>
> Mallarmé indicated that when an artist removes God fom the altar, the
> self replaces it as an object of adoration. The self is eaten and
> shared with the devoted. In poetry, this results in solipsism
> as subject. Eliot avoided this by leaving God on the altar.

Well Mallarmé was talking nonsense. Consider the following fine poems,
which neither accept a god _nor_ focus on the self.


Germany, Pale Mother
        by Bertolt Brecht

'Let others speak of her shame
I speak of my own.'

O Germany, pale mother!
How soiled you are
As you sit among the peoples.
You flaunt yourself
Among the besmirched.

The poorest of your sons
Lies struck down.
When his hunger was great.
Your other sons
Raised their hands against him.
This is notorious.

With their hands thus raised,
Raised against their brother,
They march insolently around you
And laugh in your face.
This is well known.

In your house
Lies are roared aloud.
But the truth
Must be silent.
Is it so?

Why do the oppressors praise you everywhere,
The oppressed accuse you?
The plundered
Point to you with their fingers, but
The plunderer praises the system
That was invented in your house!

Whereupon everyone sees you
Hiding the hem of your mantle which is bloody
With the blood
Of your best sons.

Hearing the harangues which echo from your house,
   men laugh.
But whoever sees you reaches for a knife
As at the approach of a robber.

O Germany, pale mother!
How have your sons arrayed you
That you sit among the peoples
A thing of scorn and fear!

---

And also by Brecht:

THOSE WHO TAKE THE MEAT FROM THE TABLE
Teach contentment.
Those for whom the contribution is destined
Demand sacrifice.
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.

Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.

-----

And by the Vietnam veteran W.D. Ehrhart:

"POW/MIA"


I.      In the jungle of years,
        lost voices are calling. Long
        are the memories,
        bitterly long the waiting,
        and the names of the missing and dead
        wander
        disembodied
        through a green tangle
        of rumors and lies,
        gliding like shadows among vines.

II.     Somewhere, the rumors go,
        men still live in jungle prisons.
        Somewhere in Hanoi, the true believers
        know,
        the bodies of four hundred servicemen
        lie on slabs of cold
        communist hate.

III.    Mothers, fathers,
        wives and lovers,
        sons and daughters,
        touch your empty fingers to your lips
        and rejoice
        in your sacrifice and pain:
        your loved ones' cause
        was noble,
        says the state.

IV.     In March of 1985, the wreckage
        of a plane was found in Laos.
        Little remained of the dead:
        rings, bone chips, burned
        bits of leather and cloth;
        for thirteen families,
        twenty years of hope
        and rumors
        turned acid on the soul
        by a single chance discovery.

V.      Our enemies are legion,
        says the state;
        let bugles blare
        and bang the drum slowly,
        bang the drum.

VI.     God forgive me, but I've seen
        that triple-canopied green
        nightmare of a jungle
        where a man in a plane could go down
        unseen, and never be found
        by anyone.
        Not ever.
        There are facts,
        and there are facts;
        when the first missing man
        walks alive out of that green tangle
        of rumors and lies,
        I shall lie
        down silent as a jungle shadow,
        and dream the sound of insects
        gnawing bones.

----

And by Woody Guthrie:

Deportee

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps.
You are flying them back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again.

    Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

My father's own father he waded that river,
They stole all the money he made in his life.
My sisters and brothers come working the fruit trees
And rode the truck til they took down and died.

    Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

Some of us are illegal and some are not wanted.
Our work contract's out and we have to move on
Six hundred miles to the Mexican border.
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

    Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains,
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river -- we died just the same.

    Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon --
A fireball of lightning which shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just . . . deportees.

    Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit --
To fall like dry leaves, to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except deportees?

    Goodbye my to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
    Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
    You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
    And all they will call you will be deportee.

And here is a brief discussion of the last, which I wrote some years ago
on another list:

Jamie Morgan wrote:
>
> Hi James, interesting argument. Spirit does seem to be acceptable in terms
> of emergence and essence as you phrase them. But the point also was one of
> deterring connotations [CLIP] One might also ask:
>
> Is the new spiritualism atheist in all its forms? Isn't a
> non-institutional - paranormal discourse of forces of nature also a form
of
> pantheism? Similalrly, Bhuddhism and Daoism are not strictly speaking
> atheist, [CLIP]

One problem is that while there is a large political and philosophical
(in general theoretical) body of work on solidarity (both as a political
slogan and as a perspective from which to view the evolution of hominid
species), there is (at least in English) no developed body of
imaginative art -- painting, poetry, song -- expressing human unity
through solidarity rather than through individualist spirituality. We
don't -- outside particular occasions of struggle -- have an imaginative
vision of what solidarity _feels_ like, so when we try to discuss it we
fall into the cliches of religion and/or pantheism (e.g., the poetry of
Whitman and, I think, Stevens).

Doubtless I am ignorant of much of the writing that might fulfil (or
does fulfill) this need, and I depend mostly on the songs of Woody
Guthrie to give me a glimpse of what such a body of work might look
like.


         Deportee

            The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
            The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps.
            You are flying them back to the Mexican border
            To pay all their money to wade back again.

This poem (Guthrie never wrote music for it) lives in its pronouns -
that is, it moves towards asking what we mean by "we." (The text I use
is that in a song book edited by Pete Singer; I have heard and seen
versions with different pronouns in this first stanza, but that destroys
the shift of pronouns that structures the song/poem.) "We" in common
parlance is "you and I" as opposed (at least verbally) to "them." Here,
then, the "we" is the singer and those who are flying "them" (the
deportees) back. The perspective, then, is somewhat similar to that of
Shelley's "Men of England" - sympathetic to the oppressed, bitter
towards their oppressor, but nonetheless seing them from "outside."
Shelley,  that is, could not have written:

Wherefore, bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
        That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of OUR toil?

It is not merely that Shelley was not himself a worker;  it was that in
his world even a worker, become a poet, would become and "I" to the
"you" of the working class.

The link of Shelley and the "men of England" is a spiritual link, an
expression of universal love, NOT of solidarity. "Love" also is a word
we perhaps could usefully retire for a century or so, except with
reference to direct personal relations. Frankly, were I a Congolese
worker or peasant living in the world created by Belgium, the U.S. and
Mobuto et al,  I would be more offended than impressed by Bhaskar's
offer of "(unconditional) love." But let us see how Guthrie proceeds
with his "we" and "they" - and particularly let us see how "I" by the
end of the poem comes to exist only as an extension of "we."

                Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
                Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
                You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
                And all they will call you will be deportee.

They have a name now. "I" speaks out loudly here,  but the "you" and the
"they" are reversed. and is the "you" of the first stanza that is now a
nameless "they." With "my Juan" and "mis amigos" we have already moved
beyond Shelley, for whom the "men of England" could not be other than
faceless and nameless: "men of England," merely at best citizens. The
horror of "You won't have a name" speaks louder than any kind of love or
merely spiritual unity  could possibly speak. Spirituality
individualizes (atomizes), isolates, reduces to mere passivity (passive
in being a mere occasion for the self-realization -- even
god-realization -- of the individual who extends his unconditional love.
And it is just that forced passivity to which Guthrie responds with rage
(a far nobler emotion than Love).

            Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
            Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit --
            To fall like dry leaves, to rot on my topsoil
            And be called by no name except deportees?

                Goodbye my to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
                Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria.
                You won't have a name when you fly the big airplane
                And all they will call you will be deportee.

The "my" of the last stanza transcends both "I" and "we" of the poem -
it is a blank check to be filled in through struggle.

Carrol


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