And this was the follow to Arwin's response to Guy's first post:

Arwin,

Thanks for your response to my post. You seem to begin to catch on to at
least some of what I was saying (e.g., lion & fox) toward the end of your
various asservations, so I will limit my comments to a couple of your earlier
remarks.

>>...You have not yet picked up, I think, on the structural parallels between
>>Bleistein and Burbank...

I thought I had noticed them. Without repeating myself, let me just say this.
The poem is set in or initiated by a “mask”--”Tra-la-la-la...” and
(especially) Marsten’s mask (epigraph) -- in the city of masks, at carnival,
in the city of carnival (latter day Rio & New Orleans quasi-octoberfests not
withstanding). It is a mask. The most obvious and initially important
masks in this mask are: “Burbank with a Baedecker” and “Bleistein with a
cigar.” Notice the title of the poem, and, especially, the colon in the
title. The colon is important. This is a pretty clear instance of what you
would call, I think, a “structural parallel,” although I did not recall your
noticing it in your reading, which actually buries it. (Remember, I had
replied to Isaac Gewirtz’ post, in which he had collapsed the title of the
poem “Burbank with a Cigar”--well, with all these masks, who can tell?
Perhaps I was too tongue in cheek....) In any case, some kind of
*equivalence* is indicated of these masks, even and especially in the title.
I made some suggestions about this equivalence in my post.

Not to repeat what said there, I will here note only, first, that Burbank
(perhaps as American as “Sir Ferdinand Klein” is every European thing else)
with his Baedecker is naive and ignorant. Without the Baedecker he is lost,
he doesn’t know what he is looking at or what is going on or where he is, or
anything.... Yet he is trying (he has the Baedecker...) He is, also,
“innocent.” Just about everyone, whether or not they can tell an allusion
from a metaphor, has pointed to this “innocence” in connection with the
Princess. I merely drew attention to the question who or what is this
Princess? (One might consider more carefully the story of St. Sebastian in
this connection.)

And, Bleistein with his cigar is worldly wise. If he is not an “innocent”
(like Burbank), neither is he naive and ignorant. No fool he. But, can he
float at all on these “wine-dark seas” or fly like the phoenix & turtle dove?
His name means “Lead Stone.” Will he sink the boat? Yet, his palms are
“turned out.” If he is not innocent, neither is he simply guilty; I wonder
whether is he asking for something, or apologizing for himself or his lofty,
ridiculous (scandalous?) vision? Has the Princess any interest in him, in
every Western man merely as such? Look at the physical description of
Bleistein in the 4th stanza: is he dead?

Burbank and Bleistein are not the only masks in the poem, Arwin. Perhaps the
most important is the almost silent one -- the gondolier who suddenly appears
(*in Venice*) as “the boatman” (!) in the sixth stanza (ad fin), preparing the
seventh. Burbank had come across a little bridge (“crossed the bar” in other
poems) in the first stanza; is this 6th stanza boatman now the poet? (We note
quickly in passing that he of course does not appear *only*in Venice:
“Bleistein” and “furs” are also imperial London: the way of Venice & her great
empire is the way also of London and ultimately of “the sepulchral city,” &c,
cf. stanza 6, ad init: Gibbon).

>>...For Canaletto does little more than paint aesthetically idealistic
>>pictures of Venice...

Arwin, read the fifth quatrain of the poem and think what you are saying. Try
to imagine the various perspectives displayed & conveyed there. Canaletto’s
vision of heaven on earth, of the city of man as the perfection of man’s
art--the *aesthetically idealistic,* all it stands for, and everything related
to it (the “pathology of rhetoric” and whatever else) is what is up for grabs
here.

>>The idea that the eye belongs to Bleistein comes from structural
paralellism: "saggy bending of the knees" vs "a lustreless, protrusive
eye." The other is grammatico-semantic necessity - there is no other
character introduced to whom the eye can be attributed to, so the natural
thing to do is to attribute the eye to Bleistein. Should you be interested
in studying late 19th century, early twentieth century anti-semitism, you
would soon recognise that linking the appearance of a Jew to "the Decent of
Man" was a quite common and predictable phenomenon.>>

Not a chance. Let’s just face it: the idea (which is of course not new) comes
from sloppy, inattentive reading, which is surely "quite common and
predictable" enough with or without bad faith or any ideological blinders.

Look at the eight quatrains of the poem. Forget you ever heard of Henry James
or Darwin or anyone else, and merely note that the first four quatrains are
independent. They are related to each other, surely, but they are also self-
contained. Gramatically, they all end in periods.

Much might be said of them, and needs to be said, but for our immediate
purposes, it is more than enough merely to compare them formally to the last
four quatrains. These last four, unlike the first four, are closely
interconnected, as you say, *grammatico-semantically*. They go together, and,
as I have tried to indicate, their theme is “Perspective” and “Decline” of the
city of man.

The 5th quatrain provides the anchor or rock of the 6th (“time/Declines.” look
at the quatrains); the 6th flows into the 7th (“smiles,/ Princess....); and
the seventh provides the anchor or rock of the last (“Sir Ferdinand/Klein.”)
See? To say no more, the “protozoic slime”--primoridality--goes with the
“seven [alleged] laws” of immortal art. But, are these seven laws enough
to attain & obtain what is sought? (They are a little “romantic,” eh? That
is, according to Eliot, they escape rather than master the real.) Can it
really be attained & obtained?

Return to the opening of the poem and look at some of the questions I raised
in the earlier post--e.g., whether the Princess is ascending or descending.
If she is not merely Cleopatra/Babylon--which, we all know, she may be, &c--or
if, in other words, the “small hotel” (stanza 1) is the church (cf. Hebrews
11:13-16) is the Princess then ascending now with Klein to heaven (i.e., to
above or beyond “the axletree” stanza 3)? Or, what is the same thing,
descending with him to the Jew who is much solider even than lead stone and
who is “underneath the lot” (stanza 6)? Do you see? These alpha & omega
places there above & beyond & beneath at the extremes of the waterstair, like
Venice-London *here*, are the same place...

Get it?

To return to the fourth stanza and the description of Bleistein, I can only
say, with due respect, that the “structural parallelism” to which you appeal
is as illusory as it silly. You are not thinking or reading the poem but
stacking your own baggage all over it. Where’s your Baedecker? Look at these
lines:

But this or such [what has gone before in stanzas 1-3] was Bleistein’s way:
a saggy bending at the knees
and elbows, with the palms turned out [cf. "monkey" in the epigraph],
Chicago Semite Viennese.

Now, e.g., these:

Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
The zebra stripes along his jaw
Swelling to maculate giraffe.

The poet is at the same occasion or place in each instance: here his ironic-
comical self among the nightingales singing near the Convent of the Sacred
Heart. The former, his common-everyman self confronting the “aesthetic ideal
on earth” in concert with imperialism is the second poem in the 1920
collection (an intellectual autobiography). Eliot is not the same thing as
Adams and James; he has his own, different cigar. The latter (“Sweeney Among
the Nightingales”) is the closing poem. (Emerson, the American so interested
in transcendence and the world-soul, &c, had not seen and knew not the breadth
and depth of “Sweeny”--“Sweeny Erect,” the poem following “Burbank: Bleistein”
in the collection.)

Hope this clarifies some of my earlier remarks, beside which these comments
should be set. Thanks for your reply.


Guy Story Brown, Dallas & LA
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