The Pendragon Papers (11): The Garland of Good Advice

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Well, here I am on a sunny morning in Majorca, sat in my hotel room, working on the Pendragon Papers. It was only yesterday that I finalised the official format for the Pendragon Papers, which will involve the best 24 lectures & essays of every period I have spent at the beck & call of Azaniz, the Muse of Poetical Scholarship. As I studied along the way, every now & again I would be struck by a an inspir’d passage utter’d by a poet in rapture, & felt compell’d to cut & paste or type it up & let it ferment in a quiet shady corner of my studies, waiting for the day when I would assemble them together like a string of wisdom pearls. Another metaphor would be a garland of flowers, & so to the title of this paper, ‘The Garland of Good Advice.’

First study for a man who wants to be a poet is the knowledge of himself, complete. He looks for his soul, inspects it, puts it to the test, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it! But the soul has to be made monstrous … I say that one must be a seer make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, & rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, & keeps only their quintessences… he must see to it that his inventions can be smelt, felt, heard. If what he brings back from down there has form, he brings forth form; if it is formless he brings forth formlessness… The poet would define the amount of the unknown awakening in the universal soul in his own time: he would produce more than the formulation of his thought or the measurement of his march toward progress… Always filled with Number & Harmony, these poems will be made to endure. Arthur Rimbaud

’Tis we who sang of Scylla stealing from her father’s head his treasured locks and hiding in her womb the raging dogs. ’Tis we who have given wings to the feet and serpents to the hair, our song gave victory to Abos’ child and the wingèd horse. ’Tis we gave Tityos his mighty stature, and to Cerberus gave his triple mouths and his serpent-crownèd head. Enceladus we made hurling the spear with a thousand arms, and through us a youthful sorceress overcame heroes by her magic spells. We imprisoned the winds of Æolus in the wine-skins of the Ithacan king; we made the prying Tantalus go mad with thirst, with water all around him; Niobe we changed into a rock, and a young maiden into a bear. ’Tis thanks to us that the bird of Cecrops sings Odrysian Itys; that Jove transforms himself into a bird, or into gold, or, taking on the semblance of a bull, cleaves the waters with a maiden on his back. Ovid

At times I felt my poems quicken inside me, their physiological iambs an emanation of my own life-force, their small stanzas as recognizable & uniquely shaped as new-born’s hands, I knew immediately that what I had created was alive in a different way. Though I had felt the pangs of their creation in my mouth & in my heart, their ‘birth’ each time resulted in a thing that did not cry or pee or feed. They were words, without urges or needs. Each poem, I suddenly realized, was birth itself, or a backwards kind of birth, inertly requiring the same painful process be repeated every time it entered the consciousness of another reader, which was what made it so monstrous, so unreal, so unimaginable. Rafael Campo

Sir Phillip Sydney

Since the ever praiseworthy poesy is full of virtue, breeding delightfulness, and void of no gift that ought to be in the noble name of learning; since the blames laid against it are either false or feeble; since the cause why it is not esteemed in England is the fault of poet-apes, not poets; since, lastly, our tongue is most fit to honour poesy, and to be honoured by poesy; I conjure you all… in the name of the Nine Muses, no more to scorn the sacred mysteries of poesy; no more to laugh at the name of poets, as though they were next inheritors to fools… but to believe, with Aristotle, that they were the ancient treasurers of the Grecian’s divinity… But if (fie of such a but!) you be born so near the dull-making cataract of Nilus, that you cannot hear the planet-like music of poetry; if you have so earth-creeping a mind, that it cannot lift itself up to look to the sky of poetry… yet thus much curse I must send you in the behalf of all poets; that while you live, you live in love, and never get favour, for lacking skill of a sonnet; and when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph. Sir Philip Sydney

I should remind everyone who knows me that I do not believe that poems are made of our beliefs. Instead, I believe poems lead us to and tell us what we really believe. I think poems—working with language and seeing where it may lead us, seeing what kinds of choices we make when we have to find a rhyme or a syllable—tell us things about our individual and collective subconscious minds. I write in forms because formal work helps to push me toward saying what I couldn’t imagine I would say in poems. Jericho Brown

O lord! Thou beloved of Gauri! Deign to accept this – the maiden of poesy – adorned with the ornaments of various figures of speech, charming by the gait of beautiful diction, possessing the virtuous conduct of excellent metres, having the bright complexion of sweet sound, praised by the world of good men constituted of holy sages, endowed with the amorous sentiment of devotion together with the virtue of loftiness, planned with the suitor of Brahman as an objective, invested with the most auspicious marks of high literary qualities endowed with numerous brilliant decorations of the literary art, revealing the modesty of poetic humility bearing the ‘wealth-line’ of clear meanings, & possessing the virtue of working for the good of the readers. Sri Sankaracarya

Poets of all mankind, feel most forcibly the powers of beauty. If they are really poetr of Nature’s making, their feelings must be finer, & their taste more delicate, than those of most of the world. In the cheerful bloom of spring, or the pensive mildness of autumn, the grandeur of summer, or the hoary majesty of winter, the poet feels a charm unknown to the rest of his species. Even the sight of a lone flower, or the company of a fine woman (by far the finest part of God’s works below), have sensation for the poetic heart that the herd of mankind are strangers to. Robert Burns

The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history… In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist… Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives. Meena Alexander

Meena Alexander

Poetry is indeed something divine. It is at once the centre and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. It is at the same time the root and blossom of all other systems of thought; it is that from which all spring, and that which adorns all; and that which, if blighted, denies the fruit and the seed, and withholds from the barren world the nourishment and the succession of the scions of the tree of life. It is the perfect and consummate surface and bloom of all things; it is as the odour and the colour of the rose to the texture of the elements which compose it, as the form and splendour of unfaded beauty to the secrets of anatomy and corruption. Percy Bysshe Shelley

It is important, therefore, to hold fast to this: that poetry is at bottom a criticism of life; that the greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life — to the question, How to live. Morals are often treated in a narrow and false fashion, they are bound up with systems of thought and belief which have had their day, they are fallen into the hands of pedants and professional dealers, they grow tiresome to some of us … the best cure for our delusion is to let our minds rest upon that great and inexhaustible word life, until we learn to enter into its meaning. A poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference towards moral ideas is a poetry of indifference towards life. Matthew Arnold

The light of poetry is not only a direct but also a reflected light, that, while it shows us the object, throws a sparkling radiance on all around it: the flame of the passions, communicated to the imagination, reveals to us, as with a flash of lightning, the inmost recesses of thought, and penetrates our whole being. Poetry represents forms chiefly as they suggest other forms; feelings, as they suggest forms or other feelings. Poetry puts a spirit of life and motion into the universe. It describes the flowing, not the fixed. It does not define the limits of sense, or analyze the distinctions of the understanding, but signifies the excess of the imagination beyond the actual or ordinary impression of any object or feeling. Rita Dove

Rita Dove

Language is like an instrument that requires to be tuned occasionally. A few times in the course of a century the literary language of a country needs to be tuned afresh; for as no generation can be satisfied to think the thoughts of the preceding one, so no group of men in the world of letters can use the language of the school that went before them. Georg Brandes

Beauty is the sole legitimate province of the poem… when, indeed, men speak of Beauty, they mean, precisely, not a quality, as is supposed, but an effect — they refer, in short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul — not of intellect, or of heart — upon which I have commented, and which is experienced in consequence of contemplating “the beautiful… regarding, then, Beauty as my province, my next question referred to the tone of its highest manifestation — and all experience has shown that this tone is one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones. Edgar Allen Poe


One thought on “The Pendragon Papers (11): The Garland of Good Advice

    studiosbmailcom said:
    April 21, 2023 at 6:09 am

    My word


    You are going for it Baba


    What oft was thought but n'er so well express'd


    Pope A


    nice one

    keep  'er lit mate


    Studio SB


    Sent: Friday, April 14, 2023 at 9:23 AM

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