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The Anathemata Part 2: Middle-Sea and Lear-Sea.

An Overview

As the title might suggest, Part Two is concerned with the Mediterranean and the waters around Britain. We are taken from Troy through to the rise of Rome and then on a voyage to Cornwall and beyond.

Most of Jones' attention is given to the first five hundred years or so of Roman history but we start with Hector and Achilles outside the walls of Troy:

    Twelve hundred years
close on
since of the Seven grouped Shiners
one doused her light.
Since Troy fired
since they dragged him
widdershins
without the wall.
When they regarded him:
his beauties made squalid, his combed gilt
a matted mop
his bruised feet thonged
under his own wall.
Why did they regard him
the decorous leader, neque decor...
volneraque illa gerens.... many of them
under his dear walls?

The story of Troy is accepted by many as the foundational tale in Western culture and this 'bridge' moves us on from the 'fore-time' of Part One to the historical period.

Jones' notes for these first few lines are extensive;

Seven . . . light- "At the fall of Troy one of the Pleiades is said to have been extinguished."

since . . . widdershins- "It is to be supposed that Achilles, in chasing, or in the other tradition, dragging, Hector around the defences of Troy, did so anti-sunwise; as it was to unbind the protection of the city and not to secure it. (See on this matter, Jackson Knight Virgil's Troy, p.23 and Cumaean Gates p.90.)"

neque decor- "See Isaias LIII, 2, non est species ei neque decor, (Vulgate) 'there is no beauty in him nor comeliness'."

volneraque illa gerens- "See:

   'Squalentem barbam et concretos sanguin crines
Volneraque illa gerens quae circum plurima muros
Acceptit patrios' Aeneid II 277-9."

under his dear walls- "See what is said above of Hector, 'His beard made solid, his hair concreted with blood, bearing the many wounds he had received around the wall of his patria' and also 'O light of the whole Trojan world' and 'Heu mihi! what was his aspect now and how changed' and 'By what intolerable cause are your bright features made horrible to us' and other such phrases referring to the defilement of the hero in Aenid II. All this inevitably recalls 'he had no beauty that we should desire him . . . yet did we esteem stricken' etc., and other passages in the Prophets and also in of the narrative of the Passion itself and in subsequent devotional writings, concerning the indignities suffered by the Redeemer, both within and without the walls of his patria."

So, one of the many things going on in these first few lines is an exploration of the linkage between the fall of Troy and the central event of the Christian faith. What Jones doesn't make explicit in the above is the presence of the figure of the 'dying and returning god' as this 'decorous leader'. This figure is a feature of Greek mythology and Roman religion as well as chritianity but it is Christ's sorrow and his humiliating journey to the cross that Jones, as with the Last Supper in Part One, is bringing to our attention and insisting on the timeless nature of both events. This is the first part of Isiah 53 which many have seen as anticipating Christ:

Who hath beleeued our report? and to whom is the arme of the Lord reuealed? For he shall grow vp before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a drie ground: hee hath no forme nor comelinesse: and when wee shall see him, there is no beautie that we should desire him. He is despised and reiected of men, a man ofsorrows, and acquainted with griefe: and we hid as it were our faces from him; hee was despised, and wee esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefes, and caried our sorrowes: yet we did esteeme him striken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was vpon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheepe haue gone astray: we haue turned euery one to his owne way, and the Lord hath layd on him the iniquitie of vs all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lambe to the slaughter, and as a sheepe before her shearers is dumme, so he openeth not his mouth.

As the Mass can be thought of as embodying the past in the present by its recollection of Christ's distribution of bread and wine, so can this episode be said to be embodying the past in the further past as the fall of Troy was thought to have occurred about twelve hundred years before the birth of Christ. It should perhaps also be noted that Virgil's 'Aeneid' is a reworking of Homer's original epics (the Oddyssey and the Illiad) and was composed between 29 and 19 BC.

With regard to 'widdershins', the OED has two definitions of the adverb: " In a direction opposite to the usual; the wrong way; to stand or start withershins , (of the hair) to 'stand on end'. Obs." and; " In a direction contrary to the apparent course of the sun (considered as unlucky or causing disaster)". It would seem that the second of these is what Jones had in mind, although the earliest two examples of the first occur in Douglas' translation of the Aeneid from 1513.

As will be seen, there are many elements within this brilliant poem but the eucharist is what holds things together. It is also important to recognise that here the Last Supper and the Passion are viewed as a single event. Jones was an admirer of Gregory Dix and this telling quote may provide a clue to some of 'The Anathemata's rationale:

Be that as it may, here in the first century the eucharist is is emphatically a corporate action of the whole christian body, in which every 'order' from the layman to the bishop has his own special 'liturgy' without the proper of each of which the worship of the whole church cannot be fulfilled.

In his preface, Jones makes clear that his cultural 'signs' and objects are a personal expression of his background and interests but there is something quite universal in the story of Troy in that everything that has been written in European culture since is written in response to and in the light of this story so it can be suggested that he understanding of the eucharist as a corporate action also applies to our participation in our culture and that Jones view of cultural activity as making something 'other' is also corporate in that, by participation, everyone contibutes to this making.

The making theme becomes more explicit here:

    Six centuries
and the second Spring
and a new wonder under heaven:
man-limb stirs
in the god-stones
and the kouroi are gay and stepping it
but stanced solemn.
And now is given a new stone indeed:
the Good Calf-herd
for Rhonbos his pastor bonus
lifted up and adored
(and may we say of his moschophoros:
this pastoral Lord regit me?)
and the delectable Kore:
by the radial flutes for her chiton, the lineal, chiselled hair
the contained rhythm of her
is she Elene Argive
or is she transalpine Eleanore
or our Gwenhwyfar
the Selene of Thule
West-Helen?
She's all that and more
all korai, all parthenai made stone.

Jones provides these notes:

And now is given . . . . Lord regit me?- Cf. the superb early sixth century BC fragmentary marble figure of a man carrying a calf dedicated by a person called Rhonbos on the Acropolis. One is inevitably reminded of the, immeasurably inferior, well-known Graeco-Roman figure called 'The Good Shepherd', adaptations of which are familiar to Christians. The smile on a kouros is Greek, the stance Egyptian.

Cf. the opening words of the Vulgate Psalm 22, 'The Lord rules me' which is Ps 23 in the A.V., 'The Lord is my Shepherd'.

Gwenhwyfar, gwen-hooy-varr, stress accent on the middle syllable; Guenevere.

She's all . . . made stone.- I was thinking in particular of the sixth-century-BC Athenian statuette of a young woman, know to connoisseurs as the 'Beautiful Kore', and of others of the archaic period which in some ways share a certain similarity of feeling with some carved queens of the twelfth -century-AD in the West- at Chartres for instance. Kore, maiden; korai, parthenai, maidens.

According to Wikipedia the moschophrus is part of a tradition of statues commemorating the sacrifice of an animal, usually a young ram. There is also a Greek myth about the God Hermes who saved the city of Tanagra from a pestilence by carrying a ram around the city walls. This act is similar to Achilles and Hector's circuit of the walls of Troy, albeit with a different purpose in mind.

For me, this passage does three things:

The 'immeasurably inferior' quip is indicative of the fact that Jones' makes no claims for objectivity with his notes and readers can get a reasonably clear picture of the man behind the work who is in many ways a traditionalist but who is 'making' this very innovative and modern poem

Some of Jones' reputation for difficulty is due to his predilection for obscure versions of names that are unfamiliat to us. Of course he might argue that it is more appropriate and factually correct to refer to Helen of Troy as 'Elene Argive' because 'Argive' describes someone from Argos where Homer's Helen was born and brought up prior to being carried off to Troy. He might also point to Guinevere's Welsh origins and the fact that the Welsh version of her name is authentic and the English isn't. I'm not at all clear what Selene (a Greek goddess of the moon) has to do with the fictional Thule and I can only guess that the 'transalpine Eleanore' refers to the long-lived and powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine, although I recognise that there are very many other Eleanors in twelfth century Europe.

Part two takes us along the Mediterranean and on to Britain:

    Vestals of Latium
if not yet taught of the Fisherman
give us your suffrage
whose lode is the Sea Star.

You that shall spread you hands over the things offered
make memento of us
and where the gloss reads jungit manus count us among his
argonauts whose argosy you plead, under the sign of the
things you offer.

Extend your hands
all you orantes
for the iron-dark shore
is to our lee
over the lead-dark sea
and schisted Ocrinum looms in fairish visibility
and white-plumed riders shoreward go
and
THE BIRDS DECLARE IT
that wing white and low
that also leeward go
go leeward to the tor-lands
where the tin-veins maculate the fire-rocks.
The birds
have a home
in those rocks.

Jones provides notes relating to elements of the Mass that are reflected here. He explains that 'jungit manus' refers to the part of the ceremony where the priest spreads his hands over the offerings and then places his hands together. He also makes the point that the Passion and the Resurection is 'pleaded' or describedin the Mass as the voyage which starts Christ's sufferings and death to his conquest of hell and his resurection and ends with his ascension to heaven.

The only other note for this passage tells us that 'leeward' should be pronounced lew-ard.

Prior to the internet, some of us would have had problems in working out that Ocrinum is Cornwall and that orantes translates as praying both of which make things a bit clearer. We may also need a dictionary for 'maculate' as a verb.

It would appear that Jones uses block capitals elsewhere in The Anathemata to add emphasis but I'm not at all clear why he should describe the gulls in this manner nor why he should insist on this odd pronuciation of leeward.

The other thing to note is that Jones was an attentive reader of Michael Drayton's massive but now neglected 'Poly-Olbion' which describes the British Isles and starts with the Cornish peninsula. Cornish tin was the main attraction for Mediterranean traders who came to Britain before and during the Roman occupation.

One of my concerns or interests relates to the relationship of the prose passages to those in verse. There is much more verse (as a proportion) here than there is in 'In Parenthesis' and this may perhaps be thought of as being due to a change in subject or as a progression in practice but I do stick get a bit stuck when trying to work out the criteria and rationale for moving between the two forms. The three lines here might be explained in terms of focus on the Mass but this doesn't explain why 'make memento of us' is on its own.