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David Jones' The Anathemata pt V: The Lady of the Pool.

Part V takes us from the banks of the Thames through to the streets and by-ways of London itself. The Lady announces herself as a seller of lavender and addresses the sea captain from Part IV. This address turns out to be an extended reverie on London, its history and its traditions in what is probably the most lyrical and entrancing part of the poem. This is followed by another seafaring monologue.

Jones ws born in London although his father was Welsh and he clearly had a deep affection for both of these elements in his ancestry. 'The Lady of the Pool' demonstrates this in a number of words and Jone's notes provide some of the clearer rationale for the work as a whole.

These lines are from the opening part of this section- the 'he'referred to is the captain from pt 4:

     Did he ever walk the twenty-six wards of the city, within
     and extra, did he cast his nautic eye on her
                                  clear and lusty under kell
     in the troia'd lanes of the city?
     And was it but a month and less from the septimal month
     and did he hear, seemingly intuned in East-Seaxna nasal
            (whose nestle-cock polis but theirs knows the sweet
     gag and in what urbs would he hear it if not in Belin's
     oppidum, the greatest burh in nordlands? 

I don't want to dwell on the definition and meaning of the difficult names and Latin words in the above but to look at the extended note that Jones provides for 'East-Seaxna' because it appears to provide a deeper foundation for 'The Anathemata' as a whole. In his introduction Jones makes clear his intention to describe elements of cultural signs and deposits that have built up through history but here he seems to go one step further:

East-Seaxna, 'of the East Saxons', pronounced a-ahst sa-ahz-nah. Cf. the theory tht the cockney intonation derives from that of the English people of Essex; London being their capital just as it was associated with the Trinobantian Britons before them, whose tribl commune Caesar referred to as civitas Trinobantum. In this factual community-name we have the origin of the legendary city of Trinovntum or Troy Novant, which the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth made an integrl part of our national mythological deposit, whereby, through the Trojan, Brute, of the line of Aeneas, Venus and Jove, our tradition is linked with all that that succession can be made to signify; and seeing what we owe to all that, the myth proposes for our acceptance a truth more real than the historic facts alone discover.

Geoffrey of Monmouth is a frequent point of reference and his assertion of our Trojan origins did become an integral part of the English foundation myth, it is also reasonable to assume some link between the cockney and Essex accents. The (to me) surprising aspect of this is Jones' forthright claim that myth can 'propose for our acceptance' a truth that is more authentic and genuine than the historical record. This would seem to move the role of the poet that Jones describes in his introduction way from the bearer of signs and deposits to the bringer of this deeper truth by means of those deposits. What is odd / puzzling about this quite clear assertion is that there isn't an indication of it in Jones' introduction yet it might provide us with a 'key' to understanding the work as a whole. The assertion isn't without its problems but it does seem to fit with Jones view of the ongoing reality of the Catholic Mass and its associated liturgy.

It's also worth thinking bout the fact that this prticulr spect of our national mythology disappered from our popular culture a couple of centuries ago and for that reason we may not be able to provide that acceptance. The rgument crries greater force with the myths and deposits that still have some currency- the Arthurian legend, for exmple, may be said to 'live on' in our national psyche.

There is a strong nauticl theme running through 'The Anathemata' and this can be read as an expression of our national identity nd the fact that the British Empire was made possible by our naval supremacy. This deep vein is in evidence today with successive governments of either hue being prepared to waste huge amounts of cash on aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines as if we still had a major role to ply in world affairs.

The return to the seafaring theme in part V also provides Jones with an opportunity to point to spiritul connotation:


     We won't speak of her top-hamper nor the aspect of her dear,
     gay garnishings
                                                             but
     sweet Christ's dear Tree!
                                       her cordage!!
     how does it stand
                            to stay?
     how does it run
                             to brace or lift or hale?

The first two lines are glossed with:

'Top-hamper' today is usually restricted in use to the light upper sails and rigging, but historically it can mean any weight or encumbrance above deck. In my text it is used of the built-up superstructures of medieval and later ships, the decorations of which were termed 'garnishings'.

It is said that seamen and shipwrights both resisted the disuse of garnishings which eighteenth century utility demanded. Behind a natural dislike of change and a proper love of decoration there were still deeper, if unconscious, reasons. It is significant that the figure-head was still for so long retained; for in remote antiquity the presiding genius of the vessel had her 'chapel' in the bows, and gain the stern had eqully sacred associations as the place of command, helm and ensign.

This may be pushing things a bit far and may say more about me than it does about the poem but could these sacred connotations turn the ship into vehicle for religious fith and practice? The poem starts with the Last Supper which took place in an upper room and Jones equates the main mast with the Cross- could the sea journey be seen as a way of transporting (for the want of a better word) the Eucharist through the world just as the Mass re-enacts the same event?