Saturday, 3 August 2013

Alexander Pope Dunciad

Lowry alludes to Alexander Pope's poem 'Dunciad' in Chapter 3 of his novel Ultramarine: "Thy hand, great Anarch! Evil ghost who must follow me wherever I go! Hear chaos!" (Pg. 92).

The line of the Pope's poem is:

Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall,
And universal darkness buries all

The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version (the "three book" Dunciad) was published in 1728. The second version, in which Pope confirmed his authorship of the work, appeared in the Dunciad Variorum in 1735. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a different hero, appeared in 1743. The poem celebrates the goddess Dulness and the progress of her chosen agents as they bring decay, imbecility, and tastelessness to the kingdom of Great Britain. Read more on Wikipedia

Lola Ridge The Song of Iron

Lowry alludes to Lola Ridge's poem 'The Song of Iron' in his novel Ultramarine during Dana's drift around Dairen ; "The song of iron accompanied my footsteps infuriatingly until I realised I had gone the wrong side of the restaurant and was keeping too much to the line of the docks of the town." (Pg. 82).

Lola Ridge's poem was first published in a collection edited by Alfred Kreymborg entitled Others for 1919: An Anthology of the New Verse (1920). Both Ridge and Kreymborg were collaborators with Conrad Aiken hence Lowry's probable source for knowledge of the poem.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Oscar Wilde Salome

Gustave Moreau Salomé 1876

Lowry makes reference to Salome in his novel Ultramarine; "Herod, he looked like, Herod, watching Salome. Among them you will seem like a moon moving in a white cloud, but do not ask for the head of this man. Male Salome. Satsuma wares. Salome wears - what? And they pierced his hands his side his feet, and dey heard dat noise in the Jerusalem street...."  (Pg.116). Lowry's source for the story of Salome is possibly the Oscar Wilde play.

Salome is a tragedy by Oscar Wilde. The original 1891 version of the play was in French. Three years later an English translation was published. The play tells in one act the Biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of the tetrarch Herod Antipas, who, to her stepfather's dismay but to the delight of her mother Herodias, requests the head of Jokanaan (John the Baptist) on a silver platter as a reward for dancing the dance of the seven veils. Scholars like Christopher Nassaar point out that Wilde employs a number of the images favored by Israel's kingly poets and that the moon is meant to suggest the pagan goddess Cybele, who, like Salomé, was obsessed with preserving her virginity and thus took pleasure in destroying male sexuality. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry's  reference to the "white moon" may stem from Wilde's episodes within the play - following the prelude three demarcated episodes follow: the meeting between Salome and Iokanaan, the phase of the white moon; the major public central episode, the dance and the beheading, the phase of the red moon; and finally the conclusion, when the black cloud conceals the moon.

For Lowry's reference to a "Male Salome" - see I.S.R. Miles

Lowry also conducts a word-play with Salome and Satsuma wares, a type of pottery which feature elsewhere in Chapter 3. Lowry may use of the phrase "and dey heard dat noise in the Jerusalem street"  may relate to an unidentified spiritual relating to the story of Salome or possibly reference back to the crucifixion of Christ.

I.S.R. Miles

An unidentified teacher referred to by Lowry in the novel Ultramarine; "I.S.R. Miles, the mathematics master, sitting at the head of the hall, presiding over preparation, his eyes lecherous and rolling, the eyes of a ferret. One had always suspected homosexuality. Herod, he looked like, Herod, watching Salome." (Pg.116).

One of several gay references in Ultramarine in which the younger man is threatened by older authority figure. Lowry makes reference to the Dance of the Seven Veils suggesting the teacher's inflamed desire similar to King Herod's incestuous desire for Salome - in this case Lowry says a "Male Salome" (Pg. 116).

John Keats Endymion

George Frederick Watts Endymion 1872

Lowry quotes from Keat's poem Endymion during Dana's drunken drift around Dairen in the novel Ultramarine; "Ah sorrow who dost borrow the lustrous passion from a falcon's eye," (Pg.116).

Endymion is a poem by John Keats first published in 1818. It begins with the line "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever". Endymion is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter (also known as heroic couplets). Keats based the poem on the Greek myth of Endymion, the shepherd beloved by the moon goddess Selene. The poem elaborates on the original story and renames Selene "Cynthia" Read more on Wikipedia

Keat's poem may have appealed to Lowry as in the poem  Endymion ventures into the underworld in search of his love corresponding to Dana's search for love in Dairen. Lowry would also have been aware of the coincidence in the name Cynthia being both the name of Endymion's lover but also the name of the woman lusted after by Demerest in Aiken's novel Blue Voyage.

Francis Thompson An Anthem of Earth

Lowry quotes from Francis Thompson's poem 'An Anthem of Earth' during Dana Hilliot's drunken drift around Dairen in Chapter 3 of the novel Ultramarine; "Ay, Mother ! Mother ! What is this Man, thy darling kissed and cuffed, Thou lustingly engender'st, To sweat, and make his brag, and rot crowned with all honour and all shamefulness?" (Pg. 116)

Rejoice with all their joy. Ay, Mother! Mother!
What is this Man, thy darling kissed and cuffed,
Thou lustingly engender'st,
To sweat, and make his brag, and rot,
Crowned with all honour and all shamefulness?
From nightly towers
He dogs the secret footsteps of the heavens,
Sifts in his hands the stars, weighs them as gold-dust,
And yet is he successive unto nothing
But patrimony of a little mould,
And entail of four planks. Thou hast made his mouth
Avid of all dominion and all mightiness,
All sorrow, all delight, all topless grandeurs,
All beauty, and all starry majesties,
And dim transtellar things;--even that it may,
Filled in the ending with a puff of dust,
Confess--'It is enough.' The world left empty

Lowry may have been drawn to Thompson's poem on man's mortality to reinforce the sense of death and decay which surrounds Dana on his drift around Dairen.

Lowry also puts the quote into the context of his mother's feelings about the trip to the Far East; "I don't want my son coarsened by a lot of hooligans?" However, Lowry cannot resist joking about his mother's perhaps prudish attitude to his conception; "My son whom thou lustingly engenderest?" (Pg. 116)