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Monday, November 29, 2010


Some of you may have thought I've forgotten (and those of you who are really paying attention will notice the given "announcement" is now missing) our man, Thomas E. Hulme, but I have not.  I've been working semi-steadily at getting a collective and concise--relatively--commentary/interpretation done on the six works we've got here.  But I need help.  There are a couple quotations that are still giving me trouble, and so--


It is certainly within Hulme's evident style to mask his full intentions, and some of his lines do a more thorough job than others, which beggars the question (which question is bolstered by the fact that there are only six pieces in the first place), Did he write these poems for others or just himself (or, only slightly better, for self and maybe one or more friends, which really, being insular, is the same thing)?  If the former, then we are intended to get something from them, making some connection within the poem, ourselves, or between the two; and for that to effectively happen, the reader must have the capacity to make sense of AT LEAST MOST of the words and phrases.  Well, I'm not satisfied with MOST, I want ALL, dangit!  If the latter--that he wrote it all just for himself--then it's all wide open, and by "understanding" (and what does that even mean, anyway, when it comes to art of any kind) the ideas and connections, we're getting a fairly candid peek into this man's head.

So I'm putting the ball in your court.  I've got probably 85% of the stuff figured out in these six poems.  The remaining 15%, well, like I said before--

Here they are:

(from the introductory sentence--which may actually be introduction to all the "collected poetical works" that follow it --of "Mana Aboda")
Beauty is the marking-time, the stationary 
vibration, the feigned ecstasy of an arrested im-
pulse unable to reach its natural end.
Keywords of interest: "marking-time," "feigned ecstacy," "natural end" --all ambiguous!

(from "Conversion")
loveliness that is her own eunuch
the final river
As any peeping Turk to the Bosphorous.
I know what a eunuch is, of course, but how can one be "her own?"  As far as the "final river" is concerned, it seems to indicate either the final river in paradise or the final river in the inferno, both of which, if I remember correctly, has four.  Which eternal location; which river therein?  Or is it something else, because it also indicates one river in particular: the Bosphorous.  Why?  Is it the final river, or a river among them?  And why "peeping turks?"  I don't know.

What do you think?


  1. I really have no idea how to address the first one. As to the second one...

    "As her own eunuch." I think this refers to how eunuchs used to guard the princess/queen because they were incapable of raping her. In what ways would loveliness guard beauty? Perhaps we are so enamored with it that we don't dissect it so much that we DESTROY the beauty? Not sure. I do think that somehow the loveliness is meant to protect the beauty, though.

    Just looked up the Bosphorous. It separates Turkey from Europe, so the question is why these Turks are, "peeping." I suppose that there is a huge cultural divide between Turkey and Europe. Turkey, of course, is majority Muslim and very Eastern in culture while Europe is traditionally known as, "Christendom." The Holy Roman Empire was always terrified of the Turks over-running Christian Europe for reasons just as much political as religious. Anyway, maybe this border between cultures represents a level of mystery that the poet is trying to transcend. The final river may not necessarily represent heaven or hell (to be clear, I'm not sure if it does or doesn't), but it might just represent crossing the final step between ordinary life and allowing beauty to transcend it and make the ordinary extraordinary. Not sure if all of this is cohesive/coherent, but I thought I'd give it a try.

  2. Ah! THAT'S IT! I think you nailed the question of the eunuch. Thank you. I'm not so sure regarding the Bosphorous and the Turks. Regarding the issue of Islam--the Muslim allusion via "peeping Turk"--I wonder if it's just an image refering to the traditional clothing/shroud (the Jilbab, I think??), where all is covered save the eyes. The final river must be some sort of final boarder/crossing. I guess I'm not sure if that (and while I can't speak of proof, it SEEMS, and that via my understanding of his other poems, this sort of word is more likely of metaphoric signficance than "peeping," but, again, I don't know yet!) FINAL river may allude to a specific mythological river--mythology being something he references in 3 of his 6 poems.
    I don't know.

    Thanks a lot!

  3. No problem. These are just my guesses in the dark, so good luck!

  4. I found the first one much more straight forward. As always, James and I seem to fill in each other's blanks (reminds me of our awful math classes).

    Marking-time, stationary vibration, and arrested impulse all point to something that is assertive, reiterative, and yet futile (ergo arrested). It starts and keeps hitting an obstacle, but it never retreats. It suggests a regular cycle.

    One guess (to use another metaphor) is that beauty (be it love, nature, whatever) is always knocking at the door but we don't understand how to respond. It continues unanswered, hence the regularity, the marking-time.

    "Unable to reach its natural end" may refer to a finality where all spirits, beings, things become one with love, nature, etc. The inability to reach this conclusion could be a cynical comment on human-kind.

    The real challenge is finding a meaning for "feigned ecstasy." I'd wager it either means that the impulse (love, nature, etc) is tired, but hopeful and puts on an encouraging face or that this beauty is, in fact, not all it's cracked up to be, and that it can't reach it's "natural end" of a unison because it's a charade.

    The piece strikes me as positive on the surface (beauty as a constant, stationary meaning it won't desert us), but my analysis leads me to believe the message is arcanely sardonic.

    I haven't been following the Hulme thread very well, so I'm not well versed in his approach. This could all be bunk. I'd like to believe the piece was optimistic, but many of the words have negative connotations.

    It probably goes too far to assume intentions this grandiose, but there are calligraphic ways to write 'life' so it spells 'death' upside-down. I am 98% percent certain that this would be an example of hanging one's own cryptic BS on someone else's material (a practice I discourage) but I really like the concept of effusive poetry as a "dipole anagram." Yes, I made up that term. Might be something to play with in our own writing.

    Those are my palaverous thoughts. But I'd probably take them with fistful of salt.

  5. Devin -- I think you're on the right track with the marking time, etc., but I also think this has a military connection, as Hulme was a military man. Marking time, as in marching, connected with the natural end, as opposed to--I guess--and unnatural end. I like the idea of futility especially. Interesting that you bring up the decidely negative underlining connotation, because while most of the six seem to have a prescience of beauty and positivity, there's also a marking of despair -- the Embankment as stark example. Your dipole anagram (great label), I think, has nothing to do it, as brilliant as it could be, and my fistful of salt (kosher) is applied, if not. Finally, I'm also not sure about the feigned ecstasy. It must have something to do with the opening line, so once that's fully pinned, I think it will make more sense.

    Thanks a lot. This is definitely a help.

  6. Love the comment about math. It was odd how if you combined two C- students on a calc. exam, they'd get a C+.

  7. "Raleigh in the dark tower prisoned
    Dreamed of the blue sea and beyond
    Where in strange tropic paradise
    Grew musk..."

    By T.E. HULME


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