Tag Archives: parallels

Parallels 13 – (Ac)counting (for) the un(ac)countable

Yes, the awful pun (is it even a pun?) is on purpose.

Beowulf was obviously willing to die in vengeance for his fallen lord, but his revenge succeeded: he crushed Daeghrefn and killed “thirty” other men, the figure used in Beowulf for a very great number
– S. Gwara, ‘King Beowulf and Ealdormonn Byrhtnoð’, in his Heroic Identity in the World of Beowulf (Leiden, 2008)

(for reference, Beowulf was written in Anglo-Saxon England, sometime between the 8th and the 11th century

And the queen gave birth to a child who was called Asterion.

Apollodorus Bibliotecha III, I

I know they accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps misanthropy, and perhaps of madness. Such accusations (for which I shall exact punishment in due time) are derisory. It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose numbers are infinite) (footnote: The original says fourteen, but there is ample reason to infer that, as used by Asterion, this numeral stands for infinite.) are open day and night to men and to animals as well.
Not only have I imagined these games, I have also meditated on the house. All parts of the house are repeated many times, any place is another place. There is no one pool, courtyard, drinking trough, manger; the mangers, drinking troughs, courtyards pools are fourteen (infinite) in number. The house is the same size as the world; or rather it is the world. However, by dint of exhausting the courtyards with pools and dusty gray stone galleries I have reached the street and seen the temple of the Axes and the sea. I did not understand this until a night vision revealed to me that the seas and temples are also fourteen (infinite) in number. Everything is repeated many times, fourteen times, but two things in the world seem to be repeated only once: above, the intricate sun; below Asterion. Perhaps I have created the stars and the sun and this enormous house, but I no longer remember.

– Jorge Luis Borges, The House of Asterion (La Casa de Asterion), Argentina, 1947


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Parallels 9 – Waking at night

Yes, I know I’ve quoted all this before, but they’re just so good.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

– fragment from T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men

Love again: wanking at ten past three
(Surely he’s taken her home by now?),
The bedroom hot as a bakery,
The drink gone dead, without showing how
To meet tomorrow, and afterwards,
And the usual pain, like dysentery.

-fragment from Philip Larkin’s Love again

Half an hour – an hour, later – not long, anyway – George blinks and is awake. (…)
Little teaser, his mind says, but without the least resentment. Just as well he didn’t stay.
But, as he lies on his back in the dark, there is something that keeps him from sleep; a tickle in the blood and the nerves of the groin. The alcohol itches in him, down there.
Lying in the dark, he conjures up Kenny and Lois in their car, makes them drive into Camphor Tree Lane, park further down the street, in case a neighbour should be watching – hurry discreetly across the bridge, get the door open – it sticks, she giggles – bump against the living-room furniture – a tiny Japanese cry of alarm – tiptoe upstair without turning on the lights –
No – it won’t work. George tries several times, but he just cannot make Lois go up those stairs. Each time he starts her up them, she dematerialises, as it were. (And now he knows, with absolute certainty, that Kenny will never be able to persuade her even to enter his house.)
But the play has begun, now, and George isn’t about to stop it. Kenny must be provided with a partner. So George turns Lois into the sexy little gold cat, the Mexican tennis player. No trouble about getting him upstairs! He and Kenny are together in the front room, now. George hears a belt drop to the floor. They are stripping themselves naked.
The blood throbs deep down in George’s groin. The flesh stirs and swells up, suddenly hard hot. The pyjamas are pulled off, tossed out of bed.
George hears Kenny whisper to the Mexican, Come on, kid! Making himself invisible, he enters the front room. He finds the two of them just about to lie down together –
No. That won’t work, either. George doesn’t like Kenny’s attitude. He isn’t taking his lust seriously; in fact, he seems to be on the verge of giggles. Quick – we need a substitute! George hastily turns Kenny into the big blond boy from the tennis court. Oh, much better! Perfect! Now they can embrace. Now the fierce hot animal play can begin. George hovers above them, watching; then he begins passing in and out of their writhing, panting bodies. He is either. He is both at once. Ah – it is so good! Ah – ah -!
You old idiot, George’s mind says. Bue he is not ashamed of himself. He speaks to the now slack and sweating body with tolerant good humour, as if to an old greedy dog which has just gobbled down a chunk of meat far bigger than it really wanted. Well, maybe you’ll let us sleep, now?

– fragment from Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man

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Parallels 8 – St Sebastian

I know I’ve written about this before, but without any proper quotations except for Rilke’s poem. All these are things that I’ve discovered after that post, anyway; enjoy.

I would come in a shirt of hair
I would come with a lamp in the night
And sit at the foot of your stair;
I would flog myself until I bled,
And after hour on hour of prayer
And torture and delight
Until my blood should ring the lamp
And glisten in the light;
I should arise your neophyte
And then put out the light
To follow where you lead,
To follow where your feet are white
In the darkness toward your bed
And where your gown is white
And against your gown your braided hair.
Then you would take me in
Because I was hideous in your sight
You would take me in without shame
Because I should be dead
And when the morning came
Between your breasts should lie my head.
I would come with a towel in my hand
And bend your head beneath my knees;
Your earls curl back in a certain way
Like no one’s else in all the world.
When all the world shall melt in the sun,
Melt or freeze,
I shall remember how your ears were curled.
I should for a moment linger
And follow the curve with my finger
And your head beneath my knees—
I think that at last you would understand.
There would be nothing more to say.
You would love me because I should have strangled you
And because of my infamy;
And I should love you the more because I mangled you
And because you were no longer beautiful
To anyone but me.

T.S. Eliot’s posthumously published The Love Song of St Sebastian

Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark−haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.”

George Orwell’s 1984

How did Saint Sebastian die?
Arrows piereced his throat and thigh
which only knew, before that time,
the dolors of a concubine.
Near above him, hardly over,
hovered hid gold martyr’s crown.
Even Mary from Her tower
of heaven leaned a little down
and as She leaned, She raised a corner
of a cloud through which to spy.
Sweetly troubled Mary murmured
as She watched the arrows fly.
And as the cup that was profaned
gave up its sweet, intemperate wine,
all the golden bells of heaven
praised an emperor’s concubine.
Mary, leaning from her tower
of heaven, dropped a tiny flower
but, privately, she must have wondered
if it were indeed wise to
let this boy in Paradise?

Tennessee Williams, San Sebastiano de Sodoma

I might return to this subject sometime, seeing as it seems to be inexhaustible.

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Parallels 7 – Modernist Petals

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

– fragment of T. S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men

‘No, that is too small, too particular a name. We cannot attach
the width and spread of our feelings to so small a mark. We have
come together (from the North, from the South, from Susan’s farm,
from Louis’ house of business) to make one thing, not enduring–for
what endures?–but seen by many eyes simultaneously. There is a
red carnation in that vase. A single flower as we sat here
waiting, but now a seven-sided flower, many-petalled
, red, puce,
purple-shaded, stiff with silver-tinted leaves–a whole flower to
which every eye brings its own contribution.

– fragment of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves

Even as I go down the rose, petal by petal, naming their proper names, you can see, descending from level to level, Sarah, Rebecca, Judith, and Ruth, her from whom came David the singer, third in descent, who cried out, from grief at his sin: “Miserere mei: Pity me.’ And down from the seventh, and beyond, again the Hebrew women, separating the flower’s tresses, since they are the wall, that parts the sacred stairway, according to how faith in Christ was realised.

On this side, where the flower is full-blown, in all its petals, those, who believed in Christ to come, are sitting. On the other side, where there are empty seats among them, are the semi-circles of those whose eyes were turned towards the Christ who had come. And as the glorious throne of Heaven’s Lady, and the seats below her, make such a partition, so, next to her, does that of the great Baptist, John, who, ever holy, suffered the desert and a martyr’s death, and then Limbo, for two years space, until Christ came there: and, below him, the separating line, assigned to Francis, Benedict, Augustine, and the others from circle to circle, down to here.
– fragment of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36 The Two Halves of the Rose

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Parallels 6 – Love (11)

“You will get me out of your thoughts in a week.”
“Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since – on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been on me, there and everywhere, and will be.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, the British Empire, 1860-1861

Above the clouds
We flew to heaven
Through the eye of storm
and into to the light

I see you
You’re everywhere I go
In everything I do

I dreamed a thousand years
Just to be here where everything is right
Scrape those screamless skies
Defy the limits and fly

I see you
You’re everywhere I go
In everything I do

Anathema, Universal, England, 2010.

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Parallels 2 – Death by water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.

– Death by Water, section IV of The Waste Land, by T. S. Eliot

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Parallels 1 – The Hungarian Rhapsody No 2

Where have all the posts gone?
Not that anyone wonders about that, but I do feel that tiny bit of responsibility, after the years my blog and I have spent together. 🙂 Well, it’s rather simple – I have some exams coming up in about a month, and it has just become a tad bit difficult to find the time and mood to put together a decent post. There is, however, something I’ve been thinking about for a while, which is a series of (absolutely random) posts about similarities and connections, intentional or not, that I find in films, music, books etc. Rather than discuss these, I’ll just mention them and hopefully allow the two readers to read into the post as much as they want to.

A rather famous one to start with – The Hungarian Rhapsody No 2.

Mickey Mouse – The Opry House, 1929

Bugs Bunny – Rhapsody Rabbit, 1946
Can’t embed, so clicky. Gotta love the bit of old ultraviolence at 1:08. 🙂

Tom and Jerry – The Cat Concerto, 1946

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