Tag Archives: 2017

What Philosophy Is

With my presumptuous title, I imitate Arthur Danto’s What Art Is (2013), mentioned in my last post, “Some Say Poetry.” The book is fine, and I have learned from it; but Danto could have learned from Collingwood’s Principles of Art.

Picasso, The Tragedy (1903), National Gallery of Art, Washington Continue reading

Some Say Poetry

In a poetry review, a remark on being a student has drawn my attention:

In My Poets, a work of autobiographical criticism with occasional ventriloquial interludes, McLane recalls two “early impasses in reading,” freshman-year encounters with Charles Olson and Frank O’Hara. She writes about not “getting it” but wanting to get it, about a desire to get it that was left wanting by code-breaking and analysis and satisfied by hearing and feeling.

This is from the second half of a “New Books” column by Christine Smallwood, in the Reviews section of Harper’s, July 2017. After quoting Smallwood’s review, I want to say something about learning and creating, in poetry and also in mathematics.

Potted palms with plaster farm animals on hillside behind

Kuzguncuk, 2017.11.05

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Women and Men

This began as an update to “Confessions,” which concerns the man called G. H. Hardy and the woman called Sylvia Plath. I had originally included a photograph of the subjects’ respective books. On Hardy’s, the author poses reluctantly; on Plath’s, a woman applies powder in a compact mirror.

Plath’s book was the 2013 Faber and Faber 50th Anniversary Edition of The Bell Jar, and the cover is controversial. See Alexandra Topping, “The Bell Jar’s new cover derided for branding Sylvia Plath novel as chick lit” (The Guardian, Friday 1 February 2013). I learned of the controversy from Emily Van Duyne, “Sylvia Plath Looked Good in a Bikini—Deal With It,” in Electric Literature, hosted by Medium (October 9, 2017). Medium had promoted the essay to me when I read Brian E. Denton, “The World Will Not Quarrel: Day 282 of A Year of War and Peace.

Yesterday I happened upon a tweet juxtaposing the real cover of the British edition of Volume I of The Letters of Sylvia Plath with a fake cover of The Letters of Ted Hughes. Each cover shows the letter-writer posing in revealing swimwear on a beach, though the head of Plath’s husband seems to have been imposed on another man’s topless body. The text reads:

If male writers were marketed in the same way as female writers. Via Christopher Hamilton-Emery. pic.twitter.com/1IwN8MfckZ

— Jane Harris (@blablafishcakes) October 4, 2017

(I saw the tweet as retweeted by Jennifer Williams, but Twitter seems not to preserve this valuable information.)

The three real and one fake book cover shown above are all somehow undignified. More precisely, I would feel undignified to be seen reading such books. Hardy did not like having his picture taken, and it shows on the cover of A Mathematician’s Apology. On the cover of The Bell Jar, the compact mirror and powder puff suggest superficiality. But then Hardy’s image does reflect the uptightness that I see in his book. And Sylvia Plath did wear lipstick.

Her favored color was Cherries in the Snow, by Revlon. A devotee of Plath called Patricia Grifasi learned this only after buying the lipstick for herself. She wrote (in “The Rise And Fall Of Sylvia Plath’s Favorite Lipstick,” The Gloss, June 16, 2015),

Forget that Plath’s poetry is terrifyingly intimate, crowded with speakers who say things like, “I eat men like air” (“Lady Lazarus”). Forget that her journal entries describe how satisfying it is to scoop out a pesky glob of snot. In a weird way, wearing Cherries in the Snow allowed me to be even closer to a writer I admired than reading all those very personal things.

Thus the 50th anniversary cover of The Bell Jar may not be inappropriate. As for the bikini on the Letters, says Emily Van Duyne in the aforementioned Electric Lit article,

The reality, and it’s astounding to me that I have to write this sentence down, is that we can take a writer who wears a bikini seriously. I have three in my closet, the most recent of which is a vintage-inspired red-halter. I bought it because I love red; I love red partly because I love Sylvia Plath. I wear “Cherries In The Snow” lipstick to the classes I teach, to parties, to intimidating meetings with condescending men, and when I do, I invoke her, just a little bit—for inspiration. For luck. For permission, which she gave me, which she gives me—to be brave. To try and astound. To say the things no one wants to say, or hear. To be beautiful, and to be smart, and sexual, and to never, ever fall into the foolish trap that these cannot coexist.

I have read The Bell Jar just the once so far. Looking back at my copy with the garish cover, I see that I marked several passages, noting their page numbers at the back. The later passages are uses of the term bell jar, and for now I have nothing more to say about this term than I did at the end of my earlier article. Many essays have no doubt been written about the meaning of the title, and some of these will be available on line, perhaps for a price, so that you can turn them in to your teacher as if they were your own (perhaps after making enough changes to fool automatic plagiarism detectors).

The earlier passages that I marked may perhaps illustrate what Plath meant by the bell jar. In any case, since I found an electronic text on a New York high school English course web page, I am able to quote the passages at length with no trouble.

I hadn’t the heart to tell Jay Cee there wasn’t one scrap of space on my senior year schedule to learn languages in. I was taking one of those honors programs that teach you to think independently, and except for a course in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and a seminar in advanced poetry composition, I would spend my whole time writing on some obscure theme in the works of James Joyce. I hadn’t picked out my theme yet, because I hadn’t got round to reading Finnegans Wake, but my professor was very excited about my thesis and had promised to give me some leads on images about twins.

When I read this, I had not yet heard about and joined the project of Brian Denton (mentioned above) to read War and Peace over the calendar year, one chapter a day. Plath seems to make an ironical acknowledgment of what Robert Pirsig would write, in a passage of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that I considered also in “One and Many”:

Schools teach you to imitate. If you don’t imitate what the teacher wants you get a bad grade. Here, in college, it was more sophisticated, of course; you were supposed to imitate the teacher in such a way as to convince the teacher you were not imitating, but taking the essence of the instruction and going ahead with it on your own.

Plath either understands this or betrays it. Her first person Esther later looks at herself: the emboldened clause is specifically what I had marked.

I started adding up all the things I couldn’t do.

I began with cooking.

My grandmother and my mother were such good cooks that I left everything to them. They were always trying to teach me one dish or another, but I would just look on and say, “Yes, yes, I see,” while the instructions slid through my head like water, and then I’d always spoil what I did so nobody would ask me to do it again.

I remember Jody, my best and only girlfriend at college in my freshman year, making me scrambled eggs at her house one morning. They tasted unusual, and when I asked her if she had put in anything extra, she said cheese and garlic salt. I asked who told her to do that, and she said nobody, she just thought it up. But then, she was practical and a sociology major.

I didn’t know shorthand either.

This meant I couldn’t get a good job after college. My mother kept telling me nobody wanted a plain English major. But an English major who knew shorthand was something else again. Everybody would want her. She would be in demand among all the up-and-coming young men and she would transcribe letter after thrilling letter.

The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way. I wanted to dictate my own thrilling letters. Besides, those little shorthand symbols in the book my mother showed me seemed just as bad as let t equal time and let s equal the total distance.

Would somebody call Plath’s Esther a snowflake? “Look, Honey, none of us like the idea of serving men, but we all gotta do it.” This could be said by another woman or by a man. That doesn’t make it fair. Plath is writing the truth, as a confession.

Finally Esther meets a psychiatrist and reveals her fantasy of what such a man might be like.

I hated him the minute I walked in through the door.

I had imagined a kind, ugly, intuitive man looking up and saying “Ah!” in an encouraging way, as if he could see something I couldn’t, and then I would find words to tell him how I was so scared, as if I were being stuffed farther and farther into a black, airless sack with no way out.

Then he would lean back in his chair and match the tips of his fingers together in a little steeple and tell me why I couldn’t sleep and why I couldn’t read and why I couldn’t eat and why everything people did seemed so silly, because they only died in the end.

And then, I thought, he would help me, step by step, to be myself again.

But Doctor Gordon wasn’t like that at all. He was young and good-looking, and I could see right away he was conceited.

I would have to read the novel again, to think about how much irony is here.

Recently I was alerted (again by a tweet, as retweeted by Nicholas Christakis) to a theory described in a 2015 article in The Scholar’s Stage blog called “Honor, Dignity, and Victimhood: A Tour Through Three Centuries of American Political Culture.” The Iliad portrays an honor culture, but America passed from such a culture to a culture of dignity. Honor is given us by others; dignity, we can have on our own. Now that many Americans are sensitive to so-called micro-aggressions, the country may have passed to a culture of victimhood.

I confess to being insufficiently interested to read all of the sociology. I know what is happening in America, only from a distance. Plath’s Esther seems to have been hoping for help from a man. In recent tweets, I see women asking men to help fight abuse at the hands of Harvey Weinstein and the like. This is not victimhood, if victimhood is something to be perversely proud of, the way one might be proud of one’s honor or one’s dignity. The requests for help are recognition that we are all connected, and life might be better if we did not have to defend ourselves from attack, all of the time.

This sounds like the sort of thing that I have tried to work out, as in the article “All You Need Is Love,” where the topic is education—as it often is for me, and as it is in a good part of The Bell Jar. For Pirsig, rather than being imposed on you, education is something you ought to demand for yourself. But there is a middle way. Quoting my own email, I wrote,

Perhaps it is best to learn because one understands it as one’s role in the community that one is happy to be a part of. Here again is something that Pirsig may miss. Pirsig is the individualist, the lone wolf, and this is a reason why I like him. But education is not just something one achieves for oneself. It means joining an educated community; it means helping others join that community.

Life can be cooperative and not just adversarial. There are things you can learn on your own, or demand to learn, like a prosecutor examining a witness for the defense. If you can learn them, you may well be smart. Let me then end with one bit of tweeted wisdom:

History of full of stories of catastrophe brought about by people who are smart only in only a narrow domain, and lack humility and remorse.

— Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) October 6, 2017

Fascism As Abetted by Realism

Fascism is class warfare waged on behalf of the capitalists. This should be realized by anybody who is attracted to accidental features of Fascism such as nationalism, racism, or militarism. The Fascists are not on your side, even if they share your nationality or “race” or fascination with weaponry and military discipline.

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At the end of Shakespeare’s romance called The Tempest, Prospero plans to retire to Milan, where “Every third thought shall be my grave.” I remember these words from reading the play in school and college. I also have thoughts of my grave, and their frequency may increase as the years pass. However, for each of those thoughts, I seem to have more thoughts that are based on memories of youth and childhood.

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NL XXV: The Three Laws of Politics

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018): The the three laws of politics are that (1) within the body politic, there is a ruling class, which is a society proper; (2) the ruling class can take in members from the ruled class; (3) the ruled and ruling classes will resemble one another, so that e.g. rulers of slaves will become slavish themselves. I compare such laws with physical laws, as discussed by Einstein; but on this subject, a look ahead to Chapter XXXI, “Classical Physics and Classical Politics,” would be in order. Meanwhile, by the Second Law, the body politic, or its ruling class, can be a permanent society; Nazi claims about the youth or senility of different states are bogus. There are further gradations within the ruling and ruled classes, according to strength of will; a weak will can be strengthened by another person’s stronger will through induction.

A pervading theme of the New Leviathan is freedom of will. Whether we actually have it is only a pseudo-problem (13. 17). Some persons have been fooled into thinking it a problem, perhaps by the misleading myth that free will is a divine gift, like life itself, breathed into our nostrils when, in Genesis 2:7, God forms us of the dust of the ground. As Collingwood observes at the end of Chapter XXIII, “The Family As a Society,” we are born neither free nor in chains. We have to grow up. Growing up is becoming free.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb (New York: Norton, 2009)

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book IX

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Of my posts on the Iliad, this may be the one that I return to the most. I originally began with Chapman’s four-line “Argument”; however, his two-line “Other Argument” now serves better:

Iota sings the Ambassie,
And great Achilles sterne replie.

The stern reply is that Achilles will not fight, and his mind will not be changed by material gifts. Agamemnon has violated the “general laws of virtue,” according to lines 610–9 (of which I originally quoted all but the first two):

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NL XXIV: The Body Politic, Social and Non-Social

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018): The subject of political theory is the kind of community called a body politic. For the Ancients, this is a society, composed of, for example, the citizens of Athens, excluding women, children, slaves, and foreigners. In medieval times, all human beings in the community compose a body politic, which is thus non-social, though having within it the societies called estates; sovereigns rule by force (e.g. by the bribery called the granting of liberties), but may in turn be ruled, as is the husband, sovereign of the wife. For Hobbes, a sovereign can also rule by authority. An eristic argument would insist that only one of these accounts of the body politic is correct; but the world is in the flux described by Heraclitus, and the way to come to terms with it is not eristic, but dialectic, as described in the Meno of Plato.

Dialectic is the way to come to terms with a world of constant change. On the internet in particular, too many persons engage in eristic, staking out a position like the Greeks at Troy, who built a wall around their ships on the shore and tried to defend it against all comers.

Dogs stake out their positions in the shade,

In the argument of the New Leviathan, we pass from the family to the state, which Collingwood calls the body politic. This is what political theory must give a scientific account of (24. 1). We consider three phases of political theory:

  1. ancient,
  2. medieval, and
  3. modern.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VIII

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

In the eighth of the twenty-four books of the Iliad, the battle is even all morning, until Jove weighs out the fates of the two sides. The fate of the Greeks is heavier. They are driven back to the wall around their ships. Juno and Pallas try to help them, until warned off by Jove. The Trojans camp outside the Greek wall, lighting fires, at Hector’s command, so that they can see through the night whether the Greeks are trying to escape.

Altınova 2017.09.13

In the fourteenth of the sixteen chapters of the 1884 novel Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (in the translation by Margaret Mauldon, Oxford World’s Classics, 1998/2009, from the French original, A rebours), the narrator describes as follows a thought of the main and indeed only character; it is connected to the aim of the present series of articles on the Iliad.

Many times had Des Esseintes reflected upon the thorny problem of how to condense a novel into a few sentences, which would contain the quintessence of the hundreds of pages always required to establish the setting, sketch the characters, and provide a mass of observations and minor facts in corroboration. The words chosen would then be so inevitable that they would render all other words superfluous; the adjective, positioned in so ingenious and so definitive a manner that it could not legitimately be displaced, would open up such vistas that for days on end the reader would ponder over its meaning, at once precise and manifold, would know the present, reconstruct the past, and make conjectures about the future of the souls of the characters, as these were revealed by the light of that single epithet.

No specific example of such an adjective is offered, though it is said that Baudelaire and some poems of Mallarmé meet the contemplated standard, and the chapter has already quoted French verses that Des Esseintes appreciates. What Des Esseintes comtemplates is the prose poem.

Of all literary forms, the prose poem was the one which Des Esseintes preferred. In the hands of an alchemist or genius, it should, he believed, contain within its small compass, like beef essence, the power of a novel, while eliminating its tedious analyses and superfluous descriptions.

I do not contemplate writing a prose poem here, though I may wish to recognize sequences of a few verses of Homer, or Chapman, that serve as poems in themselves, or the gist of poems.

Des Esseintes is a recluse, holed up outside Paris with his books, his servants, and his ancestral wealth. He slowly goes mad. Because he has trouble with his digestion, a doctor prescribes enemas that include the beef essence described above. Des Esseintes is delighted to be able to avoid having to eat. He does retain enough wit to obey, when the doctor ultimately tells him, in the fifteenth chapter,

he must abandon this solitary existence, return to Paris, get back into ordinary life, and try to enjoy himself, in short, like other people.

He does however protest,

But I don’t enjoy the things other people enjoy!

I could say that myself. I could say further that I don’t see much in the way of people actually enjoying themselves in an active sense, during my ongoing holiday at a beach opposite Lesbos. I spend the morning, before it is light, writing these articles; I read on the beach, after it is light. A few persons have their morning constitutionals along the shore, or a dip in the water, but practically nobody sits on the beach in the morning. They sit there in the afternoon, which makes me wonder what they have been doing all morning. What can be so enjoyable in their cottages?

The life of Des Esseintes is relevant to my “Ahtamar Island” article, insofar as this concerns solitary life. At the beginning of the sixteenth and final chapter of Against Nature, Des Esseintes objects to his doctor’s prescription of city life:

there are people who live alone, never speaking to a soul, who lead a wholly inward life, isolated from society, for example prisoners in solitary confinement and Trappist monks, and there’s no evidence to suggest that those poor devils and those saints ever become lunatics or consumptives.

I doubt Des Esseintes is right about the prisoners, at least in an American supermax prison. If he is right about the monks, I think it is because, unlike himself, the monks have a purpose, beyond mere amusement of themselves, even though this amusement be achieved with the help of the finest literature of the ages.

Let me turn again to Book VIII of the Iliad now, leaving open the question of whether I do so merely for my own amusement (lines 1–4).

THe chearfull Ladie of the light, deckt in her saffron robe,
Disperst her beames through euery part, of this enflowred globe,
When thundring Ioue a Court of Gods, assembled by his will,
In top of all the topfull heights, that crowne th’Olympian hill.

Jove commands that none shall cross his sovereign will; for he is so strong that he can win any tug of war, even if all other deities are against him, along with the earth and the seas (lines 16–25):

Indanger it the whiles and see: let downe our golden chaine;
And, at it, let all Deities, their vtmost strengths constraine,
To draw me to the earth from heauen: you neuer shall preuaile,
Though with your most contention, ye dare my state assaile:
But when my will shall be disposd, to draw you all to me;
Euen with the earth it selfe, and seas, ye shall enforced be.
Then will I to Olympus top, our vertuous engine bind,
And by it euerie thing shall hang, by my command inclind:
So much I am supreme to Gods; to men supreme as much.
The Gods sat silent, and admir’d; his dreadfull speech was such.

Thus Jove believes in an absolute frame of reference; otherwise how can the difference between the two outcomes be told? Today we say, if a heavenly body pulls the earth, the earth pulls just as much.

Pallas wants at least to be able to help the Greeks in an advisory capacity. Jove would seem to wink at this (lines 34–5):

He smil’d, and said; Be confident, thou art belou’d of me:
I speake not this with serious thoughts, but will be kind to thee.

It will be seen that this is not quite right.

Jove flies down to Ida, to Mount Gargarus in particular, in order to watch the action. The Greeks eat breakfast quickly. The Trojans, fewer, taking arms to defend their wives and children, run out of the gates of their city. Throughout the morning, equal numbers die on each side. At noon, Jove brings out the balance (lines 58–62).

But when the hote Meridian point, bright Phoebus did ascend,
Then Ioue his golden Ballances, did equally extend:
And of long-rest-conferring death, put in two bitter fates
For Troy and Greece he held the midst: the day of finall dates
Fell on the Greeks: the Greeks hard lots, sunke to the flowrie ground.

The Greeks can apparently tell what has happened. Thunder is heard and lightning seen. the bravest Greeks retreat: Idomeneus, Atrides (either Agamemnon or Menelaus, or both), and both the Ajaces. Nestor too wants to flee, but his horse is struck in the head by an arrow from the bow of Paris. Nestor tries to cut the horse loose, but Hector will kill Nestor, except Diomedes sees and comes to the rescue. Though asked, Ulysses will not come help, but Diomedes offers to Nestor his chariot, pulled by the horses taken from Aeneas. Diomedes cannot help pointing out the strength of his youth (lines 92–5).

Then let my Squire leade hence thy horse: mine thou shalt guard, whilst I
(By thee aduanc’t) assay the fight; that Hectors selfe may trie
If my lance dote with the defects, that faile best minds in age,
Or find the palsey in my hands, that doth thy life engage.

Eurymedon and Sthenelus take the reigns of Nestor’s chariot, to drive Diomedes to Hector. Diomedes slays Hector’s charioteer Eniopeus. Hector is sorry, but cannot stop to mourn; he takes a new charioteer, Archeptolemus.

After all of this, Nestor is apparently still close to the scene. Jove is not only seen and heard, but smelled (lines 114–5):

A dreadfull flash burnt through the aire, that sauourd sulphure-like,
Which downe before the chariot, the dazled horse did strike.

Nestor can see that this is the Trojans’ day, and so Diomedes should just retreat. Diomedes fears that Hector will boast that he frightened him. Nestor says none of the Trojans would believe this, knowing how many he has already killed. Diomedes flees, and indeed Hector taunts him for this, saying the Greeks will now treat him like a woman. He wavers. Jove’s thunderbolts tells him what to do: defer to the Trojans, for now (lines 139–42).

This, two waies mou’d him; still to flie, or turne his horse and fight:
Thrise thrust he forward to assault; and euery time the fright
Of Ioues fell thunder draue him backe: which he proposd for signe
(To shew the change of victorie) Troians should victors shine.

Hector is drunk with success. He boasts of the favor of Jupiter and expects fame from his ultimate victory (lines 145–52):

I know, beneuolent Iupiter, did by his becke professe
Conquest, and high renowne to me; and to the Greeks distresse.
O fooles, to raise such silly forts, not worth the least account,
Nor able to resist our force; with ease our horse may mount,
Quite ouer all their hollow dike: but when their fleet I reach,
Let Memorie to all the world, a famous bonfire teach:
For, I will all their ships inflame; with whose infestiue smoke
(Feare-shrunke and hidden neare their keels) the conquerd Greeks shall choke.

We have seen horses divine, and horses slain in battle; now we see horses with names, horses fed on bread and wine by Andromache, who feeds them even before she feeds her own husband. They are Xanthus, Podargus, Aethon, and Lampus, and Hector urges them to help him take Nestor’s golden shield and Nestor’s Vulcan-made cuirass.

Juno is not pleased. She tries to raise the ire of Neptune, reminding him of what the Greeks have sacrificed to him “in Helice and Aegae.” He will not be tempted to strive with Jove.

The trench dug by the Greeks by the ships is filled with men and horse. Jove would allow Hector to burn the fleet, did not Juno inspire Agamemnon to rally the troops. “His ample purple weed / He wore to show all who he was” (lines 183–4). Standing near Ulysses’s ships, whence his words can reach the ships of Ajax and Achilles, Agamemnon reminds the Greeks of the boasts they made in Lemnos, presumably while drunk on such Lemnian wine as they drank last night, as described at the end of the previous book. He reminds Jove of the “fat thighs of beeves” (line 203) that he has burnt for him. He asks but the favor of letting the Greeks escape with their lives. Jove sends a eagle as a sign of acceptance (lines 208–15):

To this euen weeping king, did Ioue, remorsefull audience giue,
And shooke great heauen to him, for signe, his men and he should liue:
Then quickly cast he off his hawke, the Eagle prince of aire,
That perfects his vnspotted vowes; who seisd in her repaire
A sucking hinde calfe; which she trust, in her enforciue seeres,
And by Ioues altar let it fall, amongst th’amazed peeres,
Where the religious Achiue kings, with sacrifice did please
The authour of all Oracles, diuine Saturnides.

Nine Greeks come forth to fight:

  • Diomedes,
  • the two Atrides,
  • the two Ajaces,
  • Idomeneus and friend Meriones,
  • Eurypylus,
  • Teucer.

Taking advantage of the shield of Ajax, Teucer (lines 232–3),

He far’d like an vnhappie child, that doth to mother run
For succour, when he knowes full well, he some shrewd turne hath done.

With his arrows, Teucer kills eight men:

  1. Orsilochus,
  2. Ormenus,
  3. Ophelest,
  4. Daetor,
  5. Chromius,
  6. Lycophon,
  7. Amapaon, and
  8. Melanippus.

Agamemnon is impressed. He praises Teucer’s father Telamon for having brought him home to be raised, though his wife was not the mother. If victory over Troy is granted, Agamemnon will honor Teucer next after himself (lines 252–3).

Teucer right nobly answerd him: Why (most illustrate king)
I being thus forward of my selfe, dost thou adioyne a sting?

The sting seems to be that, despite killing eight men with eight arrows, he has not been able to reach Hector. He does go on to strike Gorgythion, whose head then inclines like a poppy flower filled with seed. Apollo deflects the next arrow, which strikes not Hector but his new charioteer Archeptolemus. Hector is able to hit Teucer with a stone, but his half-brother Ajax rescues him.

The Trojans are now in the game again, Hector in the vanguard (293–7).

As when some highly stomackt hound, that hunts a syluan Bore,
Or kingly Lion, loues the hanch, and pincheth oft behind,
Bold of his feet, and still obserues, the game, to turne inclind,
Not vtterly dissolu’d in flight: so Hector did pursue;
And whosoeuer was the last, he euer did subdue.

Juno invites Pallas to interfere, observing (lines 310–1),

Hector Priamides now raues, no more to be indur’d;
That hath alreadie on the Greeks, so many harmes inur’d.

Raving was part of the just war theory adumbrated by Pallas in Book V: Mars has just rule only in just war; “otherwise he raves, not fights,” and in this case the goddesses are justified in interfering—which is what Pallas says now, recalling how she rescued Jove’s son Hercules “in labours of Eurystheus” (line 319), namely “To hale out hatefull Plutoes dog, from darksome Erebus” (line 324). Had she known what her father would allow to happen now, “He had not scap’t the streames of Styx, so deepe and dangerous” (line 325).

The goddesses suit up and fly from the gates that are tended by the Hours; but Jove spies them and sends Iris to warn them: he will give his daughter wounds that will not heal in ten years, though with his wife he is more forgiving (line 354–5):

… she doth not so offend,
T’is but her vse to interrupt, what euer I intend.

Iris passes along the word (line 365–7):

… for sometimes childeren
May with discretion plant themselues, against their fathers wils;
But not where humors onely rule, in works beyond their skils.

Juno figures she and Pallas had better abort their plan and go back to Olympus, where Jove tells them ironically, “Ye should haue held your glorious course” (line 396), and presently (lines 403–5),

But thunder should haue smit you both, had you one Troian slaine.
Both Goddesses let fall their chins, vpon their Iuorie breasts,
Set next to Ioue; contriuing still, afflicted Troyes vnrests.

Juno complains some more, but Jove reveals the grand plan to let Hector prevail, even to the slaying of Patroclus, so that Achilles will then come out to fight. Jove recalls how he came to power by overthrowing his father, as if he could do it again to anybody. He does seem to suggest that he himself is subject to fate (lines 414–25).

Greeue not (said Ioue) at all done yet: for if thy faire eyes please,
This next red morning they shall see, the great Saturnides
Bring more destruction to the Greekes: and Hector shall not cease,
Till he haue rowsed from the Fleet, swift-foot Aeacides:
In that day, when before their ships, for his Patroclus slaine,
The Greekes in great distresse shall fight; for so the Fates ordaine.
I weigh not thy displeased spleene; though to th’extremest bounds
Of earth and seas it carrie thee; where endlesse night confounds
Iapet, and my deiected Sire; who sit so farre beneath,
They neuer see the flying Sunne, nor heare the winds that breath,
Neare to profoundest Tartarus: nor thither if thou went,
Would I take pittie of thy moods, since none more impudent.

The Trojans are sorry that night falls before they have routed the Greeks (lines 430–2).

Hector (intending to consult) neare to the gulfie flood
Farre from the Fleet; led to a place, pure, and exempt from blood,
The Troians forces …

He calls for the felling of much wood, to light fires so that night will not hide the Greeks’ escape. It is not enough for him that the siege of Troy should be broken. Hector is still the best man in the Iliad, or the most completely drawn man that one can emulate. His pride shows his humanity. He will die in the Iliad, and thus we shall be able to judge his life as a whole. As Herodotus reports Solon to have said, let no man be judged happy until he has died.

After calling for fires to be lit within Troy itself, lest the Greeks have a surprise attack planned, Hector does wish he were a god (lines 476–9):

O that I were as sure to liue, immortall, and sustaine
No frailties, with increasing yeares, but euermore remaine
Ador’d like Pallas, or the Sunne; as all doubts die in me,
That heauens next light shall be the last, the Greekes shall euer see.

Like the summer ending now for me, pride goeth before a fall!

(To explain. In the days before widespread use of the internet, in the early 1990s, I induced my uncle to subscribe to The Nation, for the sake of the cryptic crossword. I myself accepted the offer of the puzzle writer to send his ground rules in return for a stamped, self-addressed envelope. As an extreme example, he suggested that the clue “Summer?” could have the answer “Pride,” since each of them goeth before a fall.)

NL XXIII: The Family As a Society

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018):

The society at the nucleus of the family is temporary, ending with the death of one of the two members.
The family has a life-cycle, with three phases: (1) before children; (2) after children, but before they have free will; (3) after the children have free will.
The community consisting of husband and wife is now a society. It was not a society when a marriage was arranged by the groom or the groom’s father and the father of the bride. The non-social aspect of a marriage survives in the custom of formally “giving away” the bride.
If today a bride and groom do not quite recognize themselves as forming a society, they may come to do so in time.
Contraception helps clarify that a marriage is normally for the sake of having children.
In order to grow up and leave the nursery, the child must be educated. The work of this is both the child’s and its teachers’. Parents must also allow the child to leave the nursery and join their society.
There are three possible needs, and they are distinct: (1) to have a baby, (2) to have a child, (3) to have a grown-up child.
Any of those three needs is fulfilled by an act of will; there is no parental “instinct”—not a scientific term anyway, though it is used popularly for an appetite or desire.
Born without free will, we are not born in chains either, since this would mean suppression of a will that didn’t exist.

The last chapter was called “The Family As a Mixed Community,” because the family consists of both a society and a non-social part, called the nursery. Now we are looking at “The Family As a Society.” We are not in contradiction, but are in the flux that Heraclitus observed in all existence (24. 62). The inmates of the nursery normally grow and join the society of their parents: the family as a whole is a society in this sense.

Altınova bazaar, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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