Monthly Archives: October 2016

Humanology

img_20161024_080353948_hdrIts been a strange yet effective few weeks. On returning to the UK after my swift sojurn to Italy, I developed gout rather quickly – not long after helping my pal Bendrix move home. There were also incidents with our neighbour & her misguided sense of superiority & entitlement. Apparently her piece of paper which allows her to live i her property (the deeds) is more important than our piece of paper (the tenancy agreement).  The tension began on the day after I passed my driving test, when she hurtled to my window screaming & shouting in the most barbaric fashion, like a zombie pressed against my window braying for blood. She then proceeded to hack away the vegetation about the grotto Id built at the front of the house – so i moved it along a bit & she hacked that vegetation down as well. So I pulled her up, told her that if she had a problem with my driving to treat me like any  Lancastrian & talk about it in a calm fashion – her response being ‘why dont you get back to Lancashire.’ Absolute philistine. So I told her I was an epic poet, said not to scapegoat us for her strategic life error of buying a house with neighbours, made her shake my hand & a tenuous peace has broken out. The whole thing has inspired me to write a novel of sorts, the first chapter you can read here...img_20161018_140057421_hdr

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So, it all settl’d eventually, but my crippling gout & neighbourly distrust pinned me to the house – but I havent been idle. This weekend I am about to finish my Humanology – an expansion, modernization of the Thirukkural which I’m rather excited about. It feels like its my destiny – the boy from the back streets of Burnley about to create a text that good actually make the world a better place. Its been great fun finally slotting everything into place, making last many new kurals & sprinkling the others with words, sentiments & phrases from my library – a dash of Whitman here, a splash of Spenser there, & so on. But today I feel a little strange. The end of an epoch perhaps. The Humanology also represents the end of my Silver Rose Sonnet sequence. Tomorrow I shall attend to its finale  a final read through, then I am done.

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Elsewhere, Tinky Disco is working on some new tunes – Solarised, Jiggy Jiggy Gang Bang – which Mike insists is now called All Swap Places – Disco Gold,  Daytona Beach (based on Tam Treanor’s Soul Feel) & a new tune called ‘Im  A Driver Now.’ We’ve got a gig in a few weeks at Edinburgh’s Stramash – so it’ll be good to unveil them there. The Mumble is closed down til the New Year, when I get back from a festive season in Seattle – apart from Mumble Theatre, which I’m ticking over with some cool interviews. O, & Burnley are holding their own in the Premier League, & have just beat Everton 2-1 8 my gout seems to have FINALLY cleared Up —- so yins, & yangs & all that, & lets get Humanology on the road…

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Postscript

It is now 5AM, on the morning of the 28th Ocotober, 2016. Yesterday was a strange day, one oif signs & omens & the such like. As I was completing Humanology, Emily bought tickets to Seattle,  & Sophie came to tell me that her sister was dining with ouyr landlord their brother) who said that after recent complaints he was going to give us our notice in a couple of weeks. Perhaps it was inevitable – I did find a dead bird plumb outside our crazy neighbour’s door the other day – but the timing is strange. A month ago, when the shennanigins broke out – I was set to compose my Honeymoon poem, but the psychic shock of dealing with such a high-minded reprobate compelled to get my head down & create a masterwork (Was my thinking). This then took a full month to do, so its apt that the fallback from the encounter from the other side would first raise its head the very moment or so I felt content with my book.  This is the blurb I sent my agent in India (if they’re still alive) & one publisher in the UK;

***

Humanology consists of 1372 kural, being brief couplets of seven words originally used by a Tamil saint, Thuruvalluvar, about 2,000 years ago.  His book, the Thirukkural (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tirukku%E1%B9%9Ba%E1%B8%B7) forms the core of Humanology, to which I have added a great deal of wisdom both modern & antique, then tailored the whole for the English-speaking western mind.

In essence, where most modern guidebooks a rather niche, specializing on parenting, business, etc, Humanology has something to say about everything – a universal guide to life from birth to funeral. Including my brief prelude, the text is exactly 10,000 words. The fourteen chapters are divided as follows;

Life / Mentalities / Conduct / Vice / Virtue / Money / Friendship / Passion / Coupling / Homestead / Society / Governance / War / Divinity

I first encountered the Thirukkural in 2002, when I visited Tamil Nadu for the first time. Seven years later I returned to Tamil Nadu in order to translate the text, & seven years after that I have finally worked up my modernized transcreation. The original was perhaps a little too ‘eastern’ for the west – but in my version I hope to have made the wisdom more accessible, understandable, & with the brevity of the kural form, memorable. 

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Interestingly, the whole essence of the Humanology is to give people advice – so last night we put it to the test, me & Emily in bed discussing our life & future the well-being of the girls. I remained strong, there’s a certain fulfillment of destiny occurring here, a chronic naturalness, if you will. Receiving that Tunbridge Wells HB overpayment  in 2001, just as I was beginning Axis & Allies couldnt have happened to anyone else at such a significant time. A few months later I was in Kanyakumari seeing Thiruvalluvar for the first time. On the same trip I’m sure I was plucked out of the wreckage of a bus by Saraswathi herself. Fourteen years later, this uneducated illigitamate has finally worked up a version of the kural that should satisfy the western world, & also improve it – in the very same region where I was based (Heather Lodge) where I first began to translate the text. It all feels meant to be & the end of an era. What the future holds we do not know yet, but it should be embraced, & I told Emily as much. However, the little details do need working out & as life is  game it must be played. The situation called for Composure & Planning, with the following kural being appropriate to our situation.

Composure

Where paranoia breeds panic
Hysteria feeds disaster

When equipoise fills minds
Words lilt untiltingly

Remain unruffled whenever effective
Even within infernos

Better tackling unspeculative actualities
Before gossipy suppositions

As rivers swallow stones
Composure absorbs hostility

As elephants arrows endure
Handle slander silently

Like cobras closing hoods
Over insults climb

 
Planning

Simple initiatives easy successes
Complexity invites complications

Sleep before rash deliberations
Night brings counsel

When leaders plan diligently
Success thrives abundantly

Thoroughly investigating prevenient futurities
Prevents disastrous eventualities

Our very cleverest rabbits
Dig several burrows

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Introducing Thomas Watson

watson-wgb-242x300About a year ago, I was indulging in a spot of Shakespearean scholarship, which showed how Shakespeare was connected to the Familists, & had also visited Douay in the 1570s where he seems to have studied with the English Jesuits. In recent days I’ve also been looking at another fellow who visited said College, a certain Thomas Watson, who we can make the most interesting connection to our bard in London, in the year 1589.  His name was Thomas Watson, born in St Olave Parish in 1555. There is a record for him studying at Winchester College in 1567, & when he supplied verses to Greene’s Ciceronis Amor (1589), Watson signed himself an Oxford man – which means that he studied at the that university at some point. This is confirmed by the Oxford antiquarian Anthony à Wood (Athenae Oxonienses 1691) who stated, “Thomas Watson, a Londoner born, did spend his time in this university, not in logic and philosophy, as he ought to have done, but in the smooth and pleasant studies of poetry and romance, whereby he obtained an honourable name among the students of those faculties.” One of these students could well have been William Stanley, who was 6 years younger than Watson & who studied at St Johns.

Watson was a prolific poet, & in a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antone, he gives us more gloss concerning his life; I spent seven or eight years far from my homeland, and learned to speak in diverse tongues. Then I became well versed in Italy’s language and manners, and also thy our tongue and ways, learned France. Wherever I was wafted, I cultivated the Muses as best I could, and Justinian was especially dear. But often Mars troubled Pallas against her will, and wars often interrupted my study. Yet I shunned the camps, save for the camps of Phoebus, which contained the pious Graces together with the Muses. Bartolus, you were a great tome. I was not permitted to carry you about, nor your legal puzzles, learned Baldus. I took up Sophocles, I taught his Muses to grow gentle. I made Latin out of his Greekish verse. Thus, though disturbed, I spent my hours a useful man, I taught Antigone how to speak Latin.

It seems very much that Watson’s time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ The following May he is back in Douay, where we read ‘August: on the seventh day Master Watson, Master Robinson, Master Griffith, and some others left for England because of the riots.’  It is likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training he would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese when he was there.

In an earlier post, I also placed Shakespeare in Douay 1575-76, which gives us our first, albeit tentative, connection. Three years later, Watson is living in Westminster, which means he could well have encountered our even chaperoned our young Shakespeare, who was also living in London at the time.  William Stanley may also have met Watson, in Paris 1582, for 14 years after then, in 1596,  the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax  describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?” 

We now come to the very distinct possibility that in 1589 – when Shakespeare was also in London – that Watson was sharing the same social circle as the bard. In 1589, he had become the tutor to John Cornwallis, son of William, a high-ranking, yet Catholic, advocate of the Queen’s Bench. William also explains how Watson could ‘deuise twenty fictions and knaveryes in a play, which was his daily practyse and his liuing,’ a theatrical bent confirmed in the Palladis Tamia  Francis Meres in 1598, which places Watson amon such eminent company as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Peele, Kyd,  Drayton, Chapman, Dekker, and Jonson as being ‘our best for tragedie.’ Only one of Watson’s plays survive – ‘The Trewe Misterie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke.’ 1589, with its obvious Shakesperean connotations.

That he influenced Shakespeare was also suggested in a sidenote in the Polimanteia (1595), where a certain W. C. describes  a ‘Wanton Adonis’  (Shakespeare had just published Venus & Adonis) as ‘Watson’s heyre.’ Indeed, Watson’s 1585 Latin poem, Amyntas, end with their heroes transforming into flowers, while Watson’s translation of Coluthus’ erotic Raprus Helenae (1586) may also have influenced Shakespeare. One further significant influence Watson had on not just Shakespeare, but on English literature as a whole, was his ‘Passionate Century of Love’ (1582) – the first significant sonnet sequence of the age. These sonnets were actually three comblended sestets – ABABCC – the form which Shakespeare would us for his Venus & Adonis, the  first stanzas of which were written, I believe, in the mid-1580s.

That Shakespeare was actually Watson’s friend can be discerned thro’ analyzing a line in sonnet 32, the full text of which reads;

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love’.

The key line is  ‘ march in ranks of better equipage’ which connects to a statement by Nash, in his preface to Green’s Menaphon (1589) which expresses that Watson’s works, ‘march in equipage of honour.‘ Watson died in 1592, & if I am right, then this sonnet was written after that occasion, & when Shakespeare writes, ‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love,’ he is stating that tho’ better exist than Watson, the love he professes in his poetry is worth emulating.

Now then. In the National Archives (PROB 11/118/441 1), there is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of the will of Sir William Cornwallis, from 1611. which tells us that he became owner of an enormous mansion known as Fisher’s Folly in 1588 (on the site of the present Devonshire Suare) described as a huge structure with ‘gardens of pleasure, bowling-alleys and the like.‘ In that same year he employed Thomas Watson as a tutor for his son and heir, John Cornwallis. Also that year we have his daughter, Anne, becoming the author – transcriber rather – of the short anthology of sixteenth century poetry known as the Cornwallis-Lysons manuscript(Folger MS V.a.89).

(Incidentally, another person in the household was Cornelia Cornwallis, one of the younger daughters, who would eventually – in 1601 – marry Sir Richard Fermor of Somerton, Oxfordshire. His auntie, Anne(d.1550), had been the wife of William Lucy (d.1551), & thus the mother of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, Warwickshire, the very estate where the young Shakespeare was caught stealing deer!)

Back to the Cornwallis-Lysons book, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips, the prolific nineteenth-century Shakespeare scholar and collector, became convinced that several poems were by Shakespeare. The fellow published the account of his acquisition of the russia leather-bound quarto bearing the large feminine signature, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” in a volume entitled, Catalogue of Shakespeare Reliques In the Possession of James Orchard Halliwell, Esq., F.R.S. in the year 1852.’ In it he compares the stanzas of one poem to those in the Passionate Pilgrim, a collection of 20 poems attributed to Shakespeare in 1599.

The lines by Shakespeare are an elegant little poem which appeared first in The Passionate Pilgrim, 1599, a surreptitious publication in which they are most incorrectly given. The present Manuscript offers not only a better arrangement of the stanzas, but also a far superior text, in proof of which we subjoin the last stanza:—

Manuscript

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear;
For if my ladye heare this songe,
She will not sticke to ringe my eare,
To teache my tongue to be soe longe;
Yet would she blushe, here be it saide,
To heare her secrets thus bewrayede.

Printed Text

(Poem XIX, The Passionate Pilgrim, 1599)
But soft; enough, too much I fear,
Lest that my mistress hear my song;
She’ll not stick to round me i’ the ear,
To teach my tongue to be so long:
Yet will she blush, here be it said,
To hear her secrets so bewray’d.

In this (manuscript) reading, we get rid of the harsh and false metre of the third (printed) line, and obtain a more natural imagery; the lady wringing, her lover’s ear for betraying her secrets, being certainly a more appropriate punishment for his fault than that of merely whispering (to) him.

Invention has been racked to account for the utter disappearance of the poems of Shakespeare in his own hand. The Rev. Mr. Hunter, in his recently published New Illustrations of the Life and Writings of Shakespeare, ingeniously supposes that the last descendant of the Poet, Lady Barnard (granddaughter of the Stratford citizen) in her over-religious zeal, may have destroyed any writings that remained in her hands. Whatever cause it may be owing, it is a certain fact that, at the present time, not a line of (William Shakspere’s) writing is known to exist. In the absence of his (literary) autographs, any contemporaneous manuscript is of importance; and in this view the present (Cornwallis) one may justly be deemed a literary curiosity of high interest.

In conclusion, I may observe that during a search of ten years later extended to about fifty years and after a careful examination of every collection of the kind I could meet with, either in public or private libraries, the present is the only specimen of any of Shakespeare’s writings I have seen which was written in the sixteenth century. Scraps may be occasionally met with in miscellanies of a later date, but this volume, in point of antiquity, may be fairly considered to be unique in its kind, and as one of the most interesting illustrations of Shakespeare known to exist

The volume also contains an attribution to a certain WS.  This fact, & all the others, really does reinforce a connection between Thomas Watson & Shakespeare that could well have been forged in Douay in the 1570s & carried on to London, 1589. Indeed, Fishers Folly, when Shakespeare came to London in the late 1580s, was originally the possession of the Earl Of Oxford, who made the place the, “headquarters for the school of poets and dramatists who openly acknowledged his patronage and leadership,” a fertile breeding ground indeed.

TEXTUAL COMPARISON

For me, the language, spelling & rhythms of the Shakespeare poem given above, ie;

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear;
For if my ladye heare this songe,
She will not sticke to ringe my eare,
To teache my tongue to be soe longe;
Yet would she blushe, here be it saide,
To heare her secrets thus bewrayede.

Have an extremely similar ring to the language, spelling & rhythms of the poem attributed to WS in 1577, which I gave in an earlier post, ie;

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,
Who so thee knew, did little think such learning thee to have.
Here Vertue seems to checke at Vice, & wisedome folly tauntes:
Here Venus she is set at naught, and Dame Diane she vauntes.
Here Pallas Cupid doth detest, & all his carpet knightes:
Here doth she shew, that youthfull impes in folly most delightes.
And how when age comes creeping on, with shew of hoary heares,
Then they the losse of time repent, with sobbes & brinish teares.
Thou Ambodexter playste herein, to take the first rebounde,
And for to shew thy minde at large, in earth doth the same compound.
So that Apollo Claddes his corps all with Morycbus clothes,
And shewes himself still friendliest there, wher most of all he lothes

The Stress Plague – chapter 1

I’d had one a hell of a day at the University. The Dean, a grumpy old fart with a hair transplant & strangely orange skin had called me in for a ‘talk.’ His office stunk of peanuts, even though he didn’t eat them.

“Why is it, Donald, that every time there is a problem in my university, it can be somehow be traced to your faculty.”

“Perhaps it is because the literature students are passionate, sir.”
The dinosaur insisted on being called sir – a throwback to his army days ‘I was in Northern Ireland – bloody natives needed discipline, discipline, discipline. If we’d have given them discipline the Troubles would have ended a lot sooner than they did’ would be one of his typical outbursts. Today, however, was just that ice-cold stare you wanted to gouge out with a pick-axe.

“There is no need to be flippant, Donald. Just keep an eye on things. Cannabis smoking cannot be tolerated. It is a criminal offence.”

“You know I don’t smoke it anymore, sir.”
“Not you, your damn students. William Beauregard was found smoking on the campus grounds… again. One more time & he is out on his ears, expelled, you hear me Donald, expelled.”

I will have a word with him, sir.”
“Good… now would be an appropriate time.”
“Of course.”

As I got up to leave, he flew a few words into the room with a creepiness that always gave my arms little fields of goosebumps. “How is Mrs Claymore?” Now Mrs Claymore is my wife, a lovely, patient creature & the mother of my two children. At 35 years old she still retains the face & physique of a woman 10 years her younger, but being married to an English literature professor has aged her mentally by about 50 years.

“She is well.”
“Do give her my regards!”

What he really meant by those syrupy syllable was, ‘I’d like to fuck your wife.’ The old sleazebag. On leaving his office I made my way to campus for my obligatory chat with Will. He wasn’t one of my best students, academically, but he was an ex-curricular whirlwind, who brought a load of good ideas & energy onto the course, & some really good squidgy black from Liverpool. Gold Seal – the real deal. This is the kind of cannabis you don’t need to burn, rolling it up into thin, black lines you just drop into the rizla papers. As I told the Dean earlier that afternoon, these days it was extremely rare for me to roll up a joint, but I don’t mind having a wee toke, as I did upon offered me by Will as I sat down on the swing-a-chair in his room. He was sat on his bed, flicking through an old copy of WB Yeats.

“I love this guy, he’s fuckin’ brilliant,” he said in a thick Scouse accent. He never talked like that in the lecture hall, but the Everton flag pinned on the wall always seemed to pluck the Scouse out of him.

“Yeah, bit of a wild one was Yeats in his youth.”
“Listen to this shit, its cosmic. Turning and turning in the widening gyre  / The falcon cannot hear the falconer / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned.”

“Yeah, great stuff Will.”

“So, I suppose you’ve heard I got caught by the groundsman smoking weed.”

“I have yes, that’s why I’m here, to reprimand you.”

“Jesus!”

“You really need to be more careful.”

“Yeah, yeah, boss, I’m on it.”

“Well do it – he’s on the warpath, the Dean, he says this is your last warning.”

There was a pause. I could hear Will thinking. He was destined for great things; he knew that, I knew that, but what they were only the gods knew. Maybe getting kicked off the course was part of that. He started skinning up. I started to speak.

“How much have you got, by the way, I’m seeing a pal later on, he’s a fan of your stuff?”

“Enough.”

“I’ll take a quarter, then, usual price?”

“It is.” As Will began to rummage about under his bed, I took in a bit more of his room. It reminded me of my own student days – a bit dirty, a bit smelly, books & coffee stains everywhere. I identified with the lad a lot. Like me, he had been born in a working class district & had to work a hell of a lot harder in order to get to degree-level. When it came to making a bit of extra money from selling smoke in order to subsidise his studies there was no way I could object. Especially when his shit was that good.

Will pulled out a pair of old football socks, in which he kept his cellaphane-wrapped lumps of smoke. He tossed one across to me, I caught it, & lay a £20 note at his desk.

“Cheers.”

“No problemo, boss!”

“Well, I’ll be off then. Think about what I’ve said, & I’ll see you in lectures on Friday.”

“Sure.” Will nonchalanty returned to skinning up his joint & I left his room. Back outside in the campus grounds, the late April sun sprinkling genuine warmth onto my skin. May was just round the corner, & with that the summer holidays & a chance to finally finish my book. Two years previously I’d sent the first three chapters to a publisher, who’d practically wet their pants in excitement about the prospect of a possible bestseller. It had all the ingredients, & my writing was, & I quote, ‘pulsatingly modern.’ Roll on 27 months & I still hadn’t finished it. Young kids & a heavy workload at the university had consumed my time & sucked all creativity out of me. My publisher was losing interest in the project, as, perhaps, was I.

————

“I think its time for a change of scenery, Benny.” The guy sat across from me in the pub was my friend, well more of a father figure, I guess. Twenty years older than my own 40 years, he lived like he was twenty & could party anyone anybody the table. A self-confessed member of the Lucky Bastards club, this immortal effervescence had won him a woman almost three decades years younger than him, called Stella. Her grandfather – Benny loved to tell anyone that would listen – had been a friend of the king! Their family had once owned a series of steel mills in the Motherwell area, & made an absolute fortune. Then they were bought out by Scottish Steel in the 1960s, an aggressive take over by all accounts, & so the family decided to buy farmland near Mugdock Country Park, to the north of Glasgow, & lead a much more pastoral existence. I’d been out there a couple of times visiting Benny & Stella, & last summer my whole family had even done a spot of holiday house-sitting while they were touring Venezuela. I’d also managed to get a couple of chapters of my book done out there.

“Well,” smirked Benny with that semi-toothless grin of his, “its funny you should say that. One of the cottages at Boxwheel has just come available.”
“Really?”

“Yeah . Gayle’s mother has taken a turn for worse, so she’s having to move to Inverness to be with her. She’s gave her months notice in yesterday.”

“Interesting…”

“Think of it, mate, we’d have a great life up there. You could get some writing done, its an easy drive into the university, the kids would love it. You’ve got first dibs, the inks still not dry on the months notice yet. It would save Stella’s family a whole heap of hassle if you just slip in through the back door, transfer the tenancy.

“It does sound enticing, that… I’ll speak to the wife tonight.”

“You know it makes sense pal. Anyway, who’s round is it?”