Sunday, March 4, 2018

Magnifying Shakespeare

And if I MAGNIFY SHAKESPEARE, it is not so much for what he did do, as for what he did not do, or refrained from doing. For in this world of lies, Truth is forced to fly like a sacred white doe in the woodlands, and only by cunning glimpses will she reveal herself, as in Shakespeare and others of the great Art of Telling the Truth,- even though it be covertly, and by snatches. - Herman Melville

Word Origin & History
magnify late 14c., "to speak or act for the glory or honor (of someone or something)," from O.Fr. magnifier, from L. magnificare "esteem greatly, extol," from magnificus "splendid" (see magnificence).


 A. Cowley. To Francis Bacon


From Words, which are but Pictures of the Thought,
(Though we our Thoughts from them perversly drew)
To Things, the Minds right Object, he it brought,
Like foolish Birds to painted Grapes we flew;
He sought and gather'd for our use the True;
And when on heaps the chosen Bunches lay,
He prest them wisely the Mechanic way,
Till all their juyce did in one Vessel joyn,
Ferment into a Nourishment Divine,
The thirsty Souls refreshing Wine.
Who to the Life an exact Piece would make,
Must not from others Work a Copy take;
No, not from Rubens or Vandike;
Much less content himself to make it like
Th' Idaeas and the Images which lie
In his own Fancy, or his Memory.

No, he before his sight must place
The Natural and Living Face;
The real Object must command
Each Judgment of his Eye, and Motion of his Hand.


Alciato's Book of Emblems
Emblem 69
Because your figure pleased you too much, Narcissus, [or - because your beauty (forma) was excessively pleasing to you] it was changed into a flower, a plant of known senselessness (stupor). Self-love is the WITHERING (marcor) and destruction of natural power (ingenium) which brings and has
brought ruin to many learned men, who having thrown away the method of the ancients seek new doctrines and pass on nothing but their own fantasies (phantasia).


Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount-from Cynthia's Revels
By Ben Jonson

Slow, slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears;
Yet slower, yet, O faintly, gentle springs!
List to the heavy part the music bears,
Woe weeps out her division, when she sings.
Droop herbs and flowers;
Fall grief in showers;
Our beauties are not ours.
O, I could still,
Like melting snow upon some craggy hill,
Drop, drop, drop, drop,
Since nature’s pride is now a WITHERED daffodil. 

Bacon, Wisdom of the Ancients

NARCISSUS, or, Self-Love. – 1696 and 1680
THey say, that Narcissus was exceeding fair and beautiful· but wonderful proud and disdainful; wherefore despising all others in respect of himself, he leads a solitary Life in the Woods and Chases, with a few Followers, to whom he alone was all in all; amongst the rest, there follows him the Nymph Eccho. During his Course of Life, it fatally so chanced, that he came to a clear Fountain, upon the Bank whereof he lay down to repose himself in the heat of the Day. And having espied the shadow of his own face in the Water, was so besotted, and ravished with the contemplation and admiration thereof, that he by no means possible could be drawn from beholding his Image in this Glass; insomuch, that by continual gazing thereupon, he Single illegible letterpined away to nothing, and was at last turned into a Flower of his own Name, which appears in the beginning of the Spring, and is sacred to the infernal Powers, Pluto, ProserpinaSingle illegible letter, and the Furies.
This Fable seems to shew the Dispositions, and For|tunes of those, who in respect either of their Beauty, or other Gift wherewith they are adorned, and graced by Nature, without the help of industry, are so far besotted in themselves, as that they prove the cause of their own destruction. For it is the property of Men infected with this Humour, not to come much abroad, or to be conversant in Civil Affairs, specially seeing those that are in publick Place, must of necessity encounter with many Contempts, and Scorns, which may much deject, and trouble their Minds; and therefore they lead for the most part a solitary, private, and obscure Life, attended on with a few Followers, and those, such as will adore, and admire them, like an Eccho flatter them in all their Sayings, and applaud them in all their Words. So that being by this Custom seduced, and puft up, and as it were, stupified with the admiration of themselves, they are possessed with so strange a Sloth and Idleness, that they grow in a manner benumb'd, and defective of all vigour and alacrity. Elegantly doth this Flower, appearing in the beginning of the Spring, represent the likeness of these Men's Dispositions, who, in their youth do flourish, and wax famous; but being come to ripeness of years, they deceive and frustrate the good hope that is conceived of them. Neither is it impertinent that this Flower is said to be consecrated to the infernal Deities, because Men of this disposition become unprofitable to all humane things: For whatsoever produceth no Fruit of it self, but passeth  and vanisheth as if it had never been, (like the way of a Ship in the Sea,) that the Ancients were wont to dedicate to the Ghosts, and Powers below.

Billy in the Darbies - Melville


But me they'll lash me in hammock, drop me deep.
Fathoms down, fathoms down, how I'll dream fast asleep.
I feel it stealing now. Sentry, are you there?
Just ease these darbies at the wrist,
And roll me over fair.
I am sleepy, and the oozy weeds about me twist.


“Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.”  - Melville, Moby Dick


I. Of Truth.
WHAT is Truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer. Certainly there be that delight in giddiness, and count it a Bon|dage to fix a Belief; affecting free-will in thinking, as well as in acting. And though the Sects of Philosophers of that kind be gone, yet there remain certain discoursing Wits, which are of the same Veins, though there be not so much Blood in them, as was in those of the Ancients. But it is not only the dif|ficulty and labour, which men take in finding out of Truth; nor again, that when it is found, it imposeth up|on Mens thoughts, that doth bring Lyes in favour; but a natural, though corrupt Love, of the Lye it self. One of the later Schools of the Grecians examineth the matter, and is at a stand, to think what should be in it, that Men should love Lyes; where neither they make for pleasure, as with Poets, nor for Advantage, as with the Merchant, but for the Lyes sake. But I cannot tell. This same Truth is a Naked and Open day-light, that doth not shew the Masks, and Mummeries, and Triumphs of the World, half so stately and daintily as Candle-light. Truth may perhaps come to the price of a Pearl, that sheweth best by day; but it will not rise to the price of
a Diamond or Carbuncle, that sheweth best in varied Lights. A mixture of a Lye doth ever add pleasure. Doth any man doubt, that if there were taken out of Mens minds vain Opinions, flattering Hopes, false Va|luations, Imaginations as one would, and the like; but it would leave the minds of a number of Men, poor shrunken things, full of melancholy and indisposition, and unpleasing to themselves? One of the Fathers in great severity called Poesie, Vinum Daemonum, because it filleth the Imagination, and yet it is but with the sha|dow of a Lye. But it is not the Lye that passeth through the mind, but the Lye that sinketh in, and settleth in it, that doth the hurt, such as we spake of before. But howsoever these things are thus in Mens depraved judg|ments and affections; yet Truth, which only doth judge it self, teacheth, that the enquiry of Truth, which is the love-making, or wooing of it: the knowledge of Truth, which is the presence of it: and the belief of Truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the soveraign good of Humane Nature. The first Creature of God in the works of the Days, was Light of the Sense; the last was the Light of Reason; and his Sabbath-Work ever since, is the illu|mination of his Spirit. First, he breathed light upon the face of the Matter or Chaos; then he breathed light in|to the face of Man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his Chosen. The Poet that beauti|fied the Sect, that was otherwise inferiour to the rest, saith yet excellently well: It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see Ships tost upon the Sea; a pleasure to stand in the Window of a Castle, and to see a Battel, and the adventure thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage-ground of Truth: (an Hill not to be commanded, and where the Air is always clear and serene:) and to see the Errors, and Wandrings, and Mists, and Tempests in the Vale below: So always that this prospect be with Pity

Melville, Moby Dick

But wherefore it was that after having repeatedly smelt the sea as a merchant sailor, I should now take it into my head to go on a whaling voyage; this the invisible police officer of the Fates, who has the constant surveillance of me, and secretly dogs me, and influences me in some unaccountable way — he can better answer than any one else. And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
"Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.
"Whaling voyage by one Ishmael.

Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for MAGNIFICENT parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces — though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.
Chief among these motives was the overwhelming idea of the great whale himself. Such a portentous and mysterious monster roused all my curiosity. Then the wild and distant seas where he rolled his island bulk; the undeliverable, nameless perils of the whale; these, with all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonian sights and sounds, helped to sway me to my wish. With other men, perhaps, such things would not have been inducements; but as for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror, and could still be social with it — would they let me — since it is but well to be on friendly terms with all the inmates of the place one lodges in.
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one GRAND hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.

 William Shakespeare - Anagram- Is LIKE a Sperm Whale

Melville - Moby Dick

In thought, a fine human brow is like the East when troubled with the morning. In the repose of the pasture, the curled brow of the bull has a touch of the grand in it. Pushing heavy cannon up mountain defiles, the elephant's brow is majestic. Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that great golden seal affixed by the German Emperors to their decrees. It signifies--"God: done this day by my hand." But in most creatures, nay in man himself, very often the brow is but a mere strip of alpine land lying along the snow line. Few are the foreheads which like Shakespeare's or Melancthon's rise so high, and descend so low, that the eyes themselves seem clear, eternal, tideless mountain lakes; and all above them in the forehead's wrinkles, you seem to track the antlered thoughts descending there to drink, as the Highland hunters track the snow prints of the deer. But in the great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature. For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing but that one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men. Nor, in profile, does this wondrous brow diminish; though that way viewed its grandeur does not domineer upon you so. In profile, you plainly perceive that horizontal, semi-crescentic depression in the forehead's middle, which, in man, is Lavater's mark of genius.
But how? Genius in the Sperm Whale? Has the Sperm Whale ever written a book, spoken a speech? No, his great genius is declared in his doing nothing particular to prove it. It is moreover declared in his pyramidical silence. And this reminds me that had the great Sperm Whale been known to the young Orient World, he would have been deified by their child-magian thoughts. They deified the crocodile of the Nile, because the crocodile is tongueless; and the Sperm Whale has no tongue, or at least it is so exceedingly small, as to be incapable of protrusion. If hereafter any highly cultured, poetical nation shall lure back to their birth-right, the merry May-day gods of old; and livingly enthrone them again in the now egotistical sky; in the now unhaunted hill; then be sure, exalted to Jove's high seat, the great Sperm Whale shall lord it.


Melville – Fragments of A Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century

Found a family, build a state,
The pledged event is still the same:
Matter in end will never abate
His ancient brutal claim. …
Indolence is heaven’s ally here,
And energy the child of hell:
The Good Man pouring from his pitcher clear
But brims the poisoned well.