Thursday, September 16, 2021

Oxford and the Empedoclean Drive in Love's Martyr

The  ridiculous/unrevised/ingenium-based/mad/sublime/paradoxical/marvellous/grotesque/metamorphic/Empedoclean/Ovidian Oxford

Ovidian Oxford
Horatian Jonson

As suggested above in the header to this blog, the disproportion and asymmetry evident in the Droeshout Engraving figures the sublime/prodigious Shakespearean corpus (the immortal literary body of Edward de Vere). In the 1570's Oxford had selected the sublime/hypsos style as his own personal register (see Southern's Ode to Oxford in Pandora, and Oxford's discussion of high style in the Latin Preface to Clerke's Courtier, Knight of the Tree of the Sun etc...) - and appears to have influenced other members of the aristocracy to adopt this elevated style as the manner most suited to set the tone of the English court. Oxford's contributions to the development of the lyric (Steven May)  with its ornate figured language (esp. metaphor) develop in parallel with accounts of his spectacular and impactful presence in Elizabeth's retinue. 
I have presented evidence that Ben Jonson satirized Oxford as the absurd and formless Amorphus of Cynthia's Revels - putting into Amorphus mouth the high praises that had been presented to Oxford decades before and identifying Amorphus as the fantastic Earl. Jonson would later follow up this critique of Oxford with the deformed Droeshout engraving -  a Figure of unruly form that still  presents in iconic form a historical critique of both Longinian hypsos and Shakespearean style - marking out Oxfordian/Shakespearean rhetoric as ridiculous - a disorderly and ecstatic art unsuited to the court of a well-tempered Prince, or to the forming  of the manners and mores of a country. Branded a ridiculous figure in plays of the Poets' War and in particular the Ovidian Cynthia's Revels , Oxford/Shakespeare enacted a sublime and 'mad' literary transfiguration into pure rhetoric - his Empedoclean end in the symbolic realm of Love's Martyr. 

Edward de Vere was 'turned', transported, transfigured, carried across into the immortal realm of pure symbol - I know not what?  Sublime Shakespeare

-bodies changed into new forms

Reading Ovid Reading Horace. The Empedoclean Drive in the Ars poetica
Abel Tamas

 ...To begin with, I must confess a deep debt to Alessandro Barchiesi, who in his book The Poet and the Prince briefly but brilliantly poses and answers the question of a connection between the Ars [poetica] and the Metamorphoses. I quote the key sentences:

Horace's theory is based on an ideal of consistency and proportion that reflects the unity of natural organisms and the discipline of social decorum: his prodigies are examples of an art to be rejected because they are incoherent, paradoxical, and do not obey the rules. The Metamorphoses enters this argument to demonstrate that the artistic consistency recommended by the Ars [poetica] can remain such even if it is applied to a world that is unruly and magical in itself and it achieves this by giving concrete reality to the negative examples mentioned in the Ars Poetica.

Furthermore, I would like to call attention to one of Barchiesi's notes which contains the crucial insight that metamorphosis [in the singular, i.e., in itself, as a poetic theme - A.T.] is a powerful drive toward asymmetry, disunity, liberation of imagination, going on to demonstrate that there is a conscious, or at least easily discernable, play in the Metamorphoses with the violation of Horatian norms, or with their literal fulfilment. The famous opening of the Ars (to which I will return at the end of this paper) with its fulminations against the RIDICULOUS  - a broad category that includes metamorphic creatures, confessedly superabundant ecphrases, the many examples which combine heterogeneous things to deterrent effect: in one word, any poetic drive towards 'paradox and the marvellous' - is evidently something that Ovid's great work brings to full artistic fruition. 

Going one step further, we should jump now to the end of the Ars, where the possibility - and I think not only the possibility- of an Ovidian reading again emerges in strong connection to the ring-composition of the Ars, which has been explored by several Horatian scholars in recent times. Simply stated, this means nothing else in the case of the Ars than a return to the lesson on 'how to avoid ridiculousness?' at the end of the epistle. In two sections, moreover: first in the lesson on literary revision which stars Quintilius Varus, and then in the burlesque ending of the poem starring EMPEDOCLES. These two stages, however associative the logic may seem are strongly interconnected: in order to avoid being ridiculous, you have to correct and revise your poem as thoroughly as possible, otherwise you will be a ridiculous poet, and ridiculousness - according to the (of course) satirical logic of the Ars - is nothing other than INSANITY.

Hamlet - The Poet and the Prince (Poet/Horace/Horatio/Jonson) - does not end well for the Prince or the Court. (Poetomachia - Cynthia's Revels/Poetaster - Jonson's attacks on Oxfordian Ovidianism. Hamlet interrogates Jonson's Horatianism and his preference for satire and their deadly effects upon the society of the Prince and his Court.)


Oxford to Robert Cecil May (1601):

...I will say no more, for words in faithful minds are tedious, only this I protest: you shall do me wrong, and yourself greater if, either through fables, which are mischievous, or conceit, which is dangerous, you think otherwise of me than humanity and consanguinity requireth.


Tom O'Bedlam

...With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a *burning* spear and a horse of *air*
To the wilderness I wander.
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney,
Ten leagues beyond the wie world's end -
Methinks it is no journey.

Fire/Air - Empedoclean elements of transmigration

Tamas (con't)

As it is well known, Ovid in his later poetry recurrently refers to the Metamorphoses as an unfinished or more precisely uncorrected and unrevised poetic project which lacks his ultima manus. (see First Folio - 'Shake-speare' lacks the final hand.) 

Ovid I placed the innocent books consigned with me to death, my very vitals, upon the devouring pyre,because I had come to hate the Muses as my accusers or because the poem itself was as yet halfgrown and rough. These verses were not utterly destroyed; they still exist - several copies were made, I think - and now I pray that they may live, that thus my industrious leisure may bring pleasure to the reader and remind him of me. And yet they cannot be read in patience by anybody who does not know that they lack the final hand. That work was taken from me while it was on the anvil and my writing lacked the last touch of the file. [...] And so whatever defect this rough poem may have I would have corrected , had it been permitted me. 

I sang also, though my attempt lacked the final touch, of bodies changed into new forms.

There are also thrice five books on changing forms, verses snatched from the funeral of their master. That work, had I not perished  beforehand, might have gained a more secure name from my finishing hand: but now unrevised it has come upon men's lips - if anything of mine is on their lips...

Tamas (con't)

...And this is exactly what Ovid, in his later authorial interpretations, describes as the 'unfinishedness' of the Metamorphoses. He seems to follow a twofold strategy. On the one hand, he would like to place his opus magnum in the literary canon, by playing the role of the dead Vergil - a perspective to which being (at least symbolically) dead and leaving the great work unfinished are both highly relevant - and also (though no less importantly) through showing his 'failed' readiness to observe the Horatian aesthetic norms, including the requirement of literary revision. On the other had, he is not ashamed of the Metamorphoses, which he describes as it it has been disseminated orally by the literary public itself, popular presumably even because of its lack of rigorous revision. Statements like emendaturus eram, consequently, signal the simultaneous desire to become canonised and remain popular. As far as the Ars is concerned, it becomes, in this intertextual framework, a self-made-example of how to attack 'Ovidianism' and be 'Ovidian' at the same time

Considering the ring-composition structure of the Ars (i.e., that its caput meets its pes in the end) and that a sort of (counter-)Ovidianism is palpable even at the 'head' and the 'foot', we can assume that, beyond Empedocles' explicit presence at the end of the A.P., there must be an at least implicit Empedoclean presence also in its opening. This assumption, as it turns out is quite justified. Similarly to the end, the opening also focuses on a disintegrated corpus (see Droeshout - ND), but instead of the 'ridiculous-mad poet', this time it is his 'ridiculous-mad book' which we observe...(snip important stuff but too long ND)
Taking these fragments into consideration, we can, in accordance with Hardie, detect here a very strong link to the beginning of  Ars (1-9).

quoting Horace,  Ars -  Imagine a painter wanting to attach a horse's neck to a human head, assemble limbs from everywhere, and add feathers of various colours, so that a woman beautiful above the waist tailed into a revolting black fish! Could you hold back your laughter, my friends, if admitted to view it? Believe me, Pisos a book could be very like such a canvas, its images *just empty inventions like a sick man's dreams*: neither foot nor head *would be rendered in a single form*. [see Droeshout Engraving -ND]

(Tamas con't)This Horatian Mischwesen, painted by the 'ridiculous' (and, in the sense I have outlined above, also 'mad' or 'sublime') painter who paints 'paradoxical and marvellous' things appears as an Empedoclean mixture of -limbs assembled from everywhere-. It is exactly if the painter of fr.23 would have painted the 'second stage' of Empedocles' zoogony, characterised by Empedocles himself with metamorphic creatures, as we can see in fr.61. According to Horace a book without a clear structure will be similar to this painting because - neither foot nor head would be rendered in a single form-. This Empedoclean or proto-Ovidian book will be very similar to the second stage of the Empedoclean Zoogony, where these metamorphic animals are associated with 'CREATURES IN DREAMS', just like Horace's book, which is like a tabula (cf. the anathemata in fr.23) that represents something like a 'sick man's dream'. This Empedoclean presence at the end and at the beginning of the Ars is something which, I think, opens the way for Ovid to accept 'Horatian madness' as a 'sweet punishment' for not having corrected and revised his poem according to Horatian normative rules but which - in the Horatian logic - results in his being 'Empedocles', or with other words, sublime. Ovid gladly fulfils this rather provocative possibility encoded in the Ars, in order to be something like an "Empedocles redivivus" as he writes, or more precisely begins, his "Empedoclean epos" - a text which , in a certain Horatio-centric sense, does nothing other than to yield to the Empedoclean drive implied in the Ars.
     The Metamorphoses, on the one hand, repeats the 'Empedoclean opening' and 'Empedoclean ending' of the Ars, insofar as it starts with a cosmogony based strongly on Empedocles (a cosmogony which is going to be a metaphor for Ovid's poetic project as well: cf. coeptum as work/world-in-progress) ) and concludes with the highly Empedoclean book 15, which repeats this structure in itself starting with the speech of Pythagoras, a didactic mini-epic based on the philosophy of change represented by Empedocles, and ends with the famous epilogue which, in terms recalling Horace's Odes 3:30, uses this philosophy to talk about the afterlife of the poem and/or the poet. On the other hand, the Metamorphoses, considering both its poetic principle and its subject matter, is nothing other than the realisation of the Empedoclean philosophy of change in the terms of poetics: it speaks in an eminently metamorphic way about a world base on continuous metamophosis. Nothing can ever be finished, Ovid tells us: this is why he is taking the risk - as a poeta, pictor, or liber - of being ridiculous/unrevised/ingenium-based/mad/sublime/paradoxical/marvellous/grotesque/metamorphic/Empedoclean. At the same time, he gives us a non-normative reading of the Ars through which the Horatian book, for its caput to its pes, will turn out to be a coeptum with the same characteristics. 


Sir Thomas Smith's Voyage into Russia (1605) - Anonymous

Oh for some excellent pen-man to deplore their state: but he which would liuely, naturally, or indeed poetically delyneare or enumerate these occurrents, shall either lead you therevnto by apoeticall spirit, as could well, if well he might the dead liuing, life-giuing Sydney Prince of Poe|sie; or deifie you with the Lord Salustius deuinity, or in an Earth-deploring, Sententious, high rapt Tragedie with the noble Foulk-Greuill, not onely giue you the Idea, but the soule of the acting Idea; as well could, if so we would, the elaborate English Horace that giues number, waight, and measure to euery word, to teach the reader by his industries, euen our Lawreat worthy Beniamen, whose Muze approues him with (our mother) the Ebrew signification to bee, The elder Sonne, and happely to haue been the Childe of Sorrow: It were worthy so excellent rare witt: for my selfe I am neither Apollo nor Appelles, no nor any heire to the Muses: yet happely a youn|ger brother, though I haue as little bequeathed me, as many elder Brothers, and right borne Heires gaine by them: but Hic labor, Hoc opus est.
I am with the LATE English quick-spirited, cleare-sighted Ouid: It is to be feared Dreaming, and thinke I see many strange and cruell actions, but say my selfe nothing all this while: Bee it so that I am very drowsie, (the heate of the Clymate, and of the State) will excuse mee; for great happinesse to this mightie Empire is it, or would it haue been, if the more part of their State affyres had been but Dreames, as they prooue phantasmaes for our yeares. 



Love's Martyr, Marston

Perfectioni Hymnus.

WHat should I call this *CREATURE*,
Which now is growne vnto maturitie?
How should I blase this feature
As firme and constant as Eternitie?
Call it Perfection? Fie!
Tis perfecter the~ brightest names can light it:
Call it Heauens mirror? I.
Alas, best attributes can neuer right it.
Beauties resistlesse thunder?
All nomination is too straight of sence:
Deepe Contemplations wonder?
That appellation giue this excellence.
Within all best confin'd,
(Now feebler Genius end thy slighter riming)
No Suburbes  *all is MIND*
As farre from spot, as possible defining.
Iohn Marston.


'Shake-speare' as Oxford's 'Creature':


Creature Caliban, Julia Reinhard Lupton

What is a creature? Derived from the future-active participle of the Latin verb creare ("to create"), creature indicates a made or fashioned thing but with the sense of continued or potential process, action, or emergence built into the future thrust of its active verbal form. Its tense forever imperfect, creatura resembles those parallel constructions natura and figura, in which the determinations conferred by nativity an facticity are nonetheless opened to the possibility of further metamophosis by the forward drive of the suffix -ura ("that which is about to occur"). The creatura is a thing always in the process of undergoing creation; the creature is actively passive or, better, passionate, perpetually becoming created, subject to transformation at the behest of the arbitrary command of an Other. The creature presents above all a theological conceptualization of natural phenomena. In Judaism and Christianity (and indeed it is only via the Latin of late antiquity that the word enters the modern languages), creature marks the radical separation of creation and Creator. This separation can in turn articulate any number of cuts or divisions: between world and God; between all living things and those that are inert, inanimate, or elemental; between human beings and the "other creatures" over which they have been given rule; or, in more figurative uses, between anyone or anything that is produced or controlled by an agent, author, master, or tyrant. In modern usage creature borders on the monstrous and unnatural, increasingly applied to those created things that warp the proper canons of creation. It can even come to characterize the difference between male and female or between majority and minority; as a term of endearment creature is generally used of women and children, and creatura itself might be said to break into formed and formless segments, with creat- indicating the ordered composition of humanity and the -ura signaling its risky capacities for increase and change, foison and fusion...