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October 11, 1964 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1964-10-11
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The

Work of the Modern Poets:

an Historical Shakespeare

"Epoch and Artist"

. a third book by Welsh-Londoner,

. . .

By TONY STONEBURNER
NOW THAT "EPOCH AND ARTIST"
is out I can say that it is a fine thing
that the three books by David Jones al-
ready published by Faber in Britain have
at last been published by Chilmark in the
United States. There has been a succes-
sive reduction of the lapse of time in
transoceanic crossing with each volume-
"In Parenthesis," twenty-five years later
here; "The Anathemata," ten years;
"Epoch and Artist," five. Perhaps the
next written work by David Jones will be
brought out simultaneously on both sides
of the Atlantic.
The two earlier books, long poems in
prose and verse, reach us with a chorus
of praise. "In Parenthesis," which is
about World War I-the "Iliad" of David
Jones-, won the Hawthornden Prize in
T $ .fJ cfigh tza' i
MAGAZINE
APPEARING AT
THREE-WEEK INTERVALS
THE FOUR-HUNDRETH anni-
versary of Shakespeare's birth
which occurred this year has been
the cause of much ado both here
and abroad. On pages six and seven
of this issue, Prof. F. W. Brownlow
takes a look at the quatercentennial
and what he calls The Quest for the
Historical Shakespeare. A nativeF
Englishman, Prof. Brownlow is a
graduate of Liverpool University
and the Shakespeare Institute at
Stratford-upon-Avon. He is pres-f
ently an assistant professor of Eng-
lish at the University.r
New poetry releases inspired twot
University students to comment on
1N The Work of the Modern Poetsz
(pages two and three). Tony Stone-
burner, a graduate student in Eng-
lish, examines "Epoch and Artist"
(Chilmark Press) by David Jones.
A teaching fellow at the Universityi
for two years (1960-62) and the as-x
sistant director of the Wesley
Foundation for one (1963-64), Mr.
Stoneburner has been reading the'
works of Jones for a decade "be-
cause his work is an example of the
intersection of literature and re-
ligion--one of my chief interests."
David Rosenberg, a senior in Eng-4
lish, views new editions by four
poets: "The Bourgeois Poet" (Ran-
dom House) by Karl Shapiro, "The
Bat-Poet" (Macmillan) by Randall
Jarrell, "O Taste and See" (New
Directions) by Denise Levertov and
"And In Him, Too; In Us" (Gener-
ation) by Konstantinos Lardas. Mr.
Rosenberg came to the University
last fall from the New School for
Social Research in New York. He
is the poetry editor of Generation
and has won a Hopwood Special
Award for his poetry.
Completion of the new school
of music building inspired Daily
music reviewer Mark Killingsworth:
to write (pages four and five) Oni
North Campus: A House of Music.{
Mr. Killingsworth is a sophomore
in the literary college. Photographsl
for this article were taken by Daily
Photographer Robert Sheffield.
Stephen Berkowitz, Jeffrey Chase>
and Steven Haler make contribu-
tions to Books and Records in Re-
view on page eight, where a new
translation of a poem by Bertolt
Brecht appears. The translation is
by Ingo E. Seidler, a professor in the
r o m a n c e languages department.
The cover and other illustrations in
the Magazine were photographed
by Daily Photographer Kamalakar
Rao, a mechanical engineering stu-r
dent from India.
MAGAZINE EDITOR:
LCUISE LIND
.yi .«.. : . "K . ..e #2i. J

1938. T. S. Eliot has called it "a work of
genius." Herbert Read wrote of it upon
its first appearance, ". . . his book is as
near a great epic of the war as ever the
war generation will reach." Kathleen
Raine has reported that W. B. Yeats "ad-
mired" "In Parenthesis." "The Anathe-
mata," which is literally about the voy-
ages of peoples to Britain and analogical-
ly aoout the ultimate homecoming of all
people in the celebration of the Mass as
present to the awareness o a worshipper
in Britain during World War II-the
"Odyssey" of David Jones-, received the
Russell Loines Memorial Award for Poet-
ry from the National Institute of Arts
and Letters in 1954. W. H. Auden has
called it "very probably the finest long
poem written in English in this century."
Edwin Muir wrote of it upon ts first ap-
pearance, "The poem is in any case full
of strange and interesting matters, and
though it is difficult to read, it does
achieve communication on a level where
few poets attempt to communicate."
"Who is Silvia? what is she,/That all
our swains commend her?" the poet asks.
When we ask, "Who is David? what are
his works, that many critics praise him?"
the answer that we seek is not "A Welsh-
Londoner who fought with the Welch
Fusiliers in World War I, who became a
Roman Catholic in 1921, who made his
first reputation as an engraver on wood
and copper and a watercolorist and who
made his second reputation as the author
of two poems of an excellence to rival
works of the same mode and magnitude
by Eliot, Joyce and Pound." We ask sus-
piciously. We feel that it is improbable
that there is an important contemporary
writer in English whose name we have
not heard. We may not have read his
works, but in a period of electronic mass
media with their immediate reports and
of publish-or-do-not-advance academic
criticism with its instant exegesis of the
most recent fiction and drama (of which
Professor John W. Aldridge reminded us
in his lead article in The New York
Times Book Review a month ago), we
are confident that we would know his
reputation. We are suspicious of British
Establishment-of English courtesy, of
Eliotic literary dictatorship and of Chris-
tian discrimination. We do not think
that brief quotations from reviews, ab-
stracted from their context and collected
as flap-blurbs on the jackets of the books
themselves, constitute a reliable concen-
sus of the value of the books. We con-
sider it extremely unlikely that we
should be unacquainted with two of the
major poems of our age. Indeed we re-
sent the last suggestion that we are not
well-informed, that we have not been
keeping-up. Oddly enough, such resent-
rnent at, and suspicion of, hitherto un-
heard-of, suddenly highly-praised poetry
have been obstacles to an American read-
ing of "In Parenthesis" and "The Ana-
themata" for simple pleasure. We hope
that they will not hinder the enjoying of
"Epoch and Artist," an excellent collec-
tion of prose by David Jones.
WHAT ARE THE VALUES of "Epoch
and Artist?" It offers a provocative
argument about the work of art and of
the artist in our time (which is a late
phase). It is a helpful informative com-
panion for the reading of "The Anathe-
mata" whose language is rich and rhy-
thms strong but whose surface and depth
are strange because the one is' thick with
allusions to and the other is centered in
unfamiliar literatures and topographies.
In "Epoch and Artist," David Jones re-
hearses us in the things of Celtic, Ro-
man, Welsh and Anglo-Saxon Britain and
Arthur and the very Matter of Britain.
The writing itself, especially in the long-
er pieces, but also elsewhere, has a heav-
ily-textured style and mixes all levels
of speech from folk-lore and cliche to
polyglot quotations and incantation.
He makes marvelous lists that com-
bine in a series the most disparate items
to disclose a unity. Here is a short one
which expounds the aesthetic doctrine of
impersonality in the work of art:
It is of no consequence to the shape

of the work how the workman came
by the bits of material he used in
making the shape. When the work-
man is dead the only thing that will
matter is the work, objectively con-
sidered. Moreover, the workman must
be dead to himself while engaged
upon the work, otherwise we have
that sort of self-expression" which is
as undesirable in the painter or the
writer as in the carpenter, the can-
tor, the half-back, or the cook.
Here is long one which indicates the
abstract element (the element which uni-
fies what otherwise were multiple) in
every work of art:
Those of us whose work no one, I
imagine, would call "abstract," know,
nevertheless, that it is an abstract
quality, however hidden or devious,
which determines the real worth of
any work: this is true of Botticelli's
Primarera, of the White Horse of Uf-
fington, of the music of Monteverdi,
of "Finnegans Wake," of the "Al-
fred jewel," of the glass goblet I am
now trying to draw, of the shape of
a tea-cup. The one common factor
implicit in all the arts of man re-
sides in a certain juxtaposing of
forms.
A similar opening-out of likeness or
identity in things distant occurs in his
paraphrasing of familiar events in un-
familiar terms. In "The Anathemata,"
Jesus going to his death is described in
terms of Peredur (Percival) putting on
armor and going off to war. In "Use and
Sign," a radio talk later than "Epoch

INTERESTINGLY, even the short let-
ters have had large claims made for
them. In reviewing "Epoch and Artist"
upon its English publication, Herbert
Read drew attention to a letter which
he had quoted in an earlier work of his
own: "Some readers will have treasured
a short letter on abstract art which ap-
peared in The Listener nearly ten years
ago and which seemed to settle a prob-
lem of definition with great intelligence."
Harold Rosenberg (who has written a
brilliant review of "Epoch and Artist" in
The New Yorker for August 22, the one
review which takes the ideas of David
Jones seriously enough to report them
and try them out in the context of con-
temporary artistic practice) writes of an-
other letter to The Listener that 'this
one-page letter by Jones on the perman-
ence of the cultural crisis says more about
the character of art in our time than doz-
ens of articles on 'new' turns by painters
or poets toward happier, taste-satisfying
work."
SECTION I is chiefly about Wales,
the country of his paternal forebears.
Wales in the past has developed a cul-
ture which has enriched the life of Brit-
ain by contributing to it an essential
element. The culture was oral, based in
rural' life, and closely associated with
land- and water-scape. Welsh is dying
out, rural life is shriveling, and the ter-
rain itself is being wasted. (The very day
that I first received a copy of the English
edition of "Epoch and Artist," I had tea
with a friend whose brothers were then
in Wales planning stripmining, that rape
of earth that has left prostrate so many
areas of our country.) Davtd Jones makes
clear that loss of Welsh and devastation
of the land threaten a culture important
to the life of all Britain.
SECTION II is devoted to his ideas
about the artist and his wrnr 'T"n is
a maker as such. He takes things of the
world and arranges them so that they
are not only instrumental in :manipulat-
ing other things but also expressive of
the spirit of a person, of a people, of
God. Man combines things. Abstract
form unites diverse materials. The one
thing made from several is a sign of
some other thing. It speaks of what man
is, knows, and loves. In a traditional so-
ciety it expresses the tradition of his
society in traditional forms. In late
phases of societies when tradition dis-
integrates, man takes what seems valid
from that which remains and makes of
it what he can. He is eclectic, combining
myths of separate origins and genres of
different periods.
Our present period is such a late
phase, aggravated by the difficulties that
accompany the spread of industrial, tech-
nological, urban society. A society dedi-
cated to the use of things, it tends to af-
firm that a thing is only a thing (it
calls a spade a spade). One thing can-
not stand for another thing. God cannot
be known, in worship, and a people can-
not know itself, in the stories that com-
bine myth and history and typology. A
place is only a point in space. Who lived
and what happened there in the past is
beside the point-even though the lan-
guage and customs and other symbolic
bearers of meaning which constitute the
very self of the person of .)ur age were
shaped there. (David Jones considers ex-
emplary the concentration upon Dublin
by Joyce.)
The reduction of a thing to the mere-
ly useful threatens the being of man as he
has existed historically. It also threatens
his making. Every work of art becomes
a tour de force. Man the maker is re-
duced to the merely personal and experi-
mental. The result is tentative and frag-
mentary-if authentic for our time.
Jones rejects both temptations of man
the maker in such a desperate situation:
the pursuit of novelty, the.revival of past
styles. He rejects therefore the honest
effort of his friend Eric Gill to counter
the process of a last phase by gathering
around him a community of craftsmen.
Gill comes too close to ignoring the pres-
ent age. If one ignores it, his making be

"man" is irrevocably lost to history be-
cause at no time of his life did he give
himself to it. The man who provided so
many actions and ideas with character
in his plays provided no character for
himself. When he died he left no memory
preservable beyond the circle of his
friends. If Shakespeare, like Sidney, had
died with conscious heroism at Zutphen,
or if, like Ben Jonson, he had set himself
up as an arch-poet and grown fat on
wine, his face as we see it prefixed to
the First Folio would seem infinitely
suggestive of character. As it is, it is an
expressionless mask, and it has been left
to his biographers to make him into the
most unforgettable character they ever
met. Ever since the Romantic generation,
we have demanded character in our poets.
This leads me to my second point,
which is tlat if we do start looking for
Shakespeare in history, we had better
define carefully what we are looking for.
When we say "Shakespeare the man" we
usually mean something different, such
as Shakespeare the hero, Shakespeare
the actor or Shakespeare the prophet.
Shakespeare the man was in his own
lifetime interesting only to his friends,
his family, his doctor and his parish
clergyman. The fact that in our time he
would prove interesting to a whole lot
of other people, from political pollsters
to psychological testers, would probably
annoy him as much as it annoys some of
us. As a man he was born, he died and
in between he did all the other things
such as eating, loving, sleeping, laughing
and feeling terrible. What more should we
expect of him? If anything else was
relevant, he would have told us; all
letter-writers and autobiographers write
from a sense of public duty.
IN LOOKING for Shakespeare, we must
be careful to look, first, for something
of whose existence we have some evidence,
and second, we must look for something
worth finding. There is only one Shake-
speare to fit these requirements, and
that is Shakespeare the poet. That he was
a poet must even take precedence over
his being a dramatist. One sympathizes
with those enthusiasts for the theatre for
whom the excitements of that art make
all other arts seem vapid. Nonetheless
dramatists are comparatively common,
whereas poet-dramatists of the order of
Shakespeare and Sophocles are rarer than
epic poets; and there are three epic
poets.
To find the poet, one goes to the work,
and in going there we can at least be
sure that we are going to the one place
where Shakespeare would want us to go.
There will remain, however, a temptation
that all of us will find hard to resist,
conditioned as we are by generations of
speculation about the man Shakespeare.
We must not try to read the plays and
poems as if they were a kind of diary
in which Shakespeare recorded his daily
feelings. Shakespeare indubitably appears
in his work, but always in disguise. He
plays, in fact, the two roles of sonneteer
and dramatist and, artist that he is,
he maintains them with professional con-
sistency.
Of these two "characters," the sonne-
teer seems the most accessible. He speaks
in the first person, and in that person
he treats just about all the great themes
of life and literature. But as anyone
knows who is at all experienced in the
writing and reading of literature, espe-
cially poetic literature, the attempt to
penetrate even the most seemingly im-
mediate poetic persona is laden with dif-
ficulties. If the real Robert Frost struck
so many people as different from the
poetic Robert Frost, then the probability
grows very doubtful that the real Shakes-
peare coincided in any kind of simple
equation with a Renaissance sonneteer
working within a very strict set of con-
ventions. The dramatist, as so many
people have said, is so remote as to be
invisible to any ordinary sense. His mask
is a composite of all the characters in
all the plays in their series; and if there
is anything that Shakespeare the man

might enjoy were he, to come back and
watch us busily reading him and writing
about him, it is this: that no-one has

ever successfully penetrated that persona.
If anyone ever did, it would mean that
his inifinite variety had at last proved
finite.
These plays open no windows into.
Anne Hathaway's cottage, nor, to para-
phrase Queen Elizabeth, do they open
windows into their creator's soul. Out of
nature, that is, out of the materials of
his existence as it seemed to him Shake-
speare made them. In nature we per-
ceive art, and out of nature we make art.
Perhaps if we were able to question
Shakespeare closely, he might be able to
analyze his art for us into its natural
particulars, but it is more probable that
he might not. We certainly cannot; in
the particulars of his art we can only
perceive a generalized nature. This is
perhaps why even the most sensitively re-
constructed Shakespeares are so dull, no
more than collections of simple attitudes
given a name. If the plays do open win-
dows, they open them on to the world of
art, a world offering one kind of satis-
faction to the human longing for order,
for form, for explanation, for beauty.
Some are inclined to perceive in them a
veiled window which promises to open
upon a world as far above the world of
art as art is above nature. That inclina-
tion may not be altogether based upon
imagination, and the mere probabilities
of history would suggest that it is not;
but one will notice that Shakespeare the
poet-dramatist remains as tactful to-
wards that world as towards his own.
The secular artist contents himself with
the transmutations of art and leaves
those of eternity to others:
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
IF THE WORK of Shakespeare the poet
leads one away from Shakespeare the
man, and if one might even say that it
led Shakespeare himself away from
Shakespeare, that conclusion alone will
not resolve the question with which we
began. Indeed, that very question, "What
had Shakespeare the business-man to do
with Shakespeare the poet?" can still be
used, as it has been used before, to dis-
credit the very view of the poet that I
have just put forward. It is a question
that can only be answered by putting the
man and the man-as-poet in their proper
relationship.
That Shakespeare was a man, and not
an angel or a computer, is obvious as well
as gratifying. But we must admit that
although Shakespeare the man was con-
ceived and born through the same pro-
cesses as the rest of us, Shakespeare the
poet was fantastically abnormal. He be-
longs, like. Mozart, to that small group
of remarkable men whom we have con-
sented to call geniuses, implying by that
word some quite extraordinary interven-
tion in their begetting, even a divine in-
tervention. Not many of us, however,
are aware of the meanings implied in
many words that we quite commonly use,
and even if we are, our beliefs, or per-
haps better, assumptions about the world
are so different from those of the gener-
ations of English speakers from whom
we inherit our language, that many of
our words are no more to us than
dead metaphors. Not many people now-
adays believe in genius in quite the orig-
inal way;. nonetheless, a genius, accord-
ing to the meaning of the word, is still
a person whose gifts are in the long run
inexplicable by any of the ordinary rules
of explication.
To call Shakespeare a .genius, and to
mean it, is to imply this: that no-one
will ever be able to establish any signifi-
cant relationship between Shakespeare's
plays and his father and mother, his
early upbringing, his -schoolmasters, or
for that matter, anything in the entire
county of Warwickshire; and that neith-
er will anyone ever be able to explain
Shakespeare's plays by the commercial
demands of his theatre or of his own life
as an economic man. Certain aspects of

his work are of course explicable by these
background matters. But the Shake-
speare who is explicable in these ways is
a very ordinary man. Between the com-

plete Shakespeare and his origins and
surroundings, the only connection one
can make is the non-connection express-
ed in the familiar sentence, "He rose
above them."
This is to say no more than has been
said many times before, but if one is to
judge by Mr. Brown's book and hosts of
others published before it, it needs to be
said over and over again in every gener-
ation. Yet many people who are willing
to accept that there are geniuses and
that Shakespeare is one of them make
one very large demand before they will
consent to read with an easy mind. It is
a demand made by scores of students in
literature classes, and it is very sim-
ple: if this is the work of genius, they
say, then demonstrate it to us, and we
will believe it. The answer does not al-
ways prove satisfactory. One can demon-
strate some of the manifestations of
genius, but one cannot demonstrate
genius. Genius makes its own demand,
which is that one accept it on faith,
whether it be the magnificent genius of
a Shakespeare, or the genius lesser only
in quantity that reveals itself in a few
lyrics. Faith, however, is not necessarily
as difficult as it sounds, because it seems
to be true that faith begins with, or is co-
existent with, love.
rTHAT MANY PEOPLE cannot meet this
demand is obvious. Amonw tham will
probably be those mentioned at the be-
ginning of this essay who believe that
truth is simple and material. To such
people art can never be more than a dec-
oration added on to the facts of nature
and the artist never any more than an
entertainer. To those who can meet the
demand made by art upon their faith, art
becomes, not necessarily more real, more
true than nature, but another order per-

discovered f
of criticism
There is a
as well as o
hears of it
but distract
as "How d
day?" and'
insofar as I
is no more
others. Th:
unansweral
up, had br
home and
mean mucl
one produc
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speare, a
thought an
ways as hi
writes the c
in amongst
Shakespear
speare, bt
There is ev
to lead us
writes of ti
present, so
even a rep:
a legend fc
If we cc
speare" as
the plays a
authorship
should be s
val stonem
great cath
requires ti
scholarship
but even v
little to il
cathedral.
and for a
the daily
might as
no bones
work, he s
To think
ing the qu
self some
quatercent
day, which
speare tha
conception
ably the y
it remains
simply by
picking ur
shenaniga:
plays rem
viously ur
travesties
Falstaff i
time of di
saying, "N5
nothing st
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at things
is the onl:
terly unpr
so remar
have done
Once the
they will
but some
and comr
acles of t
Marvell's,
book. On
Shakespea
and an at
world, wit
the origin
gether.

Engraved frontispiece
by Jones

and Artist," Jesus and Judas are de-
scribed partly in terms of the leading
figures of the Arthurian narratives and
partly in terms of Anglo-Saxon heroic
poetry. In "Epoch and Artist," David
Jones calls the figure in a painting by
Manet "Tergau of the Golden Bosom,"
a person also named in those narratives.
I mention the threefold worth of
"Epoch and Artist" before referring to
its contents because it does not look
very promising if one merely glances at
the ,titles of the pieces that make up
the book. At first glimpse it looks like
a grab bag of odds and ends. The items
collected are miscellaneous and occas-
ional: prefaces to his own books and
introductions to those of others, essays
contributed to volumes at the request of
editors, book reviews, radio talks, a brief
recalling of a friend in memoriam-and,
those crankiest of all literary works, let-
ters to the editor. Not reassuring. The
quirky subjects increase the unease:
"Changes in the Coronation Service,"
"The Viae, The Roman Roads in Britain,"
"The Eclypse of a Hymn," If and Per-
haps and But," 'James Joyce's Dublin,"
the review of a picture book. 'Epoch and
Artist" is superficially a grab bag of ec-
centric and antiquarian writings. Yet it
has a profound unity and a high degree
of modern relevance.

Man or myth?
ceived in, or of, nature; and the artist
becomes the perceiver and maker of that
order. To such people, Shakespeare the
man will seem a slight, unpretending
even irrecoverable figure beside the per-
son of the poet offering his work; and to
them, the history that attempts to re-
cover the former to explain away the lat-
ter will be a nuisance intruding where it
does not belong.
The mere knowledge of Shakespeare's
name impels us to try and discover him,
and to make connections between him
and his work. We have an apparently
natural curiosity about names, especially
the names of the former great; but we
have to be prepared to admit that not all
discoverable facts are relevant, and to
exercise a consequent discipline upon
ourselves. Scholars especially are tempt-
ed to endorse the saying that one newly

Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE SUNDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1964

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