Multitudinous Marriment

• …ποντίων τε κυμάτων ἀνήριθμον γέλασμα… — Αἰσχύλος, Προμηθεὺς δεσμώτης (c. 479-24 B.C.)

• …of ocean-waves the multitudinous laughter… Prometheus Bound at Perseus

• …ever-glittering laughter of the far-thrown waves… (my translation)

See also:

γέλασμα, a laugh, κυμάτων ἀνήριθμον γέλασμα, Keble’s “the many-twinkling smile of Ocean, ” Aesch. — Liddell and Scott

Keble was not a sacred but, in the best sense of the word, a secular poet. It is not David only, but the Sibyl, whose accents we catch in his inspirations. The “sword in myrtle drest” of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, “the many-twinkling smile of ocean” from Æschylus, are images as familiar to him as “Bethlehem’s glade” or “Carmel’s haunted strand.” Not George Herbert, or Cowper, but Wordsworth, Scott, and perhaps more than all, Southey, are the English poets that kindled his flame, and coloured his diction. — John Keble at Penny’s Poetry Pages

One day Mr Gordon had accidentally come in, and found no one there but Upton and Eric; they were standing very harmlessly by the window, with Upton’s arm resting kindly on Eric’s shoulder, as they watched with admiration the network of rippled sunbeams that flashed over the sea. Upton had just been telling Eric the splendid phrase, “anerhithmon gelasma pontou”, which he had stumbled upon in an Aeschylus lesson that morning, and they were trying which would hit on the best rendering of it. Eric stuck up for the literal sublimity of “the innumerable laughter of the sea,” while Upton was trying to win him over to “the many-twinkling smile of ocean.” They were enjoying the discussion, and each stoutly maintaining his own rendering, when Mr Gordon entered. — quote from Frederic W. Farrar’s Eric, or Little by Little (1858) at Sententiae Antiquae

Knostrils

• εἰ πάντα τὰ ὄντα καπνὸς γένοιτο, ῥῖνες ἂν διαγνοῖεν. — Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος

• • Si toutes choses devenaient fumée, on connaîtrait par les narines. — Héraclite d’Ephèse

• • • If all things were turned to smoke, the nostrils would tell them apart. — Heraclitus of Ephesos, quoted in Aristotle’s De sensu, 5, 443a 23

Vacancy Vanquished

We never sighted the slightest suggestion of life all the way to Vancouver, twelve days of chilly boredom, though there was a certain impressiveness in the very dreariness and desolation. There was a hint of the curious horror that emptiness always evokes, whether it is a space of starless night or a bleak and barren waste of land. The one exception is the Sahara Desert where, for some reason that I cannot name, the suggestion is not in the least of vacancy and barrenness, but rather of some subtle and secret spring of life. — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography (1929), ch. 57


Previously Pre-Posted…

Leech Unleashed
Crowley on Crystals

Lorn This Way

There was a young man of Cape Horn,
Who wished that he’d never been born;
     And he wouldn’t have been,
     If his father had seen
That the end of the rubber was torn.

(Possibly by Swinburne)


Proxi-Performative Post-Scriptum

The toxic title of this para-poetic post (incorporating key archaic adjective “lorn”, meaning “desolate, forsaken”) is a radical reference to core Lady Gaga single “Born This Way” (which, to the best of my recollection, I haven’t heard but have heard of…). I originally intended to call the post “Torn This Way”, but decided that this adversely and anticlimactically anticipated the punchline of the limerick.

A Ladd Inane

“I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others.” — Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (1948)


Peri-Performative Post-Scriptum

The title of this post is, of course, a radical reference to core Jethro Tull album Aladdin Sane (1973).

Swan Klong

Ghìrkýthi mhlóSphálákhtthi mhlóDwèlrthi / The Swans of Queen Sphalaghd1

(Translated and edited by Simon Whitechapel)

In the black mirroring surface of the canal, these things: a sky very high and clear, the blue infinite interior of the skull of a god2 brooding beauty and pain into the world; the walls that line the canal, white marble, sharp-edged; the vivid mosaics of precious stone with which the walls are set: oval belladonnic eyes of emerald and obsidian in faces of sculpted mammoth ivory; the mouths of jade3-lipped bayadères leaking ruby threads of wine; the topaz fingers and wrists of rhodolite4-crowned lutanists; quartz-glistered sinews in the arms of capon5-plump eunuchs fanning the dances of turquoise6-skinned odalisques who prance and beck in frozen heated showers of opal-drop sweat.

But all, in the mirroring water, is grey.7

In the black mirroring surface of the canal, these things: a broad slab of basalt to which is bound a naked man8, white against the stone’s darkness, black-haired and bound with soft unbreakable bonds of purple silk; on his belly have been painted the red strokes and hooks and curls of the ideogram for death, like the roaring fist-talon and shank of a stooping hawk9 or the opening hungry maw of a leopard10, a splash of red tissues ringed and spiked and shaped by white barbs of teeth.

But all, in the mirroring water, is grey.

In the black mirroring surface of the canal, these things: five swans; their bright, forward-sweeping eyes are set in white, oval-skulled heads that are enwedged with yellow, black-rooted beaks; their white, smooth-feathered, twice-curved necks, slender as stems, are shivered on the ripples of the passage of bodies that are white seed-pods curling to smooth, hooked tails. Five swans, silent white swans. Their beaks are small and regular as the hardened gold heads of the ritual axes of the Temple of the Thanatocrator11, which sound tchlunk tchlunk tchlunk in the skulls of the sacrifices, opening slotted, red-welling ways for the prosempyreal passage of the soul.

But all, in the mirroring water, is grey.

In the black, mirroring surface of the canal, this: the white swans clustered on the white body of the sacrifice. Their necks dart and sway, sowing moist red blooms into the fertile milk of his skin. He strains against his bonds, but the necks fall, the heads hammer with steady, unconscious grace, opening the blooms to full flower. In the mirroring water they are beautiful, like strewn blossoms12 for the feet of the Thanatocrator, who dances his hatred into the waking dreams of the world. The sacrifice is dead and the swans are streaked and smirched and spotted with gore, like heavy white flowers in a garden of torture.

Their necks bend and sway, and their beaks open and close, but in the mirroring water their voices are silent, and how may we tell what they say?

NOTES

1. Trained swans were the favored form of execution under the insane and semi-legendary nymphomane Queen Sphalaghd (1-143 Anno Dominæ; 1137-1279 Anno Secundi Imperii), whose extravagances came nigh to ruining the kingdom before, after many hesitations on and retreats from the threshold, she converted fully to the austere and life-denying doctrines of the Thorn-God in the final lustrum of her nigromantically prolonged life.13 She was canonized by the Temple thirteen years after her death.

2. An obvious reference to the Thorn-God, and in another context the Yihhian (mhló)Kiùlthi might be translated “(of) the god”, but the use of the non-hieratic noun marker gives the flavor of the indefinite article in English and contributes to the sense of brooding anonymity in the story.

3. This is believed to be a satirical reference to Yokh-Tsiolphë’s own religion (see note 8 below), that of the Moon-Deity, whose abstemious priestesses wore strongly colored make-up while performing their ritual dances under the full moon.

4. From its use in other texts retrieved oneirically from the Temple, the hieroglyph appears to refer to some rose-colored semi-precious mineral, and I have chosen to translate the word as “rhodolite”: coronemus nos rosis antequam marcescant (“let us crown us with roses before they be withered”, Sapientia Solomonis 2:8) was a sentiment accepted in its widest possible sense at the week-long feasts held during the long years of Queen Sphalagdh’s dissipation.

5. Possibly a castrated form not of the domestic hen (Gallus domesticus) but of the peacock (Pavo cristatus).

6. Again a possible satirical reference to the priestesses of the Moon-Deity.

7. Mirrors in the Temple were only of dark minerals, principally basalt, haematite, and black coral (Gorgonia spp), for the priests taught that color was one of the snares of sensuality by which the world entrapped men’s souls. Accordingly, possession of a fully reflecting mirror was an excommunicable offence for members of the Thorn-God’s congregation.

8. The story is believed to refer to the execution of a nobleman called Yokh-Tsiolphë (Yugg-Siurphë in some texts), who had offended the Queen either by refusing to sacrifice his eldest son and daughter to the Thorn-God or (as most scholars now believe) by falling under suspicion of having composed an anonymous pasquinade against the Thorn-God which was briefly circulated at the royal court in 38 A.D./1174 A.S.I. The execution would have been one of the earliest signs of the Queen’s growing regard for the Thorn-God.

9. The Yihhian here is a little unclear and the reference is perhaps to the Osprey (Pandion haliætus), which was second only to the Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) in the ornithomancy of the Temple.

10. The Yihhian kiuthi literally means “spotted one” and can refer to several species of animal; “leopard” seems the most appropriate translation in this context.

11. Niédýthithlà (mhló)Nhriúlr, literally “deathly lord(’s)”, was a title of the Thorn-God, but the foreign derivation of the words in Yihhian means it is perhaps best translated into English as “thanatocrator”.

12. Blossoms of gorse (Ulex spp) and other spinose plants were thrown beneath the feet of dancing priests during rituals at the Temple, and many of the Temple’s hymns refer to osmomancy, or divination by the scents released from the crushed petals.

13. She is said to have been planning another round of the puerile and puellar sacrifices with which she purchased her unnatural youth at the time of her death, occasioned when she slipped on trampled petals in the Temple of the Thorn-God whilst approaching the altar for blessing and was impaled on the silver thorns topping a newly erected altar-rail. Some contemporary commentators hinted at numerological significance in her death, saying that the priests of the Thorn-God had persuaded her that by laying down her life at that age she would regain it at the beginning of the next cosmic cycle. It is possible, therefore, that the encephalotomy and cardiotomy of her ritual mummification were feigned.