Sins of the Sesh

THE SESSION OF THE POETS.—August, 1866.

Dî magni, salaputium disertum* — CAT[ullus]. Lib. LIII.

AT the Session of Poets held lately in London,
   The Bard of Freshwater was voted the chair:
With his tresses unbrush’d, and his shirt-collar undone,
   He loll’d at his ease like a good-humour’d Bear;
“Come, boys,” he exclaimed, “we’ll be merry together!”
   And lit up his pipe with a smile on his cheek;
While with eye like a skipper’s cock’d up at the weather,
   Sat the Vice-Chairman Browning, thinking in Greek.

The company gather’d embraced great and small bards,
   Both strong bards and weak bards, funny and grave,
Fat bards and lean bards, little and tall bards,
   Bards who wear whiskers, and others who shave.
Of books, men, and things, was the bards’ conversation
   Some praised Ecce Homo, some deemed it so-so —
And then there was talk of the state of the nation,
   And when the unwash’d would devour Mr. Lowe.

Right stately sat Arnold — his black gown adjusted
   Genteelly, his Rhine wine deliciously iced, —
With puddingish England serenely disgusted,
   And looking in vain (in the mirror) for “Geist.”
He heark’d to the Chairman, with “Surely!” and “Really?”
   Aghast at both collar and cutty of clay, —
Then felt in his pocket, and breath’d again freely,
   On touching the leaves of his own classic play.

Close at hand lingered Lytton, whose Icarus-winglets
   Had often betrayed him in regions of rhyme —
How glitter’d the eye underneath his grey ringlets,
   A hunger within it unlessened by time!
Remoter sat Bailey — satirical, surly —
   Who studied the language of Goethe too soon,
Who sang himself hoarse to the stars very early,
   And crack’d a weak voice with too lofty a tune.

How name all that wonderful company over —
   Prim Patmore, mild Alford — and Kingsley also?
Among the small sparks who was realler than Lover?
   Among misses, who sweeter than Miss Ingelow?
There sat, looking moony, conceited, and narrow,
   Buchanan, — who, finding when foolish and young,
Apollo asleep on a coster-girl’s barrow,
   Straight dragged him away to see somebody hung.

What was said? what was done? was there prosing or rhyming?
   Was nothing noteworthy in deed or in word?
Why, just as the hour for the supper was chiming,
   The only event of the evening occurred.
Up jumped, with his neck stretching out like a gander,
   Master Swinburne, and squeal’d, glaring out through his hair,
“All Virtue is bosh! Hallelujah for Landor!
   I disbelieve wholly in everything! — there!”

With language so awful he dared then to treat ’em, —
   Miss Ingelow fainted in Tennyson’s arms,
Poor Arnold rush’d out, crying “Sæcl’ inficetum!”
   And great bards and small bards were full of alarms;
Till Tennyson, flaming and red as a gipsy,
   Struck his fist on the table and uttered a shout:
“To the door with the boy! Call a cab! He is tipsy!”
   And they carried the naughty young gentleman out.

After that, all the pleasanter talking was done there
   Whoever had known such an insult before?
The Chairman tried hard to re-kindle the fun there,
   But the Muses were shocked, and the pleasure was o’er.
Then “Ah!” cried the Chairman, “this teaches me knowledge,
   The future shall find me more wise, by the powers!
This comes of assigning to younkers from college
   Too early a place in such meetings as ours!”

CALIBAN, The Spectator, September 15, 1866


*Dî magni, salaputium disertum = “Great gods, an eloquent mannikin!”
†”The Bard of Freshwater” is Tennyson, who lived at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight
‡”Sæcl’ inficetum!” = “Uncouth age!”

Caliban was Robert Buchanan (1841-1901), later the author of “The Fleshly School of Poetry”, an attack on immorality and sensuality in the poetry of Swinburne and Rossetti.

Leech Unleashed

The Great Beast writes:

I witnessed a remarkable sight on the road to Chabanjong, which was here a paka rasta (that is, a road made by engineers as opposed to kacha rasta, a track made by habit or at most by very primitive methods) wide enough for carts to pass. I had squatted near the middle of the road as being the least damp and leech-infested spot available and got a pipe going by keeping the bowl under my waterproof. I lazily watched a leech wriggling up a blade of tall grass about fifteen inches high and smiled superiorily at its fatuity — though when I come to think of it, my own expedition was morally parallel; but the leech was not such a fool as I thought. Arrived at the top, it began to set the stalk swinging to and fro; after a few seconds it suddenly let go and flew clean across the road. The intelligence of and ingenuity of the creature struck me as astonishing. — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography (1929), ch. 52

Math Matters

“Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little; it is only its mathematical properties that we can discover.” — Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Philosophy (1927), ch. 15, “The Nature of our Knowledge of Physics”

Toxic Textuality for Tenebrose Times…

If you thought the keyly committed core componency of Covid-19 was bad, please park your peepers on the Satan Bug dot dot dot:

In its final form, the Satan Bug is an extremely refined powder. I take a salt-spoon of this powder, go outside in the grounds of Mordon and turn the salt-spoon upside down. What happens? Every person in Mordon would be dead within an hour, the whole of Wiltshire would be an open tomb by dawn. In a week, ten days, all life would have ceased to exist in Britain. I mean all life. The Plague, the Black Death – was nothing compared with this. Long before the last man died in agony ships or planes or birds or just the waters of the North Sea would have carried the Satan Bug to Europe. We can conceive of no obstacle that can stop its eventual world-wide spread… The Lapp trapping in the far north of Sweden. The Chinese peasant tilling his rice-fields in the Yangtse valley. The cattle rancher on his station in the Australian outback, the shopper in Fifth Avenue, the primitive in Tierra del Fuego. Dead. All dead. Because I turned a salt-spoon upside down. Nothing, nothing, nothing can stop the Satan Bug.


Previously pre-posted (on Papyrocentric Performativity):

God-Finger — a radical review of Alistair MacLean’s The Satan Bug (1962)…

FractAlphic Frolix

A fractal is a shape that contains smaller (and smaller) versions of itself, like this:

The hourglass fractal


Fractals also occur in nature. For example, part of a tree looks like the tree as whole. Part of a cloud or a lung looks like the cloud or lung as a whole. So trees, clouds and lungs are fractals. The letters of an alphabet don’t usually look like that, but I decided to create a fractal alphabet — or fractalphabet — that does.

The fractalphabet starts with this minimal standard Roman alphabet in upper case, where each letter is created by filling selected squares in a 3×3 grid:


The above is stage 1 of the fractalphabet, when it isn’t actually a fractal alphabet at all. But if each filled square of the letter “A”, say, is replaced by the letter itself, the “A” turns into a fractal, like this:








Fractal A (animated)


Here’s the whole alphabet being turned into fractals:

Full fractalphabet (black-and-white)


Full fractalphabet (color)


Full fractalphabet (b&w animated)


Full fractalphabet (color animated)


Now take a full word like “THE”:



You can turn each letter into a fractal using smaller copies of itself:







Fractal THE (b&w animated)


Fractal THE (color animated)


But you can also create a fractal from “THE” by compressing the “H” into the “T”, then the “E” into the “H”, like this:




Compressed THE (animated)



The compressed “THE” has a unique appearance and is both a letter and a word. Now try a complete sentence, “THE CAT BIT THE RAT”. This is the sentence in stage 1 of the fractalphabet:



And stage 2:



And further stages:





Fractal CAT (b&w animated)


Fractal CAT (color animated)


But, as we saw with “THE” above, that’s not the only fractal you can create from “THE CAT BIT THE RAT”. Here’s what I call a 2-compression of the sentence, where every second letter has been compressed into the letter that precedes it:


THE CAT BIT THE RAT (2-comp color)


THE CAT BIT THE RAT (2-comp b&w)


And here’s a 3-compression of the sentence, where every third letter has been compressed into every second letter, and every second-and-third letter has been compressed into the preceding letter:

THE CAT BIT THE RAT (3-comp color)


THE CAT BIT THE RAT (3-comp b&w)


As you can see above, each word of the original sentence is now a unique single letter of the fractalphabet. Theoretically, there’s no limit to the compression: you could fit every word of a book in the standard Roman alphabet into a single letter of the fractalphabet. Or you could fit an entire book into a single letter of the fractalphabet (with additional symbols for punctuation, which I haven’t bothered with here).

To see what the fractalphabeting of a longer text in the standard Roman alphabet might look like, take the first verse of a poem by A.E. Housman:

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves. (“Poem XXXI” of A Shropshire Lad, 1896)

The first line looks like this in stage 1 of the fractalphabet:


Here’s stage 2 of the standard fractalphabet, where each letter is divided into smaller copies of itself:


And here’s stage 3 of the standard fractalphabet:


Now examine a colour version of the first line in stage 1 of the fractalphabet:


As with “THE” above, let’s try compressing each second letter into the letter that precedes it:


And here’s a 3-comp of the first line:


Finally, here’s the full first verse of Housman’s poem in 2-comp and 3-comp forms:

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves. (“Poem XXXI of A Shropshire Lad, 1896)

“On Wenlock Edge” (2-comp)


“On Wenlock Edge” (3-comp)


Appendix

This is a possible lower-case version of the fractalphabet:

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #49

• «Планета есть колыбель разума, но нельзя вечно жить в колыбели.» — Константин Эдуардович Циолковский (1911)

• “Planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.” — Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Crowley on Crystals

The first thing to meet our eyes [on a Himalayan expedition in 1902] was what, suppose we had landed in the country of Brobdignag, only more, so, might have been the lace handkerchief of a Super-Glumdalclitch left out to dry. It was a glittering veil of brilliance of the hillside; but closer inspection, instead of destroying the illusion, made one exclaim with increased enthusiasm.

The curtain had been formed by crystalline deposits from a hot spring (38.3° centigrade). The incrustation is exquisitely white and exquisitely geometrical in every detail. The burden of the cynicism of my six and twenty years fell from me like a dream. I trod the shining slopes; they rustled under my feet rather as snow does in certain conditions. (The sound is strangely exhilarating.) It is a voluptuous flattery like the murmurous applause of a refined multitude, with the instinctive ecstatic reverence of a man conscious of his unworthiness entering paradise. At the top of the curtain is the basin from which it proceeds, the largest of several similar formations. It is some thirty-one feet in diameter, an almost perfect circle. The depth in the middle is little over two feet. It is a bath for Venus herself.

I had to summon my consciousness of godhead before venturing to invade it. The water steams delicately with sulphurous emanations, yet the odour is subtly delicious. Knowles, the doctor and I spent more than an hour and a half reposing in its velvet warmth, in the intoxicating dry mountain air, caressed by the splendour of the sun. I experienced all the ecstasy of the pilgrim who has come to the end of his hardships. I felt as if I had been washed clean of all the fatigues of the journey. In point of fact, I had arrived, despite myself, at perfect physical condition. I had realized from the first that the proper preparation for a journey of this sort is to get as fat as possible before starting, and stay as fat as possible as long as possible. I was now in the condition in which Pfannl had been at Srinagar. I could have gone forty-eight hours without turning a hair. — The Confessions of Aleister Crowley: An Autohagiography (1929)

Dull ’Un

There was a lot of drinking. One sunny morning [Dylan] Thomas and friends were in a field above Newlyn, sampling a “champagne wine tonic” sold by a local herbalist. Thomas talked and talked, then stopped abruptly. “Someone’s boring me,” he said. “I think it’s me.”


After his Vassar reading, Thomas stayed with a staff member at the college, Vernon Venable. He and his hosts sat up half the night, talking and drinking. When he finally retired, Venable sat on the bed while Thomas launched into a drunken account of his unhappiness. According to Venable, it went on for hours — “just misery, misery, misery, which seemed to me so pervasive that it had no source except a psychological source. That is, the man was deeply neurotic.” Venable is unable to remember details, except that part of the monologue was concerned with his love for Caitlin [Thomas, his wife]. In effect, says Venable, he was declaring that life was a nightmare and he couldn’t stand it. […]

In the morning Venable said goodbye to his guest, then discovered to his annoyance that Thomas had stolen his best white shirt. — Dylan Thomas, Paul Ferris (1977) (ch. 7, “Caitlin”, and ch. 10, “Laugharne and America”)

The Psyve Mind Speaks

“H.P. Lovecraft were really underrated in terms of the sixties bands from the West Coast.” — Psychic Hi-Fi: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Favourite Albums, The Quietus, 23i2014.


Previously pre-posted:

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #23 — an earlier engagement by Genesis P. Orridge in terms of issues around “in terms of” (dot dot dot)
Ex-term-in-ate!