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.

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:

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”)

Purple Poesy

DIVERSIONS OF THE RE-ECHO CLUB

It is with pleasure that we announce our ability to offer to the public the papers of the Re-Echo Club. This club, somewhat after the order of the Echo Club, late of Boston, takes pleasure in trying to better what is done. On the occasion of the meeting of which the following gems of poesy are the result, the several members of the club engaged to write up the well-known tradition of the Purple Cow in more elaborate form than the quatrain made famous by Mr. Gelett Burgess:

“I NEVER saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.”

[…]

MR. A. SWINBURNE:

Oh, Cow of rare rapturous vision,
Oh, purple, impalpable Cow,
Do you browse in a Dream Field Elysian,
Are you purpling pleasantly now?
By the side of wan waves do you languish?
Or in the lithe lush of the grove?
While vainly I search in my anguish,
Bovine of mauve!

Despair in my bosom is sighing,
Hope’s star has sunk sadly to rest;
Though cows of rare sorts I am buying,
Not one breathes a balm to my breast.
Oh, rapturous rose-crowned occasion
When I such a glory might see!
But a cow of a purple persuasion
I never would be.


Elsewhere other-engageable:

The Purple Cow Parodies
Diversions of the Re-Echo Club
Such Nonsense! An Anthology (c. 1918) — with this and other parodies

Sept-Ember

“The Palace of Pan”

by Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)


September, all glorious with gold, as a king
In the radiance of triumph attired,
Outlightening the summer, outsweetening the spring,
Broods wide on the woodlands with limitless wing,
A presence of all men desired.

Far eastward and westward the sun-coloured lands
Smile warm as the light on them smiles;
And statelier than temples upbuilded with hands,
Tall column by column, the sanctuary stands
Of the pine-forest’s infinite aisles.

Mute worship, too fervent for praise or for prayer,
Possesses the spirit with peace,
Fulfilled with the breath of the luminous air,
The fragrance, the silence, the shadows as fair
As the rays that recede or increase.

Ridged pillars that redden aloft and aloof,
With never a branch for a nest,
Sustain the sublime indivisible roof,
To the storm and the sun in his majesty proof,
And awful as waters at rest.

Man’s hand hath not measured the height of them; thought
May measure not, awe may not know;
In its shadow the woofs of the woodland are wrought;
As a bird is the sun in the toils of them caught,
And the flakes of it scattered as snow.

As the shreds of a plumage of gold on the ground
The sun-flakes by multitudes lie,
Shed loose as the petals of roses discrowned
On the floors of the forest engilt and embrowned
And reddened afar and anigh.

Dim centuries with darkling inscrutable hands
Have reared and secluded the shrine
For gods that we know not, and kindled as brands
On the altar the years that are dust, and their sands
Time’s glass has forgotten for sign.

A temple whose transepts are measured by miles,
Whose chancel has morning for priest,
Whose floor-work the foot of no spoiler defiles,
Whose musical silence no music beguiles,
No festivals limit its feast.

The noon’s ministration, the night’s and the dawn’s,
Conceals not, reveals not for man,
On the slopes of the herbless and blossomless lawns,
Some track of a nymph’s or some trail of a faun’s
To the place of the slumber of Pan.

Thought, kindled and quickened by worship and wonder
To rapture too sacred for fear
On the ways that unite or divide them in sunder,
Alone may discern if about them or under
Be token or trace of him here.

With passionate awe that is deeper than panic
The spirit subdued and unshaken
Takes heed of the godhead terrene and Titanic
Whose footfall is felt on the breach of volcanic
Sharp steeps that their fire has forsaken.

By a spell more serene than the dim necromantic
Dead charms of the past and the night,
Or the terror that lurked in the noon to make frantic
Where Etna takes shape from the limbs of gigantic
Dead gods disanointed of might,

The spirit made one with the spirit whose breath
Makes noon in the woodland sublime
Abides as entranced in a presence that saith
Things loftier than life and serener than death,
Triumphant and silent as time.

(Inscribed to my Mother) Pine Ridge: September 1893

Feel the ’Burne

The Poets at Tea […]

3.—(Swinburne, who let it get cold)

As the sin that was sweet in the sinning
Is foul in the ending thereof,
As the heat of the summer’s beginning
Is past in the winter of love:
O purity, painful and pleading!
O coldness, ineffably gray!
Oh, hear us, our handmaid unheeding,
And take it away!

Barry Pain (1864-1928)


A Melton-Mowbray Pork Pie

Strange pie that is almost a passion,
     O passion immoral for pie!
Unknown are the ways that they fashion,
     Unknown and unseen of the eye.

The pie that is marbled and mottled,
     The pie that digests with a sigh:
For all is not Bass that is bottled,
     And all is not pork that is pie.

Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947)

Wysts and Mellow Flutefulness

(To Randolph Churchill, but not about him)

Broad of Church and broad of mind,
Broad before and broad behind,
A keen ecclesiologist,
A rather dirty Wykehamist.
’Tis not for us to wonder why
He wears that curious knitted tie;
We should not cast reflections on
The very slightest kind of don.
We should not giggle as we like
At his appearance on his bike;
It’s something to become a bore,
And more than that, at twenty-four.
It’s something too to know your wants
And go full pelt for Norman fonts.
Just now the chestnut trees are dark
And full with shadow in the park,
And “Six o’clock!” St. Mary calls
Above the mellow college walls.
The evening stretches arms to twist
And captivate her Wykehamist.
But not for him these autumn days,
He shuts them out with heavy baize;
He gives his Ovaltine a stir
And nibbles at a petit beurre,
And, satisfying fleshy wants,
He settles down to Norman fonts.

John Betjeman (1906-84)

Whet Work

What, still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat ’tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl’s, and swing for it.

Like enough, you won’t be glad,
When they come to hang you, lad:
But bacon’s not the only thing
That’s cured by hanging from a string.

So, when the spilt ink of the night
Spreads o’er the blotting-pad of light,
Lads whose job is still to do
Shall whet their knives, and think of you.

Hugh Kingsmill’s famous parody of A.E. Housman

Performativizing Papyrocentricity #41

Papyrocentric Performativity Presents:

Touring the TowerPhysics in Minutes: 200 key concepts explained in an instant, Giles Sparrow (Quercus 2014)

Living with Rainbows – Miller’s Field Guide: Glass, Judith Miller (Octopus 2015)

Men on the Margins – Edgelands: Journeys into England’s True Wilderness, Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts (Chivers 2011)

Sward and SorceryWatership Down, Richard Adams (1972) (posted @ Overlord of the Über-Feral)

Obscene ScreenNecro-Sluts from Satan’s Anus: Fifty Filthy Fester-Films to F*** You Up, Freak You Out and Feralize Your Fetidest Fantasies, Dr Joan Jay Jefferson (TransToxic Texts* 2015)


Or Read a Review at Random: RaRaR

(*TransToxic Texts is an infra-imprint of TransVisceral Books.)

Les Sez

In Terms of My Natural Life

(a pome crafted by Les Patterson)

I am an Australian in terms of Nation
And a Public Servant in terms of vocation,
But there’s one thing amazes my critics and that’s
How many I wear in terms of hats:
I chair the Cheese Board, I front the Yartz
You could term me a man of many parts.
I’m a Renaissance type, if you know the term
And I’ve held long office in terms of term,
Yes, I’ve long served Australia in terms of years
And in terms of refreshment I like a few beers.
My opponents are mongrels, scum and worms
Who I bucket in no uncertain terms
And my rich vocabulary always features
Large in terms of my public speeches.
My favourite terms in terms of debate
Are: “broadbased package” and “orchestrate”.
But one term I never employ is “failure” —
Especially when talking in terms of Australia!
For in terms of lifestyle we’ve got the germs of
A ripper concept to think in terms of.
Yes, in terms of charisma I’ve got the game mastered
In anyone’s terms I’m a well-liked bastard.

From the Back With A Vengeance Tour Brochure © 1989 Sir Les Patterson.


Elsewhere Other-Engageable:

Sir Les’s Website
Ex-Term-In-Ate!