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Old 08-11-2008   #21
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

To be knav'd out of our graves, to have our sculs made drinking-bowls, and our bones turned into Pipes, to delight and sport our Enemies, are Tragicall abominations escaped in burning Burials.

Urnall interrments and burnt Reliques lye not in fear of worms, or to be an heritage for Serpents; In carnall sepulture, corruptions seem peculiar unto parts, and some speak of snakes out of the spinall marrow. But while we suppose common wormes in graves, 'tis not easie to finde any there; few in Churchyards above a foot deep, fewer or none in Churches, though in fresh decayed bodies. Teeth, bones, and hair, give the most lasting defiance to corruption. In an Hypdropicall body, ten years buried in the Church-yard, we met with a fat concretion, where the nitre of the Earth, and the salt and lixivious liquor of the body, had coagulated in large lumps of fat, into the consistence of the hardest castle-soap; whereof part remaineth with us. After a battle with the Persians, the Roman Corps decayed in a few dayes, while the Persian bodies remained dry and uncorrupted. Bodies in the same ground do not uniformly dissolve, nor bones equally moulder; whereof in the opprobrious disease we expect no long duration. The body of the Marquesse of Dorset seemed sound and healthy and handsomely cereclothed that after seventy-eight years was found uncorrupted.

-- Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia. Urne Buriall; Or, A Discourse Of The Sepulchrall Urnes Lately Found In Norfolk (1658)

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-11-2008   #22
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

Quote Originally Posted by Bleak&Icy View Post
To be knav'd out of our graves, to have our sculs made drinking-bowls, and our bones turned into Pipes, to delight and sport our Enemies, are Tragicall abominations escaped in burning Burials.

Urnall interrments and burnt Reliques lye not in fear of worms, or to be an heritage for Serpents; In carnall sepulture, corruptions seem peculiar unto parts, and some speak of snakes out of the spinall marrow. But while we suppose common wormes in graves, 'tis not easie to finde any there; few in Churchyards above a foot deep, fewer or none in Churches, though in fresh decayed bodies. Teeth, bones, and hair, give the most lasting defiance to corruption. In an Hypdropicall body, ten years buried in the Church-yard, we met with a fat concretion, where the nitre of the Earth, and the salt and lixivious liquor of the body, had coagulated in large lumps of fat, into the consistence of the hardest castle-soap; whereof part remaineth with us. After a battle with the Persians, the Roman Corps decayed in a few dayes, while the Persian bodies remained dry and uncorrupted. Bodies in the same ground do not uniformly dissolve, nor bones equally moulder; whereof in the opprobrious disease we expect no long duration. The body of the Marquesse of Dorset seemed sound and healthy and handsomely cereclothed that after seventy-eight years was found uncorrupted.

-- Sir Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia. Urne Buriall; Or, A Discourse Of The Sepulchrall Urnes Lately Found In Norfolk (1658)
"To be knav'd out of our graves..." Astonishing and perfect verb there.

Regarding Sir Thomas Browne, here is a short bit by William H. Gass (from "Fifty Literary Pillars," in the essay collection A Temple of Texts).

Sir Thomas Browne's Hydriotaphia: Urn Buriall,
or a Discourse of the Sepulchrall Urnes
lately found in Norfolk

The full list, the final roll of honor, would include all the great Elizabethan and Jacobean prose writers: Traherne, Milton, Donne, Hobbes, Taylor, Burton, the translators of the King James Bible, and, of course, Browne, or "Sir Style," as I call him. I would later find them all splendidly discussed in a single chapter of George Saintsbury's A History of English Prose Rhythm, the chapter he called "The Triumph of the Ornate Style." Of course, there are great plain styles. Of course, positivists, puritans, democrats, levelers, Luddites, utilitarians, pragmatists, and pushy progressives have something to say for themselves. There are indeed several musicians after Handel and Bach. And there are other mountains beyond Nanga Parbat. But. But the great outburst of English poetry in Shakespeare, in Jonson, in Marlowe, and so on, was paralleled by an equally great outburst of prose, a prose, moreover, not yet astoop to fictional entertainments, but interested, as Montaigne was, in the drama and the dance of ideas. And they had one great obsession: death, for death came early in those days. First light was often final glimmer. Sir Style is a skeptic; Sir Style is a stroller; Sir Style takes his time; Sir Style broods, no hen more overworked than he; Sir Style makes literary periods as normal folk make water; Sir Style ascends the language as if it were a staircase of nouns; Sir Style would do a whole lot better than this.
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Old 08-12-2008   #23
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

The vital principal is not the love of Knowledge, but the love of Change. It is that strange disquietude of the Gothic spirit that is its greatness; that restlessness of the dreaming mind, that wanders hither and thither among the niches, and flickers feverishly around the pinnacles, and frets and fades in labyrinthine knots and shadows along wall and roof, and yet is not satisfied, nor shall be satisfied. The Greek could stay in his triglyph furrow, and be at peace; but the work of the Gothic heart is fretwork still, and it can neither rest in, nor form, its labour, but must pass on, sleeplessly, until its love of change shall be pacified for ever in the change that must come alike on them that wake and them that sleep.


--John Ruskin, "The Nature of Gothic," The Stones of Venice, Volume II

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz
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Old 08-12-2008   #24
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

John Cowper Powys has the largest working vocabulary of any novelist in the English language; and when it comes to the sheer range of words, drawn from all aspects of life, at his command, he is second only to Shakespeare. I first encountered this curious fact during my second year of university, when I read an essay by George Steiner (a nod to gveranon). To say that Steiner was effusive in his praise of the Welsh novelist would be an understatement. Excited by the promise of discovering a new writer--not merely a writer but a wordsmith, a word-wielder, a baroque maestro!--I began haunting the secondhand bookshops for anything I could find by the Welshman. I have been a devoted reader of his ever since. The following passage of baroque prose (sorry, Nemonymous, but it has a better ring to it than "purple patch"), comes from Powys' colossal Autobiography. The young, aspiring writer has just been offered a teaching position at a girls' school. Hold on tight, Ligottian friends, for this is some thunderous, intoxicating prose, and in no time at all you'll be swaying like drunkards on these rolling waves of words:


I could hardly credit my ears. This was something I had never thought of. Girls' School? Schools of girls! I saw them gleaming like porpoises; shoals and shoals and shoals of them, waiting for their new professor at West Brighton. Were all those invisible lovelinesses, that I had so often told myself stories about, going to incarnate themselves at this crisis in my life, going to call upon me to lead, guide, teach, instruct, inspire, encorcerize them?

I thanked Mr. Grabbitas with the gravest discretion--my pulses beating furiously--and taking a hansom to London Bridge caught the next train to Brighton.
*
Schools of girls... shoals of girls... flocks and flurries of girls... what a thing, what an incomprehensible thing for my destiny to evoke! The very word "girl," especially if pronounced, as some of my relatives pronounced it, not to rhyme with "pearl," but to rhyme with "there'll," even as you would say it in a sentence: "there'll be gairls," thrilled me at that time of my life in a manner impossible to describe. It conveyed to my mind a sort of fleeting, floating, fluttering fantasy of femininity, a kind of Platonic essence of sylph-hood, not exactly virginal sylphid-ness, but the sate of being-a-Sylph carried to such a limit of tenuity as almost to cease to have any of the ordinary feminine attributes. This incarnation of airy tantalization was all that the word "girl" evoked for me, however pronounced. It always conveyed the idea to me of an impressionability, under an embrace, so flexible, so yielding, as to bear a resemblance to that ethereal vaporousness of the Homeric shades in Hades, that could not be felt at all as you embraced them! Thus the word "girl" almost ceased for me to have the least connection with the living personalities of real girls. When I saw a real girl I saw a feminine person, almost a feminine man; but these "girls" of my imagination, or rather I ought to say of my desire, could all have stood, thousands of them together, just like those jeered-at angels of scholasticism on the narrow apex of my winnowed, purged, and three-times-over-refined fastidiousness.

For the truth is, what I am so intensely attracted to, what I worshipped in those days to a point of idolatrous aberration, are hardly of the feminine sex at all! It is as if I had been born into this world from another planet--certainly not Venus, Saturn possibly!--where there was a different sex altogether from the masculine and feminine that we know. It is of this sex, of the Saturnian sex, that I must think when in the secret chambers of my mind I utter the syllable "girl." I suppose women are more like these elfin sylphs, these fleeting ephemerals, than most men are; but I am not perfectly sure even about this! The maternal instinct in women, so realistic, so formidable, so wise, so indulgent, is more remote from, and destructive of, the sylph-nature--the nature of these girls who are more girlish than girls--than the spirit of Hercules himself! I think that the inmost flame of my soul, the vital leap of my life-force, must be as fragile and tenuous as it is formidable and fierce; and that it is this brittleness and fineness in this interior flame which makes it flee, as if from cartloads of horned devils, at the faintest approach of any warm maternal lovingness, as if such lovingness would bury it under a thousand bushels, like the scriptural candle.

I cannot believe that a person's sex-emotions exist in some disconnected by-alley of his being without affecting the whole of his nature. My attitude to everything I worship, to the sea, to the mountains, to the earth, to the sun, to the moon, to Homer, to Shakespeare, to Rabelais, to Don Quixote, to lichen growing upon tree-stumps, to moss growing upon stones, to smoke rising from a cottage chimney, must be of this same fine, tenuous intensity; an intensity terribly shy of large, warm human normality, and always flickering round and about the magic candles of the exceptional.

In my most thrillingly happy moments I feel as if my nature were essentially light, volatile, porous, transparent. I seem to float at such times on waves of a quivering ether, an ether vibrant as the hovering heat-waves over an August cornfield. And it is on such an air-tide of quivering vibrations that I seem to be floating, when for a brief moment, in any real woman, I catch some faint trace of my sylphid ideal. It is pure impersonal lust; it is lust without the faintest mixture of anything that from a moralist's point of view could be called "redeeming." And yet I am prepared to justify it without scruple or shame! It is my religion, my beatific vision, my rapturous initiation into the mysteries...


I could go on: the entire Autobiography, all 652 pages of it, is written with this same level of gusto! At the risk of embarrassing myself, I confess that 13 years ago, when I read this book for the first time, I underlined, with a quivering pencil, the above sentence: the nature of these girls who are more girlish than girls...

"Reality is the shadow of the word." -- Bruno Schulz

Last edited by BleakИ 08-12-2008 at 06:41 AM..
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Old 08-12-2008   #25
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Re: Purple Patch Of The Day (or Week)

I once collected John Cowper Powys books avidly (in the seventies). Still got them. I must return to them. Thanks for the reminder, b& i.
I recall going on holiday with my wife and very young cchildren in 1976 to Glastonbury simply because I had just read 'The Glastonbury Romance' by JCP. Glastonbury wasn't so touristy in those days and I don't think I had heard then of any Glastonbury festival.

I've recently written about a Glistenberry Festival in my novella 'Weirdtongue' and mention in it a place called JCP House as a nod towards Powys.

PS: b&i, yes, thanks to gv, I've changed the title of this thread to 'Baroque Prose'.

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Old 08-12-2008   #26
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

To cast a dissenting vote, I took a look at John Cowper Powys' work some years ago -- prompted by Nemonymous, I feel sure -- and considered his stuff virtually unreadable. While having an extensive vocabulary is a good thing in a writer, having an immense one is not necessarily so.

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Old 08-12-2008   #27
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

I don't think baroque or purple prose is to your general taste, Odalisqe.
des

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Old 08-12-2008   #28
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
I don't think baroque or purple prose is to your general taste, Odalisqe.
des
No -- I really don't think it is. And now I'm wondering why I looked at this thread.

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Old 08-12-2008   #29
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Still, you enjoy Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft...?

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Old 08-12-2008   #30
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Re: Baroque Prose of the Day

Quote Originally Posted by Nemonymous View Post
Still, you enjoy Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft...?
Yes, I do. Not only that, but my favourites from those two authors are their purpler and baroquier stories (The Hound, The Abominations of Yondo, etc.). Pesky people are complicated -- me included. Bah!

Do I receive large vocabulary points for baroquier?

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