Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
18 Aug. 1966 – 11/13 May 1967; notes for the movement have the dates 2 May 1966 – 30 April 1967
437.1 Rudens: or The Rope by the Roman comic playwright T. Maccius Plautus (c.254-184 BC). LZ translated the Latin text line by line but rendered Plautus’ long 16-syllable lines with a five-word line (regardless of syllable count). “A”-21 is sometimes described as a homophonic translation, but this is not the case, although there is a good deal of homophonic suggestion throughout. I have noted some of the more curious manifestations, but have made no effort note the numerous homophonic echoes. According to Ahearn (176), LZ used the Loeb edition, Plautus IV: Poenulus, Pseudolus, and Rudens, trans. Paul Nixon (1932), although he also had in his library a Latin text of Rudens with plentiful notes edited by Edward A. Sonneschein (Oxford UP) and in Bottom (396-397) he used a translation by Cleveland King Chase (Hamilton College, 1919). On LZ’s translation practice in “A”-21, see Wray, “cool rare air” 52-69 and Hatlen, “Zukofsky as Translator” 357-364.
437.3 John Gassner: John Waldhorn Gassner (1903-1967) was a long-time friend of LZ from their student days together at Columbia; Gassner died suddenly on 2 April 1967 as LZ was completing “A”-21. Gassner was a prominent drama critic, scholar and Yale professor, whose reviews, introductions and scholarly works on both classic and contemporary drama were ubiquitous. On Gassner, see Scroggins Bio 401.
437.4 Morris Ephraim: (1892-1966) LZ’s older brother (who spelled his surname Zukowsky) died 22 Aug. 1966. In Autobiography (33) LZ mentions that Morris took him as a child to the Yiddish theater, which is alluded to in the first epilogue of “A”-21 (507.11-14; see also 8.83.25 and 14.339.1-3). On Morris Zukowsky, see Scroggins Bio 400.
438.2 (Voice off): of the various passages designated as “(Voice off)” throughout “A”-21, those assigned to a character are asides in Plautus’ text, while those that are unassigned are LZ’s interpolations. The usual meaning of voice off is simply when a voice is heard but the speaker remains unseen and is more often associated with cinema and television than drama. However, it is worth noting that LZ used two voice offs in the first scene of Arise, Arise: the play opens with a dialogue between Mother and Son who initially remain hidden behind the Dream Curtain, and near the end they listen to the Father speaking to his grandson (the Son’s nephew) who remains off-stage.
438.3 an ’twere any nightingale: from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream I.ii:
Bottom: I grant you, friends, if that you should fright the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us: but I will aggravate my voice so that I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove; I will roar you an ’twere any nightingale.
438.4 an if they be not / sprites: from Shakespeare, The Tempest II.ii:
Caliban [Aside]: These be fine things, an if they be not sprites.
That’s a brave god, and bears celestial liquor.
I will kneel to him.
438.8 fisheRman’s sea net dragged Up…: LZ’s “Plot” translates the Acrostic Argument of the original attributed to Priscian the Grammarian.
439.1 Acturus: a star near the Great Bear whose rising and setting portends tempests.
439.19 impetrating: impetrate = to obtain by entreaty or petition. Impetration = the act of impetrating or obtaining by prayer or petition; procurement; specifically in Old English statutes, the procurement from the court of Rome of benefices and church offices in England which by law belonged to the disposition of the king and other lay patrons (CD).
439.21 mulcts: mulct = a fine or other penalty imposed on a person for some offence or misdeameanor, usually a pecuniary fine (also verb) (CD).
439.33 primum mobile: in the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the tenth or outmost of the revolving spheres of the universe, which was supposed to revolve from east to west in twenty-four hours, and to carry the others along with it in its motion; hence any great or first source of motion (CD).
439.33 Diphilus: a 4th century BC Greek dramatist of New Comedy. The editor of the Loeb text LZ used notes that Rudens was adapted from an unknown play by Diphilus (vi), and in fact many of his plays were reworked by both Plautus and Terence.
439.34 Cyrene: city situated in Libya, the most important Hellenic colony in Africa, founded in the first century BC; the play is set near the city.
440.5 Attic: of Athens.
440.13 Agrigentum: major Greek city on the southern coast of Sicily.
440.17 “where the voluptuaries / ride gaily…: this is loosely suggested by the Latin text: ibi esse hominess voluptarios / dicit, potesse ibi eum fieri divitem (“People go in for a gay life there,” says he. “There’s where you can make your fortune”; trans. Paul Nixon).
440.23 fane: temple.
440.32 hibernal: of winter.
440.33 acerb: variant of acerbic.
442.3 ye lightnings, ye thunders—: from J.S. Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 1.5.27.
442.8 Euripides’ Alcmena: a lost play evidently famous for its tempest scene.
442.29 Salvé: L. hail!
443.4 Hercules’ club: Hercules was typically depicted as carrying a club or two; see 469.38. Hercules was associated with strength, victory and commercial enterprise, and was the patron of traders. Throughout Rudens, LZ translates the L. exclamation hercle literally as “Hercules,” although Nixon renders this variously as “Jove,” “God,” “Lord,” “ye gad,” etc. As LZ well knew, this exclamation survived into English at least until Shakespeare’s time in the form Mehercle (by Hercules) in Love’s Labour’s Lost IV.ii.80 (qtd. Bottom 440).
443.10 probate: proof; official proof of a will or testament (CD).
443.18 eructed: to belch forth or eject, as wind from the stomach (CD).
443.32 prinked: to dress for show, adorn one’s self; dress ostentatiously or fantastically; to strut, put on pompous airs (CD).
444.9 Ceres: Greek goddess of the earth, grain and agriculture.
444.30 Palaemon: Roman god of ports and harbors. Palaemon was originally Melicertes, son of Athamas and Ino, but when Athamas tried to kill his wife and son they both leapt into the sea and were transformed into sea divinities by Zeus, Melicertes becoming Palaemon and Ino becoming Leukothea. They had the power to save sailors from shipwreck and are often depicted as riding dolphins. Palaemon was also one of Hercules’ original names.
444.31 sockdologer: “‘A decisive blow’—one, in the slang language ‘Capable of setting a man a thinking,’” from the chapter “Americanisms in the Virginia Museum” in M.M. Mathews, ed. The Beginnings of American English (1931); see note at 459.17.
445.12 vesper: evening.
445.20 nine / men’s / morris: from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream II.i.98-100 (qtd. Bottom 136):
The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable […]
As Ahearn points out (178-179), there are a number of mentions of “morris” throughout “A”-21 punning on LZ’s brother’s name (see 437.4); see 461.26, 474.5, 507.14. From Webster’s (1913): “\Mor”ris\, n. [Sp. morisco Moorish, from Moro a Moor: cf. Fr. moresque, It. moresca.] 1. A Moorish dance, usually performed by a single dancer, who accompanies the dance with castanets. 2. A dance formerly common in England, often performed in pageants, processions, and May games. The dancers, grotesquely dressed and ornamented, took the parts of Robin Hood, Maidmarian, and other fictitious characters. 3. An old game played with counters, or men, which are placed at angles of a figure drawn on a board or on the ground; also, the board or ground on which the game is played. The nine-men’s morris is filled up with mud. —Shak. Note: The figure consists of three concentric squares, with lines from the angles of the outer one to those of the inner, and from the middle of each side of the outer square to that of the inner. The game is played by two persons with nine or twelve pieces each (hence called nine-men’s morris or twelve-men’s morris). The pieces are placed alternately, and each player endeavors to prevent his opponent from making a straight row of three. Should either succeed in making a row, he may take up one of his opponent’s pieces, and he who takes off all of his opponent’s pieces wins the game. \Mor”ris\, n. [So called from its discoverer]. A marine fish having a very slender, flat, transparent body. It is now generally believed to be the young of the conger eel or some allied fish.”
445.23 this / is / my / form: see 2.8.3.
445.27 a / voice / blown: see 8.104.6.
445.30 Palaestra: this is Polly’s name in Plautus’s Rudens. One wonders whether this is a typing error that has been carried over.
448.14 pomegranate: identified with both birth and death, probably because of the deep red-purple color of its fruit and its abundance of seeds; it is often associated with Kore/Persephone. The biblical apple of the Tree of Knowledge has often been taken to be a pomegranate. See 450.3 and 460.28.
448.15 And what an if / his sorrows have so / overwhelm’d: from Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus IV.iv:
Saturninus: And what an if
His sorrows have so overwhelm’d his wits,
Shall we be thus afflicted in his wreaks,
His fits, his frenzy, and his bitterness?
448.17 and the worst / fall that ever fell: from Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice I.ii:
Portia [commenting on how she likes one of her suitors]: Very vilely in the morning, when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon, when he is drunk: when he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast: and the worst fall that ever fell, I hope I shall make shift to go without him.
448.19 ‘to know everything / is to die’: a quip by PZ (HRC 4.11).
448.23 ‘it cannot / hurt purity to love…: from Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Pensées, Part I.11:
“All great amusements are dangerous to the Christian life; but among all those which the world has invented there is none more to be feared than the theatre. It is a representation of the passions so natural and so delicate that it excites them and gives birth to them in our hearts, and, above all, to that of love, principally when it is represented as very chaste and virtuous. For the more innocent it appears to innocent souls, the more they are likely to be touched by it. Its violence pleases our self-love, which immediately forms a desire to produce the same effects which are seen so well represented; and, at the same time, we make ourselves a conscience founded on the propriety of the feelings which we see there, by which the fear of pure souls is removed, since they imagine that it cannot hurt their purity to love with a love which seems to them so reasonable. So we depart from the theatre with our heart so filled with all the beauty and tenderness of love, the soul and the mind so persuaded of its innocence, that we are quite ready to receive its first impressions, or rather to seek an opportunity of awakening them in the heart of another, in order that we may receive the same pleasures and the same sacrifices which we have seen so well represented in the theatre” (trans. W.F. Trotter).
448.31 push / the cat posses: poss = an obsolete or dialectical form of push (CD).
448.33 ‘A made a / finer end ‘A parted…: from Shakespeare, Henry V II.iii:
Hostess [on the death of Falstaff]: Nay, sure, he’s not in hell. He’s in Arthur’s bosom, if ever man went to Arthur’s bosom. ’A made a finer end and went away an it had been any christom child. ’A parted even just between twelve and one, even at the turning o’ the tide: for after I saw him fumble with the sheets, and play with flowers, and smile upon his fingers’ ends, I knew there was but one way; for his nose was as sharp as a pen, and a Table of green fields.”
The latter phrase of this quotation is as it appears in Bottom 290, where LZ defends the Folio reading, although most scholars accept Lewis Theobald’s 1726 emendation of the final phrase to “’a babbled of green fields.”
450.7 spittle / drowning / worlds: see 1.2.18.
450.14 plutocrats: those who rule or sway a community or society by virtue of their wealth; a person possessing power or power solely or mainly by virtue of their riches (CD).
450.18 Urchins, lickrocks, oysters, acornshells, purplefish…: acornshell = type of barnacle; purplefish = type of shellfish; seanettles = jellyfish or sea anemone; lampshells = brachiopod, a mollusk-type animal.
450.28 as first the / Lark when she / means to rejoice…: through 451.4 from Izaak Walton (1593-1683), The Compleat Angler (1653) Part I, Chap I (see also 477.23f):
“As first the lark, when she means to rejoice, to cheer herself and those that hear her; she then quits the earth, and sings as she ascends higher into the air, and having ended her heavenly employment, grows then mute and sad, to think she must descend to the dull earth, which she would not touch but for necessity.”
“But the nightingale, another of my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think miracles are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear airs, the sweet descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of her voice, might well be lifted above earth, and say, Lord, what music hast thou provided for the saints in heaven, when thou affordest bad men such music on earth!”
“The earth feeds and carries those horses that carry us.”
451.11 Conch Hookandeye’s: hook and eye is a type of small garment fastening; here referring to the inter-lacing edges of a conch’s shell.
451.16 machétes: large, broad-bladed knife; from Plautus’ L. machaeris (sword).
451.18 Silenus: in Greek mythology, one of the satyrs who became a companion and mentor of Dionysius and usually depicted as a jovial, drunken old man.
451.30 sclerosed semen: sclerosis = abnormal hardening of a body part; from Plautus’ L. sceleris semen (Nixon: fount of infamy; literally, wicked seed/offspring).
453.13 schooners: large glasses for liquor, especially beer.
453.20 hawser: a nautical term for a cable or rope used to moor or tow a boat.
456.34 nothing to be got now-adayes / unless thou canst fish: from Shakespeare, Pericles II.i (qtd. Bottom 396): “Second Fisherman: Nay then thou wilt starue sure: for heer’s nothing to be got now-adayes, vnlesse thou canst fish for’t.” All the quotations from Shakespeare found in this Voice-off through 457.10 were previously correlated with passages from Rudens in Bottom 396-397.
456.35 Op-and-Pop art: Op (or Optical) Art is a modern style or movement, particularly during the 1960s, that attempts to create a sense of movement on the picture surface through optical illusion. Pop Art developed in the 1950s and 1960s in England and the U.S. using images and materials from popular and commercial culture.
457.1 ‘what the traffic will bear’: from Thorstein Veblen, The Engineers and the Price System (1921); see 485.24-32: “The business concerns which so have the management of industry on this plan of absentee ownership are capitalized on their business capacity, not on their industrial capacity; that is to say, they are capitalized on their capacity to produce earnings, not on their capacity to produce goods. […] ‘Reasonable earnings’ could not be assured without [deliberate unemployment]; because ‘what the traffic will bear’ in the way of an output of goods is by no means the same as the productive capacity of the industrial system; still less is it the same as the total consumptive needs of the community; in fact, it does not visibly tend to coincide with either” (107, 114).
457.2 a playes and tumbles, great / ones eat up little ones: from Shakespeare, Pericles II.i (qtd. Bottom 397):
First Fisherman: Why, as Men doe a-land;
The great ones eate vp the little ones:
I can compare our rich Misers to nothing so fitly,
As to a Whale; a playes and tumbles,
Dryuing the poore Fry before him,
And at last, deuowre them all at a mouthful:
Such Whales haue I heard on, a’th land,
Who neuer leaue gaping, till they swallow’d
The whole Parish, Church, Steeple, Belles and all.
457.3 gives heauen countlesse / eye to view mens actues: from Shakespeare, Pericles I.i (qtd. Bottom 319, 396):
Pericles: Sharpe Phisicke is the last: But ô you powers!
That giues heauen countlesse eyes to view mens actes,
Why cloude they not their sights perpetually,
If this be true, which makes me pale to read it?
457.6 Think, in the height of / this bath…: from Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor III.v (qtd. Bottom 396):
Falstaff: […] think of that, a man of my kidney, think of that, that am as subject to heat as butter; a man of continual dissolution and thaw: it was a miracle to ’scape suffocation. And in the height of this bath, when I was more than half stewed in grease, like a Dutch dish, to be thrown into the Thames, and cooled, glowing hot, in that surge, like a horse-shoe; think of that, hissing hot, think of that. Master Brook!
457.9 throng’d up with / cold . . chill: from Shakespeare, Pericles II.i (qtd. Bottom 98, 396):
Pericles: What I have been I have forgot to know;
But what I am, want teaches me to think on:
A man throng’d up with cold: my veins are chill,
And have no more of life than may suffice
To give my tongue that heat to ask your help;
Which if you shall refuse, when I am dead,
For that I am a man, pray see me buried.
457.11 Honestly rich or contentedly poor: Walton’s The Compleat Angler (see 450.28), Chap. 21: “And therefore my advice is, that you endeavour to be honestly rich, or contentedly poor: but be sure that your riches be justly got, or you spoil all.”
457.12 if a man can’t curse his / friend whom can he curse?: attributed to the Texan Sam Houston (1793-1863) by Socrates Hyacinth (Stephen Powers) in “South-Western Slang” (see note at 459.17), although there it is plural friends.
457.19 Polled Liberty: polled = lopped, chopped or chipped; having no antlers; but here also suggesting voting.
457.33 sclerosis listened to your auscultations: Plautus’ text reads, “quid mihi scelesto tibi erat auscultatio” (Nixon: Oh, why was I such a cursed fool as to listen to you?). “Auscultation” is the act of listening or hearkening; a method of distinguishing the state of the internal parts of the body, particularly of the thorax and abdomen, by observing the sound arising from the part (CD).
458.2 worse than Thystes’ or Tereus’: Thystes was fed his own sons at a banquet by his brother and rival Atreus. Tereus, king of Thrace, was fed his own son by his wife Procne for raping her sister Philomela. See 461.13.
458.4 Puling: complaining, whining, crying, childish, weak (CD).
458.6 pabulum: food, nutriment; by extension, that which nourishes or supports any physical process, as fuel for a fire; hence, food for thought, intellectual or spiritual nourishment or support (CD).
458.6 credo: L. I believe. Within the Roman Catholic tradition, the “credo” is an expression of faith and is part of the Order of Mass; see 10.116.3.
458.23 No thermopile: thermopile is a thermo-electric battery, especially as arranged for measurement of small quantities of radiant heat (CD). Plautus’ text reads, Ne thermipolium quidem ullum instruit, / ita salsam praehibet potionem et frigidam (Nixon: And he doesn’t set up any hot-drinks counter, either. The kind of liquor he serves is . . . salty ice-water).
459.6 pallium: a voluminous retangular mantle worn by men, and considered at Rome, because worn by Greek savants, as the particular dress of philosophers; also a toga or other outer garment; also the mantle, mantle-flap or mantle-skirt of a mollusk (CD).
459.11 scut: a short tail, as that of the rabbit or deer (CD).
459.14 polecat: a fitch or skunk.
459.16 antiphon: a psalm, hymn or prayer sung responsively or by alteration of two choirs; an echo or response (CD).
459.17 Nip & Tuck Jimtown Rake Pocket…: most of this “Voice off” is taken from an article on “South-Western Slang” by Socrates Hyacinth, published in the Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine (Aug. 1869): 125-131, which LZ found reproduced in M.M. Mathews, ed. The Beginnings of American English (1931). Lines 459.17-20 reproduce most of a list of colorful names of Texas towns plus a final additional curious town name, Pig Misery, in the North.
459.21 Yaller Flower of the Forest…: a tag or nickname used by Davey Crockett, which LZ found in a chapter on “Western and Southern Vernacular” in M.M. Mathews (see previous note). The following phrase, “Drag out any man,” is also part of Crockett’s boast that he “can outrun, outjump, throw down, drag out and whip any man in all Kaintuck.”
459.22 Ten-strikers: from “South-Western Slang” (see 459.17): “Some boasted that one Southerner could ‘whale’ ten Yankees. Lieutenant J. W. Boothe, of the Seventh Texas Battalion, I am told, first applied to this sort the phrase ‘ten-strikers,’ which became immensely popular in the state.” EP uses this colloquialism in reference to someone who is a hit with the ladies (Canto 83/532).
459.23 How’s yo’ horse, Tarheel? / Is he religious?: from “South-Western Slang” (see 459.17): “It is amusing to hear one ask of another, when about to purchase a horse: ‘Is he religious?’” [apparently meaning: is he broken?…] “A story is related of a brigade of North Carolinians, who, in one of the great battles, (Chancellorsville, if I remember correctly) failed to hold a certain hill, and were laughed at by the Mississippians for having forgotten to tar their heels that morning. Hence originated their cant name, ‘Tar-heels.’”
459.25 Moke: from “South-Western Slang” (see 459.17): “‘Moke,’ a negro, (seemingly derived from Icelandic möckvi, darkness) is a word chiefly in use among the Regulars stationed in Texas and in the Territories.”
459.26 Jimpescute. / Juicy-spicy: from “South-Western Slang” (see 459.17): “When a Texan goes forth on a sparking errand, he does not go to pay his devoirs to his Amaryllis, his Lalage, his Dulcinea, or other such antiquated object of affection, but (employing a word worthy of a place in the pasilaly of mankind) his ‘jimpsecute.’ She, on the other hand, is said to receive attention from her ‘juicy-spicy.’” LZ has apparently mistranscribed “jimpescute.”
459.28 Leonine: of or resembling a lion; but also leonine verse where the end of the line rhymes with the middle. Given that “A”-21 has strong nostagic overtones, it is possible LZ is thinking of Ricky Chambers here, who he refers to as “Lion-heart” in both “Poem beginning ‘The’” (CSP 11) and 3.10.4 and 3.11.7, and who he indicates was quite a cruising type so perhaps suggested by the immediately preceding (see note).
459.30 Something grasps even if lunatic: possibly suggested by a remark of Socrates Hyacinth (see 459.17): “In short, Texas is one great, windy lunatic; or, if you please, a bundle of crooked and stupendous phrases, tied together with a thong of rawhide.”
459.32 Pinkerton: private detective; in LZ’s younger days, Pinkertons were particularly associated with strike and union busting.
460.4 Sacrarium: any sacred or consecrated retired place; any place where sacred objects were deposited, as in a temple (CD).
460.15 Jump in the lake, yes?: see 18.392.31, where LZ gives a Yiddish equivalent. Here possibly suggested by Plautus’ text: “Iuppiter te perdat, et si sunt, et si non sunt tamen” (Whether they are or are not, in either case you be damned. —trans. P. Nixon).
461.13 Philomela and Procne: when their father, Tereus, attempted to kill Philomela and Procne, they turned into a nightingale and a swallow (see 458.2).
461.23 middle summer’s spring: from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream II.i:
Titania: These are the forgeries of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer’s spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport.
462.16 Narthex asafetida: the index identifies narthex with fennel. Narthex asafetida is a fetid inspissated sap from Persia and Afghanistan, the concrete juice from the roots of several large umbelliferous plants of the genus Ferula. The drug has a powerful and persistent alliaceous odor and bitter acrid taste, and consists of resin, gum, and an essential oil which contains sulphur. It is used as an antispasmodic, and in India and Persia also as a condiment (CD). Narthex also is a part of an early Christian or an Oriental church or basilica, at the end furthest from the sanctuary, and nearest to the main entrance; also a small box or casket for unguents or perfumes (CD). Plautus’ text and Nixon’s translation has silphium (L. laserpicium), whose resin was highly valued in ancient times for both medicinal and cooking purposes and came exclusively from the Cyrene region, where Rudens is set. Asafetida and silphium are related and have similar medicinal and cooking properties; the former became widely used when the latter became extinct in the 1st century.
463.2 ‘What altar ’ll shelter a man / outraging reason!: through 463.6 from Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise. The numerous reworkings from Spinoza in “A”-21 are all taken from The Chief Work of Benedict de Spinoza, 2 vols. (NY: Dover, 1951), trans. R.H.M. Elwes, which PZ gave LZ for Christmas 1966. Previously the importance of Spinoza in LZ’s thinking and writing was all but entirely based on the Everyman’s Library edition of the Ethics, which also included “On the Correction of the Understanding” (trans. Andrew Boyle). With the Elwes edition LZ had the opportunity to read the two political treatises, plus the abridged correspondence, which provide the Spinoza sources used in this movement.
463.2-3: Theological-Political Treatise, Chap. XV.24: “No spirit gives testimony concerning the certitude of matters within the sphere of speculation, save only reason, who is mistress, as we have shown, of the whole realm of truth. If then they assert that they possess this Spirit which makes them certain of truth, they speak falsely, and according to the prejudices of the emotions, or else they are in great dread lest they should be vanquished by philosophers and exposed to public ridicule, and therefore they flee, as it were, to the altar; but their refuge is vain, for what altar will shelter a man who has outraged reason?”
463.3: What is denial / if not reason rejecting assent?: Theological-Political Treatise, Chap.XV.12: “If reason, however, much as she rebels, is to be entirely subjected to Scripture, I ask, are we to effect her submission by her own aid, or without her, and blindly? If the latter, we shall surely act foolishly and injudiciously; if the former, we assent to Scripture under the dominion of reason, and should not assent to it without her. Moreover, I may ask now, is a man to assent to anything against his reason? What is denial if it be not reason’s refusal to assent? In short, I am astonished that anyone should wish to subject reason, the greatest of gifts and a light from on high, to the dead letter which may have been corrupted by human malice; that it should be thought no crime to speak with contempt of mind, the true handwriting of God’s Word, calling it corrupt, blind, and lost, while it is considered the greatest of crimes to say the same of the letter, which is merely the reflection and image of God’s Word. Men think it pious to trust nothing to reason and their own judgment, and impious to doubt the faith of those who have transmitted to us the sacred books.”
463.5: Nothing is said so rightly / it cannot twist into wrong’: Theological-Political Treatise, Chap. XII.5: “I confess that some profane men, to whom religion is a burden, may, from what I have said, assume a licence to sin, and without any reason, at the simple dictates of their lusts conclude that Scripture is everywhere faulty and falsified, and that therefore its authority is null; but such men are beyond the reach of help, for nothing, as the proverb has it, can be said so rightly that it cannot be twisted into wrong” (trans. R.H.M. Elwes).
463.17 Turbalio! Sparax!: the names of the two whips are taken straight out of Plautus.
463.29 Switch is a whip / which never has been: from 7.40.21.
464.38 Alma: L. fostering, cherishing, benign, kindly.
464.40 Nixi: (nix, nixie, nixy) in Teutonic mythology, a water spirit good or bad (CD). Here suggested by Plautus’ text: “genibus nixae” (kneel and clasp, trans. P. Nixon); nixor = to lean upon, rest on.
465.10 cantabile: “singingly. That is: . . . endeavor to produce a singing style,” from Leopold Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing (1756, 1787) as qtd. in Bottom 418, see entire quotation.
465.12 mg. dancer: Guy Davenport writes that he “once asked Zukofsky what the ‘mg. dancer’ is […], a milligram sprite, a magnesium elf, a margin dancer, or Aurora, as the dictionary allows for all of these meanings. ‘All,’ he replied” (Geography of the Imagination 103).
465.18 Toe Mickle: mickle is a dialect, mostly obsolete word meaning very large or a great amount, so a mickle toe would be the big toe.
467.17 fo’c’s’le: = forecastle, a section of a ship where the seamen live, either a house on deck or a place below the spar-deck in the eyes of the ship (CD).
467.27 vulcanize Venus: vulcanize is to improve the strength, resiliency, and freedom from stickiness and odor of (rubber for example) by combining with sulfur or other additives in the presence of heat and pressure (AHD). Here with play on Vulcan, god of fire and divine blacksmith, who was unfortunate in his marriage with Venus because of her infidelities with Mars.
468.17 corpus delicti: L. body of the transgression; in law, the substance or essential actual fact of the crime or offence charged. Thus a man who is proved to have clandestinely buried a dead body, no matter how suspicious the circumstances, cannot thereby be convicted of murder, without proof of the corpus delicti—that is, the fact that death was feloniously produced by him (CD).
469.38 Hercules, how quickly this Fane / alters, once Venus’, now Hercules’: Hercules was typically depicted as carrying a cudgel or club, thus evoking Leno’s conceit on the appearance of the armed whips; see 443.4.
470.30 asleep reads scripture: cf. Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, Preface: “I grant that they are never tired of professing their wonder at the profound mysteries of Holy Writ; still I cannot discover that they teach anything but speculations of Platonists and Aristotelians, to which (in order to save their credit for Christianity) they have made Holy Writ conform; not content to rave with the Greeks themselves, they want to make the prophets rave also; showing conclusively, that never even in sleep have they caught a glimpse of Scripture’s Divine nature.”
470.31 horse with / a curb: from Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. IV: “However, as the true object of legislation is only perceived by a few, and most men are almost incapable of grasping it, though they live under its conditions, legislators, with a view to exacting general obedience, have wisely put forward another object, very different from that which necessarily follows from the nature of law: they promise to the observers of the law that which the masses chiefly desire, and threaten its violators with that which they chiefly fear: thus endeavouring to restrain the masses, as far as may be, like a horse with a curb; whence it follows that the word law is chiefly applied to the modes of life enjoined on men by the sway of others; hence those who obey the law are said to live under it and to be under compulsion” (trans. R.H.M. Elwes).
470.32 to circle / is not to square: although the proverbial “to circle the square” is behind the refrain of this voice off, the immediate source is Spinoza, Letter XXI (LXXIII), to Henry Oldenburg: “The doctrines added by certain churches, such as that God took upon Himself human nature, I have expressly said that I do not understand; in fact, to speak the truth, they seem to me no less absurd than would a statement, that a circle had taken upon itself the nature of a square” (Chief Works II, 299).
470.37 some / learnèd center—: from John Witherspoon (1723-1794), Scottish-American minister, educator and founding father of the U.S.: “[…] or whether, in this new empire [America], some centre of learning and politeness will not be found, which shall obtain influence and prescribe the rules of speech and writing to every other part.”
471.8 lion not / bound to roar, / cat: from Spinoza, A Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap.XVI: “The natural right of the individual man is thus determined, not by sound reason, but by desire and power. All are not naturally conditioned so as to act according to the laws and rules of reason; nay, on the contrary, all men are born ignorant, and before they can learn the right way of life and acquire the habit of virtue, the greater part of their life, even if they have been well brought up, has passed away. Nevertheless, they are in the meanwhile bound to live and preserve themselves as far as they can by the unaided impulses of desire. Nature has given them no other guide, and has denied them the present power of living according to sound reason; so that they are no more bound to live by the dictates of an enlightened mind, than a cat is bound to live by the laws of the nature of a lion” (trans. R.H.M. Elwes).
471.17 Ladies look and / be seen: from Gawain Douglas (c.1474-1522), Prologue to Book V of the translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, : “Ladeis desyris to behald and be sene.” But also Sigmund Freud, An Autobiographical Study (1925): “The sexual function, as I found, is in existence from the very beginning of the individual’s life, though at first it is assimilated to the other vital functions and does not become independent of them until later […] It begins by manifesting itself in the activity of a whole number of component instincts. These are dependent upon erotogenic zones in the body; some of them make their appearance in pairs of opposite impulses (such as sadism and masochism or the impulses to look and to be looked at); they operate independently of one another in their search for pleasure, and they find their object for the most part in the subject’s own body” (trans. James Strachey).
471.19 By this good light / fresh horses: two separate phrases from Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale, II.iii and III.i.
472.23 qui vive: Fr. who lives? i.e. who goes there? The challenge used by French sentries to those who approach their posts.
473.21 columbine: the common European columbine, A. vulgaris, is a favorite garden-flower, and owes its name to the fancied resemblance of its petals and sepals to the heads of pigeons round a dish, a favorite device of ancient artists [< L. columbinus, dove-like]; pertaining to or having the characters of a pigeon or dove; of a dove-color; resembling the neck of a dove in color (CD).
473.27 A concept of culture joyed / a ladybird…: refers to Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007), wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969), who apparently made some such remarks during the official opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, NYC in Sept. 1966 (HRC 4.11).
473.30 for no man is so / watchful he never falls asleep: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise (1677), Chap. VI.3: “But if human nature were so constituted, that men most desired what is most useful, no art would be needed to produce unity and confidence. But, as it is admittedly far otherwise with human nature, a dominion must of necessity be so ordered, that all, governing and governed alike, whether they will or no, shall do what makes for the general welfare; that is, that all, whether of their own impulse, or by force or necessity, shall be compelled to live according to the dictate of reason. And this is the case, if the affairs of the dominion be so managed, that nothing which affects the general welfare is entirely entrusted to the good faith of any one. For no man is so watchful, that he never falls asleep; and no man ever had a character so vigorous and honest, but he sometimes, and that just when strength of character was most wanted, was diverted from his purpose and let himself be overcome.” (trans. A.H. Gosset).
473.32 Dreams guard sleep, eyelids motion / sometimes: from Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams (1900): “Dreams are the guardians of sleep and not its disturbers.” Whether or not the latter phrase is directly from Freud, it refers to the association of rapid eye movements with dreaming (HRC 4.11).
473.33 reason’s monsters: refers to a famous etching by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828) entitled, “El sueño de la razón produce monstrous” (The sleep of reason engenders monsters).
473.34 a dream unexplained like an / unopened letter: attributed to the Talmud: “An uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter from God.”
473.38 travelling exhumer / if corpses are willing: LZ’s notebook indicates this is from a note LZ penned beside a photo of himself at age 28: “travelling undertaker and exhumer if the corpses are willing” (HRC 4.11)—LZ was always very thin and had a gaunt face. The photo was printed with an interview published in Budapest, “Louis Zukofsky: avantgardista amerika költo,” Pesti Napló (13 Aug. 1933); for more information on this odd item, see Misc. in Works by LZ.
474.3 the world wails: a tip / flood: from the Aberfan, Wales (<wails) disaster. On 21 Oct. 1966 heavy rains caused a spoil tip (a large pile of waste material from coal mining) to collapse and slide down on the town, killing 116 children and 28 adults.
474.6 there cannot be too much / music: this echoes one of LZ’s favorite statements by Spinoza, from Ethics IV, Prop. 42: “there cannot be too much merriment, but it is always good”; qtd. 12.184.15-16 and Bottom 78, 192.
474.8 rote, fiddle / like noise of surf: LZ is playing with different sense of “rote.” CD gives the following definitions: “ 1. A fixed or unchanging round, as in learning or reciting something; mechanical routine in learning, or in the repetition of that which has been learned; exact memorizing, or reproduction from memory, as of words or sounds, with or without attention to their significance: chiefly in the phrase by rote. 2. To learn by rote or by heart. 3. To repeat from memory.  To rotate; change by rotation.  A musical instrument with strings, and played either by a bow, like a crowd or fiddle, or by a wheel, like a hurdy-gurdy.  The sound of surf, as before a storm.”
474.14 leave their self-respect to / their minds, the stigma they’d / pierce’ll not violate your mind—: from John Quincy Adams, Documents Relating to New England Federalism 1800-1815: “Yet you call upon me to name the person affected by the charge; a charge in your estimate deeply stigmatising upon those persons; and you permit yourselves to remind me, that my sense of justice and self-respect oblige me to disclose all that I do possess. My sense of justice to you, gentlemen, induces me to remark, that I leave your self-respect to the moral influences of your own minds, without presuming to measure it by the dictation of mine.”
474.17 people’s words: a choice to / be made: from Ben Jonson (1572-1637), Timber; or, Discoveries Made Upon Men and Matter: “Words are the people’s, yet there is a choice of them to be made.”
474.19 Their virtue’s excess is vice: from John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), Documents Relating to New England Federalism 1800-1815: “The Yankee spirit is a social spirit […]. In itself it was good: it was the distillation from the spirit of the Puritan fathers of New England; but it was not American patriotism; on the contrary, it was the virtue which, in its excess, turns to vice.”
474.20 A child said to father / or totem: you’re a horse: LZ is recalling a remark by the young PZ referring to the former’s “horse complex,” as CZ once called it (see 14.351.7-8), but this is also suggested by Sigmund Freud’s remarks on totemism in An Autobiographical Study (1935) on the argument of Totem and Taboo: “I was therefore tempted to equate the totem-animal with the father; and in fact primitive peoples themselves do this explicitly, by honouring it as the fore-father of the clan. There next came to my help two facts from psychoanalysis, a lucky observation of a child by Ferenczi, which made it possible to speak of an ‘infantile return of totemism,’ and the analysis of early animal-phobias in children, which so often showed that the animal was a substitute for the father, a substitute on to which the fear of the father derived from the Oedipus complex had been displaced” (HRC 4.11).
474.22 An old toothless walks: gap, / drivel, gab: LZ’s notebook indicates he has in mind here the phrase “the barrier of your teeth,” which is ascribes to the Old Testament, although actually it is a Homeric tag (HRC 4.11).
474.26 Tho I do not demand / this blossom now scent, bring / back another: from Karl Marx, “On Freedom of the Press” (1842): “You do not demand that a rose should have the same scent as a violet, but the richest of all, the spirit, is to be allowed to exist in only one form.”
474.29 The moon washes all the / air: from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream II.i (see 445.20):
Titania: The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter here:
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
474.31 Of / the God in the table: / that you cannot make it / eat grass: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. IV.4: “For a commonwealth is most independent when it acts according to the dictate of reason (Chap. III. Sec.7), so far, then, as it acts against reason, it fails itself, or does wrong. And we shall be able more easily to understand this if we reflect, that when we say, that a man can do what he will with his own, this authority must be limited not only by the power of the agent, but by the capacity of the object. If, for instance, I say that I can rightfully do what I will with this table, I do not certainly mean, that I have the right to make it eat grass. So, too, though we say, that men depend not on themselves, but on the commonwealth, we do not mean, that men lose their human nature and put on another; nor yet that the commonwealth has the right to make men wish for this or that, or (what is just as impossible) regard with honour things which excite ridicule or disgust. But it is implied, that there are certain intervening circumstances, which supposed, one likewise supposes the reverence and fear of the subjects towards the commonwealth, and which abstracted, one makes abstraction likewise of that fear and reverence, and therewith of the commonwealth itself. The commonwealth, then, to maintain its independence, is bound to preserve the causes of fear and reverence, otherwise it ceases to be a commonwealth” (trans. A.H. Gosset). Without acknowledging Spinoza, LZ paraphrases the passage concerning the table that cannot eat grass in his 1968 interview with L.S. Dembo (Prep+ 230).
474.34 ‘Signed and dayed.’ / Dated? No not an erratum— / a felicity: LZ’s notebook indicates this is PZ’s response to a typo (HRC 4.11).
475.14 fluke vehement sea mar: this curious phrase is suggested by Plautus’ text: “ita fluctuare video vehementer mare” (trans. by Nixon: such a heavy sea as this running).
475.15 prandial: relating or pertaining to a dinner or other meal (CD).
476.10 Alexander’s stringplayer: in the original, Plautus gives the name Stratonicus, who Nixon notes was “A famous musician-errant of the time of Alexander the Great” (377).
476.18 rude deigns: < Rudens, which means “rope.”
476.23 take reverie / for faith nor / ask thine oath: from Shakespeare, Pericles I.ii:
Pericles: The care I had and haue of subiects good,
On thee I lay, whose wisdomes strength can beare it,
Ile take thy word, for faith, nor aske thine oath, [modern editions usually have not for nor]
Who shuns not to breake one, will cracke both.
But in our orbs will liue so round, and safe,
That time of both this truth shall nere conuince,
Thou shewdst a subiects shine, I a true Prince.
476.34 the occasional songs / also always future: from a note LZ wrote to accompany, “Finally a Valentine” (CSP 240) when printed in Of Poetry and Power: Poems Occasioned by the Presidency and the Death of John F. Kennedy (1964): “The source of all poetry in a sense is occasional. But the occasion if it is poetry is also always in the future.” The note was not included in the published volume, but for the full note see 15.368.17-23.
476.37 Gregor’s / story, the convict’s / wistfulness ‘I’m sorry / for the children / they’ve no sense’: from Anton Checkov, “The Island of Sakhalin,” his journalistic account of a prison colony. The prisoner Yegor is asked: “‘Are you homesick?’ ‘No. there’s only one thing—I’m sorry for the children. They’ve no sense’” (trans. Avrahm Yarmolinsky).
477.23 the river Epirus / puts out the / torch…: through 480.38 plus 481.16-18 from Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler (see 450.28). LZ noted in his notebook without using the following remark by Piscator: “O sir, doubt not but that angling is an art. […] for angling is somewhat like poetry, men are to be born so—I mean with inclination to it, though both may be heightened by discourse and practice” (HRC 4.11). For a catalog of passages used, Go here.
477.26 and the drafts / hurt: this phrase, which does not appear to be from Walton, perhaps alludes to LZ’s well-known sensitivity to drafty rooms (see 18.394.16). Also during this period the military draft was a key issue in the protests against the Vietnam War.
478.18 chub: name of various fish.
478.31 brandling: small red worms.
478.32 bark of tanners: the bark of trees containing tannic acid, stripped and prepared for use in tanning skins (CD).
479.3 Pyrausta: type of moth.
479.23 herl: or harl, the barb of a feather from a peacock’s tail, used as a hackle in dressing fly-hooks (CD).
480.37 Diogenes: Diogenes of Sinope (404-323 BC), Greek Cynic philosopher; see 22.518.30-519.3.
480.38 finnimbruns: trinkets, trifles; apparently Walton invented or at least is the first to record this word.
480.39 ‘admiring in animals / what we hate / in men?’: through 481.18 (except for 481.11-12 and 16-18), from Spinoza:
480.39-481.1: from Letter XXXII to William Blyenbergh dated 5 Jan. 1665: “For we all admire in animals qualities which we regard with dislike and aversion in men, such as the pugnacity of bees, the jealousy of doves, &c.; these in human beings are despised, but are nevertheless considered to enhance the value of animals” (Chief Works II, 332).
481.2 A pretty poetry / to suit the / sound to the / corrupt: Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. X: “Those, therefore, who explain these passages otherwise, deny the plain meaning of Scripture — nay, they deny Scripture itself. They think it pious to reconcile one passage of Scripture with another — a pretty piety, forsooth, which accommodates the clear passages to the obscure, the correct to the faulty, the sound to the corrupt.”
481.5: none legislated / into blessedness: Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. VII: “With religion the case is widely different. Inasmuch as it consists not so much in outward actions as in simplicity and truth of character, it stands outside the sphere of law and public authority. Simplicity and truth of character are not produced by the constraint of laws, nor by the authority of the state, no one the whole world over can be forced or legislated into a state of blessedness; the means required for such a consummation are faithful and brotherly admonition, sound education, and, above all, free use of the individual judgment.”
481.6: Blest / against obstinacy: Baruch or Benedict means blessed and so LZ often refers to Spinoza as Blest. The Theologico-Political Treatise frequently mentions “obstinacy” as a negative trait in the context of Old Testament religion. The following is from Chap. XIV: “Lastly, it follows that faith does not demand that dogmas should be true as that they should be pious—that is, such as will stir up the heart to obey […]. However, men may err from simplicity of mind, and Scripture, as we have seen, does not condemn ignorance, but obstinacy.”
481.7: not / your envy for / my sake: Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. XVII: “See Numbers xi. 28. In this passage it is written that two men prophesied in the camp, and that Joshua wished to punish them. This he would not have done, if it had been lawful for anyone to deliver the Divine oracles to the people without the consent of Moses. But Moses thought good to pardon the two men, and rebuked Joshua for exhorting him to use his royal prerogative, at a time when he was so weary of reigning, that he preferred death to holding undivided sway (Numb. xi:14). For he made answer to Joshua, ‘Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His spirit upon them.’ That is to say, would God that the right of taking counsel of God were general, and the power were in the hands of the people.”
481.12 no book / in the country: from Letter XXI to Blyenbergh dated 28 Jan. 1665, in a parenthetical aside: “I cannot give the precise reference, for I have not the book with me here in the country” (Chief Works II, 337).
481.14: no lecture for / love of quietness: from letter to Fabritus dated 30 March 1672, putting off the Elector Palatine’s offer of a prestigious position at the University of Heidelberg: “Thus you see, distinguished Sir, that I am not holding back in the hope of getting something better, but through my love of quietness, which I think I can in some measure secure, if I keep away from lecturing in public. I therefore most earnestly entreat you to beg of the Most Serene Elector, that I may be allowed to consider further about this matter, and I also ask you to conciliate the favour of the most gracious prince to his most devoted admirer, thus increasing the obligations of your sincere friend” (Chief Works II, 375).
481.18 prophecy: harp: from Theologico-Political Treatise, Part I, Chap. 2: “Of Prophets”: “Lastly, prophecy varied according to the opinions held by the prophets […]. The first point is proved from the case of Elisha, who, in order to prophecy to Jehoram, asked for a harp, and was unable to perceive the Divine purpose till he had been recreated by its music; then, indeed, he prophesied to Jehoram and to his allies glad tidings, which previously he had been unable to attain to because he was angry with the king […]. Thus we see that individual prophets were by temperament more fitted for one sort of revelation than another.” Cf. 1 Chronicles 25:1: “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals […].”
481.16 smokes shower: sit / close: rains May / butter: from Isaac Walton, The Compleat Angler (see 450.28-451.4, 477.23-480.38):
“[…] for look how it begins to rain, and by the clouds, if I mistake not, we shall presently have a smoking shower, and therefore sit close; this sycamore-tree will shelter us [….] But I promised to tell you more of the fly-fishing for a Trout; which I may have time enough to do, for you see it rains May butter.”
481.27 squamous: covered with scales, scaly; scale-like (CD).
483.18 passel pustule: passel = archaic form of parcel; pustule = a small inflammatory tumor or pimple containing pus, or a slight elevation like a pimple or little blister (CD).
483.25 fourflusher: empty boaster or bluffer—derives from poker in which a flush consists of five cards of the same suit, whereas only four is worthless. EP uses this colloquialism in Canto 93/630.
483.27 Punic-red: puniceous in entomology is purplish-red or crimson; having the color of a pomegranate (CD). The pomegranate (see 448.14, 450.3, 460.28) was also called in L. Punic apple, because of its color.
483.37 Thales: pre-Socratic philosopher; Nixon notes: “One of the ‘seven wise men’ of Greece” (386).
485.10 fiat: L. let it be done. Although this is taken straight from Plautus, which is translated by Nixon as: “There you are!,” in the Vulgate, this is God’s command: Let there be light, is Fiat lux (CD).
485.24 Now disallow legal make-believe / sabotage down the road…: this “Voice off” is constructed out of bits and pieces from two different works of Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), who had interested LZ in the 1930s (see 457.1. as well as 8.56.13-57.5, 8.79.19-80.4, CSP 41, also 12.257.7-11):
485.24 Now disallow legal make-believe: from The Engineers and the Price System (1921): “In fact, the disallowance will touch nothing more substantial than a legal make-believe. This would, of course, be serious enough in its consequences to those classes—called the kept classes—whose livelihood hangs on the maintenance of this legal make-believe.”
485.25 sabotage […] / price, wage and / right […] delay: the first chapter of The Engineers and the Price System is “On the Nature and Uses of Sabotage,” from which LZ noted the following sentences in his notebook (HRC 4.11): “But the tactics of these syndicalists, and their use of sabotage, do not differ, except in detail, from the tactics of other workmen elsewhere, or from the similar tactics of friction, obstruction, and delay habitually employed, from time to time, by both employees and employers to enforce an argument about wages and prices.” By sabotage Veblen means any act of delay or hindrance, without necessarily involving deliberate violence, and his larger argument is that business interests regularly practice sabotage in order to limit production to keep prices and profits sufficiently high.
485.25 down the road / […] aliens of uneasy / feet: from Veblen, “The Intellectual Pre-Eminence of Jews in Modern Europe”: “For [intellectually gifted Jews] as for other men in the like case, the skepticism that goes to make him an effectual factor in the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men involves a loss of that peace of mind that is the birthright of the safe and sane quietist. He becomes a disturber of the intellectual peace, but only at the cost of becoming an intellectual wayfaring man, a wanderer in the intellectual no-man’s-land, seeking another place to rest, farther along the road, somewhere over the horizon. They are neither a complaisant nor a contented lot, these aliens of the uneasy feet; but that is, after all, not the point in question.”
485.28 mastheads / profound and alert […] / sage: from The Engineers and the Price System: “This sentimental deference of the American people to the sagacity of its business men is massive, profound, and alert.”
485.29 usufruct: in The Engineers and the Price System, Veblen makes several mentions of usufruct: the right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something which belongs to another so far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured (CD): e.g. “To speak after the analogy of private business, it has been found best to disallow such use of the mail facilities as does not inure to the benefit of the Administration in the way of good will and vested rights of usufruct.”
487.3 peach: to impeach; to betray one’s accomplices, turn informer (CD).
488.9 springe: a noose or snare for catching small game (CD).
488.29 prorogue: to prolong, protract; to defer, put off, delay (CD).
491.33 I cannot submit to the loss of the salarium: from a letter by J.S. Bach dated 14 Sept. 1725 to Augustus II, King-Elector of Sachsen-Poland asking for his intervention in a dispute in Leipzig (Terry 182-183). Salarium here is L. for salary or fee.
491.34 greater care must be taken satisfying the modern gustum: from J.S. Bach’s report to the Leipzig town council, “A short and much-needed statement of the requirements of church music” (see 8.45.3): “Now the present status Musices is quite different from what it was, its technique is so much more complex, and the public gusto so changed, that old-fashioned music sounds strangely in our ears. Greater care must therefore be taken to obtain subjecta capable of satisfying the modern gustum [L. taste] in music, and also instructed in its technique, to say nothing of the composer’s desire to hear his works performed properly” (Terry 203).
491.35 Georg Erdmann…: an old school friend of J.S. Bach. The following extracts are from a long letter of 28 Oct. 1730 complaining about his situation in Leipzig (the “L” at 491.38) and asking if Erdmann knows of other opportunities (Terry 204-206). The remark, “L’s a healthy place,” refers to the fact that Bach’s income came mainly from accidentia, fees primarily from weddings and funerals beyond his regular fixed salary—so fewer funerals, less accidentia.
492.27 dandling: to fondle or make much of, treat as a child, pet, amuse; to defer or protract by trifles (CD).
492.35 Likely: from L. licet (yes, alright); Nixon translates “right.”
493.31 Bed joy and prosperity: from Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream II.i:
Titania: But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,
Your buskin’d mistress and your warrior love,
To Theseus must be wedded, and you come
To give their bed joy and prosperity.
494.4 flyweight intuition better look upon / guard risk a respond to / talk to: intuition < L. intueri = to look at; –tueri < tueor = see, look at, guard, protect.
494.7 panther’s screams feared night / bears preyed on the swine…: from the second stanza of Abraham Lincoln poem, “The Bear Hunt,” written 1846:
When first my father settled here,
’Twas then the frontier line:
The panther’s scream, filled night with fear
And bears preyed on the swine.
494.9 born for common meadow…: see Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. IV.1: “But since fear of solitude exists in all men, because no one in solitude is strong enough to defend himself, and procure the necessaries of life, it follows that men naturally aspire to the civil state; nor can it happen that men should ever utterly dissolve it.” See also Chap. IV.4 on commonwealth quoted at 474.31.
494.10 cultus: L. cultivated, tilled; neat, well-dressed; cultivated, refined. The moral or esthetic state or condition of a particular time or place (CD). See Bach’s 1725 letter to King-Elector Augustus, in which the sentence LZ quotes at 491.33 continues, “[…] which belonged to my office long before the new cultus was instituted” (Terry 182). However, Bach use is ironic to mean a new way of doing things or the new group that is changing traditional procedures, whereas “dads cultus” presumably relates to Spinoza’s commonwealth. Cf. 499.24.
494.17 soldiering returned / unpaid scars: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. VII.7: “But it cannot be doubted that the majority of this council will never be minded to wage war, but rather always pursue and love peace. For besides that war will always cause them fear of losing their property and liberty, it is to be added, that war requires fresh expenditure, which they must meet, and also that their own children and relatives, though intent on their domestic cares, will be forced to turn their attention to war and go a-soldiering, whence they will never bring back anything but unpaid-for scars” (trans. A.H. Gosset).
494.19 philosophers A Golden Age / when their need was least: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. I, opening paragraph: “Philosophers conceive of the passions which harass us as vices into which men fall by their own fault, and, therefore, generally deride, bewail, or blame them, or execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually pious. And so they think they are doing something wonderful, and reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever enough to bestow manifold praise on such human nature, as is nowhere to be found, and to make verbal attacks on that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of men, not as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they have generally written satire, and that they have never conceived a theory of politics, which could be turned to use, but such as might be taken for a chimera, or might have been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, as in all sciences, which have a useful application, so especially in that of politics, theory is supposed to be at variance with practice; and no men are esteemed less fit to direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers.”
494.21 brains diverse as palates: from Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. 20: “That in a Free State Every Man May Think What He Likes, and Say What He Likes”: “I admit that the judgment can be biassed in many ways, and to an almost incredible degree, so that while exempt from direct external control it may be so dependent on another man’s words, that it may fitly be said to be ruled by him; but although this influence is carried to great lengths, it has never gone so far as to invalidate the statement, that every man’s understanding is his own, and that brains are as diverse as palates” (trans. R.H.M. Elwes).
494.22 imaginary missionaries: from J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), U.S. Senator who argued against continued military engagement in Vietnam in The Arrogance of Power (1966): “It was approximately under this kind of infatuation—an exaggerated sense of power and an imaginary sense of mission—that the Athenians attacked Syracuse and Napoleon and then Hitler invaded Russia.”
494.23 once She now Eunuch / reigned something new one man / inadequate to so great / a load: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. VI.5: “And in fact they are much mistaken, who suppose that one man can by himself hold the supreme right of a commonwealth. For the only limit of right, as we showed (Chap. II.), is power. But the power of one man is very inadequate to support so great a load. And hence it arises, that the man, whom the multitude has chosen king, looks out for himself generals, or counsellors, or friends, to whom he entrusts his own and the common welfare; so that the dominion, which is thought to be a perfect monarchy, is in actual working an aristocracy, not, indeed, an open but a hidden one, and therefore the worst of all. Besides which, a king, who is a boy, or ill, or overcome by age, is but king on sufferance; and those in this case have the supreme authority, who administer the highest business of the dominion, or are near the king’s person; not to mention, that a lascivious king often manages everything at the caprice of this or that mistress or minion. ‘I had heard,’ says Orsines, ‘that women once reigned in Asia, but for a eunuch to reign is something new.’”
494.28 to flatter / his persecutor or imitate / the victim: from Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, Chapter XX: “He that knows himself to be upright does not fear the death of a criminal, and shrinks from no punishment; his mind is not wrung with remorse for any disgraceful deed: he holds that death in a good cause is no punishment, but an honour, and that death for freedom is glory. What purpose then is served by the death of such men, what example in proclaimed? the cause for which they die is unknown to the idle and the foolish, hateful to the turbulent, loved by the upright. The only lesson we can draw from such scenes is to flatter the persecutor, or else to imitate the victim.”
494.31 A blind date with / principle…: this stanza is worked from some remarks by Buckminster Fuller (1985-1983) found in a New York Times Magazine article by David Jacobs, “An Expo Named Buckminster Fuller” (23 April 1967): “[…] ‘I knew that my credit would be alright—it would take care of itself. I used to say that I had a blind date with principle. Well, I took care of the principles, and the credit is there. […] The real profit is that there is a waiting when you come to it, there’s a river you can cross. That’s the profit’” (135). See 496.4-24.
495.1 perfection understanding’s satisfaction invariably / from not being able / to leave undone what / is doing: from Spinoza, Short Treatise on God, Man and Human Welfare: “[Understanding] has but one property, and that is to understand clearly and distinctly at all times, and from this an infinite or absolutely perfect satisfaction invariably arises at not being able to leave undone that which is done” (trans. Lydia Gillingham Robinson).
495.6 one thing to till / by right another for / one’s life: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. V.1: “In Chap. II. Sec. 2, we showed, that man is then most independent, when he is most led by reason, and, in consequence (Chap. III. Sec. 7), that that commonwealth is most powerful and most independent, which is founded and guided by reason. But, as the best plan of living, so as to assure to the utmost self-preservation, is that which is framed according to the dictate of reason, therefore it follows, that that in every kind is best done, which a man or commonwealth does, so far as he or it is in the highest degree independent. For it is one thing to till a field by right, and another to till it in the best way. One thing, I say, to defend or preserve one’s self, and to pass judgment by right, and another to defend or preserve one’s self in the best way, and to pass the best judgment; and, consequently, it is one thing to have dominion and care of affairs of state by right, and another to exercise dominion and direct affairs of state in the best way.”
495.9 like control’s rhythmic onwardness: from a letter dated 20 Jan. 1967 from Guy Davenport (1927-2005) expressing the desire to emulate LZ’s writing: “I don’t mean your style: that is unique; I mean the intensity of the statement, the control of the word in its rhythmic onwardness” (HRC 4.11).
495.11 no assent above conviction: from Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. XX: “If formal assent is not to be esteemed above conviction, and if governments are to retain a firm hold of authority and not be compelled to yield to agitators, it is imperative that freedom of judgment should be granted, so that men may live together in harmony, however diverse, or even openly contradictory their opinions may be. We cannot doubt that such is the best system of government and open to the fewest objections, since it is the one most in harmony with human nature.”
495.12 gentleness courtesy: from Spinoza, Theologico-Political Treatise, Chap. XX: “On the other hand, when the religious controversy between Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants began to be taken up by politicians and the States, it grew into a schism, and abundantly showed that laws dealing with religion and seeking to settle its controversies are much more calculated to irritate than to reform, and that they give rise to extreme licence: further, it was seen that schisms do not originate in a love of truth, which is a source of courtesy and gentleness, but rather in an inordinate desire for supremacy.”
495.13 tho institutes cultivate to / restrain: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. VIII.49: “Academies, that are founded at the public expense, are instituted not so much to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be best cultivated to the full, if everyone that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, and that at his own cost and risk.”
495.14 sure’s foolishness to / deprive another of numbers one / lacks: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. VI.3 (continuing from quotation at 473.30): “And it is surely folly to require of another what one can never obtain from one’s self; I mean, that he should be more watchful for another’s interest than his own, that he should be free from avarice, envy, and ambition, and so on; especially when he is one, who is subject daily to the strongest temptations of every passion.”
495.17 where man claims his soil / what to it adheres / he cannot carry where / he please: from Spinoza, A Political Treatise, Chap. VII.19: “Furthermore, in the state of nature, there is nothing which any man can less claim for himself, and make his own, than the soil, and whatever so adheres to the soil, that he cannot hide it anywhere, nor carry it whither he pleases. The soil, therefore, and whatever adheres to it in the way we have mentioned, must be quite common property of the commonwealth — that is, of all those who, by their united force, can vindicate their claim to it, or of him to whom all have given authority to vindicate his claim. And therefore the soil, and all that adheres to it, ought to have a value with the citizens proportionate to the necessity there is, that they may be able to set their feet thereon, and defend their common right or liberty.”
495.21 horse sound of / skin and skeleton free from / faults and faculties: a remark attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “[…] his father’s story of a man who was asked for a warrantee bill of a horse he was selling and he guaranteed him ‘sound of skin and skeleton and free from faults and faculties’: and so on.”
495.23 with / the arguments / he dare not admit / and yet cannot deny—: from Abraham Lincoln (see 494.7-8, 495.21-23), from an early speech referring to a lawyer: “struggling for his client’s neck in a desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog, and cover up with many words some point arising in the case which he dare not admit and yet could not deny.”
495.27 Attained south wing five windows / caged singing…: through 496.2 is composed from details of J.S. Bach’s residence in Leipzig found in Charles Sanford Terry, Bach: A Biography (1928), but conflated with LZ’s own living arrangements while living at 135 Willow Street, Brooklyn (1957-1962), where the Zukofskys had a 10th floor corner apartment with five windows and views of the East River (see 13.309.23):
495.27: Terry describes Bach’s residence when he moved to Leipzig in 1723 in the south wing of a building housing the music school which he was to oversee, which had “five windows upon the Promenade” (166) (see 13.309.23, where LZ mentions looking out of five windows, as well as the Brooklyn Promenade that figures significantly in part ii of “A”-13).
495.28-32: Describing Leipzig, a substantial city in Bach’s experience: “Leipzig lies above the junction of three small rivers, Pleisse, Elster, Parthe, the first of which her poets delighted especially to associate with their city of the Muses. […The city’s many commercial buildings] rising massively four or five stories high under steeply angled roofs, their yellow fronts brilliant with gaudy frescoes. […the streets were] “musical with the notes of nightingales and other caged singing birds” (151). [for this last image, see 8.44.28-29]. “At nightfall the streets were lit with seven hundred oil lamps […], while, in each of the four Wards, night-watchmen, armed with rattles, told the hours and warned the sleeping town against thieves and vagabonds” (152). “Leipzig’s lavish provision of spiritual sustenance to her population was notorious. ‘Hier,’ said a writer in 1732, ‘giebt der Herr das Wort mit grossen Schaaren Evanglisten’ [Here there is the word of God with flocks of evangelists]” (155).
496.1-2: In 1726, a son was born to the Count of Cöthen, Bach’s former employer, and Bach presented him with a newly published composition inscribed with some dedicatory verses, including:
The wiseheads fain would scare us mortals with a warning
Because into the wold we come with cries and tears,
As though they could foretell the evening from the morning,
And see our future clear beyond the veil of years. (Terry 189)
496.4 a sphere / of pyramidal honeycomb…: through 496.24 primarily from a New York Times Magazine article (23 April 1967) by David Jacobs on Buckminster Fuller (see 494.31), who designed the iconic geodesic Biosphere as the U.S. Pavilion for the 1967 Montreal World Exposition. The article explains the principles of the geodesic dome and Fuller’s philosophy: “Although many variations of it are possible, the structure is basically a sphere composed of tetrahedrons (pyramid shapes with four sides—including the base). The design principle encompasses two mathematical truths: that the sphere, of all geometrical forms, encloses the most space with the least surface and is strongest against internal pressure; that the tetrahedron encloses the least space with the most surface and best withstands external pressure. Thus design, not weight, gives the dome its incredible strength” (134).
496.15: knowing like transported cargo…: “[Fuller] describes the development of civilization as though it were cargo being transported and exchanged at a series of ports around the globe; his home, like the sailor’s, is a cocoon and exists wherever he happens to be. All evolution, he says, is aiming towards the production of a world man through man’s natural migrations. ‘The United States,’ for example, ‘is not a nation at all; it is a phase of this developing world man crossing between East and West.’ […]. And the best city in the world is the Queen Mary. ‘She’s an organic city,’ he explains, ‘capable of accommodating a very large number of people at a very high standard of living. […] She’s an organic whole, not a piece of real estate that anybody with money can add anything to. She’s so much with so little’” (135).
[Fuller describes a current project to design an entire city for the media mogul Matsutaro Shoriki]: “‘it will probably be a floating city […] The tetrahedron is the only geometrical form that can grow asymmetrically without losing its symmetry. It provides the greatest possible surface area for the volume it encloses. Nature uses the tetrahedron for basic crystal making: the city will grow like a crystal, cellularly, with little tetrahedrons on top of the bigger ones, all forming an organic whole. It will be able to come apart and float around like hydras.’ […] Parts of the city—the power plant and probably some heavy industry—may remain stable, but the other parts may, in Fuller’s words, ‘break away and float all around the world.’ Dwellers will remain in Tokyo Bay when they must, but at vacation time they might remove their apartment and place it in one of the sections that can sail away” (144).
496.13 one lean buck / take heart grow fuller: play on “buck” + “fuller” (Davenport 104); see preceding note.
498.1 Opine: to think, suppose; be of the opinion that (CD).
498.5 Consent-ho!: from L. censeo (to assent); Nixon translates “so I gather.”
499.11 When Plautus lay dead Comedy wept…: the first three of these four lines are Plautus’ epitaph, traditionally said to be written by himself. LZ probably worked his version from the Latin text and prose translation he found in the Penguin Book of Latin Verse, trans. Frederick Brittain (1962):
Postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, comoedia luget
Scaena est deserta; dein risus ludus jocusque
Et numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt.
When Plautus met his death, comedy mourned,
the stage was deserted, and laughter, play, jest,
and innumerable numbers wept all together.
499.15 Old friends / when I was young…: through 500.5 was published under the title “Song” in the letters to the editor page of the New York Times on 3 Aug. 1967.
501.32 Eight hundred Philips marsupially wrapped…: in Plautus, these two lines read: “Nummi octingenti aurei in marsuppio infuerunt, / praeterea centum minaria Philippa in pasceolo sorsus” (Nixon: Well, there were eight hundred pounds in it, in a wallet, besides a hundred sovereigns in a leather bag, all by itself). Philips presumably would be coins minted by or depicting Philip of Macedonia. A marsupium in ancient Rome was a purse of the kind usually borne in the hand of Mercury, and indicating his character as god of gain; later a sack or bag in which any part of the body is fomented; in zoology, a purse- or pouch-like receptacle for the eggs or young, more external than any of the proper organs of gestation (CD).
501.33 Tetrarch: in the Roman empire, the ruler of the fourth part of a country or province in the East, a viceroy, a subordinate ruler.
503.6 Cyrenian Venus: the Venus of Cyrene is a nude headless statue from the 4th century B.C. found in Cyrene in 1913.
504.37 Pontifex: in Roman antiquity, a member of the principal college of priests, who performed general functions of the state religion (CD).
507.3 EPILOGUE I—GREAVE…: first epilogue interpolated by LZ.
507.4 I am fain Fane…: fain = glad, pleased, rejoiced; fane = sacred place, ancient temple.
507.6 nine-year old’s / Shakespeare…: this epilogue refers to LZ’s older brother Morris taking him to see many classical plays in Yiddish when he was a boy; this is specifically mentioned in the Autobiography 33 (lines 507.11-13 echo those of 8.83.25-29).
507.7 Diphilus: see 439.33.
507.9 Kings / dalas poorest: see 15.363.30; dalas Heb. = poorest, found in 2 Kings 24:14.
507.10 droll roll and gambol risk / of a playful sea: see 13.301.18, where a variation on these lines is associated with Shakespeare, Pericles, specifically the dialogue among the fishermen that Pericles overhears in II.i; see quotation at 457.2.
507.15 LE. O let’s! / EPILOGUE II—DADS / Applaud: these are from the final two lines of Plautus’ play, which continue from 507.2; what follows is added by LZ.