1928, rev. 24 July 1942

For revisions to the text, which include the deletion of significant passages, see Textual Notes.


9.1       At eventide, cool hour: from J.S. Bach, St. Matthew Passion (see 1.1.2), No. 64 recitative (Bass); when Christ’s body is taken down from the cross: “At eventide, cool hour of rest, / Was Adam’s fall made manifest.” This is also the moment in the text when Joseph of Arimathaea sets out to recover and bury Christ’s body (see note at 10.16). Wray suggests that the phrase “cool hour” is an early instance of LZ’s homophonic adaptation from the original Ger. text: “wo es kühle war” (when it was calm), although more probably LZ is simply quoting from the English version of the libretto he had at hand (Wray 50).

9.3       Ricky: Richard Godfrey Chambers (d. 9 Sept. 1926), also known as “Dickie,” brother of Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961) and both friends of the young LZ. Ricky committed suicide at age 23 by sticking his head in a gas oven with a pillow under his head (9.8-9; see Whittaker Chambers, Witness (1952): 181-182). Whittaker’s elegy, “October 21st, 1926,” was included in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry (Feb. 1931). Ricky is also referred to in “Poem beginning ‘The’” (CSP 11-12), 2.6.24, 6.23.19-24.6, 7.42.3 and more obliquely several details from “A”-3 recur at 8.87.1-6, 18f.

9.19     Out of memory / A little boy, / It’s rai-ai-nin’: Odlin points out (555) that this recalls an childhood incident recounted in Whittaker Chambers’ Witness (95-96) when Ricky is standing outside and calls to his brother, who refuses to go out to him. See 8.87.18.

10.3      Coeur de Lion / Lion hearted: nickname of Richard I (1157-1199), King of England and Aquitaine. In the Ricky passage of “Poem beginning ‘The'” (lines 76-109), he is repeated referred to as “Lion-heart” (CSP 11-12).

10.16    Arimathaea: Joseph of Arimathaea recovered the body of Jesus after his crucifixion and buried it in the tomb originally intended to be his own; see Matthew 27:57-61.

10.19    Go, / Beg His corpse: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion, No. 64 (see 9.1).

11.8      dicky-bird: a small bird