Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
Some Time (1956)
“Some time has gone”
25 Feb. 1949 / Botteghe Oscure (1950)
1: 16 Jan. 1944; 2: 13 Feb. 1945, rev. 4 March 1947; 3: 7-8 Sept. 1945, rev. 4 March 1947; 4: 2-3 Sept.1946, rev. 4 March 1947; 5: 25 March-12 April 1946 / Partisan Review (July-Aug. 1947)
LZ sent Lorine Niedecker an early draft of this poem (undated but probably early 1945):
When you lose patience with me
I lose patience with life,
Hurrying to sing
Then I may dream
An acre of music
Asking, acres and music
What are they
So close as we cross
Patience and time?
At this point it does not appear that the final lines were thought of as part of this poem. However, the letter continues: “I wuz also thinking Sappho’s famous ode (translations by Byron + Sidney included in Test of Poetry) might be rendered thus:
I’m crazy about you,
Niedecker quotes line 7, apparently from this draft version, in her poem “(L.Z.)” (Collected Works 125).
Title (Flushing Meadows): large park in Flushing, a major neighborhood in north Queens, NYC. The park was initially constructed to host the 1939-40 World’s Fair and has two large lakes; these days it is best known for hosting various major sports facilities and events. The Zukofskys lived at 163rd Street, Flushing from 1944-1946.
A Song for the Year’s End
1: 30 Sept. 1945; 2: 16 April 1945; 3: 14 Feb. 1946 / Yale Poetry Review (1946)
111.1 Daughter of music…: here clearly refers to CZ, but see the Mozart epigraph to “Non Ti Fidar” below (CSP 123), which is presumably the source for this phrase.
111.1 my mother’s grave: Chana Pruss Zukofsky, died 29 Jan. 1927 (see “A”-5.18.14).
111.4 wherever Jews are not the right sort of people: as Scroggins points out, LZ refers here to the period early in 1945 when he was working in Towson, a Baltimore suburb, editing electronics manuals for Jordanoff Aviation, but he was unable to find an apartment in Towson itself because he was Jewish (“’there are less Jews’”).
112.2 I now have a wife and son: LZ married CZ in Aug. 1939 and PZ was born Oct. 1943.
112.7 suburbs are restricted…: see note at 111.4
112.15 winged foot of Mercury…: the logo of Goodyear tires.
112.24 dead President: Franklin D. Roosevelt died 12 April 1945.
113.6 Papa Bear’s Song…: this and the final quoted line from the children’s story, “The Three Bears.”
que j’ay dit devant
1: 22 Oct. 1947; 2: May-26 Aug. 1947 / 1: Tomorrow (June 1951)
Title que j’ay dit devant: Fr. as I have said; from the second stanza of François Villon’s Le Lais (The Legecy or the Lesser Testament):
En ce temps que j’ay dit devant,
Sur le Noël, morte saison,
Lorsque les loups vivent de vent,
Et qu’on se tient en sa maison,
Pour le frimas, près du tison:
Cy me vint vouloir de briser
La très amoureuse prison
Qui souloit mon cueur despriser.
At this time, as I have said,
Near Christmas, the dead season
When wolves live off the wind,
And people, fearing frost,
Stay home near burning logs,
A desire came to me
To flee those bonds of love
From which my heart was breaking. (trans. Anthony Bonner)
LZ remarked to Lorine Niedecker that this poem “covers the Odyssey silently” (undated, probably 1947; HRC 25.2).
113.5 Crow’s foot: wrinkles at the corners of the eyes; a three-point stitch, particularly used at the end of a seam; a system of short ropes used to distribute the pull on a single rope, used particularly in ballooning.
113.7 god’s egis: or aegis, in Greek mythology the goatskin shield or breastplate of Zeus or Athena, and thus also came to mean protection or sponsorship. Etymologically aegis derives from the Greek for goat.
113.8 Catspaw spray: catspaw can refer to a light breeze that ruffles the surface of calm water creating a cat paw-like pattern or to the water pattern itself. Also catspaw is someone who is used by or serves the purpose of another.
This section originally written as individual poem with the title “Marry—.”
So That Even a Lover
11 Jan. 1948 / The Golden Goose (Summer 1948)
LZ sent this poem in a Jan. 1948 letter to Lorine Niedecker, giving it the humorous heading, “(From Lu Zu to Li Po).” He added: “I should like the ‘do’ in first one to mean ‘are enough’ […] ‘In the spring’ — I shd. like a suggestion of a riverlet as well as the season” (HRC 19.9).
Little wrists…: this lyric was among LZ’s favorite poems for reading and in the 1966 NET recording he precedes it by reading Robert Herrick’s “Divination by a Daffadil (‘When a daffadil I see’)” and suggests “Little wrists” is his attempt to do something similar (see PennSound). Long before, LZ had placed these two poems together in TP 28 as examples of “Grace”; and Herrick’s poem also quoted in Bottom 166.
114.2 St. Francis: because he directly addressed and extended his love to all aspect of nature, St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) is often considered the patron saint of animals and nature.
114.8 44 years to do: LZ’s age at the time he composed this poem, but also, as Bradley Lee points out, 44 is traditionally taken to be St. Francis’s age when he died in 1226 (personal communication).
1: 1943-44; 2: 25 Feb. 1940; 3: 31 March-3 April 1943; 4: 3 April 1945?; 5: 1-6 Dec. 1943; 6: 19 July 1941; 7: 1-6 Dec. 1943; 8: 28 April 1941; 9: 3-4 Dec. 1941; 10: 1 Jan., 28 April 1941; 11: 3 Dec. 1940, 8 April 1941; 12: 1 April 1943; 13: 28 April 1941; 14: 14 Feb. 1941; 15: 4-5 Aug. 1940 / The Golden Goose (Autumn 1948)
Written separately, these poems were assembled together 17 May 1948 (Booth 119). All but four of these poems (1, 4, 5, 7) were included as individual poems in an early typescript of Anew that LZ sent WCW on 5 Sept. 1943 and which he was satisfied with, except that he might add four or five short poems (WCW papers at Yale, Box 27, folder 838). However, by the time he found a publisher for Anew (1946), he considerably altered the selection of poems and their arrangement.
Campbell, P. Michael. “The Comedian as the Letter Z: Reading Zukofsky Reading Stevens Reading Zukofsky.” In Scroggins (1997): 175-191 [section 6, “Pierrot of Montauk”].
Slate, Joseph Evans. “The Reisman-Zukofsky Screenplay of ‘Ulysses’: Its Background and Significance.” Library Chronicle of the University of Texas, new series 20/21 (1982): 137-138 [section 3].
115.1 instruction booklet: from 1943-1947, LZ’s primary employment was editing various technical and electronics manuals.
115.4 ∞: a lemniscate, mathematical symbol for infinity.
When sending this poem to Lorine Niedecker in a 29 Feb. 1940 postcard, he remarks: “So here’s a goosh (Anew 16) written after I found a place for my <own> ancient little drawing of a precipitous rock in which is minute man + minuter kids – peace: under the window sill of my room” (HRC 19.6). For LZ’s designation of this poem as part of Anew, see headnote. “goosh” = Goose, that is, the poem is related to or in imitation of the New Goose poems Niedecker was then working on and would eventually be published by James Decker simultaneously with LZ’s Anew (1946).
115.2 jigger: for various possible meanings see “A”-7.39.11.
115.1 Tarzan triumphs: this is the title of a highly popular 1943 propagandistic Tarzan movie starring Johnny Weissmuller, from which come many of the details of this poem. Since Maureen O’Sullivan retired from doing Tarzan movies, Jane is back in London and does not appear in this feature, leaving Tarzan, Boy and Cheeta on their own. The jungle is invaded by Nazis who enslave the lost city of Palandria and its princess, Zandra, but Tarzan espouses isolationist sentiments until belatedly realizing who the bad guys are when they kidnap Boy. Tarzan defeats the Nazis, and their colonel falls into a trap and is killed by a lion.
116.3 LL.D.: Doctor of Law < L. Legum Doctor, but might be meant to suggest the exclaimation, “lord love a duck.”
117.3 Pierrot: originally a clownish male character from French pantomime, but innumerable modern works in music, art, literature and even film have interpreted the character, who is usually a type of bumbling innocent in a cynical world.
117.3 Montauk: the far eastern tip of Long Island, NY.
118.1 See: / My nose feels better in the air: in the version included in an earlier typescript of Anew (see headnote), this poem was simply given the title “Celia” and did not include “See:”, so one of the early examples of LZ’s frequent puns on Celia = C = see/sea. Elsewhere LZ indicates this is a quote from CZ dated 1 Jan. 1941.
118.12 D.P.’s: displaced persons.
LZ notes that this is from a dream, except for second stanza added at later date (Booth 119).
Title R.A.E.: Robert Allison Evans (c.1885-1943), a mining engineer and poet who LZ apparently discovered in the early 1930s and helped promote his work with the aid of WCW. Ahearn notes that LZ wrote EP in Jan. 1936 that Evans was fired from his job for challenging his bosses; the first line’s mention that “Chance broke the jaw” may allude to the fact that Evans died of oral cancer (WCW/LZ 226, 325; Scroggins Bio 49). Also see note at “A”-8.83.30.
120.1 daylight saving: during World War II, President Roosevelt instituted daylight saving time, called “war time,” as an energy saving measure; mentioned also in “Anew 18” (CSP 87).
A somewhat different original version of this poem was sent to Lorine Niedecker in a letter postmarked 20 Feb. 1941. He remarks that this was a valentine for CZ and “goes also for a Goose,” meaning it fits with the style of Niedecker’s New Goose poems (published 1946), which she had been working on for some years by this time.
1: 22 Aug. 1947; 2: 20 May 1948; 3: 14 Nov. 1948/ Ark 2/Moby 1 (1957)
Title Michtam: Heb. poem or song, and specifically designates Psalms 16, 56-60.
1 Lese-Wiat, from Caul Gate
Title Lese-Wiat: Wiat is an alternative form of Wyatt, referring to Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542), who LZ would have taught in two summer courses on Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at Colgate University (= Caul Gate) in 1947. Lese, meaning to lose or forsake, appears in several Wyatt poems and is generally a common word in the Renaissance period. Perhaps more likely, lese- from Latin as in lese-majesté, meaning insulted or violated. In a 20 Aug. 1947 letter Basil Bunting responded to LZ’s apparently happier initial report of life at Colgate University: “[…] with Paul to feed the swans and Celia to play and you to read Wyatt, Hamilton can’t be a bad place for the present” (HRC 21.5; Letters of Basil Bunting 180). The original title of this poem was simply “Colgate, Farewell” (Booth 122).
121.2 an ointment laved my teethe: this refers to the fact that the university is named after the family who founded the famous Colgate soap and toothpaste company.
122. 5 willow path: Willow Path is a tree-lined walking path on the Colgate campus.
122.6 His case: Case Library is the main library of Colgate University.
2 Romantic Portrait
122.1 Sealea: Stephen Seley (1915-1982), an American novelist with whom LZ apparently worked (see WCW/LZ 361) and corresponded over quite a few years. Seley wrote The Cradle Will Fall (1945) and Baxter Bernstein: A Hero of Sorts (1949)—LZ makes an appearance in the latter.
3 With a capital P
This poem is partially worked from a 3 Nov. 1948 letter from Basil Bunting, in Teheran at the time. Bunting’s letter is mostly a response to receiving a copy of A Test of Poetry, but in turning to personal news he reports, “I have just distinguished myself by smashing my car twice in one month, after never having had an accident of any sort in my life before,” and in the second instance, “[…] the car ultimately turned over and gave me a bang on the head which kept me dazed for three days.” Then he adds, “I have left the Embassy and now represent the Press, capital P. I could stand no more of the Foreign Office” (HRC 21.5; Letters of Basil Bunting (2022): 189). From 1947-1948 Bunting was Vice-Counsellor with the British Embassy in Teheran, which he had to give up when he married a Persian in Dec. 1948 and took a position as foreign correspondent for The Times (London).
10 Feb. 1949 / New Mexico Quarterly (Summer 1950)
Title Xenophanes (c.570–c.480 BC) a pre-Socratic Greek poet-philosopher of Colophon. Although often called the founder of the Eleatic school, surviving fragments suggest he is a far more eclectic philosopher than Parmenides. He is best known for his condemnation of the anthropomorphic representations of the gods in Homer. LZ constructs this poem entirely out of pieces from the surviving poetic fragments of Xenophanes, using the translation of Arthur Fairbanks (1898) from Milton C. Nahm’s Selections from Early Greek Philosophy (the following numbering of fragments as in Nahm). As indicated below, Xenophanes appears in both “A”-12 and Bottom, as well as in “A”-22.516.23-33.
1. For now the floor is clean, the hands of all and the cups are clean; one puts on the woven garlands, another passes around the fragrant ointment in a vase the mixing bowl stands full of good cheer, and more wine, mild and of delicate bouquet, is at hand in jars, which says it will never fail. In the midst frankincense sends forth its sacred fragrance, and there is water, cold, and sweet, and pure; the yellow loaves are near at hand, and the table of honor is loaded with cheese and rich honey. The altar in the midst is thickly covered with flowers on every side; singing and mirth fill the house. Men making merry should first hymn the god with propitious stanzas and pure words; and when they have poured out libations and prayed for power to do the right (since this lies nearest at hand), then it is no unfitting thing to drink as much as will not prevent your walking home without a slave, if you are not very old. And one ought to praise that man who, when he has drunk, unfolds noble things as his memory and his toil for virtue suggest; but there is nothing praiseworthy in discussing battles of Titans or of Giants or Centaurs, fictions of former ages, nor in plotting violent revolutions. But it is good always to pay careful respect to the gods (this passage and the following alluded to in Bottom 103).
22. The following are fit topics for conversation for men reclining on a soft couch by the fire in the winter season, when after a meal they are drinking sweet wine and eating a little pulse: Who are you, and what is your family? What is your age, my friend? How old were you when the Medes invaded this land? [“pulse” here means the edible seed of certain pod-bearing plants, such as peas and beans (AHD)].
4. Nor would any one first pour the wine into the cup to mix it, but water first and the wine above it.
2. But if one wins a victory by swiftness of foot, or in the pentathlon, where the grove of Zeus lies by Pisas’ stream at Olympia, or as a wrestler, or in painful boxing or in that severe contest called the pancration, he would be more glorious in the eyes of the citizens, he would win a front seat at assemblies, and would be entertained by the city at the public table, and he would receive a gift which would be a keepsake for him. If he won by means of horses he would get all these things although he did not deserve them, as I deserve them, for our wisdom is better than the strength of men or of horses. This is indeed a very wrong custom, nor is it right to prefer strength to excellent wisdom. For if there should be in the city a man good at boxing, or in the pentathlon, or in wrestling, or in swiftness of foot, which is honored more than strength (among the contests men enter into at the games), the city would not on that account be any better governed. Small joy would it be to any city in this case if a citizen conquers at the games on the banks of the Pisas, for this does not fill with wealth its secret chambers.
7. Now, however, I come to another topic, and I will show the way. . . . They say that once on a time when a hound was badly treated a passer-by [Pythagoras] pitied him and said, “Stop beating him, for it is the soul of a dear friend; I recognized him on hearing his voice” (LZ alludes to this anecdote at “A”-12.210.3 and qtd. in Bottom 103).
28. The upper limit, of earth at our feet is visible and touches the air, but below it reaches to infinity (this and the following alluded to in Bottom 103).
32. She whom men call Iris [rainbow], this also is by nature cloudy, violet and red and pale green to behold (qtd. Bottom 356).
Non Ti Fidar
19 Feb. 1949 / Botteghe Oscure (1950)
Title Non Ti Fidar: It. LZ once translated this at a reading as, “I am not faithful to you.” From a quartet in Act I of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787), in which Donna Elvira warns Anna against Don Giovanni’s seductions.
Epigraph: in opera poetry must be the obedient daughter of music: from Mozart letter to his father, 13 Oct. 1781: “In opera, willy-nilly, poetry must be the obedient daughter of music. Why do Italian operas please everywhere, even in Paris, as I have been a witness, despite the wretchedness of their librettos? Because in them music rules and compels us to forget everything else. All the more must an opera please in which the plot is well carried out, and the words are written simply for the sake of the music and not here and there to please some miserable rhyme, which, God knows, adds nothing to a theatrical representation but more often harms it. Verses are the most indispensable thing in music, but rhymes, for the sake of rhymes, the most injurious. Those who go to work so pedantically will assuredly come to grief along with the music. It were best if a good composer, who understands the stage, and is himself able to suggest something, and a clever poet could be united in one, like a phoenix. Again, one must not fear the applause of the unknowing.” This epigraph also qtd. Bottom 93 and 427.
123.7 Don Giovanni’s shapely seat and heart live in hell: in the denouement of Mozart’s opera, the unrepentant Don Giovanni is dragged down to hell by a stone statue.
Chloride of Lime and Charcoal
I: 13-16 Aug. 1949, rev. Sept. 1949; II: 28 Oct. 1949; III: 29 Oct. 1949 / Botteghe Oscure (1950)
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. See Z-Notes commentary on “A”-17 [on section III].
This scene takes place at the Zukofskys’ summer cottage near Old Lyme, Connecticut; see Little for description of the swampy pumping problems they encountered (CF 41). Chloride of lime is bleaching powder, also used as a disinfectant, but no doubt LZ is pleased with the pun on Lyme as well.
124.1 Zinnias…: these flowers were a housewarming gift from the Abblebys, who held the mortgage on their summer cottage, as mentioned in the poem (Scroggins Bio 232). Their son, John Abbleby, is the soldier whose letters are reproduced in “A”-12 (216-223). Leggott (206-207) is mistaken in assuming this poem is addressed to the poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972) and his wife, who were neighbors of the Zukofskys in Old Lyme 1947-1951.
124.2 butcher furniture: this term refers to an early 19th century style of furniture that imitated the then fashionable heavy French style and was made from black walnut. LZ mentions this in his Index of American Design broadcast on the American furniture maker Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) as indicating a decline from his earlier furniture designs in response to changes in popular tastes (A Useful Art 180-181). On Phyfe see “A”-12.239.33. In a note to Lorine Niedecker mentions that such furniture tends toward “Victorian massive curlicues” and references “’Mantis,’ An Interpretation” where he mentions Victorian upholstery (see CSP 69).
125.14 lotus or artichoke of your sepals / Of Egypt: referring to the flora designs atop ancient Egyptian columns. Sepals are the outer green petals of a flower that enclose the bud before it blossoms.
125.7 My name is Jackie…: John Abbleby, son of the couple who held the mortgage on the Zukofskys’ Old Lyme cottage, and who worked as a general handyman (Scroggins Bio 233). This is the same Jackie as appears in “A”-12 as the “Poor Pay Pfc.” writing letters to LZ as he heads for the Korean War; see 12.216-223.
125.9 Homer—the carpenter— / Did you write that book?: a question asked by the young PZ of a carpenter named Homer (Penberthy 164); Lorine Niedecker also included this incident in an early version of one of the For Paul poems, “What bird would light” (Collected Works 384).
126.1 Homer’s Argos: Argos is Odysseus’ faithful old dog who recognizes his disguised master on his return to Ithaca in Book XVII of the Odyssey.
126.2 Handel’s Largo: an aria, “Ombra mai fù” (in praise of a tree’s shade), from the opera Xerxes by Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759). See “A”-12.158.8.
126.6 Brownstone: row houses built of brownstone (a reddish brown sandstone), ubiquitous throughout much of NYC.
126.19 Faster than sound: the sound barrier was first broken by Chuck Yeager in Oct. 1947.
Title W: =WCW; this poem was written as a tribute to WCW (see “A”-17.382.18). In a note to Lorine Niedecker, LZ indicated that the poem was meant to be in the voice of WCW (Henderson 129).
127.1 “A soothsayer, a doctor, a singer…: from Homer, Odyssey XVII (LZ refers to the following characterization of the “singer” at “A”-12.162.29-30 and Prep+ 19, 223): “Who ever goes himself and invites a stranger from abroad? Unless it be one who serves the public, such as a prophet or a physician or a clever craftsman, or it may be a heavenly singer to give pleasure at a feast. Men like these are invited all the world over; but no one would invite a beggar to burden hissen with” (trans W.H.D. Rouse).
127.4 Never / have I seen anything like you…: from Homer, Odyssey VI: [Odysseus addressing Nausicaä when he is washed up in the land of the Phaeacians]: “Never in all my life have I seen such another, man or woman: I am amazed as I look upon you. In Delos once I did see something like you, a young palm-spire springing up beside Apollo’s altar. For I have traveled even so far; and there were many others with me on that voyage which was to bring so much tribulation. Even so when I saw that sapling my spirit was dumbfounded for a long time, for no other trees like that grow out of the earth; and so, my lady, I am amazed and dumbfounded at seeing you, and I am awestruck at the thought of touching your knees” (trans. W.H.D. Rouse).
Reading and Talking
6, 10-11 Jan. 1950 / Quarterly Review of Literature (April 1956)
LZ sent this poem to Lorine Niedecker with a 12 Jan. 1950 letter that includes notes identifying the following sources.
127.1 Cauliflower-eared Spartan / Who go about…: cauliflower-eared is a swelling and deformation of the ear caused by repeated injury, common among boxers. This first stanza reworks a passage from Plato’s Protagoras, in which Socrates somewhat mischievously claims that the Lacedaemonians (i.e. Spartans) are a great philosophical nation: “This, however, is a secret which the Lacedaemonians deny; and they pretend to be ignorant, just because they do not wish to have it thought that they rule the world by wisdom, like the Sophists of whom Protagoras was speaking, and not by valour of arms; considering that if the reason of their superiority were disclosed, all men would be practising their wisdom. And this secret of theirs has never been discovered by the imitators of Lacedaemonian fashions in other cities, who go about with their ears bruised in imitation of them, and have the caestus bound on their arms, and are always in training, and wear short cloaks; for they imagine that these are the practices which have enabled the Lacedaemonians to conquer the other Hellenes” (342; trans. Benjamin Jowett).
LZ offered a paraphrase of this first stanza in an undated letter to Lorine Niedecker: “What are you hiding military man, sojer, under that black jack, some desire (I don’t want to be blunt) that was really raised by Venus + which you’re ‘sublimating’ like all authoritarian bastards etc. But delicately because he has a averted profile (which you might get from rhythm?) – after all a pathetic queer like all Spartans” (HRC 19.11)
127.3 cestus: or caestus, among the Greeks and Romans, a kind of boxing-glove or gauntlet, consisting of stout leather thongs or straps, often loaded with lead or iron, fastened on the hands and arms of boxers to render their blows more effective. Also (as at line 5) in Greek and Roman antiquity, a girdle of any kind, whether worn by men or by women; particularly, the Greek girdle for confining the tunic, and specifically the girdle or zone of Venus, which was said to be decorated with everything that could awaken love (CD). The CD illustrates both these definitions.
127.12 Plato said, not / Much better…: the quotations or close paraphrases from 127.15-128.24 are from Plato, Symposium:
[Pausanias speaking:] “For we have a custom, and according to our custom any one who does service to another under the idea that he will be improved by him either in wisdom, or, in some other particular of virtue—such a voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonour, and is not open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honourably indulge the lover. For when the lover and beloved come together, having each of them a law, and the lover thinks that he is right in doing any service which he can to his gracious loving one; and the other that he is right in showing any kindness which he can to him who is making him wise and good; the one capable of communicating wisdom and virtue, the other seeking to acquire them with a view to education and wisdom, when the two laws of love are fulfilled and meet in one—then, and then only, may the beloved yield with honour to the lover. Nor when love is of this disinterested sort is there any disgrace in being deceived, but in every other case there is equal disgrace in being or not being deceived. For he who is gracious to his lover under the impression that he is rich, and is disappointed of his gains because he turns out to be poor, is disgraced all the same: for he has done his best to show that he would give himself up to any one’s ‘uses base’ for the sake of money; but this is not honourable. And on the same principle he who gives himself to a lover because he is a good man, and in the hope that he will be improved by his company, shows himself to be virtuous, even though the object of his affection turn out to be a villain, and to have no virtue; and if he is deceived he has committed a noble error. For he has proved that for his part he will do anything for anybody with a view to virtue and improvement, than which there can be nothing nobler. Thus noble in every case is the acceptance of another for the sake of virtue. This is that love which is the love of the heavenly goddess, and is heavenly, and of great price to individuals and cities, making the lover and the beloved alike eager in the work of their own improvement. But all other loves are the offspring of the other, who is the common goddess” (184-185).
[Diotima speaking to Socrates:] “She answered me as follows: ‘There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex and manifold. All creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making, and the processes of all art are creative; and the masters of arts are all poets or makers.’ ‘Very true.’ ‘Still,’ she said, ‘you know that they are not called poets, but have other names; only that portion of the art which is separated off from the rest, and is concerned with music and metre, is termed poetry, and they who possess poetry in this sense of the word are called poets.’ ‘Very true,’ I said. ‘And the same holds of love. For you may say generally that all desire of good and happiness is only the great and subtle power of love; but they who are drawn towards himby any other path, whether the path of money-making or gymnastics or philosophy, are not called lovers—the name of the whole is appropriated to those whose affection takes one form only—they alone are said to love, or to be lovers.’ ‘I dare say,’ I replied, ‘that you are right.’ ‘Yes,’ she added, ‘and you hear people say that lovers are seeking for their other half; but I say that they are seeking neither for the half of themselves, nor for the whole, unless the half or the whole be also a good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away, if they are evil; for they love not what is their own, unless perchance there be some one who calls what belongs to him the good, and what belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing which men love but the good. Is there anything?’ ‘Certainly, I should say, that there is nothing.’ ‘Then,’ she said, ‘the simple truth is, that men love the good’” (205).
[Socrates speaking:] “But if you like to hear the truth about love, I am ready to speak in my own manner, though I will not make myself ridiculous by entering into any rivalry with you. Say then, Phaedrus, whether you would like, to have the truth about love, spoken in any words and in any order which may happen to come into my mind at the time. Will that be agreeable to you?” (199; trans. Benjamin Jowett).
128.25 Make music, Socrates…: through 128.30 from Plato, Phaedo; when asked by Cebes about turning Aesop into verse, Socrates responds (see “A”-12.177.1):
“Tell him, Cebes, he replied, that I had no idea of rivalling him or his poems; which is the truth, for I knew that I could not do that. But I wanted to see whether I could purge away a scruple which I felt about certain dreams. In the course of my life I have often had intimations in dreams ‘that I should make music.’ The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same words: Make and cultivate music, said the dream. And hitherto I had imagined that this was only intended to exhort and encourage me in the study of philosophy, which has always been the pursuit of my life, and is the noblest and best of music. The dream was bidding me to do what I was already doing, in the same way that the competitor in a race is bidden by the spectators to run when he is already running. But I was not certain of this, as the dream might have meant music in the popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death, and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that I should be safer if I satisfied the scruple, and, in obedience to the dream, composed a few verses before I departed. And first I made a hymn in honor of the god of the festival, and then considering that a poet, if he is really to be a poet or maker, should not only put words together but make stories, and as I have no invention, I took some fables of Aesop, which I had ready at hand and knew, and turned them into verse. Tell Evenus this, and bid him be of good cheer; that I would have him come after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry; and that to-day I am likely to be going, for the Athenians say that I must” (60d-61c; trans. Benjamin Jowett).
128.31 And Plato forgot…: in his notes to Lorine Niedecker, LZ remarks: “I mean in The Republic, esp. the nonsense of censorship, the so-called ‘communist’ state, book 5.”
129.4 Talk is a form of love: Niedecker incorporated this line, perhaps from a letter, into her prose piece, “The evening’s automobiles…” (manuscript dated 15 June 1951) (Collected Works 338).1
129.22 A simple—: LZ notes to Niedecker: “i.e. I mean the medicinal flower.” He adds: “P. S. I don’t suppose anybody will sense that the vowel sounds of the last 8 lines sound like Hebrew.”
“As to How Much”
1 Feb. 1950 / Imagi (1950)
22 Feb. 1950 / Ark 2/Moby 1 (1957)
LZ points out on the draft and fair copies of this poem that it was written on Washington’s birthday.
LZ commented on this poem when he sent it to Lorine Niedecker and again in response to her query:
“My Washington: it occurred to me at breakfast yest. looking at the G. W. favor, a hollow <cherry> log + axe filled with mints I had bought P.Z. night before, the story of the cherry tree was probably some guy’s ruse to say the first president was a rake. Anyway it has all the fertilization signs of all cherry myths from the Early Eng. cherry carol to Burl Ives I gave my love a cherry—so-o-o” (HRC 19.11; undated but almost certainly 23 Feb. 1950).
“Washington — goat —the scapegoat myth — Frazer’s Golden Bough, if you wish, or Genesis, <Bible (I guess Leviticus)> the scapegoat sent out in desert suffering sins of people + redeeming ’em thus in God’s eye. The same myth in other forms among all peoples: Osiris of Egypt, Bacchus (Greeks) etc. —Tragedy (Greek = goat-song). All to do with death + <love +>regeneration, torn apart + put together. The cherry (phallic symbolism involved) a sweet <version> of <myth to> Xians I suppose. So as I say in poem, the poor dead Virginian looking for to be born again invented an insinuation re-Washington choppin down (or raping) the cherry tree” (HRC 13.8; undated).
130.10 Who could not lie…: here and elsewhere alluding to the popular tale that the young George Washington (1732-1799) chopped down his father’s cherry tree to try out a new axe and when questioned declared he could not tell a lie.
131.4 Wig and white dust: it was a popular style in the 18th century for men to wear powered wigs; it is commonly assumed Washington wore such a wig, although apparently this was not the case.
1 April 1950
Conte, Joseph M. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry (1991): 209-210.
Quartermain, Peter. “‘Actual Word Stuff, Not Thought for Thoughts’: Louis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams.” Disjunctive Poetics (1992): 90-103.
LZ would write WCW that this poem was a premonition of his father’s death, which occurred 11 April 1950 (WCW/LZ 426-427).
2 June 1950 / New Mexico Quarterly (Summer 1951)
Conte, Joseph M. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry (1991): 210-211.
24 Dec. 1950 / Tomorrow (May 1951)
title: a manuscript note indicates that one sense of the title was a musical air, as in Thomas Campion’s Ayres, and by implication singing as breathing.
132.6 excavation for the tunnel: the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, connecting with lower Manhattan, was completed in 1950.
132.13 This Egypt…: LZ compares central NYC to Egyptian monuments on a number of occasions: see e.g. the uncollected poem “N.Y., 1927” and “A”-12.148.1.
132.16 ashlar: a squared block of building stone; a thin, rectangle of stone used for facing walls.
132.17 My father praying at my mother’s grave / Heard…: LZ’s mother died in 1927, while his father had recently died in April 1950. The fine singing of LZ’s grandfather is mentioned in “A”-12.140.28-141.1.
22-23 Jan. 1951
In a 29 Jan. 1951 letter to WCW, LZ remarks on this poem: “Much as Plato annoys me I think he knew where the hell the Idea (1) came from. If he didn’t this is telling him—I hope the irony gets across in the ‘heroic’ opening six verses etc etc” (WCW/LZ 436). Sending this poem to Lorine Niedecker, LZ comments: “Pamphylian (title only if published outside a volume = beloved by all). If you look at Plato’s Republic Bk X, Myth of Er, you otta see the irony of the poem. Irony – eironia in Gk. I unnderstand also meant inquiry. […] Plato probably would have censored Spinny [Spinoza] – but it takes a Spinny to see what pore Plato really meant I suppose. My ‘heroic’ opening lines à la Rochester? See Test. I mean the 17th-18th c. tone” (HRC 19.12).
Title: Pamphylian: in ancient times Pamphylia was a country located along what is now the coast of south-west Turkey. The first seven lines of this poem adapt details from the long allegorical tale of Er the Pamphylian, which concludes Plato’s Republic (alluded to in Bottom 83, 104). Er recounts a vision of the afterlife, which is also of the mechanics of cosmic justice, after being allowed to come back to life.
Also Pamphilia is the name of a town (Elizabethtown, NY) where Little and family spend some summers in Little (CF 84).
133.1 Whole night in form the whorl on earth…: the first seven lines from Plato, Republic X (616-617). LZ mentions this passage, specifically the phrase “like the whorl on earth,” in Bottom 83, where he correlates it with a passage in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, as well as in Prep+ 55:
[Socrates speaking:] “Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer; another day’s journey brought them to the place, and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a trireme. From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which all the revolutions turn. The shaft and hook of this spindle are made of steel, and the whorl is made partly of steel and also partly of other materials. Now the whorl is in form like the whorl used on earth; and the description of it implied that there is one large hollow whorl which is quite scooped out, and into this is fitted another lesser one, and another, and another, and four others, making eight in all, like vessels which fit into one another; the whorls show their edges on the upper side, and on their lower side all together form one continuous whorl. This is pierced by the spindle, which is driven home through the centre of the eighth. The first and outermost whorl has the rim broadest, and the seven inner whorls are narrower, in the following proportions—the sixth is next to the first in size, the fourth next to the sixth; then comes the eighth; the seventh is fifth, the fifth is sixth, the third is seventh, last and eighth comes the second. The largest (of fixed stars) is spangled, and the seventh (or sun) is brightest; the eighth (or moon) coloured by the reflected light of the seventh; the second and fifth (Saturn and Mercury) are in colour like one another, and yellower than the preceding; the third (Venus) has the whitest light; the fourth (Mars) is reddish; the sixth (Jupiter) is in whiteness second. Now the whole spindle has the same motion; but, as the whole revolves in one direction, the seven inner circles move slowly in the other, and of these the swiftest is the eighth; next in swiftness are the seventh, sixth, and fifth, which move together; third in swiftness appeared to move according to the law of this reversed motion the fourth; the third appeared fourth and the second fifth. The spindle turns on the knees of Necessity; and on the upper surface of each circle is a siren, who goes round with them, hymning a single tone or note. The eight together form one harmony; and round about, at equal intervals, there is another band, three in number, each sitting upon her throne: these are the Fates, daughters of Necessity, who are clothed in white robes and have chaplets upon their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos, who accompany with their voices the harmony of the sirens—Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of the present, Atropos of the future; Clotho from time to time assisting with a touch of her right hand the revolution of the outer circle of the whorl or spindle, and Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the inner ones, and Lachesis laying hold of either in turn, first with one hand and then with the other (trans. Benjamin Jowett).
133.3 Plato broad forehead and throat: originally named Aristocles, Plato was given the name Platon as a schoolboy, meaning broad. In Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius offers three explanations for this nickname: the breath of his eloquence, his broad forehead or his broad shoulders from his wrestling ability (III.5)—in any case, the sense was extended to refer to his wide knowledge as well.
133.8 But this thing then that has plenty…: from Chaucer’s Boece, his translation of Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy: “But thilke thing thanne, that hath and comprehendeth to-gider al the plentee of the lyf interminable, to whom ther ne faileth naught of the future, and to whom ther nis naught of the preterit escaped nor y-passed, thilke same is y-witnessed and y-proeved by right to be eterne. And it bihoveth by necessitee that thilke thing be al-wey present to him-self, and comptent; as who seith, al-wey present to him-self, and so mighty that al be right at his plesaunce; and that he have al present the infinitee of the moevable tyme” (The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Walter W. Skeat (1894)).
To My Valentines
13 Feb. 1951
133.7 a run: Lorine Niedecker added a note to the postcard on which LZ sent her this poem that may be her own or taken from LZ: “In Gaelic run means mystery or beloved” (HRC 19.12; postmarked 15 Feb. 1951).
On Valentine’s Day to Friends
28 Jan. 1952
134.11 R’lene and Edward: Edward Dahlberg (1900-1977), American novelist and essayist, who was a colleague of LZ’s at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1948-1950; R’lene was Dahlberg’s (second) wife.
134.11 Lorine: Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), poet and long-time friend of LZ. For Niedecker’s response to this poem, see the Niedecker to Zukofsky correspondence, Penberthy 189.
134.13 Tags: Helen Taggart, a family friend who appears as James Madison in Little; see note CF 298.
134.13 René: René Taupin (1905-1981), French critic, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1930 and taught at various U.S. universities, particularly Columbia University and Hunter College in NYC. LZ seems to have met him in 1930, and Taupin commissioned LZ to write Le Style Apollinaire in the early 1930s; Taupin also wrote L’Influence du symbolisme français sur la poésie américaine (de 1910 à 1920) (1929), which included the earliest critical discussion of Imagism and was reviewed by LZ, as well as other works on Franco-American poetic relations.
17 May 1952, rev. 12 Aug. 1952
LZ notes in manuscript that the original version of this poem was written 1 May 1934 and was intended for WCW’s The First President opera that he was working on with LZ’s friend Tibor Serly; the opera never materialized, although WCW’s script and libretto was published in 1936. LZ says this poem was meant for Martha Washington, to be sung while her husband slept (Booth 63), presumably in the opening scene of the opera. At least one other short lyric LZ wrote did survive into WCW’s opera, in scene 2 sung by Mrs. Benedict Arnold: “Sorrow! Sorrow little child! / Alone in this wild place. / Weep, weep, sweet face. / There is no pity, pity for us”; see WCW, Many Loves and Other Plays. NY: New Directions, 1961: 328. The final version of “Alba (1952)” is significantly revised and condensed from the earlier version.
Title Alba: dawn song, from medieval Fr.
11 May 1952 / Accent (Summer 1953)
LZ notes first two lines from PZ to his mother, dated 16 Feb. 1952 (Booth 128).
Spooks’ Sabbath, Five Bowings
6-15 July 1952 / Accent (Summer 1953)
This was a favorite piece of LZ’s for readings (see Recordings of LZ), each section titled by a different violin bowing technique. In notes clearly addressed to someone, LZ gives the following explanations:
spiccato = short, detached notes done with bouncing bow (in my case, one line may be read as a word!) (ah words are always legato regrettably)
martelé = hammered, longish strokes.
grand detaché = a whole bow to a note, (slow).
collé = fast, pinched bows – i.e. strings are pinched – something like spicato but bow doesn’t bounce.
And staccato, you know [a light, short stroke with a period of silence between notes].(HRC 16.1)
The setting of these poems is Elizabethtown, NY (Pamphilia in Little) where the Zukofskys spent the summers of 1952-1953 while PZ attended the nearby Meadowmount School of Music established by PZ’s violin teacher, Ivan Galamian (on the summers spent in Elizabethtown, see Little 84-113, 127-133).
135.5 Schumann: Robert Schumann (1810-1856), German composer and pianist of the Romantic period.
135.6 Hotel Windsor: a very large Victorian era hotel in Elizabethtown.
137.1 The Mill / the artists colony: an artists colony, usually referred to as the Old Mill, established in 1932 in Elizabethtown by the portrait painter Wayman Adams (1883-1959), which continued as such into the 1960s.
138.10 With Shakespeare / They make mows: in Shakespeare “mows” means grimace, and this particular locution is found in Hamlet II.ii:
Hamlet: It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of Denmark, and those that would make mows at him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little. ’Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.
2 Jan. 1953 / Accent (Summer 1953)
Title “All Wise“: in notes written in a letter to Lorine Niedecker (dated 16 Jan. 1953), LZ comments: “Gal [Ivan Galamain] is always saying to Paul in Armenian Persian “‘al´wise´´ (the wise´´ pitched higher than the al´) singing’ meaning the bow should always sing. So the other day when P.Z. was trudging gleefully thru the snow + flinging some of it upon me trouser legs + C’s stockings, I said: Either you’re alwise siging or alwise flinging. I jotted it down for Snorckie. But in interim, there’s all kind wisdoms.” Galamian (1903-1981) was PZ’s violin instructor, and Snorckie refers to the the name for PZ’s character in Little.
For Selma Gubin’s Umbrellas
5 Jan. 1953
Title Selma Gubin’s Umbrellas: Selma Gubin (1903-1974) was a Russian-born American artist who grew up in NYC and was an acquaintance of the Zukofskys (see SL 224). This poem accurately incorporates the details of an oil painting of a scene in Chinatown, NYC that Gubin gave the Zukofskys and is now in the Zukofsky collection at the HRC. This painting may have been a study for a set of linocut prints, images of which can be readily found online (see here), although the composition of the figures is somewhat different and the T-shaped post in the painting from which a moon-like light hangs is an Asian gateway in the prints, which also lack the colors LZ describes.
When LZ sent this poem to Lorine Niedecker in a 16 Jan. 1953 letter, he remarks: “Went out during vacation twice – once to city to walk around, + Sun. to Selma for lunch – when I saw the painting + happened to say this I like so much I’d like to own. Felt guilty when she insisted I take it. And it’s now on living room fireplace.”
The Judge and the Bird
23 Oct., 3 Nov. 1953 / Poetry (Nov. 1954)
141.1 The house…: the house and surroundings described are almost certainly the same as appears in Little (CF 111-113, 127-130) called The Castle with the brook called “The Breath.” This was a historical residence the Zukofsky’s rented for the summer outside of Elizabethtown, NY (called Pamphilia in Little) in the early 1950s while PZ attended summer music school nearby.
142.1 Corbie gable, / corbel: the former is a gable having steps or step-like projections (called corbie-steps or corbels) on the top of a gable wall. Corbie < F. corbeau, OF. corbel, dim. fr. L. corvus raven. The same architectural detail is mentioned at “A”-13.310.6.
“All of December Toward New Year’s”
21 Dec. 1953 / Quarterly Review of Literature (April 1956)
Scroggins, Mark. Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (1998): 115-117 [section 3].
144.11 A WORLD ATLAS in a globe base…: in a letter to Lorine Niedecker, LZ explains: “A little incident today – you noticed Paul’s atlas + globe [given to him as a Christmas present]. If you turn it one way the base is black metal, the other way the book with ‘World Atlas’ on it fits in the base. Since it’s on <one of> the bookcases under our Am. print textile, I prefer the black metal to show, P.Z. the book. We have been turning it to black every time he leaves the room, + he turns it the other way every time he comes back. Finally, I said putting on an act – we know it’s ‘World Atlas,’ but the shadow figures in the tapestry should read it + come to life. And he replies: If it’s (the Atlas) is turned away from us, we are the shades!’ Shades of Shakespeare” (HRC 20.1). This or similar cloth with blue hand-block prints appears several times in LZ’s work; see “A”-12.239.14 and “It Was” (CF 184).
27 Dec. 1953
Title H.T.: = Hyman Thaew, CZ’s father, who died 24 Dec. 1953. In a letter to Lorine Niedecker, LZ explained his name meant “life good” in Hebrew (Henderson 132); Thaew is pronounced Tave, a variant of the Heb. tov meaning good (Scroggins Bio 142). As Penberthy mentions (12), this poem largely originated as a letter to Niedecker dated 27 Dec. 1953 describing Hyman Thaew’s death: “A beautiful blue day again – I saw, as I was riding along, shop signs –”Handel, Butcher” “Shelley Plumber” – Such is this world” (HRC 20.1)—whether or not this is a description during the funeral itself is ambiguous.
songs of degrees
1: 12 Feb. 1953; 2: 14 Feb. 1953; 3: 28 July 1953, 21 Jan. 1955; 4: 13 Feb. 1954; 5: 3 Aug. 1954; 6: 17 Jan. 1955; 7: 2-5 March 1955 / Black Mountain Review (Spring 1956)
[Note: for section 5, Booth gives the date as 3 Aug. but this is almost certainly a misprint or mistranscription as indicated by the letter in which LZ sent this poem to WCW (WCW/LZ 460)]
Conte, Joseph M. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry (1991): 211-213 [sections 1 & 2].
Scroggins, Mark. “’There are less Jews left in the world’: Louis Zukofsky’s Holocaust Poetry.” Shofar 21.1 (2002): 63-73 [examines section 3, “Nor did the prophet,” in detail].
Taggart, John. “Louis Zukofsky: Songs of Degrees” and “Come Shadow Come and Pick This Shadow Up: On Louis Zukofsky.” Songs of Degrees: Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics (1994): 82-113, 191-219 [detailed discussion of entire sequence, with the latter essay returning again to sections 1 & 2].
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. See Z-Notes commentaries on LZ, Williams & Pound [examines in detail section 3, “Nor did the prophet”] and on “A”-17 [discusses section 5 on WCW].
Title Songs of Degrees: or songs of steps, the designation given to Psalms 120-134, probably because they were sung by pilgrims on the ascent to Jerusalem. EP used the title, “A Song of the Degrees” in a 1913 poem (Personae 95-96). See “A”-12.171.13, “A”-14.316.11-12 and “Thanks to the Dictionary” (CF 284). Taggart discusses the various relevant meanings of “degrees” at some length.
1 & 2 With a Valentine (the 12 February) & With a Valentine (the 14 February)
In her essay on LZ’s poetry, Lorine Niedecker remarks that “the 12 February” is “saying the opposite of Lord Herbert [of Cherbury]’s ‘In a Glass Window for Inconstancy’” (“Poetry of LZ”), which is included in TP 41:
Love, of this clearest, frailest glass
Divide the properties, so as
In the division may appear
Clearness for me, frailty for her.
Niedecker got this from the horse’s mouth in a letter dated 28 March 1953 in response to her query why he referred to the second poem as a prayer: “Becuz Feb 14 like all prayers ends in final, devout adoration, the end of all prayers – adoratē <←Latin> (e.g. in Colonna motet) where suspended with the adored you see even yourself in relation. Cf. for eggsample Lord Herbert pome in Test (on same pg with you), which may have been back of my mind when I started mine – when I got along with it I realized mine wuz a positive statement – opposite of Lord H’s negative shattering. And considering that in 20c., neither choich nor state will get anywhere without the indiv. making a better state + choich of hisself than either of these institutions have even succeeded without getting bogged in profit and cheap show and that love grows from one organism and spreads like the mosses etc. (Compare also Bottom + Hamlet praying in Bottom you have). And really aside form all of foregoing blub – 14‘s about C + me – proceeding from her care <(all sense – worry, carefulness, etc)> which usually has a clear motive, + is often prompted by me, once I realize what’s it about my care etc – all care is clear. Too bad we ain’t Gks + got an Artemis or Athene to make all that visible – but considering 20c is chiefly a sublimate of thought about what wuz once or shd. be, or we wish’t cd. be seen – this mind’s eye of adoration is about as close to seeing as fortune provides in our time. We’ve got a bit more mathematical since Leibniz + Newton, + Shakes. + Spinoza – but essentially their summing up of the universe wuz on the threshold of the wall-less house we plunged into, once we plunged. They still saw a house or houses. We’re trying to – Wright, mid frigidares, air conditioning etc modern care stuff. So don’t ask me more. Wut I shall say in Bottom with greater dignity – suzz fuzz buzz” (HRC 20.1).
Taggart (208-210) suggests two possible sources for the vocabulary of the first two sections in Plato’s Alcibiades Major and LZ’s abbreviated version of Shakespeare, Pericles in Bottom 318-320.
3 ‘Nor did the prophet’
As Taggart and Scroggins point out, this poem is addressed to EP, who is the “friend” referred to at 146.4-5. The earliest surviving draft of the poem, dated 28 July 1953, lacks the first and last stanzas, which were added 21 Jan. 1955 (Booth 145-146). In this first version, the second stanza had a second line, “Ezra, he didn’t pound,” and at the top has the note, “For A-13 (?)” (HRC 14.9). In a 5 Aug. 1953 letter to Lorine Niedecker, LZ mentions that he wrote this original version “after Basil’s later saying Ezra urged <him> to come to USA to prevent the Jew-kikes from passing a law to prevent teaching anti-semitism in the schools. What a world! You can’t be sicker than we are” (HRC 25.3; Bunting’s letter dated 9 July 1953; HRC 21.6).
146.2 Jannequin’s…: Clément Jannequin or Janequin (c.1485-1558), French composer whose best known work is the onomatopoeic Le Chant des Oiseaux (The Chant of the Birds), which is closely associated with EP who reproduced the musical score of a violin transcription in Canto 75. At EP’s request, PZ performed this work when the Zukofskys visited EP at St. Elizabeths in 1954; see “A”-13.298.35 and Little (CF 121).
147.2 “The worst bastard of them all”: presumably a comment by EP on King David; as Scroggins points out, LZ is apparently responding to a passage in EP’s Pisan Cantos (1948): “to redeem Zion with justice / sd / Isaiah. Not out on interest said David Rex / the prime s.o.b” (Canto 74/429).
147.4 The sound in the Temple built after exile…: for the rebuilding of the Temple after the Babylonian exile, see Ezra 1-6 referred to in LZ’s notes.
147.12 The tree’s good of the field of Machpelah…: see quotation from Genesis 23 below.
147.13 Mytilene: major city of the Greek island of Lesbos. It may be relevant that Aristotle spent several years there doing biological research and is also one of the settings of Shakespeare’s Pericles, both of which LZ mentions in Bottom 40, 334.
147.14 Cyrus proclaims…: for this and following references to Artaxerxes and Darius, see notes for Ezra 1-6 below.
147.17 Rends coat, plucks hair of his head…: the prophet Ezra’s response on hearing that Jews were intermarrying with and adopting the customs of the locals at Ezra 9:3: “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.”
147.20 And does not stop from drinking water / As blood is shed–: from II Samuel 23:16-17: “And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the Lord. And he said, Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men.” See “A”-8.93.5 and Useful Art 161-162.
147.22 Does not see morning without a cloud…: see quotation from II Samuel below.
[End notes]: Ezra 1-6 narrates the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem following the period of Babylonian exile: the Persian king Cyrus orders and supports the rebuilding as well as the return of the temple vessels, there are detailed accounts of the enormous wealth raised for the reconstruction, the succeeding king Artaxerxes stops the rebuilding, but it restarts with the urging of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and permission is reaffirmed by the next Persian king Darius (some of these details are mentioned in Bottom 104).
I Chronicles 6:32: “And they ministered before the dwelling place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing, until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem: and then they waited on their office according to their order.”
I Chronicles 15:16: “And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy.” This is partially quoted in a set of brief “Other Comments” appended to the original published version of “A Statement for Poetry” (1950); see Prep+ 223.
II Samuel 23:4 [David’s dying words on the just ruler]: “And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” See Thanks to the Dictionary (CF 291/299).
Genesis 23: 16-19: “And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the audience of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant. And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.”
5 William / Carlos / Williams / alive!
LZ is almost certainly recalling a 8 May 1946 letter from WCW, written while the latter was in a hospital recovering from an operation, that mentions both the review of LZ’s Anew that he was writing and his interest in a biography of Billy the Kid he was reading, explicitly associating the latter with himself (WCW/LZ 373). When LZ sent this poem to WCW on 31 Aug. 1954, he mentions that it was written on a long train trip out West in the summer of 1954 (WCW/LZ 460); in fact on the manuscript LZ specifies that is was written between Gaviota and Soledad on the famous South Pacific RR train “Coast Daylight” that ran between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It might also be relevant that a few months previous LZ had been reading WCW’s just published Desert Music, the title poem of which recounts WCW’s own trip to the Southwest and Mexico (WCW/LZ 456). Although different in tone and theme, LZ’s poem seems in part to echo E.E. Cummings’ “Buffalo Bill’s / defunct.”
148.14 scape: the shaft of a column, < L. scapus, the shaft of a pillar, the stalk of a plant, etc. a pillar, beam, post (CD).
149.5 gulled: as a verb, gull means to deceive, cheat, mislead by deception, trick, defraud (CD).
151.6 kill: a channel, creek, stream, or bed of a river: used especially as an element of American names in the parts originally settled by the Dutch: as, Kill van Kull (the strait between Staten Island and New Jersey), Catskill, Schuylkill (CD).
6 A wish
151.2 Clark Street: in Brooklyn Heights, runs perpendicular to Willow Street where the Zukofskys lived at this time and down to the wharfs; Taggart points out that LZ would have walked along this street on his way to work at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (102).
151.19 a good sprag memory…: this and following from Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor IV.i, in which the Welsh Parson Evans tests young William’s school learning in front of his mother, Mrs. Page:
Mrs. Page. I’ll be with her by and by: I’ll but bring my young man here to school. Look, where his master comes; ’tis a playing-day, I see.
[Enter Sir Hugh Evans.]
How now, Sir Hugh! no school to-day?
Evans. No; Master Slender is get the boys leave to play.
[Evans procedes to test William.]
Evans. Leave your prabbles, ’oman. What is the focative case, William?
William. O vocativo, O.
Evans. Remember, William; focative is caret.
Mrs. Page. He is a better scholar than I thought he was.
Evans. He is a good sprag [= alert, lively] memory. Farewell, Mistress Page.
Mrs. Page. Adieu, good Sir Hugh. [Exit Sir Hugh.] Get you home, boy. Come, we stay too long.
152.11 See I, day-playing / a ’tis…: following on the mention of Bach, this backwards repetition is meant to suggest a mirror fugue.
7 March first
152.10 “We are the generations of leaves”: cf. Homer, Iliad VI. 144f, where Glaukos answers Diomedes on the battlefield:
“Great-souled son of Tydeus, wherefore inquirest thou of my lineage? Even as are the generations of leaves, such are those also of men. As for the leaves, the wind scattereth some upon the earth, but the forest, as it bourgeons, putteth forth others when the season of spring is come; even so of men one generation springeth up and another passeth away” (trans. A.T. Murray).
21 Aug. 1955 / Poetry (March 1956)
LZ notes on the manuscript that this was written in Wardsboro, Vermont while visiting “K & T.S.H.” (Booth 156), LZ’s long-time friends Kate and S. Theodore Hecht (see CSP 26.2; also note at “A”-6.36.5).
153.29 goldenglow: a tall plant (Rudbeckia laciniata) cultivated for its large, yellow, many-rayed flower heads (AHD).
5-6 Nov. 1955 (draft in notebook dated 22 Oct. 1955, HRC 3.13)
Title Ferdinand is a long story by LZ (CF 197/198-263/269); Pericles the late play by Shakespeare.
155.1 a poet: i.e. LZ. LZ wrote two other works that take their title from characters, Bottom and Little. The former, which he was in the middle of writing at the time of this poem, is what he seems to have in mind, as is suggested alliteratively especially in the last few lines.
155.5 To sing a song that old was sung, From ashes—: from the opening of Shakespeare, Pericles spoken by Gower who functions as prologue and chorus; he in fact identifies himself at the point LZ breaks off: “From ashes ancient Gower is come, / Assuming man’s infirmities, / To glad your ear, and please your eyes.”
155.6 Antioch’s: setting of the opening scene of Pericles.
155.7 mean risking life: Ferdinand possibly from Gothic fardi, journey + nand, ready. In Bottom, LZ glosses the meaning of Pericles as “suggested by (?) periclitate = attended with risk (1623); ‘They would periclitate their lives’—1657. In any case—the risk of mind!” (74) and at 428 states that the name simply means risk.
The Laws Can Say
5-6 Nov. 1955
Baraban, Stephen. “Zukofsky’s ‘The Laws Can Say.’” Explicator 43.2 (1985): 40-41.
155.4 broken Plato: 29 Oct. 1955 letter to Robert Creeley: “Paul’s latest is ‘I’d rather have a dinner than a broken Plato'” (SL 214).
5 Nov. 1955
Title Shang Cup: the Shang dynasty of China (1766-1122 BC) produced sophisticated bronze objects, particularly libation cups and drums, characteristically decorated with stylized animal forms; the poem describes a typical three-legged ritual cup quite precisely.
16 Nov. 1955
LZ was a life-long smoker; a couple of ashtray poems are included in Barely and widely (CSP 168-169).
6 Feb. 1956
157.2 Eine kleine Nachtmusik: Ger. A little night music; title of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous Serenade for strings in G major (serenade no. 13), 1787; also mentioned in the story “A Keystone Comedy” (CF 186).