Sex Books, Day 3: Bataille, Story of the Eye, “The Antique Wardrobe”

…in which I argue that the use of shocking acts of sex within an otherwise normal domestic setting is analogous to the concept of “the sublime” for a post-romantic, cynical modern audience. 

At some point in all good erotica, one needs to sit down with a few sheets of paper, a pencil, a ruler, and a deep understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes and start from scratch. Without these tools, it’s simply impossible to visualize what the hell is going on. In fact, in the first chapter of The Story of the Eye, I spent a good ten minutes trying to work out what position the characters were in, and I completely failed. This time, I came up with this:

Story of the Eye, Figure 2.1

Indeed, I use an asterisk for assholes, and a coffeebean for vaginas. The first thing one realizes is that this is a very difficult section of the body to draw. The geography is simply confounding. But, as the chapter begins, “that was the period when Simone developed a mania for breaking eggs with her ass,” we’re pretty much forced to come to terms with precisely how she pulls this off (particularly if we’ve read the book before). So, there you have it. Also, a list of things that go on in this chapter: eggs broke with ass, piss on mother (accident), piss on tablecloth (on purpose), begging to be pissed on (during seizure), sex with a wardrobe (inside is locked another girl, masturbating), and an orgy of teens with broken glass and puking.

The scene at the end is one of the most memorable in the book, reminiscent of the ending of Hamlet, actually, the essential tragicomedy. As Hamlet closes, pretty much everyone you’ve met over the past three hours is piled up dead on stage, an ending I always look forward to: it never fails to please.

Here, a bunch of teens go to a tea party, get drunk, have an orgy that includes much pissing, bleeding, and puking, and they’re all strewn about the floor at the end…when their parents show up to take them home.

And one girl, the one who’s kinda raped in the first chapter, she’s been locked in a wardrobe and pretty much stuck there the whole afternoon, so when she emerges, this is the scene she encounters, runs to her mother…whom she begins biting. End scene.

What are we supposed to get from this? I think the big question is: are we supposed to laugh? or be horrified? or be aroused? Let’s focus on the slightly surreal qualities.

The surrealists, IMHO, prided themselves on works being completely disconnected from life, which is the reason why they failed and bickered so much–because it’s pretty much impossible to achieve their ends. There’s a “willing suspension of disbelief” required simply to absorb an exquisite corpse, or running from theatre to theatre while drunk–the difficulty isn’t the creative disconnect–anyone can create an exquisite corpse–the difficulty is for the audience, who must accept the art without question, without interpretation, without seeking meaning or moral or even identity. We’ve all channel-surfed while drunk, I’m sure–but our immediate instinct is to seek disconnect and renewed narratives, rather than seek an incoherent whole. In short, I think surrealism is meant to be a vehicle for achieving what one might achieve without surrealism anyway, and I think it’s unnatural.

Anyway, looking at work by Dali, there’s always something you can latch onto, whether a table, a hand, or a timepiece; of course, a painter of his calibre would think too highly of himself to throw all his talent into abstract expressionism when he could create new realities based on a classical education. And it’s here, the “latch,” so to speak, where I find the great parallel: Chapter 1 takes us to a cliff in the middle of a storm, which leads us naturally to Byron’s Manfred:

Ye toppling crags of ice!
Ye avalanches, whom a breath draws down
In mountainous o’erwhelming, come and crush me!         80
I hear ye momently above, beneath,
Crash with a frequent conflict; but ye pass,
And only fall on things that still would live;
On the young flourishing forest, or the hut
And hamlet of the harmless villager.

And to King Lear, 

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature’s moulds, an germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

 And lastly, back to Bataille, in which the first chapter ends with the three kids on the top of a cliff during a thunderstorm, Simone rubbing her face in a mud puddle, masturbating with mud, and forcing Marcelle’s legs open.

What’s familiar to us is this motif: humanity encounters the sublime and is thereby induced to madness. In Byron, the growing mist and potential avalanches lead Manfred to a dramatic plea for assisted suicide, as observed by a hunter; in Shakespeare, Lear’s madness is encouraged by his perception and dialogue with the storm, the balance provided by the Fool and others; in Bataille, the kids are moved from the simple pleasures of one pissing on the other’s sex to a mad rape in the mud–and it isn’t the narrator who is the collected observer, it’s Marcelle, in her continual horror at the narrator’s actions.

Manfred: cliffs -> avalanches -> hunter
Lear: wilderness -> thunderstorm -> the fool
Eye: cliffs -> thunderstorm -> Marcelle

This weakness at the point of possible transcendence isn’t a modern notion either, it’s present at least as far back as Leviticus 16:2, as (let’s take the KJV for the sake of ease) “and the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat,” i.e., encounter that which transcends normal human experience, and you will die.

Moving this all forward by one degree, to actual modernity, by the time of Bataille, there is no longer anything sublime in the world. There are still popular artistic rubber stamps of the sublime, but we’re now dealing with a world in which every man went off to risk his life under clouds, not of thunderstorms, but of mustard gas. What is natural has been harnessed and destroyed. What is reality is domesticity and war, and we are doomed to civilization, now under the rule not of monarchs, but of republicans, not of the church, but of science, for it was indeed science that bombed out so many great cathedrals, and from a great multitude of tongues, now unification under a few flags, nationalities, a great simplistic one-ness. What in life is shocking anymore?

So, we are moved to the sitting-room for a tea party (watch this, I’ve mentioned “republicans” and “tea party” in a single post, so I’m going to get a shitload of confused ideologues trying to figure out what’s going on here. no, seriously–do you know how many people find my blog because they’re trying to get information about hens?)…and what is sublime is no longer the “ye crags, upon whose extreme edge / I stand” (Byron), but “the deep crack of [Simone’s] buttocks” (Bataille); what is sublime is no longer the “cataracts and hurricanoes,” of Shakespeare, but rather Simone, “jerking off with the earth and coming violently, whipped by the downpour,” her madness now “piss on me…Piss on my cunt” finalized by Marcelle’s “jeremiad of howls that grew more and more inhuman,” even causing terror to the narrator himself.

Essentially, when the sublime is no longer awesome in our eyes, what is there left to which we can retreat? Each other. I think the lesson here is that if we cannot find the sublime in each others’ eyes, in each others’ bodies, in each others’ hearts, in this modern world we’re left with nothing else, our cathedrals destroyed by bombs, our mountains destroyed by poets and painters, and we, somehow still virginal and unexplored, await that moment when we might lead each other to transcendence.

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Byron – Occasional Pieces (1813)

1813 has been the most strenuous to get through so far, because by this point I don’t even feel like he’s trying, and perhaps he isn’t, these may very well be the ones he’s writing from the shitter or when he can’t sleep. I mean, there’s nothing I can say about these except that they’re characteristically Byron, that odd mixture of self-pity and sharp disdain and inundating adoration. I can’t quote anything. I need to force myself to write something. No, I don’t want to.

Byron – Occasional Pieces (1812)

Byron may be the most questionably reliable author I know of, even more so than whoever wrote The Things They Carried, so that by 1812 I’m still wondering if he’s telling the truth…does he really feel such sadness? Could it have taken the death of someone he loved for his writing such serious verse? Does it matter? In this case, I think it does, because Byron is his poetry in the same way that Shakespeare is not, it seems to me a mistake to read into Shakespeare by reading into his works, including the sonnets. Petrarch may bring to mind a proper example of how I feel about Byron at this juncture, because I’ve never, not for one moment, trusted Petrarch, and I think history treats him precisely as he wishes to be treated by it, rather than how I think he is–that is, I do not trust Petrarch’s religious fervor as anything other than spectacle–if a Shakespearean sonnet is about fucking, a Petrarchian sonnet is about not getting fucked for a very, very long time, and trying to deal with it. So do I believe Byron, or do I think he’s making use of the speechless dead, stirring up emotions that weren’t there until they were useful. Whatever the truth, his writing is much more grave and solemn, though with somewhat crudely lilting meter, until I reach this stanza of “If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men”:

For well I know, that such had been
Thy gentle care for him, who now
Unmourn’d shall quit this mortal scene,
Where none regarded him, but thou:
And, oh! I feel in
that was given
A blessing never meant for me;
Thou wert too like a dream of Heaven
For earthly love to merit thee.

His usage of “him” directly before the commas on lines 2 and 4, and the subsequent commas, throw the meter and rhyme off slightly, but it’s still in perfect form, the words follow the pulse, but the punctuation does not. I always try to read poetry without forcing a pulse, just to feel how the words naturally rest, and this caught me entirely off guard, and delighted me. It reads to me like this:

For now I know, that such had been thy gentle care for him,
who now unmourn’d shall quit this mortal scene,
where none regarded him, but thou:

And it’s quite beautiful, even the very sound of it, and I think this illustrates what 1812 does for Byron, then, beyond developing the essential Byronic character further, it’s his breaking rules, in a sense, by owning them–for the first time I feel as if he has complete control over the poetic form, and it no longer restrains him but rather gives him new freedoms. If clothes do not fit on your body, they are not clothes; if a cuisine is not edible, it is not a cuisine; I think all the arts lead back to one’s body, and if poetry does not fit in one’s breath, it is not poetry–this stanza simply thrills me.



Byron – Occasional Pieces (1811)

1811 is an interesting year for Byron’s work, because it ends on such a vastly different tone than which it began. It ends with two poems to Thyrza, and looking ahead, it seems Thyrza is a name he dotes on for quite some time. In itself, this is unusual, given the number of women who tear out the young Byron’s heart until this point. Early 1811 poems continue much the same as those few from 1810, halfhearted love-pieces, fragments, translations, bits of humor about travel, and at times as in ‘To Dives’ we get the sense that he’s trying to write from a height he simply cannot believe. So we move from:

Then, in my solitary nook,
Return to scribbling, or a book,
Or take my physic while I’m able
(Two spoonfuls hourly by the label)

to:

The pledge we wore–I wear it still,
But where is thine?–Ah! Where art thou?
Oft have I borne the weight of ill,
But never bent beneath till now!

A stanza that recalls many of his earliest pieces to girls who promised their love and then ran off. But something about this writing is more believable, perhaps it’s the simplicity and the loss for words, it seems far more emotional than his early work, more desperate, more pleading, and Byron’s treatment of death turns from a teenage fantasy to something far more real. In October he’s writing about her, and in December also, and looking ahead, into February still. Of course, I don’t know if she is real, and if not, then Byron has merely matured on his own–but I’ve been looking for a turning point, and up until now 1811 didn’t seem to offer much hope of one until I reached these poems today. Finally appears the man who will write Don Juan

Sweet Thyrza! waking as in sleep,
Thou art but now a lovely dream;
A star that trembled o’er the deep,
Then turn’d from earth its tender beam.
But he who through life’s dreary way
Must pass, when heaven is veil’d in wrath,
Will long lament the vanish’d ray
That scatter’d gladness o’er his path.

Byron – Occasional Pieces (1810)

It seems particularly apt to come across this short poem today. Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ was never something that made much sense to me, nor did Anais Nin’s final rebuffing of Henry Miller, and so on, so that all those terrible things we learned would be finally obliterated by feminism, well, I begin to wonder if there’s more to it than that. Do I believe in love? Yes. There is the love of a parent for his or her child, and there is the love of a man for another man or woman. And I think that covers it. Do I believe in love? Not really. I think it’s mostly a struggle of power, and it just happens to find an easy vehicle for cruelty when everyone is so desperately exposed. One year ago I had spend significant amounts of time in a cockroach filled shoebox of a bathroom watching a girl piss, a girl who refused to let such trivialities get in the way of conversations about Fitzgerald or Henry James, and since she also refused to let such trivialities like eating get in the way of her drinking, well, I saw her drink for six days straight without eating so much as one bite, and we would spend the nights sneaking cigarettes in my room after her boyfriend fell asleep and we’d sneak away from him. We grew close by drinking in the middle of a country road while the moon was large, surrounded by dark farms, and when trucks would come barreling down the road we would hold on to each other, determined not to move, determined, until the absolute last second when, holding on to each other, we’d save each other’s lives by flinging ourselves away from the middle, roll into the dirt. When we came back, everyone was angry at us, they’d all waited up, we couldn’t feel our bodies, and they never had any idea of what we really did when we went out there that night, their imaginations ended at the word sex. We were really out there discussing how unfair it had never been necessary that any of them had to work for anything in their whole lives. She knows how to love, I think. I’ve seen her love. She proposes to me at least once a month.
“For the record,” I tell her, “I haven’t been answering or returning your calls for the past two weeks for a reason. It hasn’t just been ignorance.”
“Really?!” she asks excitedly.
“Yes. We can discuss it another time.”
“Tell me!”
“It’s because last time we spoke you went on a drunken tirade and said things that were entirely unacceptable.”
“Oh, it’s because I told you to dump that bitch, I mean, she’s not a bitch, I’m sorry, she’s not, but it’s because I was telling you to dump her. I’m sorry.”
“That wasn’t all you said.”
“Oh shit! Really? Well, I was drunk, how can you expect me to be liable for–”
“You’re always drunk! Always! So you have to be liable for your words, because that’s your normal state of being.”
“Okay, okay, what did I say?”
“We’re not discussing it right now. But you broke some of my rules, and if you do it again you can be damn sure you’ll never see my face again.”
“Okay. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I said though. Do you still love me?”
“Of course I still love you.”
“And you’ll still marry me?”
“You and everyone else. Why is it that the only people who want to marry me are in danger of liver failure before hitting age 28?”
“And kidneys for me too!”
“You’re all going to fucking die, and just leave me, helpless and alone and unloved because I’m the unlucky one. Many years ago I had a dream that I was being shot, and my feet were attached to the floor and I couldn’t fall, and I desperately wanted to die, I hated being shot so much, but until I fell over I couldn’t die, and I couldn’t fall. I’m afraid it’s true.”
“We still have time left. Think about it, k? I’m serious. We would never be really in love, but, but we’d still be amazing.”

I came to believe that love was emotionally about punishment, practically about money, and now, I’m quite sure, it’s about power. It’s a thought that doesn’t escape me when I see how my dogs love me, how devoted they are to me, and I try not to remember that it’s because they fear me, because I hold power over them, and it’s not love: it’s subservience. But they don’t understand how I feel about them.

“Does being around your mother make you happy?”
“Not…really.”
“Then fuck her.”
“What do you mean? Should I call her and say fuck you?”
“Just fuck her!”
“I don’t understand…”
“Just forget about her. If she doesn’t make you happy, why keep her around? Why keep anyone around if they can’t provide you with something.”
“That’s a fucking heinous thing to say.”
“Think about it.”
“…you know, you’re right.”

Do I believe in love? No. Do I believe in friendship? Yes. Do I believe in firewater? Even more than I believe in friendship.

And now, the poem that spurred this whole mess:

The spell is broke, the charm is flown!
Thus is with life’s fitful fever:
We madly smile when we should groan;
Delirium is our best deceiver.

Each lucid interval of thought
Recalls the woes of Nature’s charter;
And he that acts as wise men ought,
But lives, as saints have died, a martyr.

1810 is fascinating year as far as his “occasional pieces” are concerned, because there are so few of them as compared with years prior and years following. At first I figured he was perhaps writing Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage while on his travels, but there’s no evidence of such speculation, so I have otherwise no answers. What’s particularly noteworthy during this period is that he’s a perfect poetic upstart, perhaps in the wake of English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, perhaps merely because he felt himself living in the golden age of mythology, making use of his classical education, “Ζωή μου, σᾶς ἀγαπῶ,” and making full use of all his 2,000 parts.

Well, so it goes, Byron died alone, Shelley died essentially estranged from his wife, Keats died without ever making love to his lover, the political revolutions all failed except in Greece, the sexual revolutions gave way to stifling victorianism, what was radical became obscure, what was sublime became quaint, what was humanist became theist. What hope have I now?

Byron – Occasional Pieces (1809)

What’s wonderful about Byron’s “Stanzas Composed During a Thunder-storm” is that is that he seems finally to have some of the experience necessary to discuss his subjects of choice. Of course, he had love in his past, and indeed the sort of love that would have been novel to publish in English, you know, the cripple being molested by his nanny, that sort. So his early work is generally boring–it’s just too commonplace. And it’s in his later work, as he becomes both cosmopolitan and self-assured that he then deserves to write on the subjects he chooses, and they’re finally believable. This is where it first shows up, though in his “Lines to Mr. Hodgson” he discusses parts of his tour across the Mediterranean, it’s still done with the same lackluster humor that his earlier poems written about going to school or boozing possess. In this one, perhaps he’s guilty of lovely arrogant name-dropping, classical terms, modern cities, but he mixes it with some of the peril we come to expect from this generation of poets, always on the verge of death, kiss me! as well as the repining for lost love that is the hallmark of early Byron. This prepares us for “Childe Harold” as well as “Don Juan”–or at least shows us more of the transition of early Byron into what we know him to become. Also, it’s worth mentioning that he uses the word “panting” — “panting Nature” in his “To Florence” — which is always worth mentioning, as I recall it being a word Shelley uses quite liberally, and, honestly, it’s a wonderful word, a wonderful thing to do, to pant, everyone should pant more often.

Byron – Occasional Pieces (1807-8)

Byron’s Hours of Idleness covers 1802-7, so far as I can tell, and is one of the most difficult books to read because it’s just so poor, not that it’s his fault, he was only learning the ropes, but it’s precisely what you’d expect someone in his position to write. Occasional Pieces of 1807 are no better than that, and perhaps worse, including a poem to a tree, a poem to a son (he never had a son), and a poem written “upon finding a fan” and that’s all I have to say about that.

Occasional Pieces of 1808 show what I think is the period when his work becomes beautiful, and begins to be fearless. This was always Gigi’s favorite poem when we studied him together:

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold, 5
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow— 10
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame:
I hear thy name spoken, 15
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear? 20
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well:
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met— 25
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years, 30
How should I greet thee?
With silence and tears.

It’s not as concise as some of his other poems of the time, but it feels more so because of its pulse, indeed, it’s the pulse that makes easy to absorb whereas his older verse didn’t have quite the same aesthetic mastery over meter:

“Oh, Anne, your offences to me have been grievous:
I thought from my wrath no atonement could save you:
But woman is made to command and deceive us–
I look’d in your face, and I almost forgave you.”
(To Anne. 1807)

Precise, but stilted. One of the first mistakes of writing in form is to believe that the rules are there to contain one’s verse, when I believe the form is there to set one free. this makes me old-fashioned. But, I think the difference between these two poems is clear–there’s a confidence in “When We Two Partedthat I do not find in Anne, if only in the loose interpretation of the pulse: Byron has his way with the pulse, he knows as long as it keeps beating he is free, while even at times it has the same meter as “Anne“, where each line begins and ends feminine, between feet, one giving birth to the next, in “Partedhe abandons precision for the movement of breath. We can feel the punctuation in our breath rather than in some stylized fabrication. How is it to be read?

“When we two parted, in sil-ence and tears…” forces the whole thing to read well, but read like one needs a pint of beer in one hand and the other balled into a fist. But that isn’t the mood the words set at all. I’ve always taken the emphasis as: “When we two parted…” and taken the language and punctuation naturally, as if there were no line breaks at all. And I believe that is how it is meant to be read, because it can be read that way. “To Anne” cannot be read like that, the punctuation breaks every line off forcefully, despite the feminine endings, exhausting because it’s so unnatural. When we two parted in silence and tears, half broken-hearted to sever for years, pale grew thy cheek…and cold; colder thy kisstruly that hour foretold sorrow to this. No matter how you break it apart, it works, it’s has an undeniable utility as shown by the form, but also a beauty that raises it to what we can finally call art.

poetry: Blake: Poetical Sketches (1783)

Bloom shows how elements of Poetical Sketches I’ve hitherto taken seriously are actually meant to be ironic, parodic of Augustan verse. Ohh. I didn’t recognize there was a history of “mad songs” nor was I quite sure what they were. It’s hard to separate oneself from some era and read its verse properly. What struck me this time around was reading the poems that have become somewhat ingrained in me and thinking, “this is Blake? this is Blake?” How sweet I roam’d from field to field? I would have guessed Byron wrote that, that it fits in with his Occasional Pieces, written from the forests, not from the London sweatshops. The importance of Poetical Sketches, in my opinion, is that it shows Blake as being a well-read, opinionated poet from the start–being very fluent in classical and biblical mythology as well as more contemporary literature, even having a large store of imagery and metaphors to play with. It’s sometimes difficult to jump into “Thel” or “Heaven and Hell” without somewhat a sense of Blake’s unreliability unless you can be quite sure he’s grounded as a poet, the same as “Songs of Innocence” may come across as immature if one isn’t fully convinced that the poet is quite self-assured, directed precisely as an arrow.

film: Branagh: Frankenstein (1994)

Frankenstein has long held a place in my heart because it deals with the reckless life of a poet, and its destructive tendency,  and thus I see myself in it, and I grow concerned, wondering if such tragedy really is so tragic. Considering Frankenstein at any point after WWI turns Mary Shelley into a prophet of the same caliber of Orwell or Huxley. Removing it from our lives, that is restraining it to her own, we know she wasn’t foretelling anything at all: she was recalling. Percy didn’t know this, of course, which diminishes his intellect, and makes one begin to wonder how great of poet he is as compared to how much effort Mary put into immortalizing him. We know Percy didn’t know this because he gave no indication of knowing it through his revisions, effective rewrites, of the text, which is the 1818 edition, and he allowed it to be published. Byron didn’t seem to pick up on it either. And ultimately, it’s Mary who is the sole voice of that great circle to survive and recollect on the period with a voice of wisdom. Branagh, who makes everything glorious, took some liberties with the story, but can hardly be criticized given the terrible legacy of idiotic interpretations in the cinema and television. What changes he makes do the following: First, Frankenstein isn’t portrayed as making such repeatedly foolish mistakes, which makes him out to be less of a fool. That is, he grows. I wonder if Branagh would have made this change to the story if he himself had not been playing Frankenstein. It reminds one of Hamlet, who he also chose to play, and the similarity between the characters acting idiotic despite their intelligence is notable. Second, he makes it more melodramatic. This goes alongside the first, because had he just given up on making the bride rather than, you know, cut up the bodies of the only two women in the film and sew them together, and then dance with this monster and try to convince her to, we assume, continue the ceremonies of their wedding night…well, then he would have seemed like he was making a mistake, equal to the first, in believing the daemon wouldn’t actually come visit him on his wedding night. The whole story is mishmashed. And then the final sequence, in which Frankenstein is given a chance to live peacefully amongst humans, and refuses in favor of an unabashedly flamboyant act of suicide, is precisely what allows the ending to be hopeful: progress will stop before reaching its absurd conclusions. We know this is not true, because Shelley died, his family life, including all those dead children, attests to his ignorance in life, and Byron, who is portrayed as Frankenstein’s best friend (and who mysteriously disappears in this film. I mean, he just stops showing up.) dies under equally silly circumstances. Branagh: big, bold, excessive, hoorah! My mouth was gaping for much of this, and I covered my eyes a few times.

poetry: Byron: Hours of Idleness (1807)

Four selections from a book of poems I find a somewhat tedious read of sporadic quality:

“Love’s Last Adieu”–I nearly didn’t make it through this, every line, I mean, was difficult to make sense of, even after spending the past hour working through Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. Granted, it can’t be easy to write something compelling when every stanza ends with “love’s last adieu,” but this is one of those pieces that perhaps should not have been written. It comes across as an exercise, and perhaps it was a helpful one because it forces one to find eleven words that rhyme with adieu…but it also helps explain why Hours of Idleness was often a flop. [ This last statement perpetuates a myth originated by Byron himself on the reception of Hours; of the publications that reviewed his work, the majority had either positive or neutral opinions of his work, and often identified the author by name. Byron, so far as we know, only focused on the opinion of the Edinburgh Review, at least publicly, which led to his English Bards and resulting fame. In hindsight, this was a good move, but at the time–what was he thinking? ]

“Damaetas”–This first reminded me, of course, of Byron himself, or, perhaps what he might have become–perhaps the sort of person Wordsworth became, if he ever lived any sort of sinful life. Second I thought of the character Pippin from the musical that share’s his name. Yet, while Byron’s character gives up sin in what seems to be repugnance, Pippin gives up sin out of boredom, if not depression. And then I thought of myself, and I grew very sad, because I thought of myself prancing about England unhappily, with my mistress sin, hating myself, though trying to “drain the dregs of pleasure’s bowl” at every turn, and oh, however much time I spent thus, ten times as much have I regretted it.

“To Marion” — “Still fickle, we are prone to rove” are the lines that I read over and over aloud, thinking how well it describes me, though how much more well it describes Byron, if we condense his endless loves into these few pages.

“To a Lady who presented to the author a lock of hair braided with his own, and appointed a night in December to meet him in the garden” — I think this to be the most important poem in Hours so far, because he doesn’t merely suggest a sense of humor, he lets it fall out, and now doubtless this is the Byron who will go on to compose Don Juan; all the elements of his craft are seedlings here, the humor, the great fickleness of love, the great loves, all the things made glorious in what may have been quite dull, really. When he writes, one tends to forget that an obese and lame boy is the writer. But it is the legend whom he goaded to live.