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Touching pitch : a reader's garland for Edward Dahlberg Whittaker, Edward Keith 1968

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TOUCHING PITCH: A READER'S GARLAND FOR EDWARD DAHLBERG  by  EDWARD KEITH WHITTAKER B.A., University of British Columbia, 1964  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in the Department of English  We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September, 1968,  In p r e s e n t i n g  this thesis in p a r t i a l  f u l f i l m e n t of the requirements  f o r an advanced degree at the U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, I agree t h a t the L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y Study.  a v a i l a b 1e f o r r e f e r e n c e and  I f u r t h e r agree that p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e  copying of t h i s  t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y purposes may be g r a n t e d by the Head o f my Department or by hils r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . or p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n  thesis for financial  permission.  Department of The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h Vancouver 8, Canada Date  It i s understood t h a t  Columbia  gain  shall  copying  not be a l l o w e d  ii  Abstract  The work of Edward Dahlberg has not greatly been studied.  One book about  him exists, another one or two (that I am aware of) are i n preparation. few book reviews, the other criticisms of his efforts,  Too  are interred in the pa-  ges of various literary periodicals which date back to 1930.  In presenting  his own appreciation of Dahlberg, Jonathan Williams writes, "God knows, I do I  not have the prodigious knowledge of classic literatures clearly necessary." Nor do I.  Before I commenced this essay I was bidden to "cover the ground".  This year, Mr. Dahlberg published a book which I received in the mail after I had compledted my work. Of course, no c r i t i c with a soul, or a grain of sense, feels that his work i s ever done, or that he has done i s definitive. Whoever does feel this contributes mightily to the plague of cultural lockjaw which mortally endangers the free expression of a l l honest men everywhere.  This pre-  sent work i s tentative, necessarily. I offer here for i t few excuses but rather an intent to expand and (hopefully) improve i t , later. I presume that in his search for his identity — for what to write and for how to write i t —  he might say, in his hunt  Edward Dahlberg has had near him  always the advice tendered by Sir Philip Sidney's muse: "Fool...look in they heart and write."  Dahlberg's earliest works were autobiographical novels,  written in what he much later referred to as the "abominable tongue"  (BD, p. i v ) ,  the proletarian rudeness made fashionable after World War One and especially in the 1930's, too often truant from learning and a slave to i t s own moment. Following the autobiographical sketch Dahlberg has placed in a letter to Robert M. Hutchins (BOOT, p. 22),  we see that what was to hand (or to ear) for these  apprentice books did not suffice to inform pur author who he must be. ine Herbst has written,  Joseph-  iii [[Bottom Dogs'J limitations set hardened boundaries beyond which Dahlberg was fated to pass or to lose his integral vision i n the meaningless violence of typical American f i c tion. But more like a European writer than any American, he was willing to go down to rot, i f need be, in order that he might come up again i n a rebirth more central to his vision of an imaginative beyond. (ED, p. vi) Do These Bones Live was published in 1941, after Dahlberg had been silent seven years.  (This volume was twice revised —  f i r s t in England in 1947  where i t was called Sing 0 Barren: and again i n New York in I960, under the t i t l e Can These Bones Live.) His style had changed utterly during that time. His concerns had become more universal than personal and perhaps for that, more immediate; his cadences were richer, the better to focus upon what had had come to realize must hold his attention —  his Origins.  These he came to understand  culturally, the Old World heritage the New World had too easily sloughed away. The more Dahlberg searched for himself among the records of the long past, the more resonant with them —  as in The Flea Of Sodom (1950) —  came. What could be more simple?  "Le style est l'homme meine.  H  his style beOrigins of Amer-  icans, whose feet should touch this incontinent, are as much P.savage" as " c i v i l " . Novelist of himself, as Ortega says man i s , Edward Dahlberg proceeded to discover in The Sorrows Of Priapus and The Carnal Myth both the epical annals of the Europeans who revealed the New World to the Old and also the legends of the Indians, they who were f i r s t to contact their white "discoverers", who f i r s t shook them with the brute fact of terra incognita. Except for the very obvious change in styles between his f i r s t four novels and Can These Bones Live, I have found i t appropriate to treat a l l of Edward Dahlberg's work as one great book.  (This has meant eschewing dates of publi-  cation i n the process of quite an odd sort of cross-reference; the ideas i n Truth Is More Sacred had likely been brewing in Dahlberg's mind for thirty years —  i t i s an unavoidable historical accident that they saw daylight in  iv 1961.  Said the Russian poet Fet: I know not what I myself shall sing, But only my song i s ripening.)  \4 "A novelist i s always writing the same book; for he i s born to make the perfect poem or novel." (LA, p. 17) My assumption explains?, why this essay i s not  entirely lineal — quotations from one book illuminate dark questions  posed by another. Timidly, I might also say that some of Dahlberg's books are i n part less essential to his development than others (I hesitate to say categorically,"his progress," for Dahlberg has consolidated or rather fructified his ideas and opinions; he has rarely changed them). The most important works are Can These Bones Live, The Flea Of Sodom, The Sorrows Of Priapus, The Carnal Myth, and Because I Was Flesh.  But this i s total conjecture and beyond a few phrases of ex-  planation,rayassertions would get lost and frozen i n a semantic blizzard. What i s cause and effect?  Dahlberg's two books of essays (Alms For Oblivion,  The Leafless American), some of the poems i n Cipango*s Hinder Door, his c r i t i cal exchange with Sir Herbert Read (Truth Is More Sacred), and his aphorisms — Reasons Of The Heart — certainly could not have been done apart from the other books listed earlier. —  However, Dahlberg's mythography i s more central to him  and this, I repeat, i s naught but the most elemental and dangerous hunch —  in that i t provides a base of self-knowledge that facilitates that secondary activity which i s a more conventional and recognizable literary and social c r i ticism. After years of study and many hazardous forays into the jungle of the public print, Dahlberg returned to himself (and to his mother), prepared at last with his adjunctive assurance abojit that part of him which uttered habitually the wisdom of the millenia in the periods of the seventeenth century, to t e l l the  V  story of his own person. As always, i t was an inevitable act. "...I have come to that time in my l i f e when i t i s absolutely important to compose a good memoir although i t i s also a negligible thing i f I should f a i l . "  (Because I Was  Flesh, p. 4) My composition has a plan.  Think of a man in a whirlpool: the centre of i t  i s himself yet he i s surrounded by a vortex of alien matter which closes upon him steadily.  He must free his body from the workings of the funnel, must thrash  his way up and out of i t s constrictions.  Yet his contact with i t i s the only  means he has to disengage himself from its whorls, which work counter to a l l his efforts.  Does i t not greatly behoove him to leam i t s processes, to understand  i t s duplicities as quickly as possible, so as to overcome (or try to overcome) i t s attempts ever to suck him down? I have arranged in chapters my account of the work of Edward Dahlberg and this has been i t s scheme: an Introduction about the impossibility of critcism; Chapter One — some words of a kind concerning an epistemological problem and its solution, the process of metaphor; Chapter Two — literary criticism (those authors and attitudes to whom Dahlberg f i r s t travelled to find himself, and also those past whom he had to fight his way); Chapter Three — sociopolitical c r i t i cism; Chapter Four — the diligent search for the myths of peoples of the Old World and the New; Chapter Five — the memoir of the body; a Conclusion, in which (among other matters) alternate ways of approaching the subject are suggested.  In fine, the "whole body and intelligence" described at the start  of Chapter Two i s tracked throughout and i s treed by Chapter Five. The knowledge of self i s inextricable, at last, from the knowledge of others. The tale of that process/proposition in terms of the l i f e and art of Edward Dahlberg is the burden and ( i f indeed there i s any) the progression of my essay. I mentioned in my tiny description of the f i r s t chapter of this essay that  vi i t concerned an epistemological problem —  indeed, my entire composition,  be-  cause of the nature of i t s subject (and because of what I hope i s my sympathy for that subject) i s concerned with an epistemological problem. Which way does the cyclone/anti-cyclone revolve?  How does man make his what i s a l l a-  round him? How does man know himself best; by heart, by head? to move or to cease whirling, so that he may learn? that which fetches him? Does he do what he desires?  Must he seek  What leavens him, merely What i s movement, choice,  stillness, action? How does he know? Everything comes i n twos, good and evil, pleasure and asceticism, l i f e and dying. Hermes i s the god of eloquence, and this winged courier brings the right words to the mouth of the poet, and he also t e l l s him when he i s to die. There i s no writing, or l i f e , or teaching that i s good that i s not also heavily impregnated with death. (CM, pp. 2 1 - 2 2 ) The vorticist i s Edward Dahlberg, the struggling and anguished Western man, indestructible Laocoon by virtue/vice of his own skin, senses, organs, blood, and bones (and those of the quivering World around him), fervently desiring tranquillity and ever chary of ( i t as?) the Void.  vii  Contents  Introduction  P« 1  Chapter One  P« 6  Chapter Two  P* 1*  Chapter Three  P- ^7  Chapter Four  P* 8°  Chapter Five  P« 1°9  Conclusion  P« 129  Notes  P. 133  Bibliography  P« 1^3  The great majority of references in this essay are to the works of Edward Dahlberg; I have avoided a plethora of footnotes by parenthesizing page numbers and t i t l e abbreviations at the ends of quotations plucked from Dahlberg s books. (Full bibliographical information appears at the end of the essay.) Here i s a l i s t of Dahlberg*s works and the abbreviations I have used for them. 1  1. Alms For Oblivion AFO 2. Because I Was Flesh BIWF 3. Bottom Dogs BD k. Can These Bones Live CTBL 5. The Carnal Myth CM 6. Cipango's Hinder Door CRD 7. The Edward Dahlberg Reader EDR 8. Epitaphs Of Our Times BOOT. 9 . The Flea Of Sodom FS 10. From Flushing To Calvary FFTC 11. The Leafless American LA 12. Reasons Of The Heart RH 13. The Sorrows Of Priapus SP Ik. Those Who Perish TWP 15. Truth Is More Sacred TIMS  Acknowledgments Now i t i s time to say thank you to those who variously supported the writing of this essay with kind letters, books through the mail, sundry necessary encouragements, much usef u l information, and pertinent criticism. I say i t then to my mother and father f i r s t of a l l ; and to Dr. Warren Tallman, Dr. Peter Quartermain, and Dr. Roger Seamon, the members of my thesis committee; to Harold Billings, William R. Holman, Jonathan Williams, James Laughlin, and finally, to Edward Dahlberg.  Introduction "The Open Letter"  (Frank Davey)  One thing I have made up my mind to do i s never to solve or solder impossible contradictions on paper that cannot be mended or put together in l i f e . And my book i s f u l l of that. I know i t and i t bothers me, terribly. I don't believe too much in the "superstition of progress"; yet I believe just as man from day to day must create his own atmosphere and fiction of free w i l l and speak in demonic absolutes or be dumb, so must he act as though man were not an eater, and as though the most planetary and remote and ridiculously foolhardy ideals could be established. One has two choices, either to be Jesus or the Ass upon which he sat as he rode into Jerusalem. I prefer to be both and am reasonably certain that I can carry a divine burden as the Ass rather than as the Jesus. (Edward Dahlberg, Epitaphs Of Our Times, p. 16)  The poet Allen Tate has dared to ask in an essay the following outrageous question: "Is Literary Criticism Possible?"  Mr. Tate protests that he cannot  define literary criticism or "the humanities"; his essay f i r s t assumes their existence and then tries to forge links between them. The humanities and their lessons, as Tate misunderstands them, are-a sorry clogged harbour f u l l of a l l the detritus the natural and social sciences have no use or time for. iS5 interested in man  The humanist  simply as he i s , and places no limit on his functions.  "iii^Whatever criticism may be, we should perhaps do well to keep i t with the humanities, where i t can profit by the sad example of Hilaire Belloc's Jim,  who  1  failed 'To keep ahold of Nurse / For fear of getting something worse.'"i  The sole  method of the humanities today i s unsatisfactory; i t i s to offer the past en bloc to the Lockean mind of the student.  I f he "accepts" i t sufficiently, and repeats-  i t as offered, he i s said to be "educated". At times, he even becomes capable of making correlations between various sections of what has been poked at him. The arts of rhetoric (and, says Tate, their forerunners, grammar and logic), have been neglected.  Without them language, the medium of humanist studies,  2 cannot be comprehended, much less employed.  Even the poet who throws off-these  disciplines for those he regards as more important i s a charlatan unless he i s aware of the significance of what he rejects. Tate considers that criticism occupies an impossible position right between the works of the imagination and the activity of teaching. He limns this relationship with four rhetorical questions: can a work be taught without criticism; does teaching necessarily precede criticism, which i s then the "understanding" tacked on; can criticism be precedent, understood, and glued to the work as_ i t i s taught or read; i s teaching a jungle gym upon which the c r i t i c a l faculty may create i t s own routines which are independent of literature?  Obviously,  says Allen Tate, the meaning of "criticism" i s by no means simply posited. (The same problems arise, of course, when we try to define "literature".) "The three kinds of c r i t i c a l discourse are as follows: acts of evaluation of literature (whatever they may be); the communication of insights; and the rhe2 torical study of the language of the imaginative work." by i t s e l f .  None of these exists  The f i r s t two, says Tate, cannot be taught; the third has been de-  molished by the systematization of criticism. Insights can only be presented i n the hope that, despite a l l evidence to the contrary, those to whom they are presented w i l l match them with parallel i n sights of their own.  Tate cites Longinus, who considered that one of the func-  tions of intelligence i s industry.  Discipline i s therefore justified.  An aes-  thetic experience, though i t have a verbal analogue, i s yet private and ineffable.  Evaluation i s at last, says Tate, impressionism which, in i t s most per-  nicious form, i s the historical seclusion of literature.  " A l l reading i s trans-  lation, evfen in the native tongue; for translation may be described as the act 3 of mediation between universals and particulars in the complex of metaphor." Without training i n the rhetorical foundations of language, the student of l i t -  3 erature founders.  "It i s futile to expect him to be a c r i t i c when he has not  yet learned how to read?"  Rhetoric w i l l not be taught for we do not now be-  lieve that words are important vehicles of truth.  Here not only the student  of literature, but also i t s teacher, stumbles before the Babel perversions of the pragmatic tongue. How may we talk of Literary Criticism apart from teaching i t , i s Tate's next question. It can never be totalitarian without betraying i t s identity, let alone that of the work which i t purports to elucidate.  Even when the c r i t i c  in his insupportable position between philosophy and literature erects a system which i n i t s coherence appears to exceed that of the work at hand, he i s in danger of idolatry.  Art i s long, criticism i s short; i t i s the buffer between  the languages of the mind and of the body, and navel-string which keeps them from flying apart. "The c r i t i c ' s rhetoric, laid out i n his particular grammar, i s the critic's 5 mind."  I f we understand the c r i t i c well, we should not, Tate warns, suppose  immediately that his i s the position of a genius or a dolt.  Criticism i s hu-  mility before literature, which i s the lined Human Face of things. "IS LITERARY CRITICISM POSSIBLE?" Allen Tate queries. There i s a noble despair in this question and those who refuse to ask i t are pragmatic"porkers i n tears." That we do not know what we think we know i s no quibble; i t i s the tragedy of man endeavoring to attain knowledge that i s beyond the powers of his feeble intellect. Let me...admit that I am a Sisyphean failure, for whatever words I may r o l l up the Cordilleras w i l l f a l l down on my head again. •••  Once the c r i t i c assumes that i t i s possible to define pleasure oMtruth, or what Tate would c a l l the "machine of sensations," he i s erecting an epistemological Babel. Since knowledge i s chimerical, the academic stench i s more horrid when the cabala of grammar i s passed off?as metaphysics. This pinchbeck diction comes, as Tate views i t , from the " c r i t i c ' s own intellectual pride." The good and .just use of words fires our entrails and hopes, while wandering phrases which cannot explain themselves make cowards of us. How many have lain i n the dust after perusing the jargon of aesthetics? The c r i t i c , having a niggish s k i l l with words, and pretending that the buskined gait of the tragedianiis contemptible, adopts the mock elevated style of the philosopher and scient i s t . As Tate remarks: "The philosophical language in which  he...expounds the insight may seem to reflect an authority that he has not visibly earned/ (AFO, p p . IkJ-k) 7  Edward Dahlberg*s essay about the criticism of Tate, whom he calls "The Forlorn Demon," i s in part his own confession of his general ignorance and of his distrust in method. Again, what i s literary criticism, though professors neigh continually into the busy ears of herds of students?  Dahlberg does not have  any great faith in anyone's a b i l i t y to be coherent.  He quotes admiringly the  distressed candour of William Hazlitt: "If I am assured that I never wrote a sentence 6£ common English in my l i f e , how can I know that this i s not the case?"  (AFO. p. I63)  I think that the reader of my essay should bear in mind the strictures of Tate and the fact that Dahlberg agrees with them mightily.  The composition  which follows i s consistent in that many of i t s non sequlturs are naked and undisturbed.  (They are instead disturbing, and to no one more than to me.)  My  criticism i s mot often paraphrasing-, digestion, explication, apparent digression, gloss, evaluation, placing in context —  none of these, I surmise, can  do without the others. Usually, I am unable to distinguish these elements of form (style plus content), either i n my own work or somebody else's.  In the-  ory, I take this to be no fault. I shall cite an anecdote about Sir Thomas More which i s to be found in John Aubrey* s Brief Lives. In his Utopia his lawe i s that the young people are to see each other stark-naked before marriage. Sir William Roper, of Eltham, i n Kent, came one morning, pretty early to my Lord, with a proposal to marry one of his daughters. My Lord's daughters were then both together abed in a truckle-bed in their father's chamber asleep. He carries Sir William into the chamber and takes the Sheete by the corner and suddenly whippes i t off. They lay on their Backs, and their smocks up as high as their armspitts. This awakened, them, and immediately they turned on their bellies. Quoth Roper, I have seen both sides, and so gave a patt on the buttock, he made choice of [Margaret More), sayeing, Thou art mine. Here was a l l the trouble of the wooeing. 6 -  5 I put my reader i n a position akin to Roper's. Edward. Dahlberg considers that a l l . knowledge i s carnal; my criticism of his work has, I feel, followed 7 i t (closely, I hope) i n spirit and i n letter.  What I say, then, i s bound to  have the flaws and sottishnesses that the body has; my hope i s that i t possesses also some of the body's beauty and vigour.  6 Chapter One "The Metaphysics of the Belly."  (Norman Mailer)  We are always pining for the f i r s t and aching because we are the last, for a l l things old and new are skulled and dead, and never lived because there i s no i_s or was — there i s only the mocking image. We handle nothing from birth to what we name death and imagine that i t i s something. (RH, p. 109) This i s a passage from Reasons Of The Heart. Edward Dahlberg*s recent book of piths and gists. terest.  I t contains connections to the very centres of Dahlberg's i n -  Establishing these connections w i l l l e t : us follow the course of his  study of how we know or f a i l to know our selves and our universe, and the truth or falsehood of what we know. The mood of the pensee just quoted i s also that of Koheleth the Preacher, Ecclesiastes.  (That sentence's metaphor was weak but germane.) Metaphors wreck  time and Edward Dahlberg sets out to do just that, though he die trying.  A meta-  phor i s "the mocking image". In The Defence Of Poesie, Sir Philip Sidney admits poetry i s a feigning that masks hature's chaos. only deliver a golden,"  "Her world i s brasen, the Poets  1  he says, and notes that Orpheus charmed the ears of 2 beastes, "indeed stony and beastly people." The process of metaphor or "mocking image" by which Dahlberg effects contemporaneity with (say) Orpheus, Koheleth, Sidney — with any moiety of his primogeniture — i s simply that of white magic.  The poet's power over appearances lies  in his faith to believe (and to make us believe, by our faith in the power of his word-spells) i n his own namings of identities over the copulative bridge. In proportion to the existence of these faiths, the implied antecedent and commentary to such a statement as There was a man named Walt Whitman, An Old Testament Balaam was he, And as lickerous as the angels Who parted the thighs of the daughters of men.  (CHI), p. 45)  % i s "Let Walt Whitman be (etc.) —  and lo! he was."  Like the Elizabethans, Ed-  ward Dahlberg sees man as living the same myths wherever in place and whenever in time he happens to exist.  Paul Carroll calls the appreciation of this v i -  sion "one of the commonplaces of modern criticism,"  but Dahlberg's unflinching  tenacity to i t has probably been a main reason he has been reviled or ignored for so long. It i s best never to take any one of Mr. Dahlberg's announcements and tVlaim i t to be his firm opinion unless that claim i s based on a diligent search to make sure no obverse announcement exists elsewhere in his work. Bertrand Russ e l l remarks in a discussion of Locke, that a philosophy i s either consistent 5 or credible.  Edward Dahlberg i s a very credible writer. The passage quoted  earlier from Reasons Of The Heart does indicate that time i s a chimera and thatt, our a b i l i t y to know i s only our a b i l i t y to symbolize. However, Dahlberg does reckon that knowledge i s either myth or dross and the", quotation under discussion i s only about that knowledge which i s dross, perceived by what Coleridge called the Primary Imagination, or what Blake called "Single Vision and Newton's Sleep." In Can These Bones Live, a book of apocalyptic criticism which heralded the arrival of his mature style, Dahlberg discusses Don Quixote at length.  He  shows us the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance as the artist, who must, i f he i s to survive, look upon the world with transforming chivalry. The Man of La Mancha inspires Sancho Panza, whom Mr. Dahlberg likens to the c r i t i c .  Al-  though Sancho accepts his Master's tragedy, the enchantments and the madness; he grieves that inns, poor Johns, whores and sheep are not castles, trout, ladies and armies; Sancho w i l l look with enough optical valour and knight-errantry to swear that they are, and must be, i f the agony i s to be borne; but he w i l l not reject their necessary and natural forms. (CTBL. p. 110) The key to that sentence i s the word valour.  It i s just the lack of valour  8 notes in man i n the aphorism mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.  There  i s no valour also in the whole dull world which Don Quixote, and a l l artists and prophets, constantly assail.  What disingenuous cowardice to t e l l Spenser  that we do not believe in the land of Faerye; to wonder how Jesus turned the Cana water into wine; to scoff at the magician Merlin, who educated the young' Arthur by turning him into a goose, a badger, a falcon, a perch, and a pismire; or to be didymus Merchants of Toledo and demand evidence that Dulcinea del Toboso i s indeed the paragon that Don Quixote has claimed I Don Quixoteanswer,  Dahlberg quotes  the reply of a l l faith to a l l doubt: "If I did show her  to you, what mastery were i t then to you to acknowledge truth so notorious?" (CTBL, p. I l l ) Such talk i s outrageous and Don Quixote's quests are practically the merest folly.  His strength and madness are exhausted at last and he dies i n good  taste, his opinions in good order, his pate savaged into undeception.  That the  Man of La Mancha repents him and dwindles, on his deathbed, to become only Alonso Quijano the Good, i s not the final point of Cervantes* great morality. Sancho, weeping, urges Don Quixote to arise again: ...let us go out into the fields clad as shepherds as agreed to do. Who knows but behind some bush we may come upon the lady Dulcinea, as disenchanted as you could wish. 6 Sancho i s made an heir by his lord who, while he decorously declines, i s given every attention. [Sancho Panzajwas in good spirits; for this business of i n heriting property effaces or mitigates the sorrow which the heir ought to feel and causes him to forget. 7 Sancho i s not craven or callous; he i s Sancho Panza, whipper of bushes, stndiousi-Mnder of his own belly, wise governor.  Werehe Irish, he would dance at  Finnegan*s Wake. His unchanging nature i s , for Edward Dahlberg, a key to the mystery of the universe. The Sorrows Of Priapus, part of which i s a critique of the absurdities of the body, i s Dahlberg*s ironic tribute formed to such  9 Panzan sagacities as these: God gives the wound and God gives the salve; and nobodyknows what may happen. (CTBL. pp. 116-7) The guts uphold the heart, and not the heart the guts.  (CTBL', p. 11.5)  To introduce The Sorrows Of Priapus I w i l l cite a few phrases which characterize i t most aptly: ...the penis...has i t s own disposition;...though the spurious owner wants to think, i t wants to u r i n a t e . . i t i s only g i ven to us as a loan or i s leased to each one....A man may want to study Mark, or Paracelsus, or go on an errand to do a kindness to an aged woman, but this tyrant wants discharge i t s e l f because the etesian gales are acerb or [because]a wench has just stooped to gather her laundry. The whole matter, when one thinks of i t reasonably, i s bizarre. The head i s so obtuse as to go absolutely crazy over a pair of hunkers, which i s no more than a chine of beef. Of course, the whole of human appetite -ds ridiculous.... (SP, p. 29) T..in every case we must be upon our guard against what i s pleasant, and pleasure," Aristotle writes. Plato said that extreme pleasures and pains produce madness. Delights make men rave....Ho one knows anything and can only surmise that his knowledge i s no more than the rock of Sisyphus which rolls down from the peaks each day. I f i t did not men would be more tyrannical than they are. 8 M!  The blatancy of the former quotation i s refreshing today.  Malcolm Mugger-  idge, Norman Mailer, and various and transitory and fundamentalist preachers are usually the only people who dare utter anything remotely like i t i n Engl i s h ; and their fulminations are puny beside the scope and power of Dahlberg s 1  castigations. A revealing Hebraist-Hellenist literary t i f f occurred between Robert Duncan and Edward Dahlberg over The Sorrows Of Priapus. I t i s worth reporting because i t i s what Blake called the "consolidation of error"; i t establishes at least one of the contraries without which he reckons there can be no progression ( a l though i t i s perilous to affirm Dahlberg s belief i n progression). 1  Mr. Duncan  apparently gave Dahlberg a low leg for his book and thereafter astounded i t s author by his comment upon i t in Poetry —  the review i s a determined attempt to  10  shred the book and cast i t and i t s author to the four winds. Duncan sees shrewdly enough that he i s Dahlberg s antithesis: 1  "the wisest and best men in the world," Dahlberg writes, "are those who are ashamed. The conscience of Augustine and Tolstoy came from their shameful parts." But Blake t e l l s us that "Shame i s Pride's cloke." There are those then, perhaps not wisest and best, who hold a contrary doctrine. 9 He derogates Dahlberg for being so rude as to publicly dislike the skittishness of the human organs and their appetites: ...that flow from the heart of which Lawrence spoke, flowing in thousands of l i t t l e passionate currents often conflicting, has i t s trace in a poem in the flow of measures and rhymes through the body of a poem; those l i t t l e currents of feeling l i e at the edges of a sensuality that adores them, and the l i f e of a poem reflects a nature that has a faith in the organic and a desire for beauty. The Sorrows Of Priapus is...a sad garbled effort to emit Cantos of a Song to express a loathing for the ear, the mouth, the hand who must take part in the making. 10 Mr. Dahlberg confronted Mr. Duncan in a bookstore therafter and requested, "Tell me, do you understand l i f e ? " "My God, no," replied Duncan. By attacking Dahlberg entirely on alien terrain, Duncan loses the skirmish. What i s at stake i s the validity of the transcendentalist aesthetic as i t i s proclaimed by such stupendous artists as Lawrence, Crane, Thomas, Ginsberg, Duncan, and Paul Goodman. Yvor Winters has described Crane in terms that are, I think, applicable to the others; they a l l believe, more or less, in "the divine 11  origin of impulse/and.. .its trustworthiness."  Now i t i s no accident and no  special pleading that enables me to l i s t among this group of writers two suicides and three pederasts.  The agonizing truth about transcendentalism  i s that,  i f prosecuted honestly, i t provides no method for the judgment of experience. Ginsberg, for example, must judge as equally worthy the manifestly polar ex-  12  13 "  periences that resulted in his poems "Message" and "Mescaline". The transcendental aesthetic opens wide the door of the w i l l to the acceptance,  11  at least possibly i f not probably, of eolossally uncreative influences and behaviour, which cannot, by even the most flimsy definition, be consistently the cause of great art. The f i n a l aesthetic judgment — "That i s attractive" — i s not necessarily synonymous with the f i n a l moral judgment — "It's good." The argument I am subjectively and tortuously pursuing i s circular.  As Dahl-  berg considers a l l knowledge to be chimerical, my attempts to say why I agree with him beg their own questions.  I t i s , I believe, eminently foolish i f not  wicked, to embrace a philosophical or a r t i s t i c credo which does not, theoretically, plump for even the illusion of some guarantee against the limitation of vice.  (A practical transcendentalist — for which read Hart Crane — i s simply  not of this world.) De Sustlbus non est disputandum.  (As Yvor Winters has writ14  ten i n another context, "I am f u l l y aware that these remarks are heretical.") A last warning: i t i s not to be supposed that i t i s easy to think and act this way, the way Dahlberg has thoxight — for so long, so publicly, and so unreservedly.  A cursory reading of his letters shows that the neglect he has  experienced has been intense and that the scant attention paid him has primaril y that of the pillory.  He has been so unrelievedly penniless and has suffered  such sicknesses, i t i s marvellous he has not yet stepped into the earth, to say nothing of his increasing a b i l i t y to burst into ironically mirthful print. It i s to Duncan's discredit that he i s so peevishly intent on bringing to earth the moralist in The Sorrows Of Priapus that he almost totally f a i l s to notice that his game i s dressed in cap and bells. Each person has a deity in him which i s ravaged by a frump. No matter how we long for virtue who wants to be a spado?  (SP, p. 4) (SP, p. 6)  Nature advises the frog far better than man... (SP, p. 2 0 ) Man i s unreasonable, and his sanity hangs by the thread of Ariadne. Doing wrong i s one of his daintiest satisfactions, and harming another i s as exquisite an ecstasy as coition. Man cannot endure his own vices in others, and he cannot overcome himself enough to pardon a friend whom he has injured. (SP, p. 5 2 )  12 Straight-faced Edward Dahlberg s Swiftian book has a shocking lack of con1  genial and conventional idealism.  Nowhere are the mystery and glory of sex  venerated. Mr. Dahlberg's theory, simply enough, i s that absurdity and foolishness are man's necessary portion.  To prove this, Dahlberg must be allowed  to utter,isji-bhout impunity, every sort of barbaric fact.  If, like Duncan, we  presume to quibble, Dahlberg has only to throw burden of disproof back upon us to maintain his position.  We are unable to cite against him anything other than  the behaviour seen conventionally, from which Dahlberg has so recently and read i l y stripped convention. Were we rational, the satirist would not exist and the universe would not be the Emperor's clothes. The only way to 'scape hanging i s join Lear's Fool in the admission of madness, which i s the f i r s t faltering step on the stony road to sanity.  Then in  reading Dahlberg i t becomes clear that accepting a l l he says i s at best but a pinch more useful than accepting none of i t .  His purpose i s to make us realize  that by striving we accomplish nothing but our fates (which i s , however, slightl y or i n f i n i t e l y "better" than .just their accomplishing us; they can do that without our help).  Whatever i s , must, for no obvious good or e v i l reason, be.  The knight-errant has f i n a l l y the same measure of virtue as the v i r i l e , patient, and bucolic Patriarch Enoch, who "walked with God and...was not, for God took him."  15 Cry unto the universe, spring up, 0 ye seeds, but i t i s thy p e r i l and ruin. (LA, p. 105)  The style of The Sorrows Of Priapus i s distinctly oracular, as much of Dahlberg' s has been since 1941.  His avoidance of the vernacular i s so determined  that i t i s odd to find even in his letters a contracted verb. Minimizing identification with objects of scorn, and making infinite the forms of objects of admiration, this late style i s uncompromisingly adult.  Mr. Dahlberg*s peculi-  arly erudite sense of humour (as well as his sense of myth) resides in his hab-  13 i t u a l l y making t r i v i a l things seem important by speaking of them in words, phrases, and allusions which are, though appropriate, often so recondite they narrowly miss dipping in the inkhorn.  (I can find no instance in which Edward  Dahlberg has been guilty of the Joycean sin of deriving humour from making important things seem t r i v i a l . ) The Mohammedan of the old order wipes his buttocks with his l e f t hand since he uses the right one to handle food, plant vines or to greet people. A Moslem woman can divorce a man with reeking breath, a fault unknown among the natives of Otaheite. Modern man rushes to the water closet, and after the most summary ablutions, extends his hand to the f i r s t person he meets. The ancient Essenes had strict tenets regarding defecation and i t s burial in secret places. Man at present dungs in his own house and considers himself a d e l i cate creature. (SP, p. 16) Of course laughter i s of the gods, and i t i s a fatuity to separate them. The Sorrows Of Prlapus. according to i t s "Author's Note," i s a legendary book, using geography, the beasts in the earth and in the sea, and voyages, as the source of maxims, mirth, and an American myth....This i s a book for brave readers and poets. (SP, p. vi)  14 Chapter Two "You ought to be a literary bigot."  (Edward Dahlberg)  I look for a whole body and intelligence in a man's work, and i f a bad person, or a savagely mediocre one, like Eliot or Pound, has done a few scattered lines, that i s not enough for me to excuse the basilisk influence he has had on an infernal generation of zero minds, made so in part by polysyllabic l i a r s . You say I scream, so did Ruskin, and Jeremiah, and Unamuno, a l l of whom I have read for years, and aside from the defects of my own identity, I must have learned to shriek from them; but the eagle does so too, and lives in a mountain eyrie where I pine to nest, and sorts of truthful books are noises of one sort or another. Coleridge was hardly a quiet man, and Hazlitt was waspish. No more; what I am saying i s that I have certain didactic principles that I must abide by, to my p e r i l or not. (EOOT, p. 279) This warcry Edward Dahlberg wrote to Stanley Bumshaw in 1961.  I t i s an ex-  cellent introduction to his c r i t i c a l "attitude". The phrase "whole body and i n telligence" i s explained by Dahlberg in another advisory epistle to Bumshaw. He does not insist that a l l of an artist's work be of equal value; but rather that even the lesser work be the product of someone the reader can trust.  Even i f i t  i s only conditionally proposed, this ad hominem criticism i s presently heretical. However, Edward Dahlberg has been vigourously unhorsing orthodoxy for too longto fret over his lack of c r i t i c a l propriety or method. Sir Herbert Read calls 1 Dahlberg's criticism "concrete,"  but at once realizes his friend would think  even this adjective too abstract and aesthetical. His preference i s to speak of auricular and sensual pleasures, and literature must f i r s t and foremost satisfy his "goatish appetite" for such phenomenal fodder. The poseiis Gargantuan, and Rabelais i s undoubtedly one of our author's monitors. Like Rabelais [or the Jonson of the Drummond conversations],.:he w i l l l i s t a hundred particulars, but never risk a generalization. I t is not possible to define pleasure or truth. "Since knowledge is chimerical, the academic i s more horrid when the cabala of grammar i s passed off as metaphysics." Since Mr. Dahlberg despises so many academic ideals — definition, analysis, syntax, the scientific method i t s e l f — i t i s l i t t l e wonder that he i s not honoured in Academe, which i s to say, not in any hall of renown, for nowadays they are a l l leased to pedants.  15  To Edward Dahlberg, the fetish of "aesthetic distancing" i s a l i e and an act of criminal insanity. For him, the style can in no way avoid being the  man.  Therefore in his ad hominem criticism he often draws from his treasure of personal reminiscence or uncommon erudition some astounding fact about a writer which either frees that writer from much obloquy or accurately accounts for some grievous fault in his work. Being unwilling and anyway unable to slough his own mind or body as he reads, Mr. Dahlberg has decried for years the consistent lack of love, bawdry, good food, good humour, myth — kind —  "the whole body and intelligence" of Nature and Man-  i n much modern literature, especially that written in America.  (He en-  ergetically condemns, however, the prevalence of a l l perversion and totalitarian sex, which at last i s nothing but friction and an exchange of muck.) Dahlberg feels that to deny these and maintain that great art and a good polity can yet result i s to see through a glass darkly.  The usual excuse of the c r i t i c who  ad-  mires works containing such faults i s only that they accurately display current depravity.  Dahlberg's rejoinder i s not to be disputed; who but the artist w i l l  be Moses and Joshua and lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land?  And how w i l l fie lead them i f his vision be no less piecemeal or smutted  than their own? Mr. Dahlberg i s not specially pleading for artists to be recognized as a conventional elite; his letters and his autobiography show that he finds in himself most, i f not a l l , of the faults of his age.  Sir Herbert Read says,  "He  himself has always preferred to live simply, and his dwellings have been like 3 the hermit's c e l l . " Therefore, in art (as in l i f e ) , "what i s overcome i s good, for man has a negative conscience, the monitor or daemon in Sokrates which nrek vented Kim from doing wrong, but did not compel him to perform what i s right." "Overcoming" necessitates for Dahlberg the literary, educational, and soc i a l c r i t i c , a close and reforming attention to the vigour continually available  16 in "our own remarkable colonial annals and the ancients". (EQQT, p. 22) .In his ad_ homlnem mood Dahlberg repeats himself: Great lives are moral allegories and so soon become deniable myths because we cannot believe that such good men could have existed i n such an evil world. So we doubt the existence of Christ, the profound human heart logic of Tolstoi, the miracle and wonder of Walden. (CTBL, p. 2.5) The f i r s t chapter of Can These Bones Live i s devoted to proving Dahlberg's thesis that truth, good and evil are inseparable. Among the works and men our author discusses i s Hamlet, who i s gentle and ruthless by turns, and whose savagery exists to placate a ghostI  Hamlet's tragedy, says Dahlberg, i s his i n -  a b i l i t y to find the cure for his and the world's sickness — The play's plot, Hamlet's history, eats him alive.  he i s no forgiver.  Hamlet's rapacious and kind-  l y actions and his soliloquies are necessarily f u t i l e and thus desparate raids on the limits of the cosmos.  So that he may commit them, he i s , tragically, a man  no? more, no less. Dahlberg notes the incredible coexistence of (1) the Machiavelli who wrote from exile that he spent his days pastorally in reading great poetry and gossipping and dicing with local boorish tradesmen; and (2) of the Machiavelli who spent the evenings of those days writing The Prince, "...beast and man are sewn together with threads of heaven."  (CTBL, p. 9)  It i s Timon of Athens and the cave who finishes the f i r s t chapter of Can These Bones Live, providing impetus for a l l of Dahlberg's criticism,  "...in  Timnn the anthropophagous acts of man become the terrible Sermon on the Mount of Kate.. Timon cannot hate without "eating himself and thus making his own tomb."  (CTBL, p. 9)  The chapter's total implication i s of course that " C r i t i -  cism i s an act of creative faith..." impossible task of the c r i t i c —  (CTBL, p. 52)  The eternal, necessary and  impossible since artists and c r i t i c s are only  human and necessary because this i s not enough; a l l l i f e i s incontinent — i s  —  17  to harvest the ripe wheat and tares of an artist's nature and work, and to make available his good grain by separating i t from that which i s to be cast with no ado into the furnaces of denunciation.  Edward Dahlberg i s one of those inspired lunatics who really presumes to act on the belief that art i s able to show mankind how to grapple with himself and with the universe.  Dahlberg further believes that man w i l l wallow until the  day he turns to art for the demonstration of i t s truths.  Can These Bones Live  i s his cry to the human earth to stop groaning and let i t s e l f be delivered, or deliver i t s e l f .  A good place to commence the notation of Dahlberg's cry i s ' I  with his description of the Puritans —  we dan go forward and backward in time  from them to develop more f u l l y our appreciation of his c r i t i c a l ideas. D.H. Lawrence says early in the Studies In Classic Literature that i t i s more necessary to see the Puritans as bursting from Europe rather than to. America. At the end of A Preface To Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis, defending the epic, claims that since we live i n Middle Earth i t i s necessary to have middle things.  The  English commonwealth, he notes, abolished the maypole and the mince-pie and the ultimate result was not a continuing city of piety but the lewd Restoration. The Massachusetts elders were rudely surprised when the New World afforded them cranky savages and succubi in addition to the s o i l essential to the generation of God's Kingdom Upon Earth. The Puritans t i l l e d New England furiously and beat back Indians, Quakers, Thomas Morton, and (overtly) their own sexuality. Covertly, Freudian inversions riddled the handling sins of these holy inquisitors: The colonial farm house, rooted in and winging upwards from the soil, bespeaks the miracles of growth, l i f e , birth, procreation and marriage. The Puritans' churchly slaying of the sexual organs, like the dismemberment of Osiris, was a furtive and diabolical worship of seedtime, spring and copulation .  18 The Puritan walked and meditated with Orion; dogwood, the birch, and furtively knew the nakedness of his body as Ham knew Noah. (CTBL, p. 56) From the Old Testament the Hebraical Puritan took a garbled Jahweh, added to i t an inclement, Atlantic Christ and a devil, and of these made witchcraft New England — the allegory of Adam, Eve, the Serpent and Cotton Mather. (TIMS, p. 103) A l l of the Puritan fantasies were unholy libidinous quests for the WONDERS of the INVISIBLE WORLD....the concupiscent WONDER of the Privy Teat, escutcheon of Cotton Mather's witch. (CTBL. pp. 121-2) One of Dahlberg's most astounding observations follows directly — the art i s t s who succeeded the Puritans did not see through their facadeI the whole of American Literature has been a deep refusal of men."  "Almost (CTBL. p. 56)  The real nascence of American letters in the middle years of the Nineteenth Century was, at i t s best, an appreciation of corporate Nature; a dualistic idolatry of disembodied friendship parading i n the Emperor's clothes of cosmic sexual identification; a glorification of the purest consciousness — a marine or an abstracted diabolism.  Maimed from the beginning, Thoreau, Whitman, Melville,  Hawthorne, Dickinson, and Poe committed their errors as an ineffective, misdirected revolt against that enslaver, "Mather's Shade."  (CTBL, p. 122)  Henry David Thoreau was the author of some of the most peaceful and charitable words ever written. thought, not bad men.  The anger in " C i v i l Disobedience" i s directed against bad (The same could be said of Walden.) Thoreau had an urgency  to be catholick and companionable, so much so that Ralph Waldo Emerson grumbled that Henry lacked gumption and as soon captain a huckleberrying party as develop his considerable talents as a surveyor.  Thoreau bore no animosity toward Emerson  but did say of him that he, indeed, was not "'comprehensive* enough to trundle a wheelbarrow".  (CTBL. p. 13)  The clue to Thoreau*s l i f e and work, as Dahlberg sees them, was that Thoreau had a sense of virtue that did not even l e t him make a vice out of i t . Needless to say, Thoreau had no regular vices either.  His being unprincipled would  19 never destroy him, let alone, anyone he came i n contact with. His proposal of marriage  was epistolary, ethereal, and was rejected.  He once offered to  eat  a living woodchuck to overcome his disgust at bodily lowliness.  not  suggest that anyone else should do the same.)  (He did  "A visionary democrat, Thoreau was not too democratic, not too common, nor too  clean."  (CTBL, p. 18) As a result, he was no Transcendental cultist; he  also eschewed the cults of work, the state, and organized religion.  He was  neither a town mouse nor a country mouse. I t i s Dahlberg*s guess that Thoreau*s ability to be honest about the contradictions in his nature kept him from flatulence.  As he wrote in " C i v i l Disobedience", "A man has not everything to  do but something; and because he cannot do everything, i t i s not necessary 5 that he should do something wrong." Therefore, notes Dahlberg, Thoreau "went wherever l i f e sent him and made no credo out of his private experience. He recorded i t beautifully, and, i f we have eyes, we can profitably read and pursue our own private f o l l i e s , tinctured by his. Walden i s not a Manual of Conduct, but a Chanticleerian dde. Thoreau lived i t and sang i t and, when he grew tired, he entirely forsook i t . (CTBL, p. 19) Both Thoreau and Dahlberg realize that Walden owes much to the predominantly Oriental ideal of non-attachment.  "Walden...is the "Bhagavad-Gita" of the moods  and seasons of Conscience...a poet's rather than a law-giver's prayer...know i t and none w i l l raise his hand against another, none w i l l be poor, and none go to war." (CTBL. p. 23) Despite his personal squeamishness, Thoreau could see Natural New England with a single eye unclouded by any Puritan cast.  Looking around him at Walden  Pond, he observed, not unredeemable Indians spoiling the view by epitomizing a fallen world (although his description of warring ants was quite analytically grisly), but baby partridges trained by their mother to be so s t i l l i n camouflage that when "one accidentally f e l l on i t s side, i t was found...in exactly  20 the same position ten minutes later." 6 Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, Poe, Hawthorne, Miss Dickinson — before whom, none; and between whom and the rest of America, l e t alone each other, slim bonds indeed. eraderie.  They chewed and spat loneliness or an energetic and asexual cam-  Had Thoreau married, the effects on his work and his l i f e would  probably have been ruinous. Ellen Sewall was apparently made of flesh and bones and to love her would have played havoc with Henry* s theories about the ideal affinity that i s friendship and the unspeakable necessities that are love. "Love i s the profoundest of secrets. 7 longer love."  Divulged, even to the beloved, i t i s no  Edward Dahlberg mentions that i t was entirely alien to Thoreau  to prate,- as Whitman did, about his orgastic potency when he looked upon the universe.  Albeit Walt Whitman was, as D.H. Lawrence puts i t , "an old Chuffer", i n  art he at least tried to carve the sexual totem the Puritans so long avoided. It i s so easy to guffaw at Whitman, who panicked and was witless when the strapping widow of Alexander Gilchrist, Blake's definitive biographer, proposed a tete-a-tete with him, simply because she had enjoyed reading Leaves Of Grass. There i s no evidence his behaviour towards Pete Doyle, his favourite street-car conductor, was anything but proper and grotesque, although i t once produced the following sentiment: "0 mother, the doctor says that Pete w i l l soon be better." But there i s much more to do with Whitman, Dahlberg feels, than snigger at his erotic caperings. His bravest l i e s were in his work, which simply took much of Plato l i t e r a l l y .  Walt made the human body a res publica and declared his un-  abashed sexual union with a l l of i t . The truth to this l i e i s that the state i s abstract — everlastingly — and i f the body i s to become the state, the body becomes alike abstracted — as i n Whitman's poetry — from a l l i t s dimensional organization, propriety, and movement. In a word, despite Whitman's earnest claims, i t becomes dead. Of a drab, mammon-fed America, with a middle-class, infidel Cross,  20  the same position ten minutes later."  6  Thoreau, Whitman, Melville, Poe, Hawthorne, Miss Dickinson — before whom, none; and between whom and the rest of America, let alone each other, slim bonds indeed. eraderie.  They chewed and spat loneliness or an energetic and asexual cam-  Had Thoreau married, the effects^on his work and his l i f e would  probably have been ruinous.  Ellen Sewall was apparently made of flesh and bones  and to love her would have played havoc with Henry's theories about the ideal affinity that i s friendship and the unspeakable necessities that are love. "Love i s the profoundest of secrets. 7 longer love."  Divulged, even to the beloved, i t i s no  Edward Dahlberg mentions that i t was entirely alien to Thoreau  to prate, as Whitman did, about his orgastic potency when looked upon the universe.  Albeit Walt Whitman was, as D.H. Lawrence puts i t , "an old Chuffer," in  art he at least tried to carve the sexual totem the Puritans had so long avoided. It i s so easy to guffaw at Whitman, who panicked and was witless when the strapping widow of Alexander Gilchrist, Blake's definitive biographer, proposed a tete-a-tete with him, simply because she had enjoyed reading Leaves Of Grass. There i s no evidence his behaviour towards Pete Doyle, his favourite street-car conductor, was anything but proper and grotesque, although i t once produced the following sentiment: "0 mother, the doctor says that Pete vrill soon be better.?. But there i s much more to do with Whitman, Dahlberg feels, than snigger at his erotic caperings. His bravest lies were in his work, which simply much of Plato l i t e r a l l y . Walt made the human body a res oublica and declared his unabashed sexual union with a l l of i t . The truth to this l i e i s that the state i s abstract — everlastingly — and i f the body i s to become the state, the body becomes alike abstracted — as i n Whitman's poetry — from a l l i t s dimensional organization, propriety, and movement. In a word, despite Whitman's earnest claims, i t becomes dead. Of a drab, mammon-fed America, with a middle-class, infidel Cross,  21  a Laodicean Church of Democracy that was neither hot nor cold, he created an amative Saviourism. Whitman's Leaves, a lyric manifesto on anatomy and hygiene — "heart-valves," "sexuality, maternity," — like Marx's Kapital, f a i l s as myth and tragic ideal. They are canons of physiology, or a class-conscious invocation — "Give us this day our daily bread'.'!— that never become poems for man in upheaval. (CTBL, p. 145)  :i  It was no accident, says Edward Dahlberg, that aqueous bachelor Whitman cames of pious Quaker stock. "Celibate Shaker women, married Quakeresses, Fruitlander wives, polygamous females at Oneida, a l l wore the Puritan bonnet, the nunnish lace-cap, the soap-scoured bloomers."  (CTBL, p. 145)  Rational perceptual Whit-  man „democratized vice, sex, punishment, retribution, salvation, death, and l i f e s and thereby, says Dahlberg, robbed them of their significance. By taking original sin out of Hebraic Christianity, Whitman disavowed pitiable human f o l l y — how Absalom loved his locks, how base Caiaphas and Pilate were, how weak Beter was — and so annulled redemption. He annihilated the Saviour, the Word, the Image, without which the world becomes an insensate medley of hideous flying atoms: the mock monstrance and mass of a sinister machine and a transfigured rabble. (CTBL, p. 148) Herman Melville has always fascinated Edward Dahlberg and i s the occasion of much discussion in Can These Bones Live.afipltaphs Of Our Times, and a long and revelatory and vituperative essay i n Alms For Oblivion.  Melville was the  American writer of the Nineteenth Century who tried hardest to come to terms with the body. Riven by solitude, he also failed.  Dahlberg bears no love for  the present, but he prefers i t to Melville's pinched era, when Moby-Dick was construed by one reviewer only as "a whale of a book." Melville could not manage married l i f e ; he could not make sneaping Nathaniel Hawthorne pity his loneliness; he sought friendship with sailors and i t did not last; he made a pilgrimage to Judea, victimized himself to Christ, and found no rest. What could this artist do but pour his misery into his greatest book? Incapable of loving female flesh, Melville created "isolatoes", some of whom pined a l i t t l e for landlocking woman, and some of whom practised a delicate homosexuality, while they a l l harrowed a sacral whale to their own destruction!  22 Style i s the absolute limit of man's character and bad writing shows a lack of love; i t s most malignant symptom i s delay. ...Melville deferred action u n t i l the last few pages of Moby-Dick....The whaling craft i s similar to Zeno's paradoxi c a l arrow, which, though hurled through space, i s at rest in different places. (AFO, p. 118) Velleity i s the principal reason for human perversity. (AFO, p. 126) Dahlberg's denunciations of Ahab are accurate — (unless the devil i s an ass), he i s a borel  the man i s really not evil  Melville permits Ahab to repeat  himself for most Moby-Dick; unlike Macbeth, Ahab„does not interest tis by demonstrating his monomania. He i s a quarterdeck fugitive from a decadent Elizabethan revenge tragedy and his rant and his purgation are incredible because they are never really tied to their object until we have grown weary with hearing them and about them. For too long Ahab talks a good whale chase. The thoughts we have are only the words we use. Melville's " sentences, however, are always to the windward, so that the reader i s worn out by the heavy, ululant blasts of his fraudulent blank verse. Form i s the real food of the imagination; facts are the stepdaughters of the muses. (AFO, p. 129) With apologies for his numerous citations, Dahlberg demolishes Moby-Dick by showing that i t i s , for the most part, badly written. Adjectives and attributes are endlessly repeated.  It i s an open perjury to praise the technical  chapters as ballast for the plot; for there i s almost no plot.  Sir Herbert Read  i s convinced by Dahlberg's iconoclasra, and points out that "he makes concessions to the style as well as to the social relevance, but in the end there i s no escaping the conclusion that Moby-Dick i s *a book of monotonous and unrelenting 8 gloom.'" To Dahlberg, the worst fault Melville commits in a l l his work, and especially in Moby-Dick, i s that of misplaced emphasis. Ham;  "Water i s vice, retribution, and  the sperraal whale i s Priapus who has deprived Ahab of his phallical leg."  (AFO, p. 141) The book i s an unnatural falsehood for there i s no female in i t — except the occasional lady whale —  Ocean here i s no mother:  23  The human race perished in the Great Inundation, according to Talmudic Cabalists, because of the intellectual and sexual perversions of mankind. When the body i s false unto i t self, the intellect i s a l i a r . Moby-Dick i s a Hamitic dream; water and meditation are forever married, says the author, and nocturnal visions are damp. (AFO, p. 12k) Melville claimed after he had finished Moby-Dick that he had written a wi eked book and f e l t as spotless as the lamb.  Alas, this was the merest vanity, a l -  though i t was perhaps necessary since Melville wished to keep his sanity. Herman Melville had committed sodomy, as i t i i s meant in the Old Testament; i n his mind he had connection with a beast of the deep. Take woman from man and he w i l l yearn for an angel, a porpoise, a whale. This starveling became a hunter for profane and nether flesh, dolphines, sharks, leviathan, and man, whatever could ease those clinkered, lava lusts. Unable to be consumed i n the flames of Troy for Helen, he was cindered i n the fires of Sodom and Gomorrah. Read his last "work, B i l l y Budd, a piece of inverted mariolatry, for i t i s the virgin boy, Budd, the name of a maiden, who i s his Mary. (AFO, p. 139) When citing evidence to the reader of his essay on Moby-Dick. Edward Dahlberg i s honestly apologetic when he realizes that a row of quotations may be soporific.  I reach that situation myself and since I agree with what Mr. Dahl-  berg says about the great writers of the Nineteenth Century, I am going to use a sort of Occam's razor to cut short my detailed explication of his treatment of them. Discussions of discussions of essences are not to be multiplied without cause.  In Can These Bones Live Dahlberg establishes (thoroughly) the same  points about Poe, Hawthorne, and Emily Dickinson, as he makes concerning Thoreau, Whitman, and Melville —  they were great artists, to be sure, but they were  too much led by their tragically fissured existences and their a r t i s t i c production was?? stunted and perverted into praises of death, nature, and the spirit only; they could not w i l l l i f e , humanity, the body deeply and consistently into their works. I t i s a blessing they were able to write as well as they did.  24 Great art cannot exist without great criticism and Edward Stahlberg  as-  signs some of the responsibility for the flaws of the American literary genius to i t s bad c r i t i c s .  Of course, some great writers have had to be their own  c r i t i c s or "brave readers," as Dahlberg says; perhaps the dearth of criticism in the Nineteenth Century would not have mattered so much had more of the writers been prone to read at a l l or to understand what they did read.  Poe flayed  the whey-etalented Boston Brahmins for plagiarism; but Edward Dahlberg laments that Poe himself was not much of a borrower.  "The fetish of originality i s our  curse," (AFO, p. 49) he writes. The Nineteenth Century American was s t i l l the vassal of that Puritanic Beelzebub, Cotton Mather, the father of the Christian homosexual. What else could be the result of Thoreau's celibacy, Hawthorne's inclement identity, Whitman's ambiguous bachelordom, or Poe's and Melville's misogyny, but the contemporary Pauline invert? Not one of these unusual men could produce a seminal poem or a great confession like Saint Augustine's. Born to sin because we have genital organs, we live to confess our faults, and that i s scripture and l i t e r ature. (AFO, p. 117) Contemporary criticism, Dahlberg contends in Can These Bones Live, continues to derelict i t s duty and presumes to analyze literature and discover i t s significance according to the canons of such spurious or irrelevant disciplines as aesthetics, p o l i t i c a l philosophy, psychology, or the scientific method.  To  Dahlberg, who believes with Allen Tate that "the literature of the past began somewhere a few minutes ago and that the literature of the present begins with, 9 say, Homer", the c r i t i c who approaches literature behind these disciplinary masks i s not only a coward but also a eunuch. A l l i s relative, murmurs the poltroon. TrueI Now that this i s granted, have we not the right to demand what the c r i t i c feels and sees, Absolutely, i n this tragic, fleeting and relative world? We thirst for the absolute, as Dante anguished for Beatrice; that She does not exist has nothing to do with our hunger, love and pursuit of the i n f i n i t e . We are a l l FOOLS, we pray, as Don Quixote was; l e t us not be ashamed and furtive about i t , and slink behind the errors of science, philosophy or metaphysics.  25 •••  Enough of this man i s split, that poet i s mad, and that novelist i s class-conscious. What need had the artist to make himself whole, were he not split? Poe, like Lazarus, comes to us from the grave in each tale, poem and line. (CTBL, p. 53) William Blake thought that one of the functions of time was to consolidate error.  Edward Dahlberg has noticed that i n the literature of America this has  indeed been true.  In the Twentieth Century, for reasons we have mentioned, A-  merican writers,have been committed, for the most part, even more ferociously to the same mistakes as their forebears and have even given them new names. At best they have struggled indecisively with their limitations and at worst they have submitted to them with great relish.  That a few of them have succeeded in  singing thin songs i s unlucky and l i t t l e thanks i s due their Brutus c r i t i c s , who vie  for the right loudest to c a l l them honourable men. Edward Dahlberg considers either that Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner,  for example, have achieved a sort of nadir of acquiescence to depravity or else he believes that they simply do not merit any great attention.  In a l l his pub-  lished work he denounces them for no more than a couple of pages.  What he says  about them i s , however, noticeable in their works, although the evidence adduced by Dahlberg i s scant. Faulkner inverts the functions of l i f e so that consciousness passes from man into rotting nature.  Faulkner's usually unattractive people are either  brutal or ineffective. Violence induces i n [Hemingway] a dreamy rhapsodical tenderness and he will pause just before the orgiastic spell, to describe an aureole of spring rain falling upon the heads of six cabinet ministers about to be executed, or caressingl y linger to paint the ecstatic and willowy quiver of a dying deer or limn the throbbing Goya-like flesh wound of a gored horse. ( C T B L , p- 7 ~0 Hemingway i s incapable of creating "doubt, sorrow and thought;" when he tries, his prose stumbles. The whole human fabric has collapsed and man has fallen from  26 the grace of good and evil into ordure. Remorse has been superseded by the kidneys, the prostate gland and the d i gestive tract. The old masters are no more, the eternal tragedies are concluded. The noble problems of man, love, anguish, evil and death, are done — aye, Madame Bovary and Manon Lescaut, the Camellias and Consumption, have had to give way to the realism of sublunary decaying Matter, to sputum, to vomiting spells, to The Sun Also Rises. In the Puritan Christian cosmogony spirit was not rooted inTflesh, just as now matter performs and behaves as though mind were not of i t . The demented dervish of MATTER goes on without a past, a tradition or a memory. (CTBL, pp.  77-8)  Such statements necessitate a gloss i f not an apology; they are heterodox. If we read Faulkner's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech about the endurance of the human spirit and then look at his characters who endure, such as Dilsey and he"~r family, or Sam Fathers, troubling questions arise.  What do they endure for, a  richer life?  Is there any evidence that  Against whom or what do they endure?  they w i l l make a richer l i f e for themselves?  Surely the milksops whom they  coddle and whose function i n l i f e i t i s to bully them w i l l never have resources to give them anything.. Can their nobility exist independently of their stations as protectors? Would a black South tie as exotic or as significant a subject for fiction as the South Faulkner defines? In Hemingway's work society i s almost always perverse or non-existent.  Ac-  tion starts, takes plaee, and ends in a vacuum; relaxation and tedium are unheard-of.  Were one to read nothing else but Hemingway one could assume that  men and women flower fully-armed from the sown teeth of the dragon. The immediate counter to such objections,is, of course, that what Faulkner and Hemingway have done i s to create the South/Yoknapatawpha, Michigan Speech, big-game hunters, the Lost Generation, the Spanish C i v i l War.  I f i t be argued  that Hemingway and Faulkner simply told what they saw, Edward Dahlberg shrugs —  the contradiction i s apparent.  Either a writer faces and then transcends  his Age of Iron by the use of myth or he submits to i t and, in Dahlberg's eyes, ceases to merit the distinction of his calling.  Do artists believe in and act  27 according to their powers and responsibilities or do they not?  I f so, why do  they eat more, and why do they give us more to eat, than the peck of dirt Thoreau said was man's portion? The touchstone of the "ratiocinative" novel i s mimicry, not utterance. The American writer does not express the world, but copies i t and lets i t sieve through him. There i s no more dismal misconception of creation, or deienergizing act, than this sieving of the times. The Greek word mimesis does not mean imitation; the mime or actor who put on a mask, the "skin of a beast or the feathers of a bird," as Jane Harrison writes i n Ancient Art and Ritual, did not do so "to copy something or someone who i s not himself, but to emphasize, enlarge, enhance his own personality, therefore he masquerades, he does not mimic." (CTBL, pp. 70-1) The mimic substitutes size, time and place for consciousness. Lacking the intuitive dimension, the mimic paintethings and people instead of uttering them. He i s the conventional outside artist who gives us the most " r e a l i s t i c " clothes, streets, dialects. He paints, adding to what i s not deeply imaged upon his brain.... The artist who cravenly submits to time, place, and space confesses his own limits. The oracles knew not time; the poet's testament i s the oath of the angel in the apocalypse that there w i l l be no more time....We know the inward size of an art i s t by his dimensional thirsts, the gigantic windmills of Don Quixote.... Locality and consciousness have never co-existed in the American novel.... We have laid Being in a small plot of ground called American Place to sob with the fanged worms. Listen to Edgar Poe: "The consciousness of being had grown hourly more indistinct, and that of mere" locality had usurped i t s position. The idea of entity was becoming merged into that of place.. The narrow space immediately surrounding what had been the body was now growing to be the body i t s e l f . " (CTBL. pp. 79-81) 1  Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson were good friends of Edward Dahlberg. His respect for them as men i s not as artists has always been great.  The  faults Dahlberg descries in the passage just quoted are very obvious in such works as Sister Carrie, An American Tragedy, or Winesburg, Ohio.  What miti-  gates them in Dahlberg's eyes i s the fact that their authors are not given to hiding the flesh.  They may lament i t s foolishness but they do not turn from  it. Dahlberg's criticism of Dreiser and Anderson i s primarily reminiscence.  As  28 usual, he attempts to account for their work by reference to whom they had to be.  Dreiser, for example, who was i n temperament an anarchist, may have become a communist because his mother was an Indiana Mennonite, a member of a religious communistic sect that had i t s origins i n Martin Luther's Germany. We have a Mother literature, and the male parent in our verse and novel i s very weak.... Dreiser, Stieglitz, Hartley were fatherless men, without the essential masculine force to love people. Dreiser had a hard, craggy apathy toward people..... (AFO, pp. 12-13) Possibly what Dahlberg says of the Hoosier he called "the autocrat of our  novel" (EOOT, p. 170) i s true.  Certainly from what l i t t l e I have read of his  work, he did not often create characters that love each other and he did not createecharacters that inspire the reader's affection.  The strongest emotion  his people arouse i s pity. Writing to Josephine Herbst in I963 Dahlberg i s shamed by his inability to overlook the "Gargantuan stupidities" of Dreiser's stylet- "He had a strong physi c a l prose style.  Now we have the epicene, or just the neutral sort of syntax,  very nauseating, and boring. I t takes a man to create a woman and Dreiser was such a person."  (EOOT. p. 170)  Edward Dahlberg says that Dreiser had a canny nose for the charlatans of the art world, one of whom visited the novelist and found him seated on a chair on a dais.  S t i l l , Dreiser had' aSsort :of; sympathy for such writing Ishmaels as l  Dahlbergi whom he taught to read Shakespeare, maintaining "that a l l the plays were man-eating parables, and that l i f e rather than the poet had written the tragedies."  (AFO, p. 12) (This i s the interpretation of Shakespeare to be  found i n Can These Bones Live.) It i s the opinion of Dahlberg that Dreiser, like a l l authors, knew far more than he wrote and that the watery part of his nature made him timid about his books and hindered him from writing into them many of the thoughts he had about "the Gospels, or the poet of Coriolanus, and Lear and Timon of Athens." (AFO, p. 33)  29 Theodore Dreiser i s pre-eminently the novelist of the f u t i l i t y of American money/lust and of the big rough money cities that are the expression and fate of the ambitious men and women who make and inhabit them. His style i s robust and cliched and Dahlberg notes that even his flaws were "large and f e r t i l e " . Comparing his work to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald (which he calls "peopleless fiction"), Dahlberg says Dreiser and the other naturalists wrote a bluff barbaric vulgate which was sometimes very nimble and very manly. Their words, deriving from the old, manual occupations, are far more masculine and energetic than the lymphatic ones that come from advertizing and from inventions that are emasculating the human faculties. A word that arouses some sort of contemplative or physical faculty i s good, and one that does not i s base....Dreiser*s definition of virtue in Sister Carrie as caring for others, i s a sane credo for writing; a book weak i n human affections and which nourishes effeminacy and apathy, not caring for other people, i s baneful. (AFO, p. 70) "The temporal conception of literature i s false," (EOOT, p. 275) then, as i s the solely cartographic one. able to the former.  To Dahlberg, however, the latter i s prefer-  He believes the art of Sherwood Anderson i s not great be-  cause i t i s too subject to "the com gus Beds of Ohio."  (AFO, p. 71)  fields, the harness shop, and the aspara-  What sets i t beyond the riveted Chicago bore-  dom and savagery of (say) Studs Lonigan i s the saving grace of Anderson*s quality. As usual, Dahlberg finds and records the connections between the artist's works and days.  Edward Dahlberg calls Anderson the erotic visionary created  by Whitman i n Leaves of Grass.  "He told me one day Edgar Lee Masters* fiancee  came to him weeping, 'Edgar won't marry me,' and that he put his arms around her and said, *Don*t cry, darling, 1*11 wed you,* and he did." (AFO, p. 10) The Ohio populist was no great intellect, Dahlberg says; "His aching skin took the place of what we others c a l l mind, but which i s much more important than the human brain, because i t i s i n f i n i t e l y more loving."  (AFO, p. 10)  Ander-  30 son was even more unsure of himself than Dreiser, whom he greatly admired.  As  a result of their insecurity, neither writer was liable to be put out by v i s i tors.  Anderson made a point of conviviality and of being unhurried. Anderson had a manual intelligence: he had large, animal hands, like a peasant's, and a l l his wisdom was i n his fingers. That i s why he hated the machine, which can make the hands stupid and morose. A workman turning a-wheel a l l day long i n a factory w i l l lose patience with ordinary l i f e ; indeed, much of human kindness comes being casual and slow. Anderson was no hurried man; he had time to shake hands, make friendships, or engage in a mettlesome argument. (AFO, pp. 17-18)  It was a distinct advantage for Anderson to have roots, says Edward Dahlberg, who does not see Winesburg; Ohio, nostalgic though i t may be, only as a mooncalf yearning for a ruined past. I t was also a prophecy of the devastation soon to take charge of the American small town with the growth of the large c i ties.  As Mr. Dahlberg points out, Winesburg i s not a town of thinkers.  Many of  the people there dither on or regretfully over the brink of an innocence not ent i r e l y of their own losing.  They are offered chances to serve-at the sacraments  of their own becomings. They often shirk these opportunities but whether they shirk them or seize them, they tremble continually. In "An Awakening", the bartender Ed Handby and Belle Carpenter, milliner daughter of a bookkeeper, love each other.  Anderson a f f l i c t s both of them with  typical Winesburgian incoherence. The affair between Ed Handby and Belle Carpenter on the surface amounted to nothing. He had succeeded in spending but one evening in her company. On that evening he hired a horse and buggy at Wesley Moyer's livery bam and took her for a drive. The conviction that she was the woman his nature demanded and that he must get her settled upon him and he told her of his desires. The bartender was ready to marry and to begin trying to earn money for the support of his wife, but so simple was his nature that he found i t d i f f i c u l t to explain his intentions. His body ached with physical longing and with his body he expressed himself. Taking the milliner into his arms and holding her tightl y in spite of her struggles, he kissed her until she became helpless. Then he brought her back to town and l e t her out of the buggy. "When I get hold of you again I ' l l not l e t you go. You can't play with me," he declared as he turned to drive away. Then, ,jum-  31  ping out of the buggy, he gripped her shoulders with his strong hands. " I ' l l keep you for good the next time," he said. "You might as well make up your mind to that. It's you and me for i t and I'm going to have you before I get through." 10 Ray Pearson and Hal Winters are two hired hands in the story "The Untold Lie". The beauty of the Winesburg countryside intimates immortality to Ray.  He i s a  sensitive man and he questions vexatiously the fate that has, he thinks, shackled him to a tedious married l i f e simply because once, whimsically and long ago, he wandered into the nearby woods with a g i r l who worked for his father. When Hal Winters t e l l s Ray he has gotten a local g i r l into trouble, Pearson hastens to t e l l his friend not to foolishly embrace mere convention as he himself has done. Hal has decided to do what may or may not be just that, however, and Ray's moment in the sun i s over.  Hal laughs at him.  "I want to settle down and have kids." Ray Pearson also laughed. He felt like laughing at himself and a l l the world. As the form of Hal Winters disappeared i n the dusk that lay over the road that led to Winesburg, he turned and walked slowly back across the fields to where he had l e f t his torn overcoat. As he went some memory of pleasant evenings spent with the thinlegged children in the tumbledown house by the creek must have come into his mind, for he muttered words. "It's just as well. Whatever I told him would have been a l i e , " he said softly, and then his form also disappeared into the darkness of the fields. 11 These predicaments are typical of this fortunate book, written, as Edward Dahlberg points,out, about the time just before rural America was depopulated, eviscerated, and done in by section farming, urban sprawl, asphalt, rubber, and neon. We shall speak later of Dahlberg's attacks en such features of modern "civilization". The limits of Dreiser's and Anderson's work.are, according to Dahlberg, those of the body. Anderson and Dreiser never get much beyond the agitations of the genital organs; man throbs and breeds, but does not think.... There are planetary reaches and saturnine chasms i n man unknown to the hedonist and the naturalistic Preacher of Pity.  32  Spikenard, cypress and the myrrh of Lebanon dilate the nost r i l s and free the aching pores; sated, the Epicurean sheds tears but has no ashy, cindery grief. The voluptuaries of the carnal body and the decaying flesh neither make "the sparks f l y upward" to bind the Pleiades nor descend into the cracked and clinkered Hades of the Heart. (CTBL, pp. 82-3) The great personal problem faced boldly by such writers as Sherwood Anderson and Theodore Dreiser was that, were they to try to practice their preachments, they would be thought at least eccentric and perhaps lunatic. ser,  Theodore Drei-  says Dahlberg, was notable because, although a great artist. He was not a  bohemian. He"dismissed Stieglitz as a crank because hair grew out of his ears." He had vehement barbershop morals and, regarding my long hair with a merchant's suspicion, advised a haircut. •• •  He had l i t t l e patience with exaggerated or outre raiment, long, unbarbered hair, or affected sandals, ties, and suits. He came, like Aristophanes, just before an era of the wildest impudicities. (AFO, pp. 12, 3Z) 7  Sherwood Anderson's behaviour was notable because i t came in blurts. His abrupt renunciation of wife and paint-factory i s mythical. Talking once to Edward Dahlberg, Anderson admitted that he did not want to suffer Tike Dostoevsky. Dahlberg was not pleased with what he considered was this cowardice in his friend. It may have been, however, that Anderson's lack of assurance, even i f i t was tinged with pusillanimity, was what kept him from at least some of the excesses that eliminated a number of artists or pretenders, of his time and our own — I am thinking specifically of such men as Hart Crane and Harry Crosby and Dylan Thomas. Anderson's constant acknowledgement of his roots was l i k e l y to breed i n him awareness of his unpredictability; he was wary of himself, slowly cautious, knowing that he might do anything, at any moment. Both Anderson and the tragic hero Crane had fingertip probity. I suspect Dahlberg admires Anderson more than Crane because Anderson did not make rootless, unstrung Crane's fatal mistake of self-reliance.  (I do not discount Crane's disastrous parents and child-  33 hood — the effect they had on him.) the metaphysical dimension.  Dark Laughter and Winesburg, Ohio lack  This i s appropriate, i f not heroic.  Anderson "had  the natural integrity of a fine elm, or a f e r t i l e sow, or a potato." (AFO, p.17) The way to understand Anderson i s not to read about him but to read him. Reading him, you find that a l l those working-hand words of his are redolent of hay and grass and midwest stables....All you need i s a healthy nose, for we smell good and evil much quicker than we understand them. Remembering old-style American habits, the lumbering wagon hello, and the easy country-morning how-do-you-do, i s enough to make one understand Sherwood Anderson's genius, which i s a compact of goodness and of love and of a patient willingness to s i t and talk with people. (AFO, p. 19)  In each person, unless he be G6d'or Tolstoy or Goethe or Shakespeare or Soc?  rates or some other well-knit nature, the elements war. The body and the mind (whatever they are) strive with one another, each seeking to turn the other i n to i t s e l f .  Thoreau was a dry sage; indeed, to read him puckers the soul.  With  Dahlberg (or Anderson or Dreiser) the body wins, so i f he (and whoever seeks to learn of him) i s not to be stuporous Caliban, he must leaven the body's appetites with mind, which, instead of logic, i s memory, custom, and legend.  It i s an oddity for aneAmerican writer to be a good European and a good writer.  Edward Dahlberg i s such an oddity.  He i s , indeed, a heretic who once  started a book with an exhortation to confess that to have gone across the Atlantic to America, or rather from Europe, was a mistake.  Echoing D.H. Lawrence,  he writes, i n another context, The Puritans ran away from the England of Spenser, Marston, Lyly, Jonson, they l e f t the land of the Cavalier bibliophile, King Charles, admirer of Andrew Marvell, to l i v e on sea-snails, mussels, pompions, gourds, and bear suet. (TIMS, p. 103) To makeomore important mistakes than those of his early novels, Dahlberg ob-  34  viously had to look elsewhere than solely at the desolate world of the Jazz Age or the Depression for his inspiration.  He was almost silent for more than  twenty years after his fourth novel i n 1934, publishing only two books and some poems and essays u n t i l 1957•  Since then his imagination has truly flourished,  issuing no fewer than ten books i n the past decade.  There were always problems  for Dahlberg i n getting back to a knowledge of Europe.  Blocking his way were  writers from England and America whose practices had long been anathema to him. It was not u n t i l 1961 that he found an opportunity to dispose of them, in Truth Is More Sacred, an epistolary forum with Sir Herbert Read. The authors defended and denounced in this book are Joyce, Lawrence, Pound, Graves, James, and T.S. E l i o t . The difference of opinion between Dahlberg and Read i s often enormous. For Dahlberg, as we have noted, i t i s most important to ensure that artists themselves do not worship the Golden Calf.  Contrarily, says Read, "we must recog-  nize the true enemies of art, who are not a few cowards i n our own ranks, but the barbarians outside the gates."  (TIMS, p. 23)  Dahlberg*s f i r s t letter i s predictably incendiary, establishing his pattern in the book with a scorching blast against the contemporary cult of ignorance and bad art, using as his firesticks the wise bones of the past. Toward the end of his letter, Dahlberg particularizes: Man i s either epic, or hates the sublime; he invents chiraerae, harpies, eponymous giants, or he i s scatophagous.... The Dlysses of James Joyce i s the story of the scatological sybarites of the business world; i t i s a twenty-four hours' journey through ordure; a street-urchin's odyssey of a doddering phallus.... Joyce's Ulysses i s the novel of epic cowardice; I do not blame him for divulging a l l the vices of men but for reducing them to unheroic dimensions. We must c a l l wrath, dirt, lust, drunkenness — Agamemnon, Thersites, Ajax, N stor, or sink the giants into l i t t l e everyday characters.... There i s a labial failure in Ulysses similar to the confusion of the tongues of the people in the plains of Shinar; the noises in the belly and hawking of the throat take the place of the alphabet. (TIMS,pp. 18, 20) e  35 Read i s But half-willingly hurried into defending a sweetly reasonable orthodoxy: Yes: a sick book, but a significant one. We must struggle for health, you say — sense and health. But we must also diagnose our sickness. And that sickness i s not literary: i t i s social. •• •  The whole function of art i s cathartic, not didactic. •••  ...we must not look for our heroes in unexpected places, and Brooklyn Bridge i s perhaps as good a locality as Troy... (TIMS, pp. 25, 27, 28) And so the book continues, with Dahlberg surprising Read by the virulence of his scom, and with Read occasionally agreeing but usually damping his friend's f i r e with r e l a t i v i s t i c caveats.  The rift, between the two men widens climactic-  a l l y late i n the book, when into a discussion of T.S. Eliot's poetry and ideas Dahlberg drops this l i t t l e outrage: You told me in New York that T.S. Eliot had been a friend of yours for above forty years. Now before you defend this mungrell versifier I must needs cite Sokrates who asserted that truth i s more sacred than friendship. (TIMS, p. 169) Dahlberg proceeds to reject Eliot and Pound and i s answered sharply by Read, who has the last letter. It i s not my wish to temper criticism with kindness, but I have always held that sympathy i s the beginning of understanding, i n literature as i n l i f e . Your attack on Eliot and Pound i s , I know, inspired by a passion for the truth, and i f truth i s indeed more sacred than friendship, then I must put a l l friendly feelings aside and answer you on your chosen ground. (TIMS, p. 209) In his defence of Eliot and Pound, Read admits that as a literary c r i t i c he feels constrained to temper ambition and idealism.  "I would prefer to be a  modest and uncertain laudator temporls acti, content to elucidate where there i s darkness, and to imitate i n our human affairs the method of reasoning that Cusanus applied to divine things."  (TIMS, pp. 221-2)  Dahlberg*s criticisms of Eliot and Pound are precisely those which receive small attention today. He i s in direct opposition to the academic and pub-  36 lishing lobbies and claims to be so disgusted with his subjects that he can ',c. barely bring himself to write of them. Eliot and Pound are both seekers after a renown not deserved, feels Dahlberg, and that they have obtained i t i s mere assurance that "Babel, the cult of sameness and the average, i s universal.... A poet earns what he i s in this world, which i s not l i k e l y to ignore a bard of the petit bourgeois, and i t i s not amiss to add that a l i t t l e Jew-baiting gives a man polite varnish i n society and i s of inestimable help to a poeticule. (TIMS, pn. 12, 172-173) (For a l l Dahlberg s interest i n biographical criticism, this passage i s the l i 1  mit of his personal animus towards any writer. markable; he i s , after a l l , a sort of Jew.)  The restraint he shows i s re-  12.  I accuse these men of having betrayed the trust bequeathed to them by Homer, Hesiod, Theognis, Horace, Heraclitus, Propertius, Martial, Aristotle, Chaucer, Fletcher, John Webster and Shakespeare. I charge them, along with their dead myrmidons, James Joyce, and Wyndham Lewis, with having broken the Ten Commandments of the English language. (TIMS, p . 174) Karl Shapiro, Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams, Josephine Herbst, Edward Dahlberg —  a l l of these writers have expressed their dismay at what E l -  iot and Pound havesdone with or to their mother tongue.  Dahlberg considers that  they "have set literature back a hundred years" (TIMS, p . 176) by trying so hard to be original.  He derides their advice to younger poets, asking this question:  what good i s such advice, i f i t i s shabbily couched itself?  Certainly such an  objection i s appropriate, especially to Pound's ABC OT Reading and many of his letters, where learned chat i s often taken for printable prose. Not denying his victims the good taste to have chosen for instruction such "venerable shades" as Dante, Villon, Massinger, Ford, Chapman, Edmund Spenser, and Gavin Douglas, Dahlberg complains, "...the real hurt comes of their notr.having enough force themselves to bray the Elizabethan quiddities of learning i n a mortar, and give us their own brave conceits."  (TIMS, p. 177)  Detailing Eliot's attacks on men with as great gifts than himself —  Ruskin,  37 Donne, Milton, Swinburne, Seneca, Hobbes — Bahlberg reckons that "his incurable fault M s his need to degrade genius."  (TIMS, o. 183) Dahlberg would prefer  to assume that genius i s not to blame for the mediocrity of the c r i t i c , and he cites the three decades i t took him to appreciate Saint Paul. For a l l Eliot's prate of his a f f i n i t y with Anglo-Christianity, where, wonders Dahlberg, do we find i n him the healing influences of such giants as Saint Paul, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, Tertullian, or Pascal? celot Andrewes a substitute?  I s this humility on E l i o t ' s part?  I s Lan-  And "Pound's  own eccentric reading can be seen i n his rejection of feeling, the whole Hebraic and Christian legend and learning i n favour of Robert Browning." (EOOT, P. 97) Where i s J.S. E l i o t , asks Edward Dahlberg.  (The same question might be ask-  ed of Ezra-Pound.) Dahlberg finds almost no l o c a l i t y i n Eliot's work and further flays him for creating landless characters with no masculine force to combat their own puniness.  " I t i s not Prufrock's chagrin with Aphrodite that wi-  thers the tumultary bones, but the mob verse i n which i t i s divulged."  (TIMS,  p.. 188) Dahlberg opines that both E l i o t and Pound do their best work when they are recognizably imitating somebody else; they stumble most ungracefully when they return to their own resources.  To garble or reduce the great words of the  long dead i s , for Dahlberg, a sin as well as an admission of one's own lack of imagination. Land as proof. :  He cites the beginnings of The Canterbury Tales and The Waste " I f I cannot praise E l i o t or Pound, i t i s that I fear by doing  so I am denying the encomia due to another poet."  (TIMS, p. 195)  Dahlberg contends that both Pound and E l i o t have no awe. A mixture of puling, incoherent allusions, an unreasonable mention of names i n literature, philosophy and myth i s p i c - ... t o r i a l nihilism. Ezra Pound commits a l l the errors.... (TIMS, p. 200)  38 Eliot and Pound bait their hearers as though they were angling for mullets; theyssnare them with a morsel of Dante, a quotation from Marlowe's The Jew Of Malta, or from St. John gjf the Cross, or by simply mentioning Agamemnon, 0dysseus, Menelaus or Clement of Alexandria; of course, the reader, starved for erudition, and elevated by a great poet or church father, swallows the citation and i s caught. In "Sweeney Agonistes" the verse commences with a marvelous thought from St. John of the Cross: Hence the soul cannot be possessed of the divine thought, until i t has divested i t s e l f of the love of created things. Then, the poet himself continues: Dusty: How about Pereira? Doris: What about Pereira? I don't care. Dusty:- You don't care? Who pays the rent?  (TIMS, pp. 202-3)  Pound's Cantos are the greatest hoax in the history of l i t erature. The reader i s asked to accept, on faith, a muckheap of allusions, names, and legends, that the author Is unfamiliar with, and has not himself absorbed. (TIMS, p. 203) Were i t not that Eliot and Pound have been so influential, what they have done, says Dahlberg, would be a joke. the time.  As i t i s , they must be discounted, a l l  What i f they have occasionally been irresponsible enough to say some-  thing that i s not horrid and a shut door to the reader's desires for infinite forms?  To whose credit i s this good fortune?  " . . . i f a fusty writer blunder i n -  to a c i v i l thought, his many baneful conceptions are the stygian reward for spending our miserable brains upon him."  (TIMS, p. 204)  Answering Dahlberg's pillory essay, Read either defends exactly what Dahlberg condemns —  and for exactly the same reasons —  or overlooks Dahlberg's nodes  of emphasis and condemns him for missing them. What are we to say?  Dahlberg i s indeed s h r i l l and he i s not rigorous.. His  answer to criticisms directed at him from this flank i s contained in his essay on Moby-Dick, where he says, "For those who are reluctant to believe that dross i s not the customary ailment of this novel, the best advice I can offer i s , '•Read i t yourself, and see.'"  (AFO, p. 126)  In The Leafless American he agrees  39 with Robert Burton, who stated,(approximately), "If you do not care for my book, go and read another."  (LA, p. 42)  There i s a danger i n summarily dismissing Dahlberg — or anyone else, for that matter.  I t i s rarely possible for Dahlberg to be inexplicit.  He would  certainly agree with Confucius notion (so lovingly quoted by Ezra Pound in his 1  Guide to Kulchur) that accuracy in language i s the prlmum mobile of c i v i l harmony. That he believes modern art (for present purposes, as i t happens to be focussed i n the works of Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot) to be, for the most part, decadent, sinful, and of no account and that he differs in this belief from so many theoretical and practical experts may be an indication of Denmark's rotten ness. Dahlberg's lack of system and indeed, of thoroughness in his condemnations should occasion at least our curiosity to find out whether he i s right or wrong Whether he i s at fault or not should be the question posed and answered after a thorough reading of him and of those whom he accuses.  His extreme position i s  thisr why spend time chastizing ninnies when one should simply and continually affirm great art against the dying of the light?  In a letter to Sir Herbert  Read about Read's book Education For Peace, Dahlberg t e l l s his friend the work is ephemeral and sends him straightway to Tolstoy and to Plato's Laws, saying that he (Read) smacks overly of the world.  (Charitably, I might guess that  Truth Is More Sacred i s out of print because (say) Pound and Eliot are straw men and one sinks, attacking them — l e t alone praising them-)  Allow me a personal digression which may explain the relevance of Dahlberg's position.  I have been involved in "higher education" for almost ten years, and  my slight experience has taken me to both ends of the classroom.  Aside from  Dahlberg's criticism of Pound and Eliot I have read nothing that scarifies,.: the  ko authors with such potency and authority (I use the word "authority" l i t e r a l l y ) . I confess, however, that I lack the erudition to determine accurately the cogency of his essay.  T i l l lately, I had been feverishly buying many books by  and about Pound and Eliot, which I could i l l afford.  I tried, with minimal  success and usually with less reward, to read and to "teach" them and I have supposed myself toibe both i l l i t e r a t e and insensitive.  On reading Dahlberg, I  found myself (whether justly or unjustly) in a position analogous to that of Sir Herbert Read, who had admired Moby-Dick and who admitted, after reading Dahlberg's essay about that book, "never was an illusion of mine so immediately shattered."  13  Consider these local questions: were theifemany people i n Vancouver to advocate the kind of ideas Dahlberg has about art and l i f e , would as many students (and professors) enter, do, and leave our universities with but one attitude toward Pound and Eliot prevailing in their simple skulls?  Would we be as like-  l y to see an annual province-wide art exhibition won by a^man whose submission was an inflated piece of grey vinyl plastic shaped like a vagina?  Would we be  as likely to issue building permits that result i n our downtown streets' being flanked by phallic skyscrapers, clothed in desolate parking lots, cement lawns for an ugly fountain, or badly-maintained two-storey shops?  Might we not boast  of supporting more men of letters than our presently nationalized contingent of one and one-half, one of whom edits a distinguished literary quarterly guilty lately of a special issue of articles about Leonard Cohen?  Excluding most moderns (except as friends), Dahlberg finds his solace with a few of the great contemporary Continental writers — he has written very briefly about such men as Pio Baroja, Miguel de Dnamuno, and Jose' Ortega y Gasset —  but he has commented explicitly and extensively on Cervantes, Dostoevsky,  0  41 Shakespeare, Moses, and Jesus (the last two are not exactly European literary figures).. Short allusions to a l l European literature have seasoned his books since 1941. Dahlberg discusses Moses and Jesus with about the same reverence as he affords to Don Quixote.  He sees them a l l as Melville saw Shakespeare —  as gen-  tle dreamers existing only by the necessary delusion that they can give u l t i mate love and receive i t again. According to Dahlberg, Moses and Christ were, like Cervantes' hero, glorious failures.  What but a "dying out of l i f e " was the  effect upon (say) American literature and communal utopianism of, the Levitiean admonitions to cleanliness or the excommunications of Judas?  That the Puritans,  or more especially the Shakers, Brook Farmers, Oneidans, Thoreau, Melville, and spinster Dickinson searched for knowledge and espoused and hymned a "purified" Nature or a Janussed doctrine of salvation i s abundant proof to Dahlberg that "Life brings i t s own thwarting, grief, or light; nothing can be foreknown; the deepest natures are mysterious to themselves."  (CTBL, pp. 96-7)  For Dahlberg, Moses was a gentler man than Jesusl  He took humbly his laws  from God, not daring to give them from his own authority.  The laws for the Is-  raelites who wandered i n the desert like Lucifer were indeed attempts to give their souls and senses ease and to instruct them i n pity, which i s true piety. For  having struck the rock for water instead of ordering i t to flow, what was  his lot?  He viewed the Shekinah, and was denied both entry into Canaan and bur-  i a l by his kinsmen. Of course the orthodox would say that Moses would prefer God's way for him, even unto the way of his death. And since he had lived at such a zenith, a l ways close to God, Moses had great responsibilities —  to strike the rock ra-  ther than speak to i t was an expression of impatience with the justice of God's creation. The l i f e of Jesus i s crammed with lessons to the faithful and with foolish-  WL  ness scorned by the sceptical.  Dahlberg stands beyond them both; he i s the  neutral chronicler, puzzled to stupefaction. The Lord continually befuddled his hearers, especially his disciples, with his apparent contradictions —  He  admonished everyone to love and told those who followed him that they must, i f need be, abandon a l l human ties to do so; he denied the flesh's worthiness and called him self, his own body, the Bread and Wine of Life.  "Man, not to raven  upon his own bones and the world's, must eat and drink the beloved Image or Person of a Francesca, Beatrice or Jesus."  (CTBL, pp. 97-8)  His disciples were, u n t i l Jesus called them, middling sensual men.  While  they were with him, their minds boggled; Peter cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Jesus restored i t and was betrayed by the kiss of Judas.  Af-  ter his Ascension the Apostles became what they had beheld, working miracles, propagating what was often to be a rapacious Church, dying their various martyrs* deaths. "The Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed," said William Blake i n The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell.  And any evidence/truth  believed and acted upon i s a miracle. "Could men believe in one another there would be no sick, no blind, no poor; were not five thousand fed with five barley loaves and two fishes? those who loved him."  Jesus would raise the dead [himself included] for  (CTBL. p.  100)  Judas i s said by spiteful John not to care for the poor but to be a thief. Jesus, claims Dahlberg, i s unmanned by Judas, at once hating him and needing his ruining kiss. What then of Judas?  After the betrayal he realizes his crime  and either hangs himself or f a l l s headlong i n a field bought with his blood money, gashing his belly open and dying miserably.  Jesus condemns him for sug-  gesting, whether with an honest mouth or not, a moral use for the three hundred pence worth of spikenard. evil?  Is i t moral, Dahlberg implies, to be beyond good and  Judas repents too late, but he repents.  Jesus damns him before his act.  43 "Christ makes me uneasy," says Edward Dahlberg i n a letter.  The exegesis  in Can These Bones Live reveal what differentiates his uneasiness from the foolishness of the Christian, who desires no sign.  Dahlberg wonders why, i f Judas  i s forecondemned, he i s not the more deserving of pity.  Why did not Jesus turn  the  other cheek to him?  Both Blake and Milton thought only Satan to be incapa-  ble  of salvation; and they placed the blame for this entirely on him.  (Blake  went so far as to c a l l Satan "Non-Ens".) The orthodox Christian, however, s t i l l understands the universe i n a planar fashion, insofar as he understands i t at a l l .  Thus Judas does not know his fate,  even though as_ man the Son of Man i s capable of total knowledge (Christians s t i l l debate this thorny point, but i t i s safe and certain God the Father knows everything; obliquely, he is everything).  God's cosmically detached foreknowledge  is in order, that earthly error may consolidate i t s e l f .  Then those that desire  eyes to see w i l l have them to see with, and joyfully shall act according to the authority of their vision.  To the Christian, Judas deludes himself and must  be permitted to hew to his temporal vice of covetousness so that, eventually, time may have a stop. Must Jesus accept the sinner who wilfully refuses to separate himself from his sin? per.  He offers the sop f i r s t to Judas at the Last Sup-  This honour i s not appreciated by Judas, whose resolve i s unaltered. The Christian has to believe this dogmas— sometimes he enjoys doing so —  or be cast after death into time out of mind chaos, which i s separation from God. joy  Judas's alternative was also Satan's and Adam's — through obedience and service.  freedom, wisdom, and  For the Christian, the Truth is, was, and  ever shall be as simple and as d i f f i c u l t as that.  (I confess I find i t d i f -  f i c u l t to understand why Dahlberg does not accept this orthodox position, since he i s forever concerned with the individual.  But Mr. Dahlberg i s a thorough-  going determinist and considers the Church to be the death of God.) Europe and the annals of his own  race, aided Edward Dahlberg in his attempt  to heal the fractured vision bequeathed him by the writers of his own land. He starts with this sentence the section of Can These Bones Live that talks primarily about the Twentieth Century American novel: "We think we are clean, but are we? WWhat does the Holy Wormless Man beget but the horrible Worm, man?" (CTBL, p. 65)  He proceeds to discuss the unhealthiness of denial of the flesh  (refreshingly, without mentioning Freud), the result of which denial i s "the great STINK" (CTBL. p. 66) that disgusted Gulliver and that was the endgame of Father Zossima.  I t i s what the Europeans have been clamouring about for thous-  ands of years. By comparison dunghill J,ob, Dahlberg notes, kept his integrity because though sorely and pestilentially and totally smitten with Satanic boils he does not generally revile man's troubled body (it being God's creature) but rather praises i t , even while he attempts bravely to remedy his personal d i l a pidation. Such questing foolish certainty i s of course a Dahlbergian touchstone. As we have noticed, he finds i t primarily i n Don Quixote; but he also perceives i t in Dostoevsky's superfluous underground clerk who says that two plus two equals four i s a piece of insolence,  "...an arithmetical art or literature never i n -  cludes the more obscure resources of human experience," (CTBL, p. 69) says Edward Dahlberg.  Saul, Macbeth, and (to a certain extent) Ahab — a l l are heroes;  though they f a i l , they are in a sense attractive because they force a demonstration of the potency of their fates. The most grievous Puritan and American fault Dahlberg wanted to learn from Europe to avoid was the omission of woman from art and l i f e .  "A great deal of  sodomy i s just a dithering male who i s %oo nervous and unsure of himself to take what i s becoming the worst hazard today, entering a woman." (LA, p. kj) Dahlberg notes with relief a few of the guises of woman in unAmerican l i t e r ature — servants and handmaidens to the Patriarchs; Homer's sly and sensual  k5 tricksters; the kites and salvers of the tormented men of Shakespeare and Dostoevsky.  In the Old Testament sex was not elaborate. Lust and perversion were  duly owned and despised but were mentioned, at least summarily — men "went in?, to women, "lay" with them, or "knew" them, and they usually conceived. How refreshingly simple i t was! "In Homer a l l love i s aromatic.  So sanely .joyful  were these guzzling Olympian gods that, whenever they took sexual delights i n the beds or i n a cuckold's, the dew that f e l l upon the whole earth was indisinguishably ambrosial."  (CTBL. p. 1 6 0 )  What was i t that made Shakespeare create the awesome statist bitches Cleopatra, Regan, Gonerial, Lady Macbeth?  Who but Ophelia and what but the mista-  ken rage at what she has done prick Hamlet to utter his astonishing bawdry? Shakespeare created the benevolent and ultimately agreeable women of the comedies when he thought he knew what he wanted. Then he proved himself wrong. The Tempest, says Edward Dahlberg, i s evidence Shakespeare knew not at last what to expect from woman and escaped from trying to fathom her incomprehensibility.  Unforced by Caliban, pastoral Miranda i s the abstract Christian virgin  who i s unparadoxical because she i s no woman at a l l . Dahlberg sees i n the deeply philosophical and deeply Russian novels (in them locality and consciousness co-exist) of Dostoevsky an even louder admission of sexual misery than that x*hich i s heard from Shakespeare's poems and plays. He ascribes the degeneration of sexual harmony i n modern European literature to Thoreau's old bedfellow, rational tedium.  "The only men who can torment the  sensual women of Dostoevsky are, i f fops and varlets be lacking, epileptics and madmen; and only the insane and the lame are satisfying as excruciating selfabasement for the bedeviled men." (CTBL, p. 1 5 9 ) The signature of the times to be found in the modern literature of Europe and America differs, for Edward Dahlberg, i n this: such men as Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, with years of custom at their backs, knew how fatal i t was to  46 negate the female.  The Americans had no such assurance.  forget even what keeps one a l i v e .  It i s very easy to  The ultimately uncomprehending reaction  of  such men as Ahab or Thoreau to tedium may be i n the long run as destructive that of the heroes of the great Russian novels.  as  Dostoevsky and Tolstoy at  l e a s t knew that woman had been misplaced and made great art out of man's v a l iant attempts to understand and remedy as well as to deny t h i s cardinal s i n . F l e s h l y Woman at l e a s t appears i n t h e i r works, however maimed and estranged. Man's n e u t r a l i z a t i o n and alienation of himself from h i s own sanity i s d i r e c t l y proportional to h i s denial of the worth of Nature, h i s own body, and Woman. ciple.  Dahlberg's l i t e r a r y c r i t i c i s m i s devoted to the elucidation of t h i s p r i n When he finds the pastless art which denies t h i s p r i n c i p l e , that art he  excoriates.  47 Chapter Three "...the garage proletariat..."  "How  (Edward Dahlberg)  can we...become a Utopia of wise readers?"  (LA, p. 52)  Edward Dahl-  berg' s answers to this question occasion a number of essays on the relation between good literature and the good polity.  In his essay about William Carlos  Williams, Dahlberg i s piqued by Williams' anti-intellectualism.  "He thought  that;.the ancient civilizations could not be seeded here, which i s a frontier perversion."  (AFO, pp. 25-6)  To Dahlberg, Williams i s vicious in the same A-  merican way as Ezra Pound; he craves to be original.  To employ the intellect  in writing i s necessarily to approve a conscious moral judgment, since the i n tellect i s the mind's classifying faculty.  William Carlos Williams wrote only  one book (In The American Grain) whichjtook*.full (judgmental) account of the effect of the American continent on the rough white men who killed i t s f i r s t gods. The message of In The American Grain was houselessness.  The .^American literary  and historical genius has always been energetically cartographic, says Dahlberg, and not proverbial. "...Melville, Thoreau, Parkman, Prescott, and Williams are a l l river and sea and plateau geniuses, ranging a continent for a house, and a l l of them outdoors."  (AFO. p. 27)  Dahlberg accuses Williams of being bridegroom to violence.  Such action i s ,  he considers, only to be expected from the American writer, whose work betrays no great desire to be quiet.  The restless rush of the pioneers was always west-  ward, and the rudeness of the land and the strangeness of i t s aborigines was reflected in the havoc the pioneers wreaked upon them. Of course Vietnam i s the last frontier; i t may well be that u n t i l some radical changes occur in the philosophy of history in the United States, the following curdling statement of Edward Dahlberg w i l l bec.only too typical of that nation: "...we are so miserable in times of peace that we are always going to war as the substitute for the va-  48 nishing mesa, the distant buttes, the great Rockies, which are as remote in our lives as sunken Atlantis."  (AFO, p. 71)  American ignorance, says Dahlberg, i s manifest in errors of value judgment, particularly i n literary matters.  Theodore Dreiser once told him while they  were out for a walk together, "What we need i s not freedom of the press, but freedom from i t . "  (EOOT, p. 190)  Marx's dictum that quantity changes quality  i s certainly true of the printed word. Dahlberg has claimed he would stop writing altogether i f he were assured that the printing-press would be abolished. This i s an hard saying but I believe he means i t . Success i s an abomination to Edward Dahlberg; i t i s to be distinguished from hondur, which a l l good writers need and deserve, and which few enough ever get —  while they l i v e .  ancestors."  ("Writing i s conscience, scruple, and the farming of our  AFO, p. 60)  Writing i s not trade, although good writers often  l i v e modestly or starve and bad writers are often comparatively luxurious.  The  latter Dahlberg considers more pernicious than capitalists; he blames them for eroding their audience's w i l l to resist e v i l . Bad writing flourishes like the green bay tree. gilant reading has a l l but vanished. nothing of them, while lauding pap.  This i s a symptom that v i -  Reviewers misconstrue good books or say The diseased review i s ubiquitous and i s a  sign, says Dahlberg, that we are divorced from the earth and from those who l i e beneath i t .  America was not always so froward.  The Bible nourished the Puri-  tans; William Carlos Williams and Edward Dahlberg cluck in admiration at the erudition of Increase Mather. The Enlightenment Fathers of Independence drank deeply of Continental philosophy.  In Emerson's Concord Shakespeare was popular.  "Fourier, Essene doctrine, and Proudhon were avidly read by Shakers, Mennonites, Oneidans..."  (AFO. p. 63)  Dahlberg i s truly virulent about the effect of reviewers on the commonweal. They are bad readers and bad writers combined and their prey i s not only the  49 gullible reader and poet but also the publisher. newspapers and c r i t i c a l periodicals.  Wicked reviewers infest the  News i s the touchstone of criticism to-  day, not sound judgment. Dahlberg sees a literary sort of Gresham's Law in operation and notes that hacks are employed to evaluate seers. His only hope i s that poets, readers, and publishers w i l l revolt, demanding that scurrile reviews w i l l change henceforth and "be honest and undouble about those books which are more than the raiment and meat."  (AFO, p. 67)  It seems unlikely that this dream w i l l be realized. said that we dwell in a dark age of letters.  Dahlberg himself has  The practice of reviewers Dahl-  berg calls "The Malice Of Witlings"; too frequently "Persons who cannot make a good book do not have sufficient understanding to realize i t i s impossible to compose a faultless one."  (LA, p. 50)  The absolute truth is, says Dahlberg, that "Literature i s politics, and the latter apart from the former, i s demagogy."  (LA, p. 50)  When words are used  pestilentially, i t i s idle to ask why the things they purport to name are no better. We live amidstvulgar products and none can escape the e v i l effects they have on us. Handle a shoddy volume or stand eight hours rolling rubber tires down a noisome aisle, and who after that i s not vacant and coarse? Let a man dote upon twelve sonnets and he w i l l not be a drumbling fool i n his amours. "Experience i s i n the fingers," says Thoreau. How much longer can the American read pulp, fusty paperbacks, and listen to the commercial lullabies, those odious canticles sung to s e l l cleansing powders and mouth disinfectants, before we have a generation of simians ranging from the age of five to seventy. (IA, p. 52) In North America, a free press i s supposed to be a datum. Dahlberg's query i s , what has been done with that freedom? Most typically, Time and Newsweek w i l l demolish the f i r s t few works of'a worthless or average writer and then, finding him thick-skinned and s t i l l squittering books, they w i l l search for away to accept or even laurel him.  Is this not even more wickedly insidious  50 than the grotesque censorship t r i a l s authors suffer in Communist and Fascist  1  countries? Dahlberg has by no means escaped the stupidity of reviewers. Bones Live and The Flea Of Sodom were abysmally misunderstood.  Do These An utterly fat-  uous appraisal of The Flea Of Sodom appeared i n Poetry. A Cyclops called Edouard Roditi (whom James Laughlin once appointed his European editor) accused Dahlberg of adopting "fundamentally fascist, anti-rational or anti-humanistic i concepts..." Roditi so garbled his reading as to believe that Dahlberg con-.:. sidered rationality the flea of Sodom, "...our civilization has not suffered so much from being too rational as from a pseudo-rational itch....to appear more rational than i t actually i s and to rationalize i t s unconscious or intuit2 ional imperatives." Dahlberg considered the mistake worthy of a correction, which has been collected in his recent book, The Leafless American.  Dahlberg*s points are well-  made and they demolish the meager reader, Roditi.  "What i s more important than  being original...is to learn what one i s doing,,and why one i s doing i t , and to say i t without being perverse about i t . "  (LA, p. 46)  As usual, Dahlberg i s concerned with the connections between decadence i n art and decadence i n society. When this scribbler calls me a fascist he means that I would rather eat olives, celery and citrous fruits and a barley bread with Aristophanes and Euripides than s i t at table with Karl Marx, a good enough fellow in his own way. I am no working-class mystagogue who regards a riggish fruitdealer who sells carrots, peas and persimmons at four times their value as my benefactor, or the grubby grocer who changes his prices more often than Proteus his shape as my virtuous Cato... ..what i s essential to me i s honest workmanship, learning and human poetry. When costs are thievish, and that skulking Barabbas dough i s called bread, insolence i s everywhere, malice i s swollen,. amorous verse i s dead and the state i s despotic. (JA, pp. 42-3) Roditi was careful to birch The Flea Of Sodom because of i t s spelling mistakes.  Dahlberg disarms this criticism by admitting that not only are mistakes  51 present, but also that they are intentional.  To Roditi's complaint that he is  occasionally incorrect in his citations of authority, Dahlberg replies, It has been the habit of the bursar Polonius in our colleges of lower learning to expose the ignorance of writers....Who would be troubled about i t except quibblers, since the citations are marvellous, no matter whose they. are....in the end, a l l sagacious homilies are anonymous. (LA, p. 42)  Edward Dahlberg*s equation of literature to politics i s matched in i t s simp l i c i t y and heterodoxy by his definition of politics i t s e l f . do you have to pay for a pig or a bag of grain."  "Politics i s what  (EOOT, p. 31)  It would be  expected that the p o l i t i c a l authorities whose opinions he respects are also rather outre'.  Since there are few people who think like him, Dahlberg* s p o l i t i c a l  job of work i s against what most people tacitly, i f not explicitly revere —  the  STATE. Much attention i s paid i n Dahlberg*s writings to such enemies of the State as Thoreau, Randolph Bourne, and the nineteenth century American communal utopists.  Properly, the State i s an abstract, an illusion.  The result of lan-  guage misused, the State re-presents an exploitative attitude common to a few people whose opportunity, profession, and pleasure i t i s to organize, according to a frequently vicious hierarchy, the operations of many others, in the sacred names of God, Country, Ideology, and, i f appropriate, Monarch. Of course, those for whom gimcrack convenience of the State i s supposed to exist abet i t by their stupid and reliable desire to become "good citizens".  Whenever I use  the term "State" in this essay i t should be remembered that I am the victim of a decayed terminology —  i f you like, a police language.  For example, i t i s  obviously ialse to say that criminal activity i s against the State, since the State supports i t s convicts more carefully than i t supports most of i t s pensioners. Dahlberg* s chapter on Thoreau in Can These Bones Live was written as the TJ-  52 nited States of America was getting ready for World War Two.  Its'argument i s  that Thoreau's anarchic force was nullified by the simple expediency of his having been made a patron saint of American democracy. How quaint, how much like a summer vacation from the office, to cabin oneself with shrubs, phoebes, loons, and bugs near a New England slough I  The process by which "well-governed  Americans" achieve, or accept this perversion of Thoreau's quest i s elementary. The statist mentality i s adept at abstraction.  Thoreau i s seen absolutely as  a museum piece of "early American literature"; he i s thereby robbed of present significance, since only those memand ideas congenial to the State are encouraged by i t to be contemporaneous (and even that contemporaneity i s often a sort of danse macabre —  witness the resurrections of the most obscure —  or most  convenient historical events which gloss the pages of The National Geographic)« Until recently, the works of Thoreau were habitually either misread or lost in unknown anthologies.  What else could be the fate in the United States of the 3  calm sane man who wrote, "That government i s best which governs least." "Thoreau was concerned only with the Orphic politics of the soul, the only politics for man —  no politics.  Character must sculpt i t s own background and  Fate, and emit i t s own historical aureole."  (CTBL, p. 18)  When Do These Bones Live appeared, the pouchbacked short-lived American anarchist RandolpHi Bourne was even more obscured than Thoreau.  Bourne considered  that "the constitution was a coup d'e"tat against the people..." He was f u l l of such thoughts just before the United States intervened in World War One. of Bourne's main themes was drawn from Heraclitus — State".  One  "War i s the health of the  For saying this consistently and applying to i t as proof the examples  of such suddenly nationalist intellectuals as his former mentors Dewey and Veblen, Bourne was banished from the pages of most of the magazines that should have been thirsting after his work. There i s a legend that the Department Of Justice confiscated a trunkful of his manuscripts. "The people do not make  53 wars, they only lose them".  (CTBL. p. 39)  Bourne realized that the State exists to keep i t s e l f going. quv  It i s only '.;<".;  too quick to help make savages or permanent children of those who wish  to be that way; i t s method i s to instruct them to see themselves and others in general terms as obeyers of immutable laws sanctioned by the precedents i n a trimming and spurious history. H  State and people, said Bourne, always negate  ...the craft of the state i s war, but the art of the nation i s weaving, a Sha-  ker chair, Whitman's cottage in Camden, New Jersey."  (AFO, p. 83)  The objective difference between State and people i s the police force, which usually protects the servants of the State from the people, who are at times (when they are pinched awake) liable not to believe the humbug about themselves that i s continually foisted upon them. The ventriloquial State excuse for police i s that for the people's good they protect from the enemies of the people the servants of the State (who are by definition of the State the servants of the people, since the State's constant claim i s to i t s identity with the people).  Randolph Bourne understood the viperous chicane of such "new orthodoxies  of propaganda". Both Thoreau and Bourne were unprincipled, says Dahlberg.  In mortal opposi-  tion to the State, which i s but principle and begets nothing save i t s e l f , Thoreau and Bourne saw that "Creeds have a way of taking their revenge upon us". (CTBL, p. 37)  Neither of them thought i t necessary to worry about elaborate  fetishes in order to draw breath feelingly beside his fellow or alone.  They  saw beyond principle to a vision incomprehensible to a dedicated statist —  a  vision of a l i f e of peace and freedom; they knew that boredom was not the only alternative to war. (The State gospel i s played on a cracked record. It i s a tomorrow-promise of justice —  elaborate r i t u a l variation on theme of Hammurabi's law —  the  lowest-common-denominator expediency of dull and speciously various food on supermarket shelves, supposedly strategic votes on issues the significance or  54 virtue of which i s often most cleverly masqueraded to appear as of prime importance.  Over the bodies of those who reject i t s bounty, the State histor-  i c a l l y rolls; the death rattles of libertarians are drowned by the nationalist tucket.) Thoreau s limits were his own and kept him from being as free as he should 1  have been. S t i l l , he urged his readers to avoid being enslaved and rifled "of the reminiscences of the race" (CTBL, p. 35). as Dahlberg puts i t . Randolph Bourne, i n Ms  turn, probably had personal limits more devastating than any  Thoreau faced. While he lived, he overcame them. He was mirthful; he was audacious; he exercised fiercely; he walked from New York to Provincetown with his fiancee.  Edward Dahlberg calls Bourne "a sensual gypsy Leperello with women."  (AFO. p. 80) With the American communal Utopians of the nineteenth century, Bourne and Thoreau represented "the prefiguration of a Democratic America, the individual emancipated from State hegemony, or living apart, State-free." (CTBL, p. 17) The rules of a cult are supposedly i t s means of avoiding tragedy. radicalism...is half Bible socialism, half sex cult."  (AFO, p. 86)  "American In the nine-  teenth century there were about eighty small colonies in the United States, many of which relied primarily on the farmer and the artisan for their goods and services.  Some, such as the Amish, s t i l l thrive and the more strict among them  have not slipped to the use of motors. They have their approximate counterparts in the Hutterites of the Canadian Prairies and the Old Order Mennonites of Ontario. The co-operative communities Dahlberg talks about were deliberate assemblies of dissenters; displeased with State rules, they took account of original sin, made their own principles, and tried to bolt themselves to these principles. The result was at times a sort of dictated control over certain aspects of behaviour; this control sometimes led to the expulsion of an offender or to the  55 dissolution of the colony. Dahlberg does not scoff at the anomalies of the communalists; he i s the author of one of the greatest collections of quirks and exceptions i n the English language. The Sorrows Of Priapus. Edward Dahlberg considers that Walden "casts a dry light" (CTBL, p. 17) on the determined efforts of the Christian anarchs.  When we read Dahlberg s cry 1  in one of his essays on Randolph Bourne, We cannot pity or love or be MAN save in the Topheth of our remembering bones. For what are our avowals and covenants unless our blood and bones acknowledge them, aye, remember them, when we cowei* and hide! Do we need a credo to to comprehend Proudhon's "Property i s theft"; do we require a set of principles to declare that war i s slaughter, hate, rapine; must we have articles of faith to be free? (CTBL, p. 37) we are tempted to try to square i t with his statements i n his other works that he himself has principles by which he must abide, i f need be, to his own ruination.  It i s time for a digression. be unprofitable.  To the c r i t i c of Edward Dahlberg, squaring must  Dahlberg refuses to be bounded in a nutshell and hazards (the  verb would be his own) that his art may be no more than his bad dreams. I am constrained to cite Walt Whitman here, though with a rider; Dahlberg would not be cloaked i n the unearned pride of Walt. then, I contradict myself...."  "Do I contradict myself? / Very well  ("Song of Myself", 11. 1325-6)  To search for principles i n the work of Edward Dahlberg i s to j i g for the elusive red herring and to invite the scorn Dahlberg heaps on "sterile grammarians".  I confess the entire question ravels my mind. I would not know a prin-  ciple i f I saw one.  I shall quote a summary passage by Allen Tate which, when  applied to Dahlberg, may either convict him or dismiss him from indictment. A sound c r i t i c a l program has at least this one feature: i t allows to the reader no choice in the standards of .judgment. It asks the reader to take a post of observation and to oc-  56 cupy i t long enough to examine closely the field before him, which i s presumably the whole field of our experience. This, one supposes, i s Dogmatism, but i t i s arguable s t i l l that dogma i n criticism i s a permanent necessity: the value of the dogma w i l l be determined by the quality of the mind engaged in constructing i t . For dogma incoherent thought in the pursuit of principles. I f the c r i t i c has risen to the plane of principle and refuses to judge by prejudice, he will, while allowing no quarter to c r i t i c a l relativity, grant enormous variety to the specific arts. For i t must be remembered that prejudice i s not dogma, that one has no toleration of the other. I f prejudice were dogma, the New York Times Book Review would be a f i r s t rate c r i t i c a l organ. I t allows the narrowest possible range of artistic performance along with the widest latitude of incoherent opinion and of popular success — simply becauses'it uses, i n stead of principle, prejudice. 4 Let i t be noted that Allen Tate i s one of Edward Dahlberg*s closest friends and strongest admirers. Dahlberg*s commentators — who usually preface his books, which have seldom been able to find reviewers — are unanimous i n noticing that what draws Dahlberg' s work together i s simply his VOICE. "The Dahlberg style i s unmistakable  5 in any medium."  When one reads a Dahlberg book, one stretches out one's hand  in vain for the structural intricacy of Dickens, James, or Joyce.  The apparent-  l y random fact whose total significance appears when the fact i t s e l f has long been forgotten i s no friend to the method of Edward Dahlberg.  Really, Dahl-  berg' s entire understanding of the world i s that i t i s somebuilt of immutable discreta whose everlasting purpose i t i s to come together. In terms of art, this means that Edward Dahlberg has usually been unable or unwilling to utter conventionally architectonic works. His favourite genres have been the essay, the poem, the gnome. Perhaps a l i t t l e obviously, Dahlberg employed counterpoint to gain unity i n From Flushing To Calvary and Those Who Perish; he must have considered his use of that technique a false start.  The chapters of his  other fiction — Bottom Dogs, The Flea Of Sodom, Because I Was Flesh — are nearly complete i n themselves.  Whatever we do i s vast, unconscious geography; we are huge space giants of the mesa, surd, mad rivers that rush alongand we do not care to be near each other; this i s not ancient wickedness, but solitary prairie grazing. We cannot bear each other because we are immense territory, and our most malignant f o l l y was to closet us up in cities, and take away our ocean past. (LA, p. Z) Colonial and newly-independent directions in which to develop.  America was blessed with genuinely optional Should the citizen have sought to be alone and  yet civilized, gentle, and natural he need only have turned to such models as John and William Bartram, John James Audubon, or Henry David Thoreau.  (There  i s frequent reference to the Bartrams i n Dahlberg's works. Their eccentrically benighi vision of a virgin America, recorded so beautifully in New Green World by Dahlberg's close friend Josephine Herbst, had a great influence on European botany and zoology of the eighteenth century, and also on English and, to a lesser extent, French Romantic poetry.)  These men were not heeded.  An American alternative to "civilization" was the co-operative communities. In an essay that bewails their vanishing, Edward Dahlberg makes much of the Colonial connection between the artisan and the family. The early American craftsmen —  cabinetmakers, pewterers, silversmiths, potters, glassworkers — often  saw to i t that their cottage industries were hereditary, or even formally communal. There was Henry William Stiegel, the most famous glassworker in colonial America. Stiegel had communal visions. He built the town of Manheim in Pennysylvania, and populated i t with glassworkers from Sweden, Switzerland, and Lorraine. Stiegel was a sort of manorial patrician; he was so kind to his Manheim townsmen that he was sent to a debtor's prison. (AFO, p. Communally, man often finds i t easier to do what he wants to do.  Sometimes  he spites himself and his community and acts as i t s best interests (and frequently his own) say he should not.  "The sects were either a Garden of Eden  for freelovers or a commune of the most dour ascetics."  (AFO, p. 96)  Edward  58  Dahlberg finds i t odd that we behave more oddly today than did these often unlettered idealists: The Amana, Rappite, and Shaker garb was homespun, and in the marrying colonies there were no divorces or separations, no painted Jezebels or whoring Rahabs. The frugal Amana apron, the wide, rough peasant skirt, may entice the modern man who, as D.H. Lawrence remarked, i s more interested in the underclothing of women than in herself. One cannot help wondering about modern women, wearing their hair loose over their shoulders, and looking as though they were prepared not so much for the street as for their bedrites. (AFO, p. 9 7 ) In principle, the communities favoured a simple style of living.  Somewhat  like the Puritans, they were attempting to seed the New Jerusalem in virgin soil.  Unlike those hardy apostles of bigotry, they were not always given to  the cult of work or of prurience.  Sexuality and celibacy were equally unabashed.  Education was frequently "confined to the three R s, and to the Bible, being tof  gether, and to telling the truth."  (AFO, p. 9 8 )  Edi<ra.rd Dahlberg- likely considers that some of the most valuable humanising^ influences on the frontier came from the nineteenth century co-operators. The Bethel, Missouri colonists were among the f i r s t men and women to r o l l westward and they established a community at Aurora, Oregon. Dahlberg thinks that the continuing proliferation of small and really radical communities i s the noblest fruit of the American genius.  When one considers the normal effect of the land  on most of the people apparently in contact with i t , the American co-operative is nothing short of astounding. What have been the causes, not only of the continuing failure of individual co-operatives but also of their combined failure to have exercised a greater influence on the course of American history? The vulgarity of social contracts is that a l l individual conduct referred to them i s construed only in terms of prohibition.  What law of creed can enjoin freedom or happiness?  Communal man  wishes to find virtue by limiting his individual perceptions for the general good; he often achieves, i f not strife, a neutral unproductive boredom, or at  59  best a peace that i s forced and nervous.  £o-operative communities have not been  able to realize that a single person's privacy may well be at least as replenishing to him and ultimately, to the community as i s the fact that he and his neighbours regularly and publicly scrabble at co-existence.  "Nathaniel Haw-  thorne found his so.jurn at Brook Farm very unreplenishing, for he said that after working a l l day for a year with manure-composts a l l that he was able to produce was a farmer's almanac."  (AFO, p. 100)  Possibly the theory implicit in co-operatives essentially counters the operations of the literate imagination —  even Black MountainaCollege went bankrupt.  A l l actions, especially art, are the results of frustration; in practice, the myth of the New Jerusalem has never been sufficiently dissociated from that of the Lotos-eaters.  It may be that we shall never know, this side of Armageddon,  whether and/or when to rely upon each other to stay apart or to stay together i f we wish to stay happy, interesting, and interested in ( i f not fanatical about) what we want to do. about any other animal —  Certainly we know l i t t l e about ourselves —  less than  except for the cardinal facts that we are unpredictable  and fallen. It i s very easy, and even slothful and smirking, to write of the failures of...brotherhood co-operative societies. Every^hirig^fails, for we die, and that i s either penultimate f a i l ure or our most enigmatic achievement. • • •  Aristotle has said that men who live alone are either wild beasts or gods, but there are so many of the former and maybe none of the latter, that i t i s better to be men and women together. (AFO, pp. 101, 103) What a pity, thinks Edward Dahlberg, that Americans became "civilized" i n stead of picking the small co-operative community in which to possess or in any way respect the land on which they sat (like the Pueblo) or over which they moved (a bit like the Nez Perce). ple  There was that chance to be together on sim-  terms, to explore a mode of being perhaps similar to the Indians', perhaps  similar even to an elementary European past, not raping the land but influen-  60 cing i t and being gently influenoed-by i t in return. Listen to a sentence by Charles Olson on this subject. They come from his great essay "Human Universe," a work of genius,  "...the truth i s , that the management of external nature so  that none of i t s virtu i s lost, in vegetables or in art, i s as much a delicate 6 juggling of her content as i s the same juggling by any one of us of our  own."  The lessons the co-operative communities could have taught were certainly not learned. Edward Dahlberg*s description of early nineteenth century Cincinnati i s so surprising one hardly know whether to weep at i t or guffaw: ...a rough, barren Sparta of some twenty thousand inhabitants, where there was neither poverty, nor wealth, nor civilized entertainments. There wereilow taxes, and herds of f i l t h y pigs in the main thoroughfare. At the family hotel table d'hote sixty to seventy men stuffed their desperado gullets i n grum, funerary silence, and then hurried away to the paper mills or to a wizened farm of a few cows, pigs, maize, and poultry, while their wives remained at home over their kettles and republican mush. The pastimes were t a l l stories, akwking, spitting, and pioneer tobacco-chewing. It was the age of the brass cuspidor, and no thriving public palace i n Kansas City, Wichita, or Joplin was without itfei.Greekish amphora, into which rounders, crimps, and^dice-coggers expectorated as a recreation. (AFO,„pp. 88-9) Since the beginning of Etirope's contact with America the subjects of the New World's chronicles have too depressingly often been about the restless fear of the Old World man for the New World land, his reactionary spoliation of i t , and i t s unsubtle revenge on him.  The small towns clung for a while to such  fleeting innocence as that recorded in Winesburg. Ohio.  While the few communal  agrarians and artisans experimented bravely in being beside each other rather than beside themselves, large cities burgeoned.  Today there are too few small  farms anywhere i n North America and the minimal rural population lessens daily. The tragic irony of urban l i f e i s not quite a cliche'to Dahlberg, who sees beyond the fact that a metropolis eats people more thoroughly than they should be eaten (0. Henry saw that).  Dahlberg observes specifically that the American  fault of rootlessness i s merely exaggerated in a maze of channelling skinny streets where the sun i s outlawed by t a l l buildings, and where grass i s a lux-  61 ury; in large cities the asphalt i s touched and not the ground. Kew York i s the big placeless Acheron, where locality, ent i r e l y protean, i s always being mangled, and where nothing comes to rest. Everything rolls in the rubber t i r e cities; indeed, the whole motor-car country i s rapidly becoming East — and that i s a dismal carnage for our literature and people. (AFO, p. 71)" The national lack (enough of the nation i s Involved to make the adjective applicable) of self-knowledge brings other aberrations.  "I doubt that we w i l l  ever be an intellectual nation:...our literature lacks maxims and proverbs; cartography takes the place of the intellectual faculty."  (AFO, p. ?1)  Indeed, Edward Dahlberg was not the f i r s t to notice these tendencies in American civilization.  D.H. Lawrence and William Carlos Williams unlocked the word-  hoards of the American annalists and the same ideas sprang to light.  In two es-  says,.sone on Williams and the other comparing Rome and America, Dahlberg takes the thoroughly unAmerican stand that to be original i s dangerous,  "...every  discoverer we have had has been a wild homesteader among the seers of the world." (AFO, p. 27)  Referring especially to historians, he realizes that America has  never produced a Livy, Suetonius, Gibbon, or Burckhardt.  Dahlberg feels that  energy, not intellect, rules the works of such men as Parkman, Prescott, Garcilaso de l a Vega, Bernal Diaz.  William Prescott, for example, composed much of  The Conquest Of Mexico on horseback.  He walked miles to and fro in his study,  banging plaster from the walls with his elbow in an attempt to guage the Andes and valleys of The Conquest Of Peru.  i I want to mention a couple of anecdotes about William Carlos Williams. They are narrated by Kenneth Burke and they concern what he calls Williams' tactus erudltus.  It i s probably the same faculty possessed by Anderson and Prescott  and other American authors. Some years after Williams had retired from his practice as a physician, and ailments had begun to cripple him, we were walking slowly on a beach in Florida. A neighbour's dog decided to accompany us, but was limping. I leaned down, aim-  62 lessly hoping to help the dog (which became suddenly frightened, and nearly bit me). Williams took the paw in his l e f t hand (the right was now less agile) and started probing for the source of the trouble. It was a gesture at once expert and imaginative, something i n which to have perfect confidence, as both the cur and I saw i n a flash. Feeling between the toes lightly, quickly, and above a l l surely, he spotted a burr, removed i t without the slightest cringe on the dog's part — and the three of us were again on our way along the beach. 7 The next story Williams told Burke. It i s an example of the capriciousness of the tactus erudltus and i t s disastrous social consequences. Williams was visited by some acolytes who obviously considered him a Great Man.  When they  were about to leave he gave one handsome g i r l a humorous smack.on her rump.  The  illusions of his visitors were collapsed and Williams was mortified by his lack of propriety.  What a prig and a l i a r I would be i f I were to equate this as-  pect of Williams' personality to (say) Hart Crane's morbidly serious desire for total experience.  I w i l l hedge; the difference between them i s one of de-  gree, not of kind. According to Dahlberg, Williams distrusted books.  This caused him to write  works without moral volition in them, works that hopelessly confuse the reader. It i s impossible to know whether Williams i s a man-hater or not, for though he employs a people's language, the bare hummocks, the "treeless knoll," and the waterworks in the poems are nomadic nihilism. "The water married to the stone" is not pioneer hardihood but supine pessimism and dingy misanthropy. ... A l l earth i s not suitable habitation for the imagination. •• •  Williams says goodbye to Montezuma, Joppa, Nineveh, and disappears i n the Paterson River. He i s just homeless, withoxxt parent, or man or woman to be near; a prey to the fiercest elements. There i s no creative metamorphosis but brutish submission and the cowering animal feeding upon i t s own oaws. (AFO, pp. 23, 2h\ 25) The testimony of Edward Dahlberg follows, witness for the defence of the i n tellect as accompaniment to the tactus eruditus.  63  Dahlberg writes at length about isolation and he considers i t inviolate. "I have always been loyal toraybeginnings, by which I mean I have always been an orphan."  (EOOT. p. 21)  The purpose of a l l action i s simply to bridge the gaps between people. The fact that action i s futile and, parabolically, nonexistent; inactivity i s cowardly and wicked.  I am thinking of the word "action" as Blake used i t on Plate  Seven of The Marriage Of Heaven And. Hell — other before you."  "The most sublime act i s to set an-  Action i s the opponent, i n time, of vice,which Blake also  defined as the hindrance of another.  Edward Dahlberg considers vice impossible  also but he never counsels practicing i t .  We are, he thinks, capable enough of  wrecking ourselves without consciously trying to do so by attempting to destroy those next to us. Since Dahlberg realized very early i n his l i f e that isolation i s axiomatic, he was not long in disabusing himself about p o l i t i c a l orthodoxy.  His invective  against the State and i t s specious enemies the Communists started i n his second novel and has continued with gathered force right to the present.  (T suppose  also that Dahlberg's choice of p o l i t i c a l mentors, some of whom we have mentioned, resulted from his feelings about solitude.) Lorry Gilchrist, the hero of From Flushing To Calvary, makes a pilgrimage to an orphanage i n which he grew up. by his loneliness.  He finds i t an empty shell and i s desolated  He returns to his mother, who dies on an operating table.  The novel ends with the truly orphaned Lorry eating a peanut the same way his orphanage friend Prunes used to eat a peanut.  Suddenly he i s trampled and  nightsticked by the juggernaut police chasing an anonymous Communist demonstration.  Triumphantly singing the orphan's hymn, Lorry asks his bleeding head be-  wiIderedly the questions of the American litany with which Dahlberg has ended much of his fiction — where should I go? How do I goad myself into going?  64 Dahlberg*s third novel, Those Who Perish (1934), i s about the modes of hysteria and indifference in the reactions of some bourgeois American Jews to the Depression and to news of the beginning of the pogroms i n the -Hhird Reich. A l l the characters in the book are spiritually impotent, victims of one statist superstition or another.  They are a l l Good Germans.  "It's not Hitler we're a-  gainst his Jewish policy," (TWP, pp. 48-9) says businessman Lawrence Scheer, who considers Hitler to be a better gamble than the Bolsheviks, "in the long run". The two main characters are lovers, Joshua Boaz and Regina Gordon. They spend their time making themselves and each other more and more neurotic. Both of them have been burdened with cretinous daughters. The array of boobs and salauds, both Jew and Gentile, witlessly oppressing them, i s truly formidable. Boaz has a shocked heart and i s a pastoral Zionist.  He sentimentalizes about  the lemon trees of a non-existent Promised Land and conveniently forgets to assist his enemployed friend E l i Melamed. Melamed, in turn, i s so helpless he actually believes in goyische superiority.  He v i s i t s a sophisticated savage par-  ty at a Gentile "friend's" house and allows himself to be defeated at ping-pong. The other guests at the party make i t a real racial zoo; however, a l l the malice, direct and indirect, i s to suffocate Melamed. Suffocated, he leaves.  He dies  on a bridge, of a broken heart, and i s buried in Potter's Field. Regina i s deeply disgusted and scared by the vicious present so she thinks to fight i t and to escape from i t and from her impotent past by joining the Communist party. her own.  When Boaz comes to her bearing a pipe-dream, she rebukes him with  Seeking to help him somehow, she makes the mistake of telling him her  child i s his own dead daughter, whereat Boaz has a fatal heart-attack.  To end  the novel, Regina poisons herself and her daughter. Dreaming of an apocalyptic tomorrow, "she smouldered into yesterday." The late chapters of Can These Bones Live are Dahlberg's most fervent discourse against tyranny.  At the end of his discussion of Woman In the works of  65 Dostoevsky and Shakespeare he makes the connection between statism and frustration, in superb and unforgettable prose. The craving for a dark age i s eternal:: the Apocalyptic Whore who comes to save man i s the rotting, pullulating Att i l a , Tamberlaine or Hitler of his own devouring blood. The storm trooper i s but the decayed tempest of self-loathing. Darkness i s ubiquitous: the communist machines that free the enlightened Russian proletariat are the rational devils that obsessed the revolutionist, Stavrogin: the machinery he has heaped upon his steppes and wheat i s the spewing forth of his own sickness. Petersburg, Dostoevski's or Stalin's, i s the cold rational, theoretical city — the megalopolitan ditch in which the abstract biped overpoweringly rots, alone. This national disjunctive Onan, separated from woman, whose angelical sap has been drained by the insane drudgery of industrialism, inevitably s p i l l s his seed into the Fatherland, for rebirth1 The whole cataclysm, for a national kitchen Gretchen, for a "German clock," is the result of this ferocious breach between the nomadic halved male and the hyphenated worker-female. The buxom carnal peasant-girl, the servant maid, who fed the depleted aristocracy, now nourishes the machine and the office: she i s the splenetic manikin, with the wormwood of pistons, lathes, cement upon her starveled dugs — or the lesbie free-thinking p o l i t i c a l ideologue. (CTBL, pp. 161-2) Elaborating on this disjunction, Dahlberg examines "the penultimate superstition" that i s the State. tors were suckled by a wolf.  It was no accident, he says, that Rome's originaIn Shakespeare's Histories those avid for power  scotch their own humanity and that of those over whom they achieve their desparate false glory.  Caesar w i l l not broadcast the sensual prowess of the love  of Antony and Cleopatra; "their souls are chronicled on marble tablets for the superstitious vassal eyes of the plebians."  (CTBL. p. 168)  A l l of Shakespeare's  p o l i t i c a l dramas t e l l us that policy k i l l s .  Dahlberg quotes preposterous Gon-  zalo* s speech about his bastard Cockaigne and calls i t "Shakespeare's Last Orison".  It has not come to pass.  Replacing i t have been the well-advertised i n -  visible glories of "scientific" views of history, s t i l l the victory of the State."  (CTBL. p.  "...the jeer at the Poet i s  I69)  Dahlberg has more than a murmur against the Church which, he claims, delivered man from pagan Reason or superstition and simply surrounded him with another  66 fear.  Dahlberg finds his skimpy evidence especially in the savagery of Gothic  sculpture.  The Church, to survive, must establish i t s e l f with the State., I f  the State Church i s (as at present) moribund, i t i s a sign that i t takes no i s sue with the State.  Questions of attendance are irrelevant —  I'm talking a-  bout Jerusalem, the City and the Woman, which has l i t t l e to do with any establishment. The history of the Church has been largely Impersonal.  It has been analogous  to the history of i t s i l l i c i t abstract sibling, the State.  "It i s an axiom that  in Shakespearian drama that Nature, Man and King can never coexist. postulate rests the divine right of Kings."  (CTBL", p. 1?1)  Upon this  It i s unfortunate-  l y also true that so far in the history of the Church Nature, Man and Authority have but seldom coexisted. The State needs a ruthless leader whose blasphemous vision i s propped by a superstition populace. He must have no human failings.  Dahlberg considers  Hitler a far better statesman than Macbeth (or Lady Macbeth), who i s interested only i n power for i t s own sake, and who i s really of half a mind to be rid of power completely. Hitler invokes (remember the original publication date of Do These Bones Live was 19^1) a bizarre destiny to allay national guilt. Edward Dahlberg brings everything back home: The populace exchanges one set of pieties for another, but the beliefs and the fetishes are essentially the same: crosses, icons, madonnas give way to theieffigies of Stalin and Hitler. The need of a secular mariolatry for a more "scientific" citizen must be gratified. Screen stars are more immediate and practical as purification and expressive devices than the worship of remote constellations. The distinction between Zeus, Jupiter, Osiris and Popeye the Sailor, the comics and the goddesses of the screen i s not in science but in poetics. (CTBL. p. 173) It i s certainly Osirian for the Soviet worker, says Dahlberg, to dismember himself for the glorious future dictatorship of the proletariat! i t i s that so few people are not perverts — West —  How remarkable  Soviet or "capitalist,"  East or  so that they may easily be rendered totally irrelevant (as a precau-  67 tionary measure, of course), with the approval, and to the glory of, the  WAY.  Poor humanity, forever rending i t s own limbs and drinking i t s own blood so that i t can resurrect i t s e l f . Like a pharaoh, man l i e s in his own tomb with a pancake and cornmeal god at his side and so embalms his heart and brain, not knowing that they alone can rise from the grave and make him immortal! 0, when w i l l he throw away idols: the states, the toy tanks, >?ar games and flags, the fatherland? Moses took us out of the p r i mitive age of Baal and the golden calf, when he destroyed a l l the graven images. Man w i l l r o l l the Sisyphean rock u n t i l he demolishes the superstition of the state and the leader. There i s the legend that the Empedocles threw himself into the crater of Etna so that no one would ever know that he had died; but the story, told by the men who lived after him, i s that the crater belched forth his sandals! It i s a beautiful story and a joy-giving irony, and the heart that can contain such mirthful sanities | can laugh and weep. 0, l e t man laugh the gods out of this world so that the heart can live in i t ! (CTBL. p. 179)  Edward Dahlberg has long resolved, to be a "jocose iconoclast"  (LA, p. 57).  In 1950, James Laughlin published The Flea Of Sodom, in which Dahlberg did for the Communists (and others), with humoxir in a jugular vein.  His sketches of ra-  dical activists and bohemians in that book are superficially tied to the events of the Thirties but the foolishness and hypocrisy are just as relevant to the quacks of contemporary radicalism, both activist and quietist.  (They reappear,  much diminished in stature and significance, as Kerouac's Subterraneans and as The Whole Sick Crew in Thomas Pynchon's V.)  Dahlberg*s caricatures make rub-  ble of time generally because of the style in which they are portrayed, and specifically because of their hilarious names —  Thersites Golem, Andromache  Lucy, Thais Colette, Pilate Agenda, Ephraim Bedlam, Ajax Proletcult. At the beginning of The Flea Of Sodom, Dahlberg has l e f t a note on i t s luxurious style. If this l i t t l e book appears opaque, the reason i s easy to know: the line i s gnomic, pulsing with Ovid, Livy, Strabo, Suetonius, Herodian, Plutarch, the Book of Enoch, and the Apocalypse of Baruch. The similes themselves are def-  68 initions of ancient rituals, which are a bucolic physic for men who feed and gender upon our macadam meadows. The purpose of any author i s to be a r t i s t i c a l l y mirthful; for no writer can persuade who cannot entertain. Chaucer observes, "A licorous mouth has a lickorish t a i l , " which i s a didactic as well as a j o l l y line. Though this book has some melancholy matter i n i t , the author hopes that the sentences are made of that bread and wine, and have that accent of the timbrel, with which Saul ascended the holy mountain. (FS, pp. 12-13) The Sodomites are grotesque and only too recognizable. humpbacked Marxist jew Sculptor.  Thersites i s a rude  Andromache Lucy, his sometime wife, i s the u-  biquitous scandal-mongering p o l i t i c a l Medusa and sexologue who takes on a man because he i s stylish and drops him when she tires of him/he becomes hors de l a mode. Thersites acquires slumming Pilate Agenda as his patron. A l l the Sodomites vibrate at the prospect of seeing him — an authentick bourgeoisl  Pilate im-  ports Spanish cork and sponges — this does not stop the Sodomites from trying to milk him to support a l l the wormy radical schemes ever devised. Pilate tries to seduce Andromache Lucy; after a while, he f a i l s .  Predictably,  Ephraim Bed-  lam i s moderately human. He i s a vegetarian playwright and he stinks.  Ajax  Proletcult i s a classic activist boor who marches for oppressed workers and drops cigarette ash on Pilate's expensive rugs. The segment of the book inhabited by the Sodomite rout i s called "The Flea Of Sodom". I t i s narrated in the f i r s t person by a skinless Janus whom I dare not separate from the author. Whenever he appears, this narrator i s the cause of Sodom's itch; he never f a i l s to insist upon the virtue of some species of customary behaviour.  Of course everyone walks right through him.  Because of  his solitude and because he really i s no better than his associates except i n intention — a sort of failed Politic Would-be — the narrator collapses to j e l l y whenever he i s vouchsafed a beck or a touch. The action i s credible for the Flea i s almost w i l l y - n i l l y of Sodom as well as i n i t .  ,  The Sodomites squander their days and nights most assiduously in fornication,  69 frenetic p o l i t i c a l or artistic activity, rabble partying, or squalid gossip. One night Monsieur Golem Patron entered the 7th Avenue rooms with Golem on one arm and a village t r u l l on the other; they had met her at the china-america international restaurant or the workmen*s lenin ping-pong club. Andromache, studying the cannery and shoe factory proletarian drama with Ephraim Bedlam, was asked to meet Thais Colette. "She wants to join the gutter queue of spongers, dowds and artists," added Monsieur Golem Patron. (FS, pp. 35-6) Pilate gives a raucous party for the Sodomites. Longing for his bucolic Missouri childhood, the narrator woefully attends. when noticed indirectly by Andromache, he faints. an Heliogabalus or a Nero rather than be deserted."  Stroked by Pilate, he reels; "One w i l l take to his heart (FS, p. 45)  Pilate Agenda f a l l s into disrepute, not because he i s a profiteer, but because he tries inopportunely to seduce some demi-rep. The interest the Sodomites had in centering their activities around him suddenly vanishes; the interest they have i n each other vanishes equally miraculously. When I saw Golem he fled. Running after him I shouted at his coat t a i l s , "Nabal beadle buttocks, occidental cathartic skin, do not primp and tinkle, soft bowels give pity." Admonishing Golem,llurking in a hall, because truth must correct error, I said, " A l l the sputum you have given for Madrid w i l l not cure the stinking Bethesda pool of your own s p i r i t . Do you slaver when you see people?" Pushing me away he hurried down the street. (FS, p. 49) "They that touch pitch w i l l be defiled," stated Master Constable Dogberry. A l l the Sodomites now derive strength to banish their own boredom as they shun the narrator, who claims to be trying desparately "to relinquish the world for a proverb and lose my reason for the allegory."  (FS, p. 52) Pilate ap-  pears to have come through, to have done exactly this; but when he attempts to perpetrate a Last Supper on the Sodomites, they hoot at his hypocritical inversion and desert him. Pilate made a low obeisance and whispered so that not a l l heard, "Forgive me, i f I wash you", which made Golem l i f t up his voice, "If Pilate says, 'I love man*, look out. If he t e l l s you, 'I know nothing*, beware. But when he speaks low out of the heart, 'I am humble*, run for your l i f e " .  70 When a l l had l e f t Pilate I thought, "can the eyes drop water, when the bowels remain a sherd". (FS. pp. 55-6) At the story's end the Lazarus narrator is desolated by the lack of reverence a l l around him. —  What i s worse i s that this desolation exists inside him also  he simply can not leave the nonsensical Sodomites although he knows their  souls are leprous.  "Going away, I turned back, hungering as Lot's wife did for  the lascivious hearths of Sodom." (FS. p. 56)  Like other Dahlberg heroes at  the end of their stories, he i s totally ravelled, a man only of inanitioned parts. He does not know what to do or how to do i t . Perhaps I would go to Los Angeles, which i s the orchard of Gomorrah, and not the f i g of Israel. I knew I had slain my blood, for Abel was crying out of my veins. What should I do? "Sit", whispered my heart, entreating, "Will ye go away?" to which my soul and flesh replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" (FS, p. 57)  The impossibilist criticisms Dahlberg mounts against the State are just as precise, ferocious, and witty when he turns to our sorrowfully mundane social life.  His definition of politics i s exemplary for i t s massive implications.  When prices are hiraalayan, look anywhere and you w i l l find a sick polis.  Since  the State i s a l i e believed, Dahlberg's remedy i s to t e l l the truth and live i t I Dahlberg's "social thought" (permit me a banality —  a l l of Dahlberg's wri-  ting i s social thought) i s largely discursive, in essays and epistles.  Since  he i s a man of letters he has always borne a great interest in the preservation of the virtue of institutions founded to encourage letters and the intellect. Dahlberg*s relationship with American universities has been a long-standing lover' s quarrel ~  he keeps returning to them —  though more quarrelling than  love has often been in evidence. From his student at Berkeley, where the goats near the campus ate his botani-  71 cal lecture notes, to his appointment in I965 as Visiting Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, Dahlberg has always dealt with universities more on his own terms than on theirs. As a result he has been at a surprising number of universities.  He was a student at  Berkeley and Columbia and he has taught in (at least) Brooklyn Polytechnic College, Hunter College, Boston University, New York University, Black Mountain College, and of course the University of Missouri. "Good teaching i s apocalyptic talking."  (EDR, p. 329)  This, for Edward Dahl-  berg, has meant refusing both to follow curricula and to use a text-book, "that abominable carcass".  He admits to having been quite a success with students,  i f not with other professors or administrators.  Once Dahlberg was invited back  to a university; he had but four students, however, and was not given more than $275 for a semester's work. That he considered the students had learned something and were sensitive and enthusiastic was apparently not reason enough for his advancements  I believe he did not return.  At a faculty meeting at  York University Dahlberg was depressed by the banality: good or wise remark I made the mistake of saying:- 'Why, to football culture.'"  (BOOT, p. 23)  "...not hearing  New one  this i s a capitulation  Once at a party he cautioned a new uni-  versity president not to begin casting up buildings like Caracalla.  A president  interviewed Dahlberg for a job as head of the small English department in his university.  Asked after three hours i f he thought he could get along with the  other nine members of the department, Mr. Dahlberg retorted that he could not get along with nine people anywhere.. "A professor i s a man who has suffered from academic senility for at least forty years."  (EOOT, p. 44) r  Writing to his  nephew, Dahlberg says he hesitates to be a reference to a University for the young man —  "...suppose the letter f a l l s into the hands of an English pathic,  you are undone, and w i l l never be admitted to any college, and might then get an education."  (BOOT, p. 48)  After Edward Dahlberg had l e f t New York University  72 s t o r i e s f o l l o w e d him o f t h e dean who had  c o u l d not  stop complaining  t h a t Dahlberg  t r i e d t o run h i s c o l l e g e . These s t o r i e s sum  are deeply  up Dahlberg*s a t t i t u d e s toward American i n s t i t u t i o n s  c o r r u p t and  can o n l y be h e a l e d by p e o p l e .  they  C e r t a i n l y there are i n -  s t i t u t i o n s t o which D a h l b e r g would g i v e no time a t a l l —  u n i o n s and  political  8 p a r t i e s , f o r example ( i n a l l h i s work one  can l i k e l y count upon t h e f i n g e r s o f  a few hands the r e f e r e n c e s t o American p o l i t i c a l p e r s o n a l i t i e s ) —  but  universi-  t i e s , h o p e f u l l y , c o u l d become the P i e r i a n s p r i n g s f o r t h e e n t i r e r e p u b l i c .  At  p r e s e n t , t h e y a r e r u l e d by " P o l o n i u s b u r s a r " and  of  a r e o f t e n a mere e x t e n s i o n  what c o r p o r a t e - m i l i t a r y America has become, "the O f f i c e by t h e grace o f Bank".  (BOOT, p.  the  2k)  Brave r e a d i n g should o f course l e t t e r t o Robert M. H u t c h i n s ,  go beyond the w a l l s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y . , I n a  Edward Dahlberg c o n s i d e r s t h a t t h e  commonwealth  9 c o u l d w e l l be s e r v e d by what he c a l l s " i n t e l l e c t u a l g u e r i l l a w a r f a r e "  i n which  t h e l i v e s and works o f such American heroes as Thoreau, M e l v i l l e , Veblen, Debs, Emily Dickinson,  Emma Goldman, Benjamin R. Tucker c o u l d be made r e a d i l y and  t i n u o u s l y a v a i l a b l e , i n chapbook form, t o everybody..  con-  There i s a g r e a t oppor-  t u n i t y and need f o r a r e p e r t o r y f o l k t h e a t r e t o a r i s e which would t r a v e l from town t o town w i t h a p o r t a b l e p l a y h o u s e .  L i k e the medieval M i r a c l e P l a y e r s i t  would r e c i t e everywhere t h e deeds o f t h e g r e a t men  whose l i v e s must be an  ex-  present. G i v e t h e p e o p l e t h e L i v i n g Tragedy, and not dead s t a t i s t i c s , i f you a r e t o r e s t o r e t h e i r f a i t h and a l o n g i n g f o r an I l i a d o r a d e s t i n y . . ...You have read how many books on the R e c o n s t r u c t i o n p e r i o d ; what t h e c h u r l s i n Congress s a i d was i n s i p i d , , f o r t h e h i s t o r y was b e i n g w r i t t e n on t h e s o i l , t h e p l a n t a t i o n , and i n the m i l l s . What i s most important i s where t h e Negro s l e p t , i n a s t a b l e , o r upon t h e furrow, o r i n a d i t c h ; how much d i d a l o a f o f bread c o s t him, and whether i t was mealy, sour, and c o r r u p t ; what d i d he pay f o r shoes, o r had he any, and d i d he have a s h i r t t o house h i s beaten and h o u s e l e s s back. (EOOT, p.  31)  10 ample t o t h e  Edward D a h l b e r g t e l l s two d i a n has had  s t o r i e s about the a c u t e knowledge the American I n -  o f the importance o f p e r s o n a l economy, d e s p i t e h i s ignorance  Marx o r any o t h e r economist.  The  first  of  s t o r y i s i n a l e t t e r t o Theodore D r e i -  73 ser and i t concerns an Indian who had made a chair. asked i t s price.  Ten pesos, the Indian told him.  A merchant admired i t , The merchant wanted twelve  chairs and the Indian said each of them would cost two pesos more. This astounded the merchant, who had expected to save money. The Indian urged him to think how boring i t would be to make twelve chairs.  In a letter to Herbert Read,  Dahlberg asks, "Do you know the Indian in Thoreau who, after offering his baskets for sale to a lawyer who refused them, replied, "What, do you mean to starve mel  ,M  (BOOT, p. 55)  Politics i s personal economy and Dahlberg flays mercilessly a l l departures from that norm. America, the richest country on the earth, has also the most to answer for.  Dahlberg*s most important p o l i t i c a l essay, "A Decline of Souls",  i s about the lassitude of comfort and greed.  The worker i s charmed away from  his product by the machine. As a result, he eats s i l l y packaged food, thinks packaged thoughts and speaks them in a packaged language, makes packaged goods and i s mutely distressed when the rate ascends at which he divorces his packaged wife. "The upper classes are as thoughtless as the commoners; finally, we have achieved the classless societyl For the rich and the poor hanker for the same whorehouse amusements and puerile gewgaws." (LA, p. 8) ty i s simple —  The reason for pover-  the wage-slave fears boredom and beggars and enervates himself  by hire-purchasing novelties to acquire spiraling status, which he mistakes as the prerequisite for acceptance by his inattentive peers. The difference between rich and poor i s that rich people can apparently afford more debt.  Boro-  ll dom robs the Americans (and the Canadians)  of their limbs; they love not, nei-  ther do they s i t s t i l l . Who are the avaricious exploiters of the idiot populace?  The scientist, the  industrialist, the financier ("His greatest hoax i s the p o l i t i c a l one; he selects the millionaire masters of the people who suppose they w i l l be their ser-  74 vants."  LA, p. 11),  the lawyer. How incredibly docile are the faceless mil-  lions who suffer high rents, unemployment, and wrenching interest rates — a l l in the name of "government guide lines" and "tight money". "The consequence of constant alterations i n fashion i s a polity of freaks." (LA, p. 12)  Money centres of fashion encourage the abstraction of human content  from the Human Form Divine; this i s most assuredly the theft of i t s divinity or God Head. Anything can rapidly become fashionable, provided no revolt i s threat12  ened. Karl Shapiro  13  and G. Legman  have written on this subject.  The burden  i s very convincing: as long as bohemia adopts the tools of p h i l i s t i a —  present-  ly, electric amplifiers, commercialism, bad art, jargon, commercialism, the c i ty as i t i s , rudeness, commercialism — ports to revolt.  i t mimics that against which i t pur-  Hippies do not menace the Time-Life syndicate and those whose  heads i t f i l l s with information, the parody of intelligence.  A cursory scanning  of the morbid newsmagazines for articles on such subjects as adolescent revolt, electronic music, drugs, and "pop" art w i l l reveal that in a short time their editorial policy changes from alarm and disgust to one of flippant cynical distaste —  which i s f i n a l l y indistinguishable from flippant cynical acceptance —  to wholehearted enjoyment (insofar as anything in Time-Life i s wholehearted). The alternative taken instead of bohemia and philistia i s to admit that s o l i tude which we had a l l the time. selves.  The city i s where we t e l l the truth about our-  Where man t o i l s sottishly a l l week as a small part of some great male-  f i c process to whose end or beginning he cannot connect his labour, there i s the city.  Where the community of the conversation, the porch, the stream, the sand-  lot, the tree to climb, the touch, i s replaced by the newspaper, the radio, the television, the A & W, and the laundromat, there i s the city. Our history i s the tragedy of separation. The pioneer slew valleys and meadows that are more of a retribution than than the forests of Nodh had been to Cain. He poured out the entrails of tierra nueva, poured slag and cinders upon  1  75 the rivers, built soulless, garage apartments and highways that are tunnels in Hades. The modern American city i s an industrial battle-field, and the avenues thereof are macadam guts with fatherless names, A, B and C. (LA, p. 15) Cxi  Go into one of these vast sepulchral markets, where people hardly talk to one another, and where self-service prevails, and you quit i t more wormy than Lazarus. After one has bought canned peas, or pallid, storage carrots wrapped in cellophane as the dead Pharaos were garmented in papyri, you go to the cashier. Often a sour, wordless man or woman drops the coins into the palm of your hand so as not to touch i t . But unless we exchange human germs, or otherwise we dare not kiss our mother, father, or wife, we w i l l expire, diseased and cankered, in absolute solitude. Why do we have self-service? The answer i s very simple: because no one wants to serve anybody nowadays except himself. (BOOT, p. 29) 14  One of the most devastating facts about modern l i f e , thinks Edward Dahlberg, is i t s effect on human sexuality. He i s a champion of what he calls "the old orthodoxies of sex," and we have seen what he thinks of their lack in American literature only too accurately reflects American l i f e , and what has this l i f e done against The Chase? A female garbed in the trousers of Hercules the footsoldier confuses the pudendum. When not hoveled in lesbic pants she goes abroad in a skirt that divulges her pillared loins. The male burns for this depraved Messalina who i s too costly and frigid an article; moreover, he cowers before the iron-boweled bitch. Beside himself, and undone, he becomes an onanist or turns to men. (LA., p. 13) One of Dahlberg s favourite quotations i s Tolstoy's thought that the poor 1  and prostitute we have always with us.  Accordingly, a cut-rate bawdy-house i s ,  Dahlberg avers, as necessary to the good commonwealth as Moses or a decent price for butter.  For the lack of cheap vice or even a bundling room for every house,  one dwells, obviously, in a country (or a continent) which does not know what to do with i t s women; i t perverts them with fallacious advertisements of themselves that label them mere lissome ornaments. If women look in mirrors or at each other after perusing an advertisement, "...become hard and despotic and arrogant."  i t i s no wonder that many of them (EOOT, p. 28)  (Sadly, Dahlberg admits in a letter to William Carlos Williams about "The  76 Farmers' Daughters" that a similar sickness exists i n Mallorca where women have not lost their softness but are, as a sort of compensation, dull.)  "I think the  American i s going crazy; of course, his appetite for sickly, emaciated women, almost hipless, i s homosexual. Put a woman in slacks, and you can*t undress her without feeling like a Sodomite."  (EOOT. p. 188)  Dahlberg himself has always needed a woman wherever he has been — along with simple food, clothing, and shelter, books, and the opportunity to write and to converse, a woman i s a l l he has needed. He wrote to William Carlos Williams, "I have a few men friends whom I deeply care for,  one of them yourself, but o-  therwise the only people who have added one cubit to my l i f e , or taken me from the middens and the piggeries, are women." (EOOT, p. 188) Really, Dahlberg hates everything but l i f e .  That he finds death whittling  l i f e down to i t s e l f or to mere existence (and which i s worse?) almost everywhere, and especially in a l l the commonly unexpected places, i s his reason for writing. He can learn to be weary of any place on earth, even Spain or Kansas City (where he has at least l e t down runners), to say nothing of New York, Los Angeles, London, or Paris. Friendship and then learning are Dahlberg's ways of lessening the e v i l effect of his time upon him.  His letters and many of his essays are exercises i n friend-  ship, attempts to understand himself in terms of his present relationship with those he wants close to him, or eulogies for those now dead who have healed his solitude with their company when they were alive. I mentioned when discussing Dahlberg's literary criticism his close connections with Dreiser and Anderson.  I want to talk a l i t t l e differently about his  respect for D.H. Lawrence and Ford Madox Ford.  I could not say that Dahlberg  has had any intense regard for the work of either man or else he would have written more than he has in praise of their books.  "Most of(Lawrence'sj  work  i s chaff i n my mouth. He wrote far too much, always changing the stones into  7? bread."  (TIMS, p. 81)  However, before Lawrence and Dahlberg had even met, Law-  rence had aided Dahlberg during his poverty in London, with money and didactic letters.  Although i t seems that he was dismayed by the. Introduction which Law--  renee contributed to Bottom Dogs, Dahlberg couches his personal opinion of Lawrence in the words of Bolingbroke about Baconr "He was so great a man I do not recollect whether he had any faults or not."  (EDR, p. 239)  Despite or perhaps  because of his fame, Lawrence always answered Dahlberg*s letters, until Dahlberg stopped writing him, ashamed that he had nothing to say. He was the most moral man of his age, and he never ceased r advising me to be the bony Spartan. He urged me not to l e t publishers cozen me of my lentils, and I never have because they never gave me any. He also counseled me not to be unlucky and said that I should always write with great bitterness....! have always his advice as best I could, for have always been a bitter stylist, and I have always been luckless. •• •  Though I have altered my thoughts regarding his gifts, let i t be my portion when I retire to Erebus to have as companions the disembodied dust of Hesiod, Homer, Musaeus, Apollo, and D£H'.. Lawrence. "Eat and carouse with Bacchus'/*! Lawrence says, "or munch dry bread with Jesus, but don't s i t down without one of the gods." (TIMS, pp.. 108-9) There are i n Truth Is More Sacred a few pages in praise of Studies In Classic American Literature; in a l l of Dahlberg*s grateful memories of Ford Madox Ford there are only a few sentences about what he wrote. Ford could never do enough for Dahlberg in the Thirties; and Dahlberg has thanked him profusely ever since. His most common claim about Ford was that he had "windmills in his head". Ford lied, like Sherwood Anderson, because the world was paltry.  If there were no  southern manor to which he could invite his friends, i t would be necessary to invent one.  Ford continually aided American authors; he held salons, arranged  dinners to get them publicity, got them grants.. He offered to be Dahlberg's agent for Do These Bones Live (to protect him from publishers) and to write an introduction to that book, but he died before he could do so.. Dahlberg records that Ford had been so kind to him that even had he desired i t , he would have found i t impossible to exploit the man.  Here i s the dedication to Ford of the  78 t i t l e chapter of Can These Bones Live:. A Lated Tribute to Ford Madox Fordr How often since the Fates made you the companion of Saul, David, Empedocles, Maria Rilke, D.H. Lawrence, have I descended into Hades to converse with you. Though the deceased wail in pitiless Orcus, our moan i s the sharper, because we who l i v e dwell alone and unsure i n the cragged eyries and mountain fastnesses of a defiant solipsism. How solitary our own earthheart i s , cheated, but yesterday, of these tumulting Images who gave us speech and memory, as did the libations of blood poured forth by Odysseus. Aye, we are the poor, maimed shades, SirJ As I deeply bow to place my lips on your Brow, in gratitude for your Grace and dispensations to me, I weep because my homage i s the coarse and pusillanimous thanks of the living to the dead. My pardon and my sorrow, Kind Genius, Good, Savory Ford Madox Ford. (CTBL. p. 41) Edward Dahlberg calls his letters "the epitaphs of our times; they are for those who are lost," he says (EOOT, p. 2). In a way they are tragic. i s a wandering.man —  Dahlberg  he i s continually voyaging between Heaven and Hell —  has his ulcer probably to prove i t .  and  I doubt i f his readers ortfriends would pre-  fer him any other way but they must always f a i l him because he insists that they should be at least as constant: in their dogmatisms as he i s in his own.  Edward  Dahlberg thinks S i r Herbert Read has withered because he worries too much about his social and monetary position, which worries may come from his being a family man.  James Laughlin depresses Dahlberg because he insists on surrounding him-  self with what Dahlberg considers decadent writers.  William Carlos Williams  i s a double-minded genius who simply prostrates Dahlberg by covertly referring to him i n Paterson 5. Admittedly, Dahlberg should be referred to everywhere, but what i s t'o£iBe said of such an overweening concern for the virtue or good opinion of friends? When Dahlberg bemoans his fate he i s not being humble (he equates humility with vanity).  In a letter to Isabella Gardner in 1958 he writes, "By now, I am about  resigned to epistolary friendships and aetiological love."  (EOOT. p. 214)  Wri-  ting to Steven Sands, his nephew, he says, I hope not resignedly, "let NOTHING  79 reign, for nothing lives."  And in one of his prose poems there i s this sentence:  I shed tears on the Mount of Olives because people no longer care for each other; my friends lack the character for the v i g i l .  (CHD, p. 32)  Such statements to and about his friends are perhaps the sorriest anomalies in Dahlberg*s work. Were we able to be objective about ourselves (I say these words i n f u l l realization of my idleness and lack of truth), we would see that we are friends with people as much because we respect ourselves beside them as because they themselves possess some extraordinary agility, humour, kindliness, virtue, intellect, or vice.  Dahlberg f a l l s in the dust i f his friends are hu-  man; would any sane man be another man's friend for more or less?  Has Dahlberg  tried to cement friendships without taking account of one of his most treasured premisses, that human beings (even the friends of Edward Dahlberg) are women and men, not Gods?  Is i t not a cowardly desertion of our own faculties to cry out  in amazement and dismay whenever man reveals that his birthright i s only a mess of pottage?  Jesus said indeed, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"  (Matthew 26:40) Despite his contrary protestations, Dahlberg pays the hero's price of Western purblindness which i s the desire for attachment. Job of American Letters. him."  Paul Carroll has dubbed him the  Job said of God, "Though he slay me, yet w i l l I trust  And Edward Dahlberg has been slain many times in this l i f e .  15 desert than the fat, comfortable heart."  (EOOT, p. 130)  "Better the  80 Chapter Four Sorrow And The Flea "Geographic without Historie hath l i f e and motion but at randome, and unstable. Historie without Geographie like a dead carkasse hath neither l i f e nor motion at a l l . " (Peter Heylyn, Microcosmus. 1621, p. 11.)  My allusions to Edward Dahlberg's use of myth have been various and in passing.  In this chapter I want to focus on the myths he has as much manufactured  as observed; I want to discuss his method, his mythopoeisis, as well as his matter.  I f I am seen to be repititious, may I be a l i t t l e forgiven; there i s nothing  new beneath the sun anyway, although there are different arrangements of old things (or does that make things new?). I would not willingly be a poor magician,  even i f I did use only mirrors.  With Leo Tolstoy, Edward Dahlberg prefers the backward Gods and considers progress to be no myth but rather a superstition.  It takes a great and very catho-  l i c k vigour to re-member and to act, (p)re-serving or present-ing remembrance (those two facets of behaviour are what i s mythmaking, or the imagination). It takes only sloth to accelerate the mechanical removal of oneself from one's relationships with a simpler, more manual past.  The apparent energy with which  our heroes the businessmen manage our country i s the guise of Blake's Rahab or the medieval fals semblaunt.  Their occupational ailments —  cancer, heart  trouble, ulcers, hard arteries, high blood pressure, alcoholism, barbituation —  are their sins upon their own heads. How worthy are these sentences by Allen Tate about Dahlberg*s unformulated  method, or style? ...he has a firm i f intuitive sense of genre. The powerful, concrete narrative mastery of the material of Because J_ Was Flesh i s related to the Hebraic and Classical past through intuitive synthesis. In the philosophical and c r i t i c a l books — Can These Bones Live, The Sorrows Of Priapus. Alms For Oblivion —  81 we get intuitive analysis. In the poems the progression i s associative and l y r i c a l . 1 For our present purposes, though my petulance with Mr. Tate's intelligence unnerves me, his terminology may be uselessly vague. Perhaps his notion i s that Dahlberg's main concern in the autobiography i s conventional narrative; hence synthesis —  the shades of the orphans of the present are housed withing the  bodies of the past. There i s also much narrative material i n "the philosophical and c r i t i c a l books" and i t too i s related synthetically to the past and stands up living.  I. suppose that what Mr. Tate wishes to stress about (say)  The Sorrows Of Priapus and The Flea Of Sodom i s their lack of a predominating story line, though i t were skeletal and needing to be fleshed. The paragraph of these two books i s usually a structural oddity, about one subject and often composed of copular sentences illuminating that subject from the most peculiar angles.. The tongue i s even less covered than the scrotum, and can hardly ever be called a secret part since few men have enough character to keep i t in their mouths. It i s d i f f i c u l t to know whether the tongue or the phallus i s more harmful to men. The panther and the lion remain i n their l a i r far longer than the tongue w i l l stay i n the mouth. This member i s the foe to the whole of mankind. Hermes has empowered i t with speech, and i t s utterances are sometimes oracles. . S t i l l , there i s no galled t a i l so hurtful as this organ. I t i s a thom, a stone, and also a witling, for when i t i s not a thong, i t i s a fool, and man spends the greater portion of his l i f e reprehending himself because he could not be silent. I f he has nothing to say, he speaks i t , and sometimes this adder stings and poisons a friend, without cause and, particularly, to express ingratitude to one who has been kind or bestowed upon him a benefit. Even when i t i s hid i n either jowl, i t i s a sly animal. Everyone i s i t s prey, and as i t i s said i n the Book Of Esdras. "The stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones." (SP, p. 26) Analysis, synthesis; i s not this passage as much the one as the other? not the terras be disposable then?  May-  Mr. Dahlberg. i s concerned to resurrect the  Body. His devastating revelations of the misbehaviour of that Body's organs are metaphors of the twitches of i t s various nerve's. Northrop Fr^y says somewhere that Blake considered the body was weak enough without being separated  82 from the soul so he tried to unite them to see i f he could hoist man out of his trough to a better Body, visibly a better Soul.  Edward Dahlberg has set him-  self the same chore, has he not? process or at his materials,  Like William Blake, he w i l l not blink at the 2 "...ends aren't ends but temporary means."  The f i r s t part of The Sorrows Of Priapus limns the faculties.of "civilized" man,  sorry by comparison with those of other mammals, creeping things and "sav-  ages". He does not fare well; indeed, Dahlberg considers that "He i s in an i n termediate form; the highest man w i l l have no scrotum; i t i s ludicrous for a moral philosopher to scrape and scratch as any worm.," (SP, pp. 53-4). Dahlberg's Man i s recognizable, even in his misery.  I t i s a pity Dahlberg  does not find him potent enough to deserve some national identification, like Aeneas, Adam, Albion, or the Green Man.  But. perhaps I am missing the point;  Priapus that garden god i s everywhere the same and ludicrous, Dahlberg says, and draws examples to prove his claim. The phallus has always been considered an unkempt beast. Though matrons and virgins brought f i l l e t s and hyacinths to this rude, homely god, i t was never his face, but rather his abilities that were worshipped....Nearly every ancient idol was priapic. This was the god. that protected ^he garden and seed-time, and who was associated with the melon, the leek, and the apples of Haran which were aphrodisiacs. (SP, pp. 27-8) Primitive numbering i s sometimes done this way:. "1 —  2 —  3 —  heap."  So  Dahlberg's paragraphs work. They do not always progress lineally but.rare instead semi-associative.  His style i s therefore a sort of middle way between dramatic 3  and more rigidly narrative or expository writing.  It i s perhaps the most apt  vehicle for rendering the indecisiveness of his Man, who i s at odds with himself and yet who, because Dahlberg continually refers to him as man,  i s no less nor  more than total, or shall we sa.wconstant in his sorrow, knowing not which way to turn and unable to keep himself from turning. Man was not always so intelligent. Dahlberg, called "The Garment Of Ra":.  I like two phrases from a long chant by  83 Men were plant and cowries of the shore, Woman a potherb, her legs and hair were rain.  (LA. p. 82)  What evidence do we have of primeval lewdness, says Dahlberg; civilization i s the kingdom of infamy.  Man i s no longer a giant or amoral.  "Jared, Mahalalel  and Methusaleh begat without the assistance of the female, and these immense mastodons had no minds or privy organs, or any knowledge of their uses." p. 51)  (SP,  Thought i s death.  The F a l l was into sexuality, which i s the swamp of self-consciousness, that t r i f l i n g awareness we have of the various knobs and hollows of our dithering bodies. Could man moult his skin as the bird i t s feathers, and have new flesh, he would be innocent. (SP, p. 15) He i s altogether a double nature, having two lips, two eyes, a pair of feet, and a right and l e f t hand. Man i s a congenit a l hypocrite because he asserts that his purpose i s simple. Should he aspire to be apodal, at least, he would have no feet to hasten him to e v i l . (SP, p. 21) The ears of Aphrodite are small, rotund and toothsome, but the lobes of the male are a wallet into which he stuffs his greed, gossip, and carnal stupidity. Ears, often no better than the sow's, have a sluttish aspect; they root on the sides of the head, and like the pig can be fed mire and almost any f i l t h . The ears are worse than the navel because they cannot be hid. There are two kinds of ears, one which i s a scale of justice in which a l l human pains are weighed, and there i s the voluptuous ear which i s a flute or a lyre, and which i s always trembling; every man can play upon i t , and receiver some tune for his effort. One with fluted ears has eyes for wonders and marvels, and he i s able to watch a poor man swallow stones and regard i t more as a prodigy than a cause for pity. (SP, p. 23) The small nose i s regarded as more comely in a man, and though i t i s handsome i n a face at table, i t usually goes with a short, miserable penis i n bed. Lascivious women run after men who have a nose the length of the small finger, but are grievously disappointed when they cohabit with them. (SP, pp. 25-6) It i s an affront that man should consider himself the paragon of creation, says Edward Dahlberg.  The difference between man and the rest of the universe  i s that he thinks, and where has this marvellous ability gotten him.  We do not  know i t well enough but we take our behavioural cues from a l l animals around us.  84 The pity i s that we are too ready torairaiothose animals who are themselves depraved instead of those who are no plague to the imagination. Wisdom i s choice; "...since man i s not going to be different for a thousand milliums he should select certain animals to teach him to be just, eat and gender at regular intervals, and blush." (SP. p. 29) Most animals fornicate i n one position only.  Many do not even face each other. The human animal writes books descri-  bing and advocating the myriad and inflammatory pontortions he supposes are suitable for his coition — and he bssags about his accomplishments.  His dearest  dream i s to be vouchsafed one new whiff or glimpse of a human body, "for what man sees arouses him." If a bird i s wicked or lewd, he at least obeys the bird law of kind. Here i s an adage from Reasons Of The Heart; A profligate man who suddenly behaves as though he has saintl y traits i s a scoundrel because he has stolen our eyesight and understanding. Woe to him who has cultivated a vicious man who unexpectedly resolves to be benevolent. (RH, p. 125) The birds and beasts know almost unerringly when and where to sleep and how to avoid the intemperance of the elements.  They are often convivial too, and i f  they are not, they know whom to avoid and are themselves shunned. Those birds who leave their eggs i n mothers' nests do so covertly.  "The albatross sports  with the frigate, the dolphin, and the shark without f i l l i n g the stomach of one of his companions, and this i s a proverb."  Men live in a megalopolis, the  most dense forests, or i n the deserts which slake no thirst.  They congregate  randomly and very unhealthily, on top of one another or beside themselves, to get rich or poor, stink, or sow grain i n rocky ground.  When i t i s winter in  Vancouver people journey to Hawaii and return quickly and with complaints i f too many others have had the same notion as themselves or i f i t happens to rain. The solitary-loses his a b i l i t y to be with others, for whatever he does i s for himself, which i s wicked. He becomes very predacious and has a scorn for failure, and his madness for l u cre i s terrible. He canonizes the thief, the criminal, and simpers at justice, adultery, falsehood and specious scales. His  85 sole aim i s itching and gping someplace else, and he has not least regard for the difference between good and e v i l ,  (SP, p. 35)  Though no monied tourist, the migrant swallow returns each year to Capistrano.  After four years of l i f e the salmon unfailingly returns to the place of his  birth simply to make i t his place of spawning and death.  Many men would rather  die on a bloody field than in bed. Men grow degenerate far from river banks and the bulrush, or lose their song or powers without the marine bivalve, but what fowl goes alone? A l l that man does i s to rejoin the human flock. The widgeons f l y together, and gabble with one another i n pools as they crop grass or fish for crabs. (SP, p. 36) Edward Dahlberg i s a vegetarian. "We are the food we eat, and that i s why i t i s so disagreeable to look at people nowadays."  (RH, p. 145)  Those who eat wretchedly can never have a pleasant nature, and now, after thousands of years of feeding, no man may can think too much about the flesh he k i l l s and eats and puts into his stomach without fainting. An unreasonable man eats; one with an angelic faculty w i l l very likely dwindle until he i s a gnome because our diet i s so nauseating. (RH, p. 146) The frequent claim of vegetarians i s that meat i s the cause of too much acid in the body. Some among them (and the aspirin.touts) t e l l us hyperacidity makes us nervous and liable to devour our neighbour.  I t i s no accident that many paci-  f i s t s eat no flesh and wear suspenders and. shoes made of cloth and rubber. Is there a chance that the passions w i l l not be aroused by a garden salad or a mess of beet tops and diced turnips boiled? I t may be|good or necessary for people to be a l i t t l e skittifeh, whether they eat dead beasts or living plants. So few of their fellows are used to the ideal of serenity that the placid man i s likely to pass for a peagoose, an egotist, or a bad conversationalist.  Edward Dahl-  berg lost none of his passion when he ceased to be a carnivore. In The Sorrows Of Priapus i t i s said, "What men should eat has perplexed man as much as any other enigma."  (SP, p. 42)  Simple grains and fruits and spices  were ardently recommended by the ancients and Dahlberg recounts anecdotes which  86 show the sages preparing their food or eating i t .  As a beast eats so i s he; the  buzzard i s a necrophage and i s despised; The spider creeps up the tree at night H  to suck the eggs of the young of the hummingbird; i t i s loathsome."  (SP, p. 44)  "Man cannot scorn the hog, for, though he roots i n the mud, he dotes on figs, acorns, millet, barley, wild pears, and neither gods, nor wise beasts, nor men find this fare intolerable."  (SP, p. 45)  The human animal i s a wise feeder or i s prey to some degree of gluttony.  De-  spite Sam Johnson, too much care for the belly tends to make one unfit for sex and other action.  The gourmand i s a conscript or partisan of the taste buds and  i s one of the most conspicuous and compelling of hedonists. There was an epicure who i s said to have eaten his meat with fingerstalls so that his food would be as warm as possible by the time he pushed i t into his mouth....The greedy desire exquisite and mordant joys from every part of the body, and sometimes their arms madden them, and on other occasions they swoon because of the way they are housed i n their clothes. Every pore i n the skin of a hedonist i s a voracious cranny, and this sieve of lust gees about like that sloven in Athens who always had enough obols to pay a chit, or a tart, should he happen to see one. (SP, p.. 46) Ecce homo.  In Chapter Five of The Sorrows Of Priapus Dahlberg says that before the earth was with form and void strange hermaphroditic monsters occupied great misty space and were content.  Though they were visionaries, Saint Paul and William  Blake agreed that i n Christ there i s neither man nor woman. "The anthropoid i s more luckless and unintelligent than animals, and the remedy for his i l l s i s not progress, going forward, which i s always to his grave, but turning backwards." (SP, p. 18)  Though i t i s not Eden (which, according to Blake, was half-civilized and. no large garden, the F a l l being a process), the American land i s primal. Part Two  87  of The Sorrows Of Priapus i s called "The MytlwGatherers" and i s dedicated to William Carlos Williams, "Whose perception i s primordial genius, (and whoj writes in In The American Grain, that the conquerors were overcome by the wild, vast weight of the continent."  (SP, p. 58)  The promise ignorantly sought on this continent by the f i r s t Europeans to visi t i t i s what Dahlberg, like Williams, Lawrence, Cooper, Thoreau, wishes to see fulfilled.  *  "The f i r s t shall be last, and the last shall be f i r s t i s geologic scripture." (SP, p. 59)  That the novelty of the Americas stupefied the epically energetic  discoverers i s well known. The lesson we have from them for the learning i s equally amazing because i t i s so large and simple at the same time — mythology, again —  which i s  the land must teach us for we cannot simply teach the land.  The Spanish hidalgo and Portugal adventurer came for riches, but the harvest was often no more than the pinion nut, tanned hides of the wooly cattle of the Platte, or virgin discovery, which, like learning, i s tombstone destiny. (SP, p. 62) We have spent much of this essay weighing the present evidence against the great American divorce.  In The Sorrows Of Priapus, Edward Dahlberg t e l l s why i t  should never have occurred.  That savagery has been rife and i s now r i f e i s no  reason to suppose i t ever should or shall be.  S t i l l , i t i s necessary that what  i s in us and i n our s o i l must be admitted before i t can be altered^. The American intellect i s a placeless hunter. I t i s a negative faculty which devours rather than quiets the heart. Dakotah i s an Indian word for friend though i t is„a cruel tribe. This i s a battle and prairie mind. Its deity i s not Christ, but Quetzalcoatl, who i s wind and snake; and i t s travail i s as fierce as that of the Indian woman who cannot bring forth unt i l she i s given the blood of the serpent. (SP, p. 66) When we look at the remains of the Indian civilizations of rough Central and South America we wonder at their sophistication in the face of the jungle.  The  Indians did not have the knack of the wheel and possessed no domestic animals, yet they were excellent astronomers and architects.  Giving homage to the land,  88 they were allowed by i t to flourish and, as William Carlos Williams writes of exemplary Tenochtitlan, i n In The American Grain. Streets, public squares, markets, temples, palaces, the city spread i t s dark l i f e upon the earth of a new world, rooted .there, sensitive to i t s richest beauty, but so completely removed from those foreign contacts which harden and protect, thattat the very breath of conquest i t perished. The whole worldXof i t s unique associations sank back into the ground to be reenkindled, never. Never, at least, save in spirit; a spirit mysterious, constructive, independent, puissant with natural wealth; light, i f i t may be, as feathers; a spirit lost in that s o i l . 4 We assume that the Indians came to the Americas from Asia.  "The American fa-  ble i s a table of the seasons, the moons, days and annals of the pilgrimages of 5  tribes."  (SP, p. 66)  In Chapter Ten of The Sorrows Of Priapus, Dahlberg says  definitely that a l l races are the descendants of the three sons of Noah, who peopled the earth following the Deluge. The Hamites were the f i r s t Asians and the f i r s t Greeks came from the loins of Japheth.  "genealogy i s a vast myth; the  record of man, apart from legend, i s stepmother history." dians of the Americans cried for their forefathers.  (SP, p. 88)  The In-  Unlike their Asian relatives  who t i l l e d with the water-buffalo, they "did not yoke the bison". The Quiche' Maya had a jaguar Genesis, and they had an old Semitic word, Balam, meaning soothsayer; like the profane Balaam, in the Old Testament, this Balam was the jaguar priest. ... Quiche'Maya say that primeval man was shaped out of mud; Adam i n Hebrew i s virgin red clay....The Adam of the Quiche' was unable to move his head, and his face f e l l to one side, and he could not look behind, which i s the tragedy of the i n habitants of the New World. He had no mind, which i s nothing but turning one's eyes toward the past. (SP, p. 88) Much lore was lost in the anabases and both Dahlberg and Williams realize that i n America the land has always been man's dictator, Dahlberg goes beyond Williams to claim It i s the works and produce of nature in America and not of man at which we marvel. The rituals of the table, the bed, and the hearth were never established; the naphtha that flows wild from South American rocks was burnt in the lamps at Genoa; Medea, lacking the knowledge of the turteldoves of Mylitta  89 o r A s h t o r e t h , d e s t r o y e d h e r r i v a l , t h e daughter o f Creon, i n t h e flames o f n a p h t h a i (SB, p . 67) Dahlberg  says i n Alms F o r O b l i v i o n ( p . 26) t h a t e l e g a n t Montezuma was " o l d i n  l o r e " when w i t h d i g n i t y he submitted t o G o r t e z , s i n c e he who conquers himself.  enthralls  "We t h i n k C h r i s t i a n n o n r e s i s t a n c e a r c h a i c A s i a n wisdom...."  (AFO. p. 26)  Montezuma was, a s W i l l i a m C a r l o s W i l l i a m s r e c o r d s , t h e s o p h i s t i c a t e d and sens u a l g o d - l e a d e r o f an e x q u i s i t e l y savage p e o p l e .  Edward Dahlberg b e l i e v e s t h a t  s i n c e a l l c i v i l i z a t i o n s a r e c a n n i b a l i s t i c , i t i s b e s t t o be so o p e n l y and with aplomb, l i k e t h e A z t e c s . a t e ceremonies  T h e i r p r i e s t s were c e l i b a t e and o f f i c i a t e d a t e l a b o r -  i n which a young A p o l l o , f i r s t  g i v e n t h r e e weeks w i t h c h o i c e v i r -  g i n s , was t h e n g u t t e d with an o b s i d i a n k n i f e and h i s h e a r t o f f e r e d s u i t a b l y t o the sun.,. The A z t e c s gods were many and a p p r o p r i a t e , w i t h extravagant r i t u a l s a t t e n d i n g them? t h e r e was t h e prude V i t z l i p u t z l i , who demanded human s a c r i f i c e , was c a r r i e d l i k e Moses i n a b u l r u s h c r i b , and who l e d t h e Mexicans t o b u i l d T e n o c h t i t l a n on a bog. The T l a l o c s were c l i m a t e i d o l s ; T e z c a l l i p u c a , t h e d e i t y who f o r gave s i n s every f o u r y e a r s , was made o f male s k u l l s and c a r r i e d a p r e c i o u s stone i n his navel. Dahlberg r e c o r d s i n Alms F o r O b l i v i o n t h a t t h e A z t e c s were f e r o c i o u s i n t h e i r punishment o f i n e b r i a t i o n , concupiscence, t h i e v e r y , and l y i n g .  The common f o o t -  pad was made a s l a v e , f o r example, and t h e a d u l t e r e r c o u l d be executed. always a s s e r t t h a t we a r e z e a l o u s t o a v o i d such crimes?  Can we  S i m i l a r l y , the B r a z i l -  i a n s thought i t o n l y p r o p e r t h a t a man should speak t o a woman w i t h h i s back t o her.  Otherwise  i t was n o t l i k e l y t h a t t h e c o n v e r s a t i o n would be p e r t i n e n t , s i n c e  t h e woman's c l o u t covered hertrnavel i n s t e a d o f h e r n e t h e r s . slew people as though t h e y were d a h l i a s and poured were drawing  o u t t h e odor o f mountain c l o v e r .  "The I n d i a n h e d o n i s t  f o r t h t h e i r b l o o d as i f t h e y  Had t h e y but eaten t h e i r gods i n -  stead o f men, t h e y would have been Gymnosophists o r Pythagoreans,  o r one o f t h e  90 great symbolic peoples of the earth." (SP, pp. 75-6) Edward Dahlberg records that the natives of rain and river forests of Braz i l make none of the pretensions to c i v i l i t y or good taste so dear to the Aztecs, Incas, or Mayans. The face of these natives i s homogeneous, lacking the havoc and the rueful lines which are the work of the intellect. The nose, though Caucasian, which has the long, aquiline, look of a Euripides or a Solon, i s a mummer of thought. The Indian seldom balds, and many men would become savages solely to be as hairy as the bear or the pard. (SP, p. 96) Some Brazilian Indians are f i n i c a l about their diet and some w i l l eat anyone. They treat their offspring with the greatest respect, says Dahlberg, beating them when they are of tender years so that they w i l l not grow into sloth or nihilism. "Their women are very modest and never laugh; wit, the parent of malice and l e t ters, i s not one of the traits of primitive nations." (SP, p. 98) "Cannibals are not interested in...the occidental disease called love, and do not find i t essential to practice furtive polygamy, as a woman can be had for a knife or a hatchet."  (SP, p. 99) Our fate has been so far from heroic because we-no longer push back a l l limits and horizons as the discoverers did. There i s enormous metaphysics i n the lives of Cartier, Pigafetta, Behaim. For this reason one cannot reject as evil a Cortes or a de Soto; even their cruelties are Homeric, and I know when saying this that I am falling into the greatest danger of our times, our concern with aesthetics, which i s the avoidance of human and moral judgments. . One dare not make such a remark without realizing that Minos who weighs our acts and words has a crabbed visage. I f he did not men would k i l l a l l day long to employ a Pauline phrase. (EOOT, p.  Edward Dahlberg wrote this to James Laughlin. I t i s very untypical of him and i t aligns him momentarily with Williams and Olson; the various European priests and plunderers and the Indians and the CONTINENT are the raw material with which the American annalist has to work. Where Olson and Williams stop, however, Dahlberg, as we shall see, would go on. The Spaniards, Portuguese, French, and English found l i t t l e i n a l l terra damnata recognizable, save their own rapacity, and they comprehended that seldom e-  91 nough. "There was no V i r g i l or Propertius to lament the feral peccary, tapir, armadillo, condor, or guanoco."  (SP, p. 101)  The legends of a continent without household animals, timorous streams, and social birds, except the macaw and parrot bred i n the swamps of the SertSb, are battle Kabalah of creation. It i s told that after the Deluge the coyote planted the feathers of the various birds from which sprang tip a l l the tribes of men. (SP, p. 104) Many notable Indian tribes were spawn of water or land-weakened water and this accounts for their grum honesty" and several hardinesses. The epic sigH  nificance or potency of a region has nothing to do with i t s size, for the streams.^ of Palestine and the island-dotted sea between the Peloponnese and Asia Minor occasioned the Psalmist, the Prophets, and Homer. Contemplation and utterance are possible beside the s t i l l waters but "Large, feral waters confound the races of the earth."  (SP, p. 107)  The wafted American must look at, listen to, travel upon his great rivers, his endless humped and bowled land — i n the flesh and i n the imagination — to approximate himself to their secrets he does not now understand.  Only then w i l l  he see that a l l rivers are one and only then w i l l begin to inherit what Edward Dahlberg calls his "native agony". I read an article once whose burden, author and location I cannot altogether recall.  The name of i t , however, now occurs to me — "The Narcosis of Naming".  I think i t condemned the American poetic habit of seeking knowledge from cartography.. The last two chapters of The Sorrows Of Priapus shame the arguments of that article.  Before the kings of Egypt could have themselves sepulchred in  gold under the pyramids, before their people had the leisure with which to welcome their tutelary gods on this earth or hereafter, they had to learn to live with their River, also a great teacher and provider. pled i t was a morass."  "When Egypt was f i r s t peo-  (SP, p. 112) It has since given Edward Dahlberg one of  his most interesting poems, "The Garment of Rl".  92 Dahlberg chronicles the early assaults on the Mississippi by La Salle, whom he uses to prove one of his axioms about human nature —  character i s fate, or  we do what we are. La Salle had a February genius; he was a cold cosmographer, having fewer vices to moult than Cortes and De Soto. The Cava l i e r had l i t t l e of earth, air, f i r e ; . . . I t i s doubtful that he ever found the source of the Mechasipi which i s warm and f a l l s into the Gulf, because character, free w i l l and destiny are the same. La Salle chose Canada, and North America, a Golgotha's vineyard, as his water and burial site. (SP, p. 112) La Salle was a driven man and the harshness of his struggles set the teeth on edge.  In a winter before they went southward La Salle's men were forced to live  off the land.  They rooted beneath the snow for acorns, like the starving deer. 1  La Salle explored a territory as large as that of the sons of Shem; he was a greater geographer than Menelaus, who voyaged to Joppa. portion?  What was his hero's  Returning to New France, to Frontenac, he found himself unfavoured.  He shuttled between France, the Governor, and his River, created no colonies, discovered vast waters and a few Indians, and was dispatched in the wilds by a mutineer. The severest deity i s need, a god who confers benefits upon men who t o i l with chance.. .. Memory i s our day of water tutored by want. Water i s death but man must seek i t . A l l our seeming wakings are the debris of evening waters; most dreams come from mean shallows, and are the digestive rot of secure bottoms; prophecies rise up from the marine depths ancient as the Flood. We are cartographers, unheeding the singing maggots, or bereft of the Angel. (SP, p. 114) Finally, the s o i l ; the American, says Edward Dahlberg; needs to open his eyes (recall my mention of white magic i n Chapter One —  i t applies here also). "For-  est i s the hope of the disciples; more learned than the f i g i s wildest ground" (SP, p. 117) —  WHICH DOES NOT MEAN THAT THEIR NATURES WILL BE SEEN TO BE THE SAMEI  "Every country contains the minerals of Paradise or i s the barren ground for rough annals.  Art without austere weather emasculates the American....The bark  93 of the aspen and birch i s the food of the beaver; these are Laconian arts and meals... ..Canaan was fathoming the limestone strata of the Saskatchewan fringed with purple dogwood and dwarf birch, and populated by the pelican and the brown fishing eagle."  (SP, pp. 117-8)  Edward Dahlberg wrote The Sorrows Of Priapus f i r s t to wake up man to the fact that no wisdom hangs below his belt; and secondly, to show our continents man 1  just what his sleepwalking has done for him and what i n this place he must do to avoid further ruination of i t and of himself.  South America could be "Ariel",  as Dahlberg asserts; imagine and create as an Israel the orchards of cocoa i n 6 the pampas and the American Testament w i l l follow soon.  Our north i s the harsh  instructor; taiga and tundra are metaphysicians and admonish frugality. are no accidents.  (There  The Jesuits, who f i r s t bared New France, were founded by the  soldier-saint Ignatius Loyola.  Dahlberg never flags in his approval of Ignati-  us' s educational maxim, "The pupil should be a corpse i n the hands of a teacher.") The lonely American i s now dying and w i l l not rise from his Forest Lawn coffin u n t i l he turns to his teachers for his lesson. "Where are the l i t t l e h i l l s which shall bring justice, or the fruits of Lebanon?  0 Forest spectre, ferns, lichens,  7 boleti contain Eden.  Be primordial or decay."  (SP, p. 119)  There are two c r i t i c a l asides in Dahlberg's letters to Isabella Gardner and Stanley Burnshaw which I want to cite here before proceeding to write about The Flea Of Sodom. ...is i t possible for Homer, Horace, Lucian, and V i r g i l not to dilate the spirit? You must find the source for yourself, not directly in private experience; i t i s curious that though one has f e l t acutely, and that a l l , as Keats says, presses down on one's identity, the approach to his woe and travail i s through ritual and myth. One has to tread lightly upon one's veins or blast them into a great darkness. Art i s not straight and plain; were i t so, then a l l that i s chaff on the palate could easily be translated into a Golgotha or into the  94 Cana marriage wine. Quicksilver i s most useful in an ass's skin, for everything must i n some way be covered i f the naked truth i s to be found and deeply f e l t . (EDR. p. 291) The use of [mythological allusion] heightens the entire v i s sion, takes i t out of the Valley of Hinnom, out of drab, particular experience and transforms i t into a plural vision, a l l the experiences of other seers that pulse.... (EOOT. p. 287) I think of The Flea Of Sodom as a sort of gloss on The Sorrows Of Priapus; forgive the vulgarity, but mainly as the how to i t s what. It i s a recipe for epic behaviour and The Sorrows Of Priapus i s the mappemounde of the path to the gates of myth. The two citations above are appropriate because I want to make a s t y l i s t i c distinction —  which i s also perhaps an epistemological distinction  —  between the way Dahlberg treats the problems of personal economy i n The Flea Of Sodom and the way he examines them in his more discursive works. What lasts i s the past. Dahlberg*s essays and letters are usually less packed than the chapters of The Flea Of Sodom; intthe former the "plural vision" i s not so much the primary s t y l i s t i c concern of the author and the sentences deal more frequently with the mundane, unfertilized by legend. 8 as a result, more emphatically temporal  The essays and letters are,  than i s The Flea Of Sodom and this i s  likely the reason why the latter i s out of print. The Flea Of Sodom does not concern i t s e l f with essences — things —  no ideas but i n  but i t s subjects are like Van Gogh's Boots, which are in part the makers  of the, light that reveals them because they accept that light which i s not of their own making. Herbert Read says i n his "Foreword" to The Flea Of Sodom that though i t s immediate focus i s America, Sodom i s the city that continues, everywhere.  The  book was published i n 1950, when Read could point out, "...Stalin's tanks stand 9 ready to invade Tibet."  I contend that the source of a proverb i s as important  to Edward Dahlberg as i s the direction in which i t i s uttered.  Much of The Flea  Of Sodom i s Dahlberg's quest for his European and Near Eastern roots.  I f The  95  Sorrows Of Priapus says to us "Be primordial or decay", i t i s the Old World, as in The Flea Of Sodom, to which we must turn, some of the time, for our instruction in primogeniture. Earth —  The reverend and ancient l i t t l e lands skirting the Sea of Middle  Palestine, Attica, Phoenicia, Italia —  deliver their lore to us.. The  narrative sections (one of which we have already discussed) are applications of that lore to an approximately American situation. The f i r s t chapter of the book i s the chapter about the Sodomites, with whom we are acquainted.  The opening few pages are a marvellous way for Dahlberg to  speak after having been silent for nine years. Let us admit, going over the Atlantic was a tragic mistake, and that he who drinks the vile, oceanic froth of Cerberus l o ses his memory and goes mad....It i s better to be slain by a bow of cornel wood or face a warrior in a helmet made of the rind torn from the cork tree than perish by metal. The weapons by which man dies reveal whether he lived with the roe and hind close by the founts of Helicon, or i n Boreal, gloomy towns. (FS, p. 15) The marine exodus i s the sin of laziness, which i s amnesia. He who possessed his soul within the Pillars forgets i t beyond them. "This Atlantic nonentity, muttering Babel's homogeneous words, hatches his slovenly cities anywhere." (FS, p. 1?) The narrator of the Sodomites' tale takes the general perversity to himself.  He would be mythic, returning tb "the pruning-hook and Boaz's granary  floor" but i s instead rational/fallen, lonely, and given to loathing himself and a l l else.  We have noted that he i s convulsed by attention.  He i s no anchorite  by design, however, and i s ashamed of his solitude: Suppose I imagine I am Messiah, and I also think I am Judas, I just betray myself. The evening I went with the soldiers and servants of Caiaphas, carrying lanterns and torches through the rueful olive groves and over the Brook Kidron and cried "Master, Masterl" I betrayed Jesus for a kissl for the Galilean glances he had given the eleven and denied me. 0 what lore was i n the world then. "Judas, betrayest thou the son of man with a kiss?" Yea, Master. I f I am not Christ, i t i s a disagreeable mistake. (FS, p. 21) But the Sodomites give him no chance to be either, believing they require neither.  The narrator and the Sodomites are twined i n accidie and their stories  96 are essentially the same. In The Flea Of Sodom there i s a rough pattern: two chapters of narrative ih which a prophet tries and f a i l s to cleanse the doors of someone's perception a l ternate with two chapters in which a l l characters are subsumed by the vision of Edward Dahlberg, who i s Los or the Spirit of that Time which he smiths into space for the readers of the book. Chapter Two of The Flea Of Sodom i s called "The Rational Tree", which i s the Edentree whose juicy fruit we s t i l l covet. In Eden there are two trees: "Behold, I have set before thy face l i f e and death, good and evil: choose l i f e . " Every Prophet has perished, for i f man eat of the Tree of Knowledge he w i l l die, and the Angel with the flaming sword that guards the Tree of Life can never be overcome until men are of a d i f f erent shape, substance, and mind. (SP, p. 55) The Rational Tree is the parody of the tree mentioned i n the epigraph to Chapter Two, which Dahlberg takes from Christopher Smart's Song To David: "While Israel sits beneath his f i g . "  The simplicity and singleness of spirit implied  by this phrase are the ideals to which the chapter aspires. What facilitates them? Dahlberg's f i r s t notice i s that in our simpler past just weights and measures for a l l things were sacred. "In...Attica the idols stood guard over the market....Job puts his integrity, Archilocus his Iambic, and Shakespeare his Sonnet, i n the Balance."  (FS, p. 61)  The gods saw to ap-  propriate prices and recipes and the cities and people who feared them throve. "The Jewish Sanhedrin, room of Justice, was half of a round threshing floor." (FS, p. 63) The ancient city was sane, says Dahlberg, when one knew where to look for what one desired,  "...in Jerusalem there were separate gates for sheep and asses  and camels....Nehemiah tried to restore Zion by repairing the gates for herds and the dungt"  (FS, p. 63)  Would not our present cities be less despicable  i f we could be certain of buying a button or a bagel on streets beyond the redlight stews through which we could skulk to shop for a strumpet?  97 Good towns grow up by Bacchus's yews on warm nymphed seas twined in Poseidon's kelpy trident. Ilium, Joppa, Abdera are the cribs for pensive races until they are Caesar's; then the parable perishes like a Roman Egypt whose figs give suck to the asps in Cleopatra's Basket. (FS, p. 64) In the Old Testament the Israelites were at their best, says Dahlberg, when they abstained from what then was progress, metal.  War i s no glory, but Joshua's  followers yelled and trumpeted and trudged around Jericho; with the aid of Jehovah i t s walls toppled. Amos was a neatherd and a fruitpicker. was the worship of the golden calf.  Degeneracy  "What need has man to go beyond the sheepcote,  the threshing-floor, and the augur's timbrel? A mortar and a pestle are enough for a culture!"  (FS, p. 66) 10  Perhaps i f were not so intent on progress,  which i s ultimately the avoid-  ance of difficulty, we would not be so cast down by what d i f f i c u l t i e s we have to face. For example, our smallest diseases are a cause for frenzy; violence i s our pornography and death our new obscenity. Job pulled calmly at his boils with a piece of cooked mud.  Disease was not prevalent among the Israelites when  they were decorous and properly energetic.  Are we, or i s any astronomer the better  for being able to theorize that i n ten b i l l i o n years the universe w i l l expire, swallowing i t s e l f like a sea-cucumber? The Old Testament use of metal Dahlberg associates with "profane vision". The ark of the Lord was of Lebanon cedar and Eden was not a paradise of gold and silver.  "Not u n t i l King David was in his sere and peevish age, when he cut  the Ammonites to pieces with saws and harrows, was iron important."  (FS, p. 69)  The cure for our imperial blasphemies, Dahlberg says again and again, i s to be s t i l l .  "Eden i s in a chair."  (FS, p. 71)  to us are the ass and the ruminative cow.  The animals that point this out  The cow i s sacred to Buddha and to  the Hindu and Balaam's Ass perceived the Angel.  "...Cleanthes honoured Zeno by  copying down everything he said on the shoulder blades of oxen." When the times are unruly the prophet's voice i s s t i l l e d .  (FS, p. 71)  Either no one l i s -  98 tens to him or hel.does not speak (does the difference matter?). Dahlberg notes that after David and Solomon the prophets and kings were grumpy, and coarse or deformed.  Their faculties declined as "civilization" moved ahead and forgot them.  "Without livestock the Labans and Balaams are sick, and cannot be quiet, because there i s not an apothecary's ounce of ass's dung to relieve them."  (FS, p. fk)  Removal from simplicity i s the inception of the rational mind. There i s a difference, finally, between philosophies of legend and metaphysics, the difference of the easing Human Form. Reason that does not suckle on proverbs and racial images, which are the vine in the blood, bears the grapes of Sodom.... •Let me place my speech i n thee', recites the father, delivering tradition to the Son i n the Upanishads.... Mephistophilus promises Dr. Faustus Helen, but he w i l l not cocker his arrogance by talking to him about unhallowed f i r s t causes. 'Tell me, who made the world?' cajoles Faustus. 'I w i l l not t e l l thee', answers Mephistophilus. Empedokles rests i n Asphodels for putting the ass's Bladders in the h i l l s to catch the Etesian gales; Speusippus, inventor of the Twig Basket, frolics with the sea-trulls of Neptune who found the vetch. But Anaximander i s i n Tartarus tethered to his maps, clocks and gnomon. Who would hesitate to be V i r g i l or Chaucer rather than Aristotle or Plotinos? Proteus's shells smite the mind more sweetly than Anaxagoras's kosmos, and the Vedic Heifer yields more than Plato's Philosophy. (FS, pp. 86~7) "The f i r s t sign of a tepid theogony i s mealy, pinchbeck loaf of bread." p. 88)  (FS,  Moses was the word of God when he told the children of Israel how and  what to eat —  when he was not heeded the result, as Dahlberg says, was "the  botch and hemmorhoids", and, i t might be added, the eager tapeworm. The Prodigal Son "would fain have f i l l e d his belly with the husks that the swine did eat." Dahlberg i s amazed that the man who angrily breaks an idol which may be salutary i s himself no balm for the wound he has created by his destruction. Diogenes leaves to the vulnerable imagination his malodourous cloak and the raw polypus he ate and from which he died. Cato's last act, the fraying of his entrails, after he read Plato's The Immortality Of The Soul, punishes mortal mind as much as Socrates, pleasurably scratching his manacled shanks, as he prepares himself for the Hemlock, (FS, pp. 90-1) Karl Marx swore that the world would remember his carbuncles.  99 When Edward Dahlberg talks about the dreams of scientific humanists, his words would scorch their ears. A true conservative, he actually believes there i s enough wisdom presently available i n the world.  (Norman Mailer has an equal-  ly delightful test to determine conservatism: "...somebody comes up to you and says, 'Look, here are five men and here are five trees, which are you going to 11 execute?'...and you answer....'Well, I don't know, l e t me look at them.'" Progress looks ahead and must be an abstraction.  )  But what are we to say of these  words? Whoever desires to restore Ilium or build an Arcadia i s impious and insane. Heraclitus rebuked Homer for attempting to 'bring about the downfall of the universe' by removing strife from the world. 'The sun w i l l not overstep his measures; i f he does, Erynes, the hand-maids of Justice, w i l l find him out'. (FS, p. 91) Has Dahlberg finally relinquished credibility (and morality) for consistency? Does he advocate giving up even the human struggle or am I being unperceptive? Dahlberg*s attitude toward the Negro/Black/Afro-American "Question" may shed light on the paragraph just quoted.  He considers the slavery of the mind to be  as serious as or perhaps more serious than the slavery of the body. Also, he refuses to be a liberal and declare f l a t l y that the Negroes must be freed. i s impossible, for two reasons —  This  f i r s t , because Everymen i s like Falstaff and  w i l l do nothing upon compulsion; and second, because even i f someone wanted to "free the Negroes", many of them would resist the opportunity.  The colour of  his skin does ho*t make the nigger a whit more saintly or talented than whitey, r  though i t may make him poorer. Listen again to Norman Mailer on conservatism, this time i n a Playboy debate on that subject with William F. Buckley, Junior: ...the ceremonious conservative view...believes that i f God allows one man to be born wealthy and another poor, we must not'tamper unduly with this conception of place, this form of society created by God, for i t i s possible the poor man i s more fortunate than the rich, since he may be judged less severely on his return to eternity. That i s the conservative  100 view and i t i s not a mean or easy view to deny.  12  Apart from Mailer's metaphysical speculations, the passage would roughly characterize Dahlberg*s position.  Dahlberg writes in a letter to Allen Tate, "I  have told my American Negro friend Harvey Cropper, not to be involved i n racial strife.  He will be a remarkable painter, not a fusty abstract tool, and besides,  he cannot cure a problem insoluble at this time, and neither can I."  (EOOT, p. 262)  I believe that the style of the quixotic Poor People's March on Washington would be after Dahlberg's own heart; the participants hoped to impress "Washington" with mules and farm wagons such as those used to carry the casket of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior.  Some of those involved as leaders of the  March went on television and were speaking from a Washington church. An elderly and toothless black woman *dth a crippled husband told of the vermin that patrolled her kitchen floor "like a natchl man".  (However, another woman mentioned  a song by Bob Dylan which contained a reference to a caboose.  She said, i f I  remember properly, that poor whites, of whom she was one, were always on the last car of the train and i t was a good place from which to throw molotov,cocktails.  The newsclip ended then with the cheers that answered her fierce eyes,  her loud, uncertain words.) I do not wish to comment upon that fashionable intellectual, Stokeley Carmi chael.  Edward Dahlberg says, I would rather write a truthful .book which might f a l l into the hands of two Negroes than pass another law giving this unfortunate people the right'to vote in savage Mississippi. If you can find an American Negro who comprehends the Logos, you have freed, him, and translated him into Epictetus; no matter how much bread you give a man, he is...a swine only f i t for the masts and acorns Circe w i l l allow him. (EOOT, p. 174)  What gives-Dahlberg's argument i t s cogency i s not only the style in which i t i s delivered but also the fact that for the sake of the Word he himself has lived much of his l i f e unwillingly in the company of the termites and skinny rodents of poverty.  101  The false prophet would simply and totally abstract not only danger, but a l so grace and vivacity from the world in the name of ease.  A l l this would oc-  cur in time, that very human and muddled aether. "Time i s Caesar's", says Edward Dahlberg, "and those who dwell in i t can never discern the Paradise promised by the Angel of the Apocalypse."  (FS, pp. 93-4)  Sin i s temporal and i s  Babel or "the appetite for a universal ratiocinative Gomorrah where Ahab and E l i jah, the Prophet's Mantle and Nero's sacred beard, are of the same moral weight, and man and woman, wearing the clothes of sodomy, act as a single sex." (FS, P. 95) Jehovah confounds the tongues of men that each nation may have i t s own myths and names. When a l l races are melted into one theoretical people there w i l l be no difference between Shem and Ham: Luz and Gath and Tyre w i l l be the same, and each a burden to the eye and the head. The Moabitess w i l l be attired in Rahab's robe, crisping-pins, and wimples; man w i l l cohabit with man, and ennui and riot w i l l roar in his veins like the Fires of Gomorrah. (FS, p.- 96) Janus, the true prophet, f a i l s because he w i l l speak only parables to those who do not understand him (those who do understand him either l i e about their comprehension and oppose him, or bolster his wisdom with their own). Prophets, i n the modem sense of the word, have never existed. Jonah was no prophet in the modem sense, for his prophecy of Nineveh failed. Every honest man i s a prophet; he utters his opinion both of private and public matters. Thus: I f you go on So, the result i s So. He never says, such a thing shall happen l e t you do what you w i l l . A Prophet i s a Seer, not an Arbitrary Dictator. It i s Man's fault i f God i s not able to do him good, for he gives to the just and to the unjust but the unjust reject his g i f t . 13 -  That comment by Blake should be ranged with Dahlberg's "...character, free will, and destiny are the same" i f we wish to find out what Dahlberg wants us to understand about the function of the prophet.  Both Blake and Dahlberg put the  responsibility for vice squarely upon the vicious man — unless, of course, he i s imbecilic or mad.  However, Blake stresses the freedom of the w i l l and i t s  separation from chance more strongly than does lucky Dahlberg, who quotes Sancho Panza and who says "Evil and spoiling are i n the imagination of families and races"  102  (FS, p. 66) No one can invent a sane habit or one good deity. Man guesses, and comes to judgments after a study of saws and gnomes. 'What has most weight and wisdom pierces the ear'. Pastoral cities and theogonies are not premeditated; they just happen. (FS, p. 90) Perhaps Blake's Vision differs from Dahlberg's Memory i n that appears more emphatically to recommend action.  Really, both men are volunteers i n the Men-  t a l Fight, i n the action of the temporal intelligence against i t s medium; t e l ling the Truth i s doing i t .  I cannot t e l l whether Dahlberg i s an apocalyptist.  Prime for him i s the observed origin of a genealogy — Kosmos Pantokrator.  before youthful Adam,  Progress from that f i r s t i s degeneracy and a sin for we  know where we should look for wisdom and energy. Part Three of The Flea Of Sodom i s "The Wheel Of Sheol", the vision offered to a fool. ing.  Beliar has the chance to avoid ravaging Abel, his ancestry and feel-  Seven prophets create before him a fantastic reflective beast that i s man,  cow, and horse.  Apparently they do i t not overtly for his benefit —  i t i s mere-  ly fortuitous that he i s there. The prophets study adages written upon clods while Beliar works the ground for precious metals and gets piles for his effort. A deep gully separates the asphalt world from where the "cattle of Elohim" and the seven prophets s i t .  An olive -tree stands on the imaginative side and  beneath i t i s Wisdom, at whom the loving prophets do not gaze,  " . . . a l l know-  ledge that i s for the living God i s in the rear of remembrance, and as the face of God i s tomorrow, no man may look upon i t . "  (FS, p. 101)  Predictably, ra-  tional Beliar faces Wisdom and lusts after her. Beliar saw the wheels of Elisha's burning chariot, and the starry rings beneath Charles' Wagon loaded with holy censers in which were deposited prayers given as almst?by humble penitents. ..Beliar craved the wheels more than Ahab longed for Naboth's vineyard. ...Beliar stole the Wheels and hurried away into the earth with them, and lasciviously shaking before his furnace and s t i thy, he riveted iron bands around the Wheels, and then commanded them, saying, '0 Wheels, go, go,' and these terrible rings of iron went through the whole world. (FS, p. 103)  104 From that time a l l knowledge i n the world was infected and strife and l a s s i tude was between people and pests at l i f e everywhere, as l i f e enjoyed the perversion of dying. Beliar i s most pitiable for he cloaks himself as a searcher after truth but i s indeed Faustus.  "Beliar gnawed at knowledge and at space as  the worms nourish themselves upon cadavers.  For Beliar i s sick, idiot matter  in motion, and a l l his learning i s for going somewhere else, since the place hei s i n i s his a f f l i c t i o n . "  (FS, p. 1 0 5 )  I f Beliar i s born, he disappears from  his parents. I f he lives, i t i s to forge a graven image of Pandemonium. When he dies, he i s more alone than he need be. Man sins even without his own consent; for there are Sybaritic insects swarming up from Cocytus that bite the flesh, and cause men to l i e and cheat and shed blood, and infest the heart with such imaginings of sloth as to make men believe that the greatest good i s a gross, nostrilled sleep. •• •  A man piously passing a bough of dogwood or acacia, or just spending a sigh on a hungry urchin, at the same time, and without cause, i s fainting with debauchery for Jezebel's shoes or Abel's blood. (FS, p. 106) Time's touch at Beliar's hem makes him ever conscious that his virtue i s going from him.  He seeks the prophet, ostensibly to learn rest.  resembled an earthen pitcher of old wine."  (FS, p. 109)  "The seer...  Here are Dahlberg's  words in the mouth of the prophet: •Spleen i s a sickness, for after a man has loosed his bile, he must walk i n the valley of Kidron for a year to be quiet again. Three things you should heed and do: return to the world, but as a timorous stranger with a proverb in his mouth; second, be as nimble as a gazelle to run to a proverb, and as fierce as a lion to devour i t s meaning; and third, know that forgetting i s the depravity of sloth.' (FS, p. 110) The climax of the tragedy i s inevitable and immediate —  Beliar realizes  that the prophet too i s flesh, which i s grass. He smirks and the prophet s t i f les his anger.  Beliar returns to his blacktop world and his seven devils are  worse than ever they were. "Bellerophon" i s the t i t l e of the Fourth Part of The Flea Of Sodom and "Bel-  105 lerophon i s Odysseus the artist* (FS, p. 113) and he who took bridled calm Pegasus, slew the Chimaera, was beloved of men and who proceeded to eat his heart out i n solitude because at last, thrown by his mount, he could not assail Olympus.  "Every one honoured by Mnemosyne i s not a whole-born man...." (FS, p. 114)  Since Dahlberg holds the watery artist responsible for his time, i t i s f i t t i n g that the artist should learn his own limits also.  "Who demands more solitude  than the Muses exact asks for Acheron and madness."  (FS, p. 115)  This i s Bel-  lerophon, as i s what follows: No one i s on guard against his nature, for each man i s dear to himself, and thoroughly unprepared for his vices. It i s sin to believe i n one's character....Take heed, wily Protean dust, the Angel you saw by the river Sihor i s the lion, goat, and the dragon. (FS, p. 116)  i  In fine, says Dahlberg-to himself and to a l l those who would be artists or honest men, the difference between brute and God, which i s man, i s the mind leavened by RMORTAL TOUCH". With the mind alone, a/.man i s a machine and the heavens are not pleased by him. lives, gladden the l i l i e s .  The mind's "negations, provided the Lamb yet  No knowledge rightly understood can deprive us of  the mirth of flowers...Return to the Fig-trees beneath the walls of Ilium to chant to the timorous, dove-winged mind. Go low, Bellerophon, come down, 0 learned Dust, Wisdom i s our PRAYER."  (FS, p. 117)  Enough explication, or too much. I am going to f a l s i f y the structure of The Flea Of Sodom by failing to translate the three short proverbs Dahlberg has placed at the end of the book and dedicated to his wife R'lene.  I f the reader  has borne with me this far I hope the proverbs w i l l be as clear to him as they are to me.  I hope also that I have made Dahlberg so interesting that my reader  w i l l not be Beliar but w i l l obey the prophet and w i l l run to the proverbs and  106  gullet them himself. I shall now make a more serious falsification of the Dahlberg canon. A l though they may deserve i t , I am not going to discuss at great length Dahlberg's book of poems, Cipango's Hinder Door, which was published in a limited edition by the University of Texas press i n 1965.  There i s nothing Dahlberg hates more  than a c r i t i c who without cause hides a work from a reader so I should at least try to make myself plain. I doubt my a b i l i t y to discourse upon Dahlberg*s poems, both the book of them and the two long poems i n The Leafless American.  Harold Billings says, " A l l great  14 prose stylists are only a jot away from poetry."  I am uneasy but I think ra-  ther that Dahlberg's prose i s so good that his poetry i s only a jot away from it.  Indeed Dahlberg does occasionally take paragraphs from one genre, knead  them a l i t t l e , and reprint them in the other medium or genre.  Not possessing  dates of composition of his poems and prose, I cannot say which came f i r s t .  It  may not matter, but I wonder why Dahlberg would bother to write a work of nonprose i f i t could just as easily be considered prose?  1  Early i n this chapter I quoted Allen Tate on Dahlberg's sense of genre and after t o i l , I found I could not then make great sense of those of his words I used.  Further i n his Introduction to Cipango's Hinder Door, he discusses Dahl-  berg' s poetry this way and I believe I understand him better: Progression by association of image and allusion has l i t t l e dramatic interest, or even narrative interest, since evocation of the past of Israel, Greece, and early America of the explorers and Indians, lacks the immediate location in present reality XpflBecause I Was Flesh...Mr. Dahlberg's feeling for genre eliminates from his. poetry the l i t e r a l progression which i n his autobiography enables him to hold the past and present in a single timeless moment....The prose paragraph as poetic unit has a l lowed greater freedom of allusion and shift of tone than the verse unit allows; yet one must confess that the risk the poet runs i s not knowing where to stop. 15 Mr*. Tate does say that Dahlberg's instincts save him from being windy in his best poems but he does leave his friend open to censure by refusing to do just  107 that. The rough distinction I tried to make earlier in the chapter between two tones of Dahlberb's prose could be made more precisely i f we were to contrast the tones of his prose and his poetry. The range of Dahlberg*s prose dwarfs that of his poetry. His prose, nay a l l prose, tends and tends to concern i t s e l f with denotation.  toward lineal progression  Poetry (including Dahlberg*s) tends  to curve back upon i t s e l f and i s concerned with connotation. Of course my distinctions are gimcrack when applied specifically but the cross-fertilization of the two genres does not usually obscure their respective virtues and personalities. What I would say shortly about Edward Dahlberg*s poems may Be a paraphrase of Allen Tate's strictures of them — their occasional failure i s due to their not being sufficiently yeasted by movement and the accepted, unsymbolic mundane. Some of the poems I like in Cipango's Hinder Door could better have been cut, stored, and rewritten piecemeal as prose; some were not, and I say no more. "Six Percent"'iis a diatribe against usury. I t i s worthwhile because i t dramatizes the processional l i e of rising interest rates. Midianite princes, In Mack flowing clergyman trousers. • ••  "This i s the Sabbath, Sir, The day on which the Lord rested After creating the sea, the dry ground, And the banks. Be at peace." (CHD, p. 52) Some of the short poems are characteristically personal and we are saved from boredom or mortification because Dahlberg does not pity himself.  Were his cries  longer, he might be able to sustain them. I find the most rewarding poem i n the book the most recognizable one.  I t has no t i t l e and refreshes because i t  i s an ironic sort of ballad i n free verse, the only sturdy poem in the book that i s not ponderous, anguished, or oracular.  I shall quote i t in f u l l :  108 Beyond Thirteenth Street i s the horror of trade and the brutish labour; Beyond Thirteenth Street are the avenues of woolens, silks, chintz, and cottons. There flourish the drossy cravats, stockings made of the sod of sparrow's wings, poisonous, spidery skirts and blouses for stewed drabs. Nothing thrives there but the f u l l e r and the mercer, the furrier and the moth. I would as soon go the house of correction, Or be penned up i n the maw of a locust, Than leave my footprints beyond Thirteenth Street. I've heard there's buxom teal and widgeon, Gaelic bawds that roost i n the gutters of Chelsea, But I ' l l stay home and lay my head on Bank Street, Charles or Jane, Where I can baste a whore or the rump of a pied wren. (CHD, p. 60)  109  Chapter Five By God, men may in olde bookes rede Of many a man moore of auctorite Than evere Caton was, so moot I thee, That a l the revers seyn of this sentence, And han wel founden by experience That dremes been significaciouns As wel of joye as of tribulaciouns That folk enduren in this l i f present. (Daun Chaunticleer)  It may be his cross, but Edward Dahlberg writes best when he writes about himself, or better, about what i s closest to himself. Reviewing The Sorrows Of Priapus, Robert Duncan was distressed by Dahlberg*s ideas and accused him of making his own disgust a metaphor for the f r a i l t y of the human race.  Turgenev  said he wrote for his six unknown readers and Mr. Duncan permits his poems to be published.  Who can fathom a poet's vanity?  Dahlberg has never denied his  own. He started his career with two or three autobiographical novels and built i t that way to i t s peak, the catholick memoir Because I_ Was Flesh, which James Laughlin published in 1964. If this book i s a great defect, then l e t i t be; for I have come to that time i n my l i f e when i t i s absolutely important to compose a good memoir although i t i s also a negligible thing i f I should f a i l . Fame, when not purchased, i s an epitaph which the rains and the birds peck u n t i l the letters on the headstone i l l e g i b l e . (BIWF, p. 4) Because we are going to be talking about Dahlberg himself, we shall have to discuss i n greater detail heretofore his ideas about action and i t s conflict with fate —  since Dahlberg considers himself the source of a l l his problems.  "I have always blamed myself for everything except when I was idle and had the time to find fault with others." (BIWF. p. 4) In The Leafless American Dahlberg has placed a tiny essay about Oscar Wilde. He illuminates our understanding of the difference between wit and truth by t e l l ing a few anecdotes from De Profundis.  After Wilde had composted i n Reading J a i l  110  a long.while he was given white bread instead of the normal prison brown. He explained touchingly that he ate every bit of his ration, even the crumbs, since he did not wish to waste them. Says Dahlberg, "This was possibly one of Wilde's few chaste remarks, but i t i s a l i e . "  (IA, p. 66)  Wilde was by nature and mind perverse; he thought that beau, t i f u l l i e s are art....Paradox i s a sin because the man that utters i t i s more interested i n pleasing and amusing than in writing what i s good or just....Wilde was...penitent; but i t i s an enigma that a froward man shall repent but remains steadfast in his errors. (LA, pp.66-7) Emerging from his incarceration, Wilde had very good intentions; he wished to scotch malice and gossip by writing a lovely book. He wore a ring of lapis which had a scarab inset.  "Wilde also said, 'To regret one's own experience  i s to arrest one's own development.'  I t i s a clever remark and one has to give  i t very close thought to see how wrong i t i s . "  (LA, p. 67)  For Dahlberg, the difference between paradox and wisdom i s "The whole body and intelligence", a difference of intent, of effort directed.  Certainly a men-  t a l and physical attitude i s not going to resolve a l l human puzzles.  However,  i t would try to see that anomalies are truly insuperable and not intentional fabrications.  "Wilde thought he had to be waggish to the last....Man's f o l l y  i s that he does not know that his brain i s much smaller than his soul; for how few have enough judgment to know that the mind i s absolutely helpless and wicked without the s p i r i t . "  (LA, p. 68)  We do what we want to do, whether i t i s good or e v i l .  The saint i s gratified  by his charity and the mercenary likes to k i l l and to be killed in turn.  In the  absence of contrary evidence, must I accept rationalizations about "other-directedness".  I f a person grumbles at his lot, the grumbling, in measure at least,  appeases him.  Are we human animals like the tides, regulated by the moon?  Cer-  tainly our desires for anything, unless we are phlegmatic, go and come as ebb and flood.  The word "satisfaction" i s from the Latin and means l i t e r a l l y "enough 1  done". A satisfied person i s a mean ideal; says Blake, "EnoughI  or Too much."  Ill  We min down like so cmany clocks and rot whether we are unwound or no; we act so that our tickings may be the small sounds of pleasure at our own harmonies. We are emptied like holes and re-create our selves by f i l l i n g in those pits, our desires. What we do to wind ourselves up, to f i l l ourselves in, demonstrably does not matter —  i t gets the job done. Who w i l l wonder at our perversities;  i f they do not make us happy in some obscure way, why do we continue at them? It i s obvious that many of us aid the workings of Death against us.  If only  that we may have the opportunity for our v i t a l f o l l i e s , i t i s imperative for us to try to separate character from fate or to try to find out what we want to do before we do i t (in case i t may be pernicious to ourselves, as well as to others). It i s Dahlberg's claim that we inevitably do what we are and who i s to dispute with him that the illusory absolutes we create to aid us in the fight called Life are necessary (or who create us to aid Them —  what i s that differencet)?  Were Death truly preferable, perhaps no one would l i v e . ferable, maybe none of us would bother dying.  Were Life truly pre-  The elements are mixed in us.  Neither Socrates nor Dahlberg "dilates his throat", as Dahlberg says, when he declares that he knows nothing; he merely states his appreciation of the Universe. Unaccountably neither of them stops at that.  Dahlberg's irrational aim i s to  fight what he considers would disrupt his faculties, with everything he calls his w i l l —  which i s only as strong as his grassy flesh.  he would not be Edward Dahlberg and would, by now,  Were he not to do this  long since have been a grinning  skull or, what may be as tasty, successful or a nonentity.  The chances we  shall see he took on destruction before his task was more nearly accomplished were part of i t s accomplishing. It has happened that Dahlberg i s a person who has needed to account for himself in terms of his own personal myth, written on paper, in a book. He has had no choice and has failed diligently, he considers, in everything else he has attempted, except for a few friendships and some teaching (of course he would say  112 that to him these are as important as or more important than his writings; but his readers are naturally primarily interested in his books as they discover his works and days). One French writer said: "If I had my l i f e to live over again I would shoot myself." I totally agree with such a salubrious opinion, but at the same time no matter what the risks were, and they were infernal, I would only be a writer. Making a book, good or bad, i s the only cure for any disorders that I know. (EDR, p. 324.) Had I to do i t over again (and who has the heart to repeat even a felicitous experience?) I should do what I am doing. Why not? What i s worse and what i s better? (EDR, p. 330) Although each of us must assume responsibility for the maggots of his somnolence, who of us can blame himself for his energies and virtues?  The autobiog-  rapher of Edward Dahlberg makes sure his story i s as much his mother's as his own. Whatever energy I had, and was able to employ with some comprehension, I had derived from her. Had I not received some moiety of her strength, I should long since have perished, or made the hopeless mistake of the average who are sure they are alive simply because they eat, excrete and sleep.  (BIWF, p.  Her son does not record her saying so, but Lizzie Dalberg knew as l i t t l e (or as much) about the world as he himself has known. She was always the dupe of men and of a vague but fierce hope for a decent l i f e .  Nothing that ever happ-  ened to her ever gave this hope a foundation. She fled a normal husband for a lewd barber called Saul, who taught her his trade and got upon her a son.  "She  gave me her father's name to hide the fact that I was as illegitimate as the pismire, the moth or a prince."  (BIWF, p. 8)  Saul exploited her continually.  Edward Dahlberg says Saul could not have done otherwise; neither could Lizzie help being his coney, although he was not dear to her. Carnal expression was as necessary for her health as i t was rot to his blood.... Lizzie had no compassion for Saul and she never tried to comprehend him. It takes a long time to misunderstand people, and whatever we know about others i s only what we are able to understand about ourselves. Nobody can pass beyond the boun-  113 daries o f himself.  (BIWF. p . 43)  What i n s t r u c t e d L i z z i e t o r e l i n q u i s h S a u l a t l a s t was w a n t . s t a y i n one p l a c e and helped took her c h i l d  her l i t t l e  e n o u g h when h e was w i t h h e r .  her gullibility.  L i z z i e was n o b l e a n d e x c e p t i o n a l  L i n k e d w i t h h e r n e e d t o b e t r i c k e d was h e r o p t i m i s m .  was e a s i l y d u p e d f o r s h e h a d s t r o n g , h e a d y b l o o d . shrewd n a t u r e , p.  22)  L i z z i e was c h e a t e d b y t h e l a d y b a r b e r s 1  b u t l e s s hope."  (BIWF.  a n d she c h e a t e d them i n t u r n .  L i z z i e w o n d e r e d why p r i c e s r o s e a n d d e s p a i r e d o f  penury. When L i z z i e h a d t o d e a l w i t h a n d s u p p o r t  country  S a u l , t h e t h i e v i n g and a i m i a b l e  c h i p p i e s o f h e r employ, and h e r t a l l o w y c h i l d ,  soul only tolerates the suffering i t requires."  Saul of her d i f f i c u l t i e s to  —  t a k e and d i d t h e i r b e s t t o keep c u r r e n c y moving b u t p r i -  ces went up a l l around them.  the  "She  Had s h e h a d a more d r y a n d  she would have had f e w d i s a p p o i n t m e n t s  They s t o l e each o t h e r s  her  Lizzie  t o Kansas C i t y , M i s s o u r i , where s h e s l a v e d i n a l a d y b a r b e r s h o p  owned b y a man a n d t h e n o p e n e d h e r own p l a c e . in  He c o u l d n o t  hope  and h i s f e e t grew c o l d .  i t was t o o much.  (BIWF, p . 118)  When he l e f t  "...  She t o l d  her,  she began  again. Had s h e n o t h a d s u c h a s t r o n g b o d y , L i z z i e w o u l d n o t h a v e been so e a s i l y d e c e i v e d ; s i c k l y p e o p l e seldom s u f f e r from optimism. S h e t o o k s o much p r i d e i n h e r v i g o u r t h a t s h e n e v e r thought i t u n n a t u r a l t o r u b h e r back and l o i n s i n f r o n t o f her c h i l d a f t e r t a k i n g h e r c o l d bath; she stood b e f o r e him naked u n t i l she had d r i e d h e r s e l f w i t h a rough bath t o w e l . Criminal i m a g i n i n g s came f r o m t h e p e r v e r t e d h e a d a n d n o t f r o m p h y s i c a l strength. S h e r e j o i c e d b e c a u s e - h e r b r e a t h was a s f r a g r a n t a s t h e cows o f J o b . (BIWF. p p . 46-7)  It  was n o u s e .  The b o y s t a y e d  s i c k l y , d e s p i t e h i s s t a y i n a C a t h o l i c orphanage.  L i z z i e h a d h e r a p p e n d i x r e m o v e d b u t i t d i d n o t h e l p h e r c h i l d , whose was o f t h e i m a g i n a t i o n .  He c o u l d n o t e a t f o r r e f l e c t i n g u p o n t h e s c u t t l i n g  which p l i e d t h e a l l e y s behind Although e r men.  sickness rats  t h e barbershop.  L i z z i e h a d r i d h e r s e l f o f S a u l , she c o u l d o n l y be t h e p i g e o n o f o t h -  S h e h a d t o s p e c u l a t e , w i t h h e r money a n d h e r b o d y .  Could  s h e somehow  114  attach herself to a lusty and affluent man or some profitable scheme or real estate?  She could not.  number of suitors —  Before her son was eleven, Lizzie was raked over by a  especially one Popkin, whom for a while she married and who  swindled her of her savings. The parsimonious Kentucky Blue Grass Henry Smith, a jolly rounder to begin with, lodged with her for free when he was at her end of the river.  He did nothing but buy her a few ice-cream sodas, oysters and beer,  which memories she cherished for the rest of her l i f e . not improve and he was sent to a Jewish orphanage —  Her urchin's health did  Henry Smith had connived  at this and was rather glad to see him depart. Most of Captain Smith's delight at calling on Lizzie was annihilated by the boy, who stepped on his polished shoes, hung on his coat sleeves, or just leaned. Had he not used Henry Smith's fleshy, perspiry shoulders as a bastion, the boy's whole l i f e would have been different. (BIWF, p. 62) Seven years the Captain stayed with Lizzie; he retired from the riverboat and sank so into his own flesh that he hardly moved from the f l a t he shared with her. When he l e f t , she sued him for the back rent. The settlement brought her a clapboard house i n Northmoor, a nice village outside Kansas City. Lizzie was s t i l l bartering when she was f i f t y years old and her son was done with Berkeley.  She had by this time confined her investments solely to men, hav-  ing been stung sufficiently by foolish monetary speculations.  Lizzie was alarmed  at her facial dilapidation, though she s t i l l took pride i n her passion, good health, and ability to play the piano.  Whenever she had the vapours she went  to a quack doctor for an operation. Dahlberg writes of her as did Villon of his Fair Armouress: The tears that spring from the flood of Noah and which cover our nights ran down Lizzie's loose cheeks. What was l©"ft of her mouth? Where do the swelling hips go? And the skin dries on the wrist and hand, and the leg shrinks. Her bosom once could make a man forget he was in the dumps; and her calves ~ the skirt-chasers would turn their necks around to look. But that was past and so much of her had disappeared. Good Lord", we die a l l day long and every hour; each minute we age somewhere i n our bones. (BIWF, p. 159)  115 When her son was twenty-five and had graduated from Columbia, Lizzie retired to desultory chicken farming i n Northmoor. She had been courted palely by a quondam railroader with the delicious name of Circlear.  The best piece of writing  Edward Dahlberg has ever done t e l l s of her encounter with Tobias Emeritch, a wealthy retired picklerl  Emeritch's "wooing of Lizzie provides one of the high 2  moments of comedy and pathos i n our literature."  The Tobias Emeritch chapters  are intriguing simply because of the total contrast Dahlberg creates between his mother and this "dotty, rich, stinging merchant", as Paul Carroll calls him. Either Dahlberg made fiction out of truth or he combined the characteristics of several suitors — he was teaching i n New York at the time.  The polarity of the  couple i s so intense that God (or the Devil) exists i f Tobias was actual. The truth i n the story i s beyond the puling "real" or "imagined"; i t i s mythical and i s believable because Lizzie and her gherkinmonger are at once so fleshfast they start from the page; also, they forever the comic confrontation of Life and Death. Lizzie i s a v i t a l wreck whom only a sly wink could raise from the Slough of Despond. Needless to say, she gets none from Tobias Emeritch, who totters into her parlour, assiduously slobbers upon her hands, and collapses, exhausted, onto the couch. What was breathing or even rattling inside his second-hand suit she could rather surmise....He wore a silk cravat with stripes that hurt her eyes, and he had not taken off his muff l e r or galoshes. (BIWF, p. 175) He shakes his dusty umbrella, and Lizzie remonstrates that she has just mopped the floor; "Whereupon Tobias Emeritch endeavoured to put on his rubbers — which were s t i l l covering his shoes." Tobias talks like a Victorian novel; he admits he i s a l i t t l e reserved. He prattles about money, but to the broad and staring a i r and not to Lizzie, who seethes and frets with boredom beside him.  Like Lizzie, he i s concerned with  the state of his ascending and descending colon. It would be better had he none.  116 Peas give you gas, cabbage sours your whole system and one plate of spaghetti i s enough to rush one of your relations to a dealer in tombstones. Frankly, I would not eat i f I could avoid it....Walking would be preferable i f one had somewhere to go....If I could keep my mind on one thing long enough, I wouldn't do anything at a l l , for as soon as you do anything, you're sure to regret i t . (BIWF, p. 180) By this time, Lizzie thinks frantically that i f she i s to survive she must needs take an enema or count her chickens.  This i s a reverie and Tobias makes  another f i t f u l motion to depart, considering himself neglected. wears him out.  His agitation  Lizzie i s beside herself; has he come to propose to her or not;  and what sort of prize i s he, with a l l his blather of cole slaw, horse-radish, and mummified cucumbers?  S t i l l , i t might not be wise just to show him the door.  "Sir, I'm not detaining you; however, I have the utmost faith in l i f e . " p. 184)  (BIWF.  And she t e l l s him how keeping house and eacklers f i l l s her day. "Madam, that's not a day, i t ' s a whole l i f e , and i f you don't object to my saying so, a terrible one....What's unusual about Tuesday that i t couldn't just as reasonably pass for Monday?.... You take a l l the slops out of the business days and throw them away, and c a l l i t the Sabbath which i s the emptiest day of the week." (BIWF. p. 185)  A week and a half after Tobias's f i r s t intrusion, Lizzie receives a mincing epistle, ostensibly from his attorney, assuring her that he i s "retired in every respect", and though marriage i s out of the question, he would not mind seeing her from time to time.  His second v i s i t i s immediate and i s a greater calamity  than the f i r s t . ...she asked him, "How i s i t that a man of your mature years has never been married?" Tobias answered, "I was saving my strength." "Well," retorted Lizzie, "judging by your appearance, you didn't accumulate much." (BIWF. p. 193) Despite his audacious letter, Tobias has made a gaffe in even appearing; he and Lizzie know that.  She tries to needle him toward an understanding; when this  f a i l s , they go out to look at her chickens and then s i t to eat. food to me —  " says Tobias, " i t upsets my stomach."  "Don't mention  117 On the way home from a subsequent walk to the grocery store, at which Lizzie drygulches Tobias and makes him pay the b i l l , a storm arises. ...Tobias stood s t i l l to conserve his energies and to gaze with wonderment at the emerald meadowland opposite the duplex, and at a bull of tremendous girth which was looking back at his offending, gaping face with ferocious hostility. The rain f e l l , quickly gathering into a puddle, and Tobias slipped and went down into i t . The umbrella flew open and was blown over into the glistening grassy pasture; the bull pranced toward i t as i t descended to the ground, and butting i t f i r s t with his head, then gored the cotton material, and after stamped on i t . (BIWF, p. 202) Tobias departs and returns occasionally, tremulously making promises of miserable financial arrangements, which he does not keep. He i s always a jot and a lightyear from marrying Lizzie and she has not the malice to turn him away.  Her son brings his body home to her. and where had he been?  That i s a l l he brings, for where was he  The Jewish Orphan Asylum was one of the most important  places that ever happened to Dahlberg and he has written of i t i n many of his books. Who can say what the institution was really like?  Perhaps we would be  happy i f things never got worse than they seemed to be i n our childhood; instead, we are often dismayed to find that they become no better. "And down they forgot as up they grew,"  says edward estlin cummings.  In From Flushing To Calvary the protagonist returns to admit the defunct orphanage —  his transience must be fructified by the permanence of i t s ghosts.  But only i n the imagination can we even pretend to lay the shades which haunt us.  Lorry i s trapped in his present and the memories i n him are unwelcomed even  though he i s attracted by them. The superintendent was dead who had been his Jehovah. Although Lorry tries to vomit up his past i t stays with him, a cancerous chimaera. The years between Bottom Dogs and From Flushing To Calvary could not have  118  taught much to the artist Edward Dahlberg.  To live with his own past i t was nec-  essary to make the past of others conincident with his personal vision.  Here  are some of his words prefacing Lawrence Ferlinghetti's new edition of Bottom Do ...the defect of the novel lies i n i t s jargon. « •*  There were other authors in Paris in the early twenties, John Hermann and Robert McAlmon, now deceased, who had a passion for the American scene. With a l l charity to the dead and with very l i t t l e toward myself, I believe we failed because we thought we could not write about the midwest, Texas or Montana except in the rude American vernacular. There was a great deal of noise about regionalists then who were merely local dunderheads and yokels dt a Main Street intelligentsia. (BD, p. i i i ) What Josephine Herbst said of that novel i s also true of Dahlberg*s l i f e —  he  had to break i t s limitations, which were then his own, or they would break him —  he has admitted as much concerning his psychic integrity. Because I. Was Flesh —  indeed any of Dahlberg* s work published since 1941  spoils the reader for his early novels.  —  Bottom Dogs abounds in nasty, grating, 5  dated slang and in raucous and static set pieces of local colour humour.  "That  Racehoss Bladders", which concerns a hilarious attempted swindle involving a nag as decrepit as Petruchio's, might just as well be about a celebrated jumping frog; and Dahlberg has long looked sternly at the nostalgia of such writers as Twain and Bret Harte. The poet*s faculty i s divided; i t i s Janus-faced, one cheek is at war with the past, but in the other i s the dove and the olive-branch which means that he i s at peace with his memories. No poet can reflect a past with which he i s not sorely at war; otherwise he ceases to be truthful and his chant i s the siren's song which deceives the people. (LA, p. 19) Here we have then, another function of myth or*"the plural experience"; i t moves occurrence beyond (say) the Kierkegaardian categores of the aesthetic and even the ethical and into the realm of the religious. ality, not i t s effect. upon which i t i s based.  Myth i s the cause of mor-  But a l l this theory i s meaningless without the evidence For Dahlberg, questions and answers of morality are i n -  119 divisible from questions and answers of style. On Sunday mornings they had chapel; that was torture for the fellows; a damn good day spoiled; everyone was blue and down on Sunday mornings; a guy never had a moment to himself. Always some pestering governor hootin* his whistle and making kids stay in a l l for nuthin* too; that*s what hurt so much. Well, they had to go; sometimes a guy tried to get out of i t by going over to the hospital and saying he was sick, but they were always bothering a fellow's mouth with those nuisance thermometers, so as he couldn't talk and explain how sick he was. So i t was no use; they just had to climb up those steep flights of stairs, a l l marching in line, to the top of the schoolhouse building to the chapel. The opening prayers were just dryyas bones and a l l the fellows snored to beat the band; the more wakeful ones whittled pencils, and good guys in school got a l l earnest and red; the hell with them birds, i t was just because of them they had chapel. They made" Doc believe the kids really wanted i t , think of that. (BD, p. 80) Some of the boys had huge boils on their necks, cheeks and impostumes — which were called "Becker's boils" — on their heads. For years many had sore heads which were smeared with Unguentine and bandaged with white gauze. Lice were a common affliction, and the two nurses at the orphanage infirmary were kept busy with their fine combs. A continual discharge of mucus flowed from the noses of spindly 3rd-gi*aders. Had Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel forgotten them? Why was Abraham, who saw the angels as he slept beneath the oaks at Mamre, more blessed than these helpless oafs? 'Ai i s spoiled; run to and fro in the hedges. I chant the song of the fungus. I am clay, dust and maggots, but I shall not forget thee, 0 ye who wore bog moss and hunger, until I forget my crying flesh. They were a separate race of stunted children who were clad in famine. Swollen heads lay on top of ashy uniformed orphans. Some had oval or oblong skulls; others giant watery occiputs that resembled the Cynocephali described by Hesiod and Pliny. 6 The palsied and the lame were cured by the pool of Bethesda, but who had enough human spittle to heal the orphans* sore eyes and granulated lids? How l i t t l e love, or hot sperm, had gone into the making of their gray-maimed bodies? The ancient Jews, who ate dove's dung in the time of dearth i n Samaria, were as hungered as these waifs. Whatever grace and virtue we give to others comes from our own f e l l needs. We pray for the face we need and c a l l this intellectual perception. Without the feeling we are willing to give to others, the Kosmos i s vacant and utterly peopleless. Though a l l day long nothing was i n the ailing minds of the orphan-asylum Ishmaels but the cry for food. What these mutes asked for was never given. 0 Pharisee, when w i l l you learn that we never came to your table for the gudgeons and the barley loaves? (BIWF, pp. 75-6) Lizzie's child, Number 92, was given to puking, studiousness, and solitude.  120 At f i r s t , he did not like the orphanage at a l l , and wept because he was irrevocably separated from his mother,  "...at the age of eleven one of the few illusions  that he s t i l l had was that one could do what one wanted to do."  (BIWF, p. 70)  The food was institutional or, f i t not for human consumption but adequate fare for orphans.  The routine and discipline were as dull and harsh as the "meals",  though the orphans' lives were not totally dependent upon house rules, which they continually avoided and replaced with their own Spartan regimens.  One of  the most shattering events in the history of the Jewish Orphan Asylum occurred when one Superintendent died and his successor took over.  The small brutes were  quite ready for an orgy of leniency and a halt to famine. They sat at the desks with folded hands and waited for Simon Wolkes, who strode up and down the classroom in his hundreddollar Talmudic suit, to t e l l about the new orphan-home commons. In a long, solemn sermon, he admonished them not to be slaves of their stomachs; he delivered a Levitieal caveat, warning them never to use public t o i l e t seats lest they come by a venereal disease. Then he told them that they would be gray-haired before confirmation day i f they masturbated. After Wolkes' potent exhortation the 8th-graders were crestfallen; many thought now they were no better than fish who rub themselves against something rough, as Dio Chrysostom says, when they have the need to eject their sperm, and they were sure their legs were too hollow and decrepit to stumble back to the basement. (BIWF, p. 86) The orphans were not simpletons.  They knew Wolkes' epic walth depended upon,  their parentless misfortunes. Number 92 could not stop puking and he could not recall his mother; worse, he was mortified once when caught short by the Superintendent.  "Number 92 de-  scended into his legs while the water sang i n the urinal with the Jesus pensiveness of the Brook Kidron. The hallowed Adonai had forsaken Number 92. Why must Wolkes make his daily inspection of the toilets when 92 was on the hole and the Lord had fled?"  (BIWF, p. 81)  However, 92 was unfortunate enough to graduate.  The Jewish Orphan Asylum  "Confirmation" was his puberty rite and Edward Dahlberg's excuse and necessity to begin writing about himself in the f i r s t person.  "Until my seventeenth year...  121  I was suffering locality..."  (BIWF. p. 92)  Despite the ferocity of the orphanage, Dahlberg's very adult and unillusioned prose lets him see i t at least partially as a sort of solemn game. What else, at last, did the l i t t l e wretches know? Their sterile playground and the miserable standing water beyond i t were their Earth and Ocean. When these inmates departed from the J.O.A., either by graduation or expulsion, they found out what i t was to be an orphan.  Cast forth, they ached for the hardships that were fam-  i l i a r , rather than suffer a new pleasure. A l l that i s sepulchred in the bosom of man i s sacred, and nobody w i l l give up a single remembrance of a chagrin, wound, shame or infamy. Our past i s our only knowledge, and, good or ferocious, i t i s , for sublime or baleful purposes, the sole viaticum of the spirit. We can digest our childhood but never our present deeds, because no one knows what he i s doing while he i s doing i t . The present i s an absolute sphinx to men. (BIWF, pp. 90-1) Those words are prophetic. Dahlberg returned to Kansas City replete with ignorance.  A graduate of the orphanage at seventeen, he had no trade and desired  none. "...I had no conceptions worth the remembrance", he t e l l s us, and his brain was scalded with lickerish desires which he was too bumbling and scrupulous to erase.  Overtly, the orphanage had been segregated.  Always accosting a woman in a whisper, muttering, "Isn't i t a pleasant evening," or "What a dry summer i t has been," I was either ignored or taken for a noddy. Dressed i n a loud green suit that appeared very stylish to me, I must have looked like a Lithuanian factory worker. Sometimes I was so nervous when I approached a woman that she took me for a plain-clothes man and fled. On other occasions, when I mumbled, I aroused hauteur and coldness, even i n a harlot. (BIWF, p. 103) Dahlberg played then the young man's trick upon the world and on himself.— he went away: from his mother, from Henry Smith, from shrunken Kansas City, no longer the breathing Eden of his childhood.  His exodus was only self-deceit,  since he considered his ragged mother's thirst for living to be a drag upon him. He lied to her about his reason for leaving, "to make sure that I would be an orphan."  (BIWF, p. 115)  Dahlberg deserted his mother a number of times, and he  122  did so more often of his own volition than hers.  These partings distress and  embarrass the reader because Dahlberg never really used to leave her and he a l ways was perturbed that there was a connection between his ever-dying mindpicture of her and her true growing toward death. have a mother?  Would he ever see her again?  Did he  Who was she?  But freedom he would need, to keep forging his identity as an orphan, though i t almost killed him.  Dahlberg learned the Depressions's lessons at the end of  his teens. Toward evening I overheard one vagabond say that a platoon of detectives was waiting for us in the railroad yards at Ogden, Utah. A houseless beggar, I preferred to starve rather than be locked in an iron cage like a feral beast. Besides, the soul only tolerates the suffering i t requires. I did not go out in the world to have every bad experience there i s , but my w i l l had spoken, and though I did not know what-. I was doing, I must needs obey that oracle within me or live dead. A few miles outside Ogden I jumped from one of the boxcars; the freight was rattling against the tracks at about 45 miles an hour. I lay bleeding in the soot and amidst the sharp cinders of Acheron. (BIWF. p. 118) Some Americans have an easy pilgrimage across their land; Dahlberg did not. He starved, reeked, and went bald and alone. He does not remember when or how he got where he went and i t was of no account, for a l l his destinations were similar —  mean, shrouded towns which did not speak.  "In Needles a man walked by  and my fingers were bleeding between his teeth. Another who had eaten his lips slinked into one of those festering wounds i n a w a l l where the American lunches; there was one whose jowl was f i l l e d with morose hymns and suety sermons. They carried my youth in their bosoms."  (BIWF, p. 120)  A l l this was good for him, as his drawn belly strengthened his w i l l .  He s t i l l  was empty-headed and unripe for the book-learning which was later to make him, as he would say, a better thinker i f not a better^man.  Had he been literate,  who could say whether his misery would have been the less?  Perhaps i t was caused  as much by the squeezing meanness of the inhabitants of the Southwest as by Dahl-  123  berg's own insanity. Dahlberg's peak in Darien was Los Angeles, though even in 1919 i t was "a sewer of Sodom", and from i t he gazed on no Pacific. and i t was there that he learned what he was for —  The YMCA became his haven literature.  Lizzie sent him  fifteen dollars weekly and he read only good books and argued with the other boarding whipsters and fanatic vegetarians.  (Dahlberg also tried very hard to  acquire a social disease and failed miserably.)  This sunny chapter bears the  story of Lao Tsu Ben, Dahlberg's f i r s t true friend, who introduced our author to much fine literature and taught him the truth of Hamilton's adage, "Your people,  sir,  i s a great beast."  Dahlberg sent him to Coventry.  Lao Tsu Ben became a wealthy man, but utterly removed from me, while I remained a beggar, going to and fro i n the lazar house of literature for a few pennies a page. Lao Tsu Ben was the one friend of my soul, and no matter who has since said to me, "I am your friend," I s i t in my waste places without anyone except the owl and the bittern. (BIWF, p. 141)  Berkeley was where the scrotum of Edward Dahlberg caught up with, and outran his  mind. The gusto with which he tweaked the dugs of that sacred cow called  Higher Education i s most exhilirating. What need had I of the sour pedants of humid syntax, or of courses i n pedagogy, canonized illiteracy? I saw that anyone who had read twelve good books knew more than a doctor of philosophy. Had I not studied on my own the works of some of the Russian savants of letters and read the great English and Krench authors, I should s t i l l have been thoroughly uneducated at the time I received my Bachelor of Arts. Was I not ignorant enough without walking the earth with several degrees? A grocery boy with good sense i s more learned than many an American professor in the general arts whose stock i n trade i s ambiguity and c i r cumlocution. His wine i s a tootnote to a platitude. (BIWF, p. 143) The use Dahlberg found for books was to assuage his amorous longings. lived ascetically on nuts and water and shaved his skull.  He  Had he not been vir-  i l e , he says, he would have made of himself something like a Shelley. "One of the reasons that I did not k i l l myself, as others had done after reading Goethe's  124 Sorrows of Werther, was that I found the novel a bore."  (BIWF. p. 144)  I shall  leave to the reader Dahlberg*s Berkeley affair with the perfect Angelica. who has ears to hear, l e t him hear.  He  He lusted after her, ravished her from "an  automobile Hittite", was unfulfilled by her, and l e f t her —  for New Yorkl  How  many men have done the same thing, understood their shame and foolishness, and repeated i t .  "Pray unto God, 0 human gnat, for a wise mistake", says Edward  Dahlberg. Before going to New York, Dahlberg looked in on his mother for a while and was destroyed.  A l l his airs and learning were as chaff and stubble to her obduracy,  ragged in the face of hopelessness.  Because he could not accept his mother —  even when she shuffled past his eyes —  he longed for a father and she knew i t .  When he plucked an elderly photographs/ from her small brood of souveniers and plagued Lizzie for an identification, her lips were stitched. I roared, "It i s Saull Who else could my father be? I know i t i s Saul. My blood i s ruined; a thousand lusts boil in his skin and in his tumored brain. But where i s he? You must know. He i s my father. Tell me, I must know...or live and die unborn ...for I w i l l wail a l l the ho*s of my flesh i f I am unfilled by a father!" (BIWF, p. 70) ' ' New York was a Golgotha to Dahlberg, and he returned to his mother. Which was worse?  He was moderately learned and had written a few books but was he more  just for i t ? When he was not with his mother he castigated himself and vowed never to become peevish because she was a slattern. l i f e l e f t her in disarray —  His brain realized that her  but then he would see her and could not stomach her.  Perhaps because of him, she had to be the way she was.  They were each other's  burden. Let me say now that I have not the least respect for my moral nature. I do what I am, and though I would do otherwise, I cannot. I do not say this easily, but with infernal pain in my heart. Perhaps, after many years in libraries, I can prattle better than I did. Has not Addison or Steele asserted that no one was any better for beholding a Venus done by Praxiteles? Some are the worse for having read Swift, Defoe or Chaucer. Several thousand volumes are the making of a marvelous mask, for aesthetics  125 is It in  a style of living,  enunciation —  i s l i k e l y that Dahlberg f e l t  Theodore D r e i s e r .  ter,  fled,  L i z z i e was  t h e Reaper:  "My  t h e s p e a r and  affectation.  (BIWF, p .  He h a d n o t t h e m a s c u l i n e f o r c e , t h e f a t h e r ' s w i l l  e x p i r e d , and  97)  f o r h i s m o t h e r t h e same a p a t h y h e h a s d e s c r i b e d  him t o c h e r i s h h e r , a l t h o u g h a l laround him E m e r i t c h had  and  she hung l i k e a f o g .  After  within Tobias  s h o w e r e d a f o r t u n e a l l o v e r h i s b r o t h e r and  at her wits' f i n i s h .  Her  sis-  son s c r a p e d t o g e t h e r a r e s o l v e a g a i n s t  m o t h e r m u s t n o t be t a k e n b y s u r p r i s e ; I w i l l w a t c h o v e r h e r w i t h  j a v e l i n o f t h e mind."  (BIWF. p .  b u c k l e r o f t h e i n t e l l i g e n c e i s o f no w o r t h When t h e y p l a y e d c a r d s he  187)  I t came t o n o t h i n g , f o r t h e  save i t be p e o p l e d by  compassions.  c o u l d no l e t h e r c h e a t ; w i t h h e r p r o s p e c t s , i t was  i n n o c e n t enough; t o what o t h e r w i n n i n g o r s a t i s f a c t i o n c o u l d she l o o k ? A f t e r T o b i a s E m e r i t c h d i e d , L i z z i e j o i n e d h e r s o n , who Her  life  w i t h i n t h e b i g c i t y was  so p a t c h e d t h a t s h e s u r m i s e d  f r o m a n E d e n i n t h e weedy e n v i r o n s o f K a n s a s Since  i n New  d i s p e n s e w i t h t i m e i n h i s own  City.  c o n t r o l s ) , i t i s no w o n d e r t h a t h e life  story.  York, a g a i n .  she had d e f e c t e d  Dahlberg f e e l s t h a t consciousness i s a t r a n c e , the merest  t h e Dream ( w h i c h no man's w i l l  thirties,  was  parcel  can  easily  The d a y s o f h i s s t a y a b r o a d i n t h e  w h a t h e d i d d u r i n g h i s S e a s o n i n H e l l a f t e r he h a d  refused to  a n y more n a t u r a l i s t i c n o v e l s , w h a t h e d i d d u r i n g h i s f i r s t m a r r i a g e — tle  says.  T o w a r d t h e end o f h i s m o t h e r ' s l i f e ,  t h e o n l y p o t e n t v i s i o n i n h i s day-dream.  r e l i c s o r t r o u b l e h e r s l e e p , may for  write very  lit-  o f t h e s e e v e n t s i s t r a c e d i n any manner ( l i n e a l l y o r a s s o c i a t i v e l y ) i n h i s  a u t o b i o g r a p h y , a l t h o u g h s k e t c h e s o f them a r e  was  of  me  t h e t h r e e M a r y s o f t h e New  know i s t a k e n f r o m my p . 4)  Dahlberg  came t o r e a l i z e t h a t  dear  i m a g i n e t h a t she has n o t a l w a y s  been  Moreover,  whatever  I imagine  t h i s i s t h e memoir o f h e r body."  t h i s i s so:  becomes M a r y t h e V i r g i n M o t h e r i n t h a t t h e a u t h o r  like  es-  she  "Should I e r r a g a i n s t her  Testament.  m o t h e r ' s b o d y , and  P a u l C a r r o l l e x p l a i n s how She  no one  .to b e f o u n d i n h i s l e t t e r s and  I (BIWF.  126 Jesus, feels that no man really possessed her but himself; Mary the Magdalene in that a stable of suitors actually copulated with her; and Mary the sister of Lazarus i n that the author by conjuring back the ghost of his boyhood i s her brother, and during the hobo wanderings of his young manhood he i s always dead like Lazarus, until he returns home to her. (EDR, p.. xiv) Water i s the parent of dreams and sometimes of action, which i s compassion. Jesus was baptized in water; in water he washed the disciples' feet. the eyes of the blind with moistened clay.  He opened  In Because I Was Flesh, Dahlberg's  dreams rise and f a l l like tides, and when they are at their lowest he feels more inactive than usual. The dream of cardinal importance to him occurs late in the book, when perhaps he was existing in Hew York.  In i t , Saul was revealed to him  as a tender cloven maggot which cautioned, "...do not renounce me lest you mangle your own worms; no man can flee from his own worms and not be an evil to himself."  (BIWF, p. 21?)  The dream changed then, as dreams w i l l , and a Jesus was  revealed to Dahlberg, who had the hair of Saul and the long nose of Lizzie.  He  claimed to be the son of the Magdalene, whom he loved above a l l others. Did Miriam Megaddela Neshaya, the lady, barber who had dressed Yeshu's locks also shave and manicure customers in Memphis, Louisville, New Orleans and Dallas? Now I saw her standing at her regular chair, holding the comb and scissors in her hands, and when she laid them down for a moment, she folded the curls that hung over my forehead. Who was sitting in her chair — the Nazarene or I? There were large seals of bastardy on his chest and loins, and the gore f e l l at his feet, and I bent down to kiss the illegitimate blood. (BIWF, p. 218) As Jesus had no Joseph, he was despised and needed to invent his friends and disciples.  In Dahlberg*s dream he i s truly insubstantial —  no-body —  and this i s why he cautions his interlocutor, "take heed lest you  w  forget that the law i s never the heart."  (BIWF, p. 2 1 9 )  "No-place, no-time,  In the dream Dahlberg  i s torn between his concern to seek out his own paternal Saul and his itch to find out cheap rational secrets about the miracles of the Gospels. He i s quick7 ly silenced by Jesus* retort that "When a man slumbers, he can perform miracles." The next scene in the vision connects the boy Edward with the address of the  127 Star Lady Barbershop, his mother's emporium.  16 East 8 was his Jehovah for both  were seven-lettered utterances of the name of his parent and his God.  When i s  where i s what. Dahlberg, upon awaking, knew simply that he loved his memories of the unimportant shop and the sluttish alley i t hid. Is there no real revelation after childhood? Can we learn only by remembering what we f e l t then? Do our souls need dirt, l i c e , rats, mud puddles and woe? The sweetest fennel makes us indolent and gives antiseptic memories. We caress and stroke our --rotten starved years because the dream requires i t . (BIWF, p. 222) Dahlberg lived with himself and looked at his mother and knew i t was true. Her present and his were ghastly; their pasts were a l l they had, and what were they?  Lizzie wanted a future and was determined to l i v e for i t .  always been a l i t t l e mad; that was obvious.  Well, she had  Her son s t i l l could not see beyond  himself and since his constant thought was of his mother's disappearance, he avoided her, which was the same thing.  How could he truthfully imagine a father  and desire to find him i f he could not approach the parent available to him? The solution was to hand — he would get married and go away. The marriage was not superb, since i t was apparently quite technicalt. Dahlberg needed something to warm his Ibwer trunk as he slept.  Lizzie promptly pauperized herself, selling  her^Northmoor property for her son's sake; she gave him money, which she hoped would create the future she longed for them —  especially him — to have.  "Now  when I regarded this pile of palsied spirit and tatters before me, a shrewd, cold feeling came over me; the demon sat on my lips and smirked at mer 'Will she die before she becomes a burden to you? ' " 1  1  (BIWF, p. 230)  Although a doctor had said she would live long, she was comparatively quick in going under the earth's l i d .  (Dahlberg was not present when she died; nor  was anyone else.) "Nothing i s dead — neither Christ nor the widow Lizzie. Nor w i l l the Star Lady barbershop ever expire — because there i s no time and nothing 8 really changes." (BIWF, p. 53)  128  Edward Dahlberg could not save his mother. She would not have been his mother i f she could have been saved. He did not want to save her; he would not 9 have been Edward Dahlberg i f he did.  That was their (unchristian) tragedy.  His action for her could only be the result of the steeping of his imaginations error i n and out of time and the consequent turning from that error to admit i t i n art to her glory —  because he wa&Jflesh.  129 Conclusion "A lifetime of reading"  (Harold Billings)  Other essays could well be written to emphasize different aspects of Dahlberg's art.  I want to talk a l i t t l e now about these hypothetical critiques; I shall  also make a few conjectures about contemporary society from what I presume i s a Dahlbergian point of view. The latter theories are only that because Dahlberg has scant interest in being contemporaneous. He has not made any comments that I have been able to find, on our peace marches, hippies, or Marshall McLuhan. These topics have occurred to me in connection with the work of Edward Dahlberg: a paper on his use of water symbolism; an extended one contrasting his stance with that of Charles Olson and taking as a springboard Olson's comment in a dedication to Dahlberg of a short section of Call Me Ishmael; "...I imagine 1 you have turned...to the Mediterranean world, and Christ";  and finally, there  are at least three quite long essays to be done: one on Dahlberg's style —  this  could mention the d i f f i c u l t y encountered with the poems and could employ the 2 c r i t i c a l attitudes of Allen Tate; another on his sources; peculiar (religious) unorthodoxy.  the third about his  The emphases of my own composition have been  eclectic; generic, thematic, mythological, biographical.  Expanded and more f u l l y  researched and better organized, i t s claims could stand as a general introduction to Dahlberg's thought. At present, Jonathan Williams i s publishing a collection of essays in praise of Dahlberg; i t i s long overdue.  Harold Billings has collected and introduced  some perspicacious reviews and articles on Dahlberg.  Roger Beacham has handsome-  l y published them as Edward Dahlberg: American Ishmael Of Letters; this book i s now the definitive introduction to his work and iti'appeared just before his latest book, The Carnal Myth, which appeared at the start of 1968. Edward Dahlberg should be liberally represented in dictionaries of quotations.  130 However, such a lack of obscurity he might dislike; he i s disgusted by anthologies and inclusion i n them would tend to make him an academic industry instead of a deity of the hearth or the bedside. Allen Tate has claimed that i n Cipango' s Hinder Door Mr. Dahlberg i s obsessed with the theme that Abel i s our feeling because he i s our past?  —  whom we Cains have killed.  —  This i s the theme of  everything Dahlberg has ever penned and his variations upon i t are legion.  For  this essay alone I made hundreds of pages of excerpts from his work and often had to choose one of several astounding phrases when a citation was necessary. Sometimes I lost the location of a keystone sentence and could not then use i t for lack of a reference. This was an unavoidable lapse i n my memory, not my research technique; however, i t does point up the need in Dahlberg's books for better i n dexing (only Epitaphs Of Our Times has an index and i t i s next to useless, usually referring only to people and book t i t l e s ) .  I would like to know the location  of this phrase by Dahlberg: " f i r s t came NORTHING, then the Word, and then the apple."  I t i s a marvellous polemic and I think I have i t almost right, at least.  It sums up perfectly Dahlberg*s insistence that the intellect as presented l i t e r a r i l y i s naturally precedent in order of creation — —  to i t s evidence i n the visual or plastic arts.  and by extension importance  I would buy a Dahlberg concor-  dance i n a trice. No fewer than six of Dahlberg's thirteen books are out of print and at least three of them, The Flea Of Sodom, Truth Is More Sacred, and The Leafless American, should be so reprinted as to make them the transient inhabitants of a l l respectable bookstores. Those of his works which are now only limited editions — Cipango's Hinder Door, ago —  for example, was printed one thousand times three years  should also be made more readily available.  In Chapter Three I talked a l i t t l e of hippiedom.  Dahlberg has probably not  written any thing about "hippies", although he has taken time to club such men as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Duncan, and "Saint Anthony Adding Machine  131  Burroughs". I am safe, I think, in supposing would have no time for hippies. Their name i s barbaric and I w i l l overgeneralize about them to make a point — many among them are conscientiously i l l i t e r a t e and consider themselves spawn only of the Bomb, psychedelic drugs, and electronic music and i t s associated 3 technology (radio and television).  They are often beyond words or print; per-  haps words and print are beyond them. One need only peruse their newspapers to realize at least that these are the alternatives. advocatus diaboli ~  Marshall McLuhan, by default  whom Dahlberg would no doubt abominate —  present electronic planet i s perforce a village.  has said that our  Hippies make a point of pseudo-  primitive or communal existence, the best among them on a scale and in a style akin to that of the Indians or the nineteenth century comraunalists. to be seen whether any decent bucolic art w i l l result —  I t remains  the best literature con-  tingent upon contemporary bohemia so far has been Gary Snyder*s A Range Of Poems, and perhaps Paul Goodman's underground epic, The Empire City. The careful reader of Dahlberg w i l l find his conventional ideas of clarity of expression called totally into question.  Although Dahlberg i s rarely anything  less than complete comprehensible, he scatters punctuation, parallelism, verbsubject agreement, and reference of pronouns to antecedents. exactitude upon his staggering vocabulary.  The most useful book to have near  when reading him i s a foot-thick Oxford dictionary. time he writes with  He relies for his  I think that much of the  half a mind pour epater les grammar!ens.  (This has not pre-  vented him from being a most passionate student of a great number of writers who have imbibed the trivium and quadrivium as their mother's milk.)  He has claimed  that virtually a l l he knows about grammar i s that the god Thoth invented the semi-vowel. In addition to a l l the other delights which we have marked in the art of Edward Dahlberg, i t should be mentioned that his work i s , along with that of Jorge Luis Borges, perhaps, the twentieth century's most comprehensive guide to worldi  132 literature.  To have his books as companions would necessitate nothing less  than what he proffers,-a "lifetime of reading".  (He could and should be imi-  tated too — i f he i s acknowledged — for recognition and praise feed the soul and influence intelligently absorbed perpetuates art.) To conclude, here i s a sentence from a letter Dahlberg sent to Robert M. Hutchins: "I have human fervour, and whenever I meet anybody I do a l l I can to drive him to a sage book."  (EOOT, p. 23) If, as a result of having fared through  this essay, my reader thinks as much of me — which i s to say, i f he feels constrained to read the works of Edward Dahlberg, I shall have achieved what I set out to do.  133  Notes Abstract 1.  Jonathan Williams, "Edward Dahlberg's Book of Lazarus," in Harold Billings. (ed.), Edward Dahlberg: American Ishmael of Letters, Selected C r i t i c a l Essays With an Introduction, Austin, Roger Beacham, 1968, p. 27.  Introduction 1.  Allen Tate, "Is Literary Criticism Possible?" in Collected Essays. Denver, Alan Swallow, 1959, p. 474.  2.  Ibid., p. 478.  3.  Ibid., p. 481.  4.  Ibid., p. 482.  5.  Ibid., p. 486.  6.  John Aubrey, Brief Lives (ed. Oliver Lawson Dick), London, Seeker and Warburg, 1949, p. 214.  7.  I suspect my perusal of the art of Edward Dahlberg has been to me as a tight curb. I have been shown the folly of my lazy reading habits — they waste time. Perhaps I may recover some of the energy which I had i n the reading of my childhood when The Jungle Book. Tom and the Water-Babies, The Secret Garden. The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Penrod, Tom Brown's Schooldays, Pinocchio, and Wind In The Willows were my manna. Of course I do not consider that to study these books i s now my sole inclination. A l though peace i s not escapism, I quite concur with Edward Dahlberg when he writes, As for me, I can find l i t t l e or no contentment save i n the balsam of poetry or criticism or belles lettres; l e t i t be Raleigh or Swift or Hazlitt or The Forlorn Demon, for I can l i e a dreaming with a boke, and imagine myself stretched upon that oxhide i n Iberia where Menelaus once slept. (AFO. p. 166) Chapter One  1.  S i r Philip Sidney, "The Defense of Poesie", in O.B. Hardison, J r . (ed.), English Literary Criticism: The Renaissance, New York, Appleton-CenturyCrofts, 1963, p. 104.  2.  Ibid., p. 100.  134 3.  Read Kenneth Burke, "Magic and Religion", in Perspectives by Incongruity (ed. Stanley Edgar Hyman), Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1964, pp. 118-122.  4.  Paul Carroll, "Introduction" to The Edward Dahlberg Reader, Kew York, New Directions, 196?, p. xiv.  5.  Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, London, Allen and Unwin, 1965, p. 592. (I would contrast Dahlberg to William Blake in this respect; Blake in his Prophetic Books sacrifices drama for consistency.)  6.  Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Ingenious Gentleman, Don Quixote de la Mancha, in The Portable Cervantes, translated by Samuel Putnam, New York, Viking, I960, p. 698.  7.  Ibid., p. 700.  8.  Edward Dahlberg, "Further Sorrows of Priapus", in James Laughlin (ed.), New Directions in Prose and Poetry # 19. New York, New Directions, 1966, p. 75.  9.  Robert Duncan, "Against Nature", Poetry 9Jt, Chicago, 1959, p. 57.  10.  Ibid., p. 59. (There i s an interesting counterblast to this sort of Lawrentian proclamation in one of Dahlberg*s letters on Lawrence in Truth Is More Sacred, p. 89: "He who trusts his blood i s stubble and chaff i n the wind, and knows not where he i s to be driven. The blood i s deceitful and unstable, and i t changes i t s shape as often as avarice, sloth, vanity and stupidity beckon i t to be the goat, the swine, or the ass.")  11.  Yvor Winters, "The Significance of The Bridge by Hart Crane, or What Are We to Think of Professor X?", in In Defense Of Reason, Denver, Alan Swallow, 1947, p. 109.  12.  Allen Ginsberg, Kaddish and Other Poems. 1958-60, San Francisco, City Lights, 1961, p.. 45.  13.  Ibid.,  14.  Yvor Winters, The Function Of Criticism, Denver, Alan Swallow, 1957, p. 200.  15.  Genesis 5:24.  pp. 83-5.  Chapter Two 1.  Sir Herbert Read, "Foreword" to Edward Dahlberg, Alms For Oblivion, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1964, p.. v i i i .  2.  Loc. c i t .  3.  Loc. c i t .  135  4.  Dahlberg, "Further Sorrows Of Priapus", i n Laughlin, op_. c i t . , p. 75.  5.  Henry David Thoreau, " C i v i l Disobedience", in Sculley Bradley, Richard Croora Beatty, E. Hudson Long (eds.). The American Tradition In Literature, New York, W.W. Norton, 1967, p. 740.  6.  Henry David Thoreau, Walden, in Bradley, Beatty, and Long, OJD. c i t . , p. 720.  7.  Henry David Thoreau, The Journals, quoted in Robert E. Spiller, Willard Thorp, Thomas H. Johnson, and Henry Seidel Canby, Literary History of the United States, New York, Macmillan, I960, p. 400.  8.  Read, "Foreword" to Dahlberg, Alms for Oblivion, pp. ix-x.  9.  Tate, Collected Essays, p. 60.  10.  Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio. New York, Penguin Books, 1946, pp. 130-1.  11.  Ibid., p. 153.  12.  Earlier in Truth Is More Sacred Dahlberg writes, "It i s not my purpose to judge the lives of the poets, for they are vain a l l day long and more amorous than the quail or the partridge." (p. 19) Ezra Pound has recently been reported as disclaiming — once to no less than Allen Ginsberg — his Cantos, calling them "a botch". Ginsberg was happy to find that Pound i s no longer an anti-Semite and hastened to assure him that many readers and poets considered that the Cantos had aided them greatly.  13.  Read, p_p_. c i t . . i n Dahlberg, Alms For Oblivion, p. ix. Chapter Three  1.  Edouard Roditi, "Prophet or Pedant", Poetry 77. p. 236.  2.  loc. c i t .  3.  Thoreau, " C i v i l Disobedience", in Bradley, Beatty, Long, op_. c i t . , p. ?28.  4. 5.  Allen Tate, "The Function of a C r i t i c a l Quarterly", i n op., c i t . , pp. 65-66. Allen Tate, "Foreword" to Edward Dahlberg, Cipango's Hinder Door, Austin, University of Texas Press, I965, p. 8.  6.  Charles Olson, "Human Universe", i n Selected Writings (edited and with an introduction by Robert Creeley), New York, New Directions, I966, p. 58. The relationship between Olson and Dahlberg i s most fascinating. They refer to each other i n the work they published in the 1940's. Olson took over a teaching position vacated by Dahlberg at Black Mountain College. The difference between tfoeir stances i s obvious, vast, and perhaps irreconcilable. Olson embraces "barbarity"; Dahlberg observes i t and i s usually bemused or disgusted by i t . "Civilization" to Dahlberg denotes an order the human being can at least notice, i f not impose; to Olson, i t means a human satisfaction with the lack of hierarchy i n Nature. "Human Universe" i s built  136 around one key word — unselectedness. I have thought much about the relationship between the ideas of these two men. An exhaustive comparison of their achievements i s very necessary; they are, I think, the pivotal figures of twentieth century American literature. 7.  8.  9'i1  in,..  Kenneth Burke, "William Carlos Williams: Two Judgments", in J . H i l l i s Miller (ed.), William Carlos Williams: A Collection of C r i t i c a l Essays. Englewood C l i f f s , Prentice-Hall, 1966, pp.""51-2. The trade-unionists are, as Josephine Herbst once very accurately remarked, dinner-pail apostles of wages, hours, and comforts — the three beasts that today are together devouring Conscience, Honesty, and Justice. The lodestar of the trade-unionist i s apathy, and his indifference to the people i s as cynical as that of the money Borgia, the college professor, and the writer. The ancient prophet weighed the egg as carefully as he did the law, the spirit, the wine, and the o i l of the people. Do the trade unions, the professors, or the poets go out like angry Gideons to combat thieves, usury, cartels, milk at twenty-three cents a quart or beef at a dollar-ten a pound? The nation has become booty, and no one advises the impotent people punished by thievish prices and draconian taxes, that what matters most i s not the auto pleb, the college professor, or the writer, but good workmanship, learning, and literature. (AFO. p. 86) Dahlberg likes guerilla tactics. In Can These Bones Live (p. 38) there i s the ancestor to this idea. He i s talking about the Communist apostates who in their violence have kissed the State rod. Were they even true militants of revolutionary coercion, they would go into the pulsing streets of every city and industrial center and enact the unspeakable horror of the hydra, WAR, just as the English troupe used to do as i t went from one hamlet to another with the Passion Play. They would inculcate the General Strike and organize with syndicalist imagination guerilla strikes in every town to destroy the mysticism df the State, to recreate the people, and to make them ready for their own odyssey.  10.  In Canada, the story of Louis Riel was made into a television play a few years ago by the Canadian Broadcasting Company — i t may have won an award. I saw the script and i t claimed that the play had not yet been produced for the professional stage. At the University of British Columbia, I heard Bruno Gerussi recite Riel's vindication of himself. Dahlberg i s right when he says "Society i s clairvoyant, knows how to govern, when to load i t s musket, when to erect an obelisk — when to canonize." (CTBL. p. 15) Had that drama and that soliloquy been staged by brutalized Me*tis from Faust, Alberta, right in front of the Houses of Parliament during (say) the Flag Debate, the members of the entire company would have been clapped i n irons. Or maybe they would have been interviewed by Norman DePoe or Ron Collister and their yells would have rated a one-minute spot on the late night news.  11.  It i s proper to clear some ambiguity I may be causing. As a Canadian in  13?  Canada I sometimes feel embarrassed to be writing ready equations about the United States, a country much more deeply, or perhaps just more obviously stricken than my own. Marshall McLuhan has said, I think, that no-one knows more about Americans than Canadians. This i s a vanity; on such a scale, probably no one knows (more) about anything. The main differences between Canada and the United States — I know i t i s blasphemous to lay blanket descriptive phrases on two hundred and f i f t y million people — are that we are in Canada more solitary than Americans; most of us, like most of them, are not indigenous, though we are spread more thinly. We bark through the telephone more than any other animal on the face of the globe. We are much cannier than Americans i n our discriminations — we do not admit the existence of our minorities upon whom we tread. We are more timorous than Americans, which i s usually taken for a fihely-honed conservatism. This i s a sorry falsehood and a linguistic perversion; we have a weaker sense of history than those to the south of us. The French have been in this country as settlers as long as the Puritans, the British as conquerors and settlers longer than the Declaration of Independence. Have we produced a great, even i f wounded literature, visual art, or music? Have we accounted for much of our non-autochthonous behaviour i n epic terms? We have not; I suspect we have given i n too much to the SPACE, the rocks, the woods, the rivers, the climate, the Church, and lucre. Our heroes are the mammon Company of Adventurers of England Trading Into Hudson's Bay and the prehensile Royal Northwest Mounted Police. What a shame i t i s we did not learn of the Indian and the buffalo and the lakes before we decimated them. We have not been wrenched by the Enlightenment out of our ecclesiastical robes; electronics i s doing that, and the process w i l l likely go to completion after we have decorously ommitted the twentieth century and before we know who we are. Art, like people, may be obsolete before we realize what we might have done with i t . Canada possesses the weathers of Russia without i t s passions, which are likely the results of a millenium of muzhiks and their nobility, seethed together. Canada also has much of the wealth and style of the United States without the guilt and hysteria Americans are starting to see are concomitant with the abuse of that wealth and style. We are a nation of pygmies, very lucky, we think, and certainly very subtle. Personally, I am apprehensive; we may well have spent our Centennial wrongly, as a gigant i c , misplaced, ineffectual, and Narcissistic puberty r i t e . 12.  Karl Shapiro, "To Abolish Children", Esquire Magazine. April, 1968, pp. 119121.  13.  G. Legman, The Fake Revolt. New York, Breaking Point Press, 1967.  14.  Lately I bought a pound of unground wheat for eighteen cents a pound at a tiny health-food store near my house. The ground cereal grain I buy in a supermarket costs twenty-nine cents the two-pound box. It i s manufactured in bulk. I could buy a cereal that has certain additives to prevent spoilage during i t s t r i p from i t s manufacturer (who could just as well be across the inlet as a thousand miles or fifteen hundred miles away) to my cookingpot. I shall not bother defending the self-evident morality of pure foods; what dismays me i s the fact that had I a wish to duplicate or alter — in way control — the composition ofraybreakfast cereal with the wholesome grains I could buy, measure, combine and grind in small lots of a few pounds, from local distributors, the difference in cost would rise with every pound of whole grain I chose to buy.  138 15•  I f the reader now refers to the Duncan incident recounted i n Chapter Two, he may wonder about my credibility or consistency. I think that Dahlberg distrusts acquiescence with a Hebraic biliousness. However, his relationships with his friends tumble him, i t seems, into his own trap. Our necessity to overcome loneliness should be at least partially recognized as a desire to avoid infinitude (or should I say, chaos?), which i s the loneliness,of God. Job sat on a very temporal dunghill and did not compromise. This may have been shrewd. Perhaps I am caught between walls of possibility, and have failed my language or am traduced by i t . "Resolve these ambiguities who can?" (CTBL. p. 3) (Having purchased Edward Dahlbergt American Ishmael Of Letters after I had finished this essay, I was intrigued to find my judgment of Dahlberg*s relationships with his friends i s just that of Kay Boyle, who writes in that book on this subject. I t eases one to be i n good company. Allen Tate has said that he often finds his most independent judgments to be his most conventional ones. Chapter Four  1.  Tate, "Foreword" to Dahlberg, Cipango's Hinder Door, p. 8.  2.  Ira Sandperl, "Peace as P i t f a l l " , Institute for the Study of Mon-Violence Journal. #4, Carmel, California, November, I967, P» *3«  3*  I Edward Dahlberg:. American Ishmael of Letters, Professor Joseph Slate has some extremely valuable insights into the technique of The Sorrows Of Priapus. He notes that Dahlberg achieves his effects by the use of irony and the apothegm. The double nature of Priapus / forgetful man i s explored in many ways: Dahlberg varies his mode of diction from clause to clause; he employs parallelism; he twists his syntax ("Ham and his ; son Cush were the original artists, for painting i s a l l about the nudity of other people and ourselves"). The most important idea Slate has about apothegms i s this: n  Each sentence stands alone. The lack of connection by pronouns i s significant. The paragraph i s a collection of separate sentences, not a logically related unit. This discontinuity not only demands of the reader an unusual capacity for seeing unity where i t i s not apparent ("a book for brave readers and poets", Dahlberg calls The Sorrows), but i t also turns the reader back to a time almost lost in the mists of literary history when the bestiary was a p r i mordial l i s t , a creative ritual, and very close to myth. (p. 81) Exactly. This statement amplifies what noted, f i r s t , about Edward Dahlberg* s view of the world — that i t i s composed of everlastingly discrete particles whose job i t i s to at least try to come together; and second, my perception that Dahlberg's paragraph i s structurally most eccentric, in that i t often takes the slightest account possible of lineal progression and the ordinary cohesion that progression i s considered to offer. 4.  William Carlos Williams, "The Destruction of Tenochtitlan", in In The American Grain, New York, New Directions, 1956, pp. 31-2.  139 5.  I realize that for a fable I am neglecting Lord Acton's saw which i s applicable to a l l nations with imperial egoes but the cliche' broadcast against Lyndon Baines Johnson — that he considers himself "President of a l l the people" — may be analogous to the ancient conception native to the Chinese — that China i s the centre of the earth.  6.  See Ciro Alegria, The Golden Serpent. Toronto, The New American Library Of Canada (Signet Classic CP 114), 1963. This book i s exactly what Dahlberg talks about; i t i s a group of short stories about the half-Indian inhabitants of the banks of the Marandh River of Peru. They go forth upon their treacherous river with slender balsa rafts and their bravery i s matched only by the extent to which they are oppressed by the central government at Lima. Their story i s not told naturalistically, however, and makes a legend of the river and the courage of the men and women who live beside i t and who love i t and each other.  7.  My aim in discussing The Sorrows Of Priapus was not primarily to say something new, although I hoped that I would be able to do so. I was a bit worried, as in Chapter Two, about repetition and tried to achieve a mosaic's tension, not tedium, by attacking the same very resonant Dahlberg themes from different flanks. (Be i t said that Dahlberg i s himself as repetitive as the Bible, Shakespeare, or Marx, and i s forever saying the same thing with but a generic difference) Here i s a comment by Harold Billings, who introduces perceptively The Leafless American; There i s a lifetime of reading in this jworkjalone, for Dahlberg i s so much, so complex, he cannot be reduced to explication. He can only be read, re-read, and accepted as a writer unique, and uniquely American. I agree with Mr. Billings — Dahlberg does not lend himself to paraphrase. My style in the section on The Sorrows Of Priapus i s pallid Dahlberg. The parody i s unintentional and results from my drive to understand him. I hope imitation i s the sincerest form of appreciation, not flattery; better, I hope we become what we behold. [EccoviI Judge.yeJ Have I dug him up again?] In a way, i t i s pernicious to read a great writer, for i f , as a result, one's perceptions become more acute, then only he i s to blame, and not those many he has metamorphosed — any of whom might have done the same for us, and a l l of whom might have done much more. Of course, the solution to the problem is to read everything. But we must always be ware of what Allen Tate names the*authority...not visibly earned."  8.  A semantic curiosity deserves mention here: the word "extempore" can connote freshness and vivacity. Dahlberg would agree soon that The Flea Of Sodom i s a more vivacious work that his essays or letters.  9.  Sir Herbert Read, "Foreword" to Edward Dahlberg, The Flea Of Sodom. New York, New Directions, 1950, p. 9.  10.  We canonize Newton, whom John Barth says was an invert; Copernicus, who was  140  almost pathically timorous and irascible; and (I think i t was) Kepler, who likely had not a moment's rest, so plagued was he by disease and the mutab i l i t y of princely favour. I do not complain about their exploits, which eradicated cumbrous habits of thoughts. But they also gave us the space race, the value of which today i s doubtful; and for a l l their intelligence, were they better people or did they have great joy of i t ? I am not denigrating wisdom; I just Co point out that often i t has nothing to do with anything but i t s e l f — Koestler's t i t l e for his book about the cosmographers i s so apt; he called i t The Sleepwalkers. :  11. Norman Mailer, The Way_ It Is, CBC Television, March 3, £968. 12.  Norman Mailer, The Presidential Papers, Bantam Books, Toronto, 1964, p. 172.  13-  William Blake, "Annotations to Watson", in The Complete Works (ed. Geoffrey Keynes), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 392.  14.  Harold Billings, "Introduction" to Edward Dahlberg, The Leafless American , Sausalito, Roger Beacham, I967, p. v i i i .  15.  Tate, "Foreword" to Dahlberg, Cipango's Hinder Door, pp. 8-9.  Chapter Five 1.  William Blake, "Marriage of Heaven and Hell", i n 00. c i t . , p. 152.  2.  Paul Carroll, "An Introduction t'o Edward Dahlberg", i n The Edward Dahlberg Reader, p. xiv.  3.  It i s uncanny; Tobias's words could come straight from The Sorrows Of Priapus or Reasons Of The Heart (this more appropriately). However, he could never say with Dahlberg, " A l l of l i f e i s a mistake, and I mean to commit i t as valiantly as I can." The body bites i t s thumb at wisdom and the meaning of words depends greatly upon how they are blurted.  4.  e.e. cummings, "anyone lived i n a pretty how town", Oscar Williams (ed.), A L i t t l e Treasury of Modern Poetry, New York, Scribner's, 1952, p. 361.  5.  Referring to Bottom Dogs, Allen Tate has declared that he did not think Dahlberg "should have repudiated this powerful book;" I shall not denounce Bottom Dogs, although i t does not bear more than a single close reading. How many critics could write such a bad novel, even i f they had to?  6.  Concerning this sentence and the one just before i t , Allen Tate has written a passage withv'which I agree totally: I wish we had a third word which would express an a t t i tude toward history which i s different from both unhistorical and antihistorical; perhaps the word a-historieal conveys what I mean. Mr. Dahlberg has an immense knowledge of western literature, along with an intuitive sense of our history; but this i s not the history of the modern historians; i t i s the history of historians like Herodotus, before historical method reduced the past to the relativism of time. Mr. Dahlberg's history i s the history of man as  141 he was experiencing history at certain definite times; i t i s therefore expressed in the myths and legends of those moments; and so he can see an incident of sordid misery i n the orphan asylum of Because !I Was Flesh as a timeless moment in the struggle of man to recover and keep his dignity....The Cynocephali are not merely a learned and ornamental allusion, or vain indulgence of the author. The Cynocephali are as real to Dahlberg as the wretched orphans. The lost moment i n the orphan asylum i s given a universal and timeless reality because i t exists simultaneously with the dog-headed monsters of antiquity; i t occupies the entire imaginative stretch between Hesiod and Kansas City. I f Mr. Dahlberg has a "method" I think that I have described i t ; but i t i s a method that he has never had to formulate; and i t i s therefore a style of great eloquence and enormous range which permits him to see "eternity in a grain of sand." (CHD. p. 7) 7.  For the f i r s t time, in reading Dahlberg, I have been faced with the four elements used seriously and not as mere literature. I have not educated myself to their complexities and I fear I do not handle them with s k i l l . I can understand the connection between water and dreams, but I am punctured by Dahlberg's use of the dream here — i t seems profoundly undramatic. Also, that Jesus i s a hydromancer i s a very mean conception of Him, I fear, and a l l too rational / consistent a concession to Proteus. Either he was the author of the prodigies, or he was not. Hypnosis i s fakery, as are mirrors. Belief should take the hindmost. Mercury i s the stuff of mirrors and i s liquid metal. Possibly this retort of his i s a sign of his being "subtly unmanned" — the phrase i s Dahlberg*s — by Dahlberg's impudent and fearful questionings. Dahlberg's entire unorthodoxy seems to me to be a l i t t l e worldly — he i s forever concerned to act as i f God exists, which hedging gives away his game. I am nervous, though; maybe Proteus i s the god of (my?) composition too, and not Mnemosyne. ("Ne do no fors of dremes", say Dan Catoun and Madame Pertelote.)  8.  Compare Because I_ Was Flesh, page 233; " . . . i t would be idle to say that Lizzie Dalberg, whose bones s t i l l have sentience, i s what she was. She i s and she i s not, and that i s the difference between the trance we c a l l being and that other immense experience we name death."  9.  '  It i s hideous and coarse to assume that we can do something for others — and i t i s vile not to endeavour to do i t . I had not the strength to handle her tragedy, for my w i l l has failed me every hour of the day. It i s said that a wise man f a l l s down seven times a day and rises; I have fallen and never gotten up. (BIWF, p. 233) Conclusion  1.  Charles Olson, Call Me Ishmael, San Francisco, City Lights, 1958, p. 88.  2.  Read the best Western literature and you w i l l find that Dahlberg has ap-  142 propriated i t to his ovm idiom. This restores one's soul to faith in the honourable state of belles lettres and their criticism, now sunk, alas, so low. However, i t cannot help but be the excuse for one, two, three, many Ph.D.'s. 3.  In The Fake Revolt, &. Legman has pointed out that the hip generation i s by no means original (say) in i t s interest in sexual perversion in art and l i f e and in the abuse or drugs — Baudelaire beat them by almost, a century, had much more energy as well — and was even some kind of Catholic.  4.  Billings, "Introduction" to Edward Dahlberg, The Leafless American, p. x.  143 Bibliography Alegrfa, Ciro.  The Golden Serpent (translated and with an Afterword, by Harriet de Cms), Toronto, The New American Library of Canada, I963.  Anderson, Sherwood, Winesburg, Ohio, New York, Penguin Books, 1946. Aubrey, John.  Brief Lives (id. Oliver Lawson Dick), London, Seeker and Warburg, 1949.  Billings, Harold,  Blake, William.  (ed.) Edward Dahlberg: American Ishmael of Letters: Selected C r i t i c a l Essays with an Introduction, Austin, Roger Beacham, I968.  The Complete Works (ed. Geoffrey Keynes), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1966.  Bourne, Randolph.  War and the Intellectuals: Collected Essays, 1915-1919 (ed. and with an introduction by Carl Resek), New York, Harper and Row, 1964.  Brandon, William.  The American Heritage Book of Indians, New York, Dell, 1964.  Burke, Kenneth. "  Perspectives by Incongruity (ed. Stanley Edgar Hyman), Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1964. "William Carlos Williams: Two Judgments", in J. H i l l i s Miller (ed.), William Carlos Williams: A Collection of Critical Essays, Englewood C l i f f s , Prentice-Hall,~1966.  Cervantes, Miguel Saavedra de.  The Portable Cervantes (edited, translated, and with an introduction by Samuel Putnam), New York, Viking, I960.  Crane, Hart. The Complete Poems and Selected Letters and Prose (edited with an Introduction and Notes by Brom Weber), Doubleday Anchor, Garden City, 1966. cummings, edward estlin.  "anyone lived i n a pretty how town", in Oscar Williams (ed.), A L i t t l e Treasury of Modern Poetry, New York, Scribner's, 1952.  Dahlberg, Edward. Alms For Oblivion,- (with a foreword by Sir Herbert Read), Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1964. "  Because I Was Flesh, New York, New Directions, I967,  "  Bottom Dogs (with an introduction by D.H. Lawrence), San Francisco, City Lights, 1961.  "  Can These Bones Live (with a preface by S i r Herbert Read), Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1967.  w  The Carnal Myth. New York, Weybright and Talley, 1968.  "  Cipango's Hinder Door. Austin, The University of Texas Press, 1966.  "  Do These Bones Live, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1941.  "  The Edward Dahlberg Reader (edited and with an Introduction by Paul Carroll), Hew York, New Directions, 196?.  "  Epitaphs of Our Times, New York, George Braziller, I967.  "  The Flea Of Sodom (with a Foreword by S i r Herbert Read), Norfolk, Connecticut, New Directions, 1950.  "  From Flushing To Calvary, New York, Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1932.  "  "Further Sorrows of Priapus", in James Laughlin (ed.), New Directions in Prose and Poetry #19, New York, New Directions,  T96Z". "  T  h  e Leafless American (edited and with an introduction by Harold Billings), Sausalito, Roger Beacham, 196?.  "  Reasons Of The Heart, New York, Horizon, I965.  "  The Sorrows Of Priapus, Norfolk, New Directions, 1957.  "  Those Who Perish. New York, John Day, 1934.  "  Truth Is More Sacred (with S i r Herbert Read), New York, Horizon,  196T7  Duncan, Robert. "Against Nature", Poetry 94, Chicago, 1959. •Ginsberg, Allen.  Kaddish and Other Poems, 1958-60, San Francisco, City Lights,  196T Herbst, Josephine. New Green World, New York, Hastings House, 1954. Lawrence, David Herbert. Studies In Classic American Literature, New York, Viking, 1964. Legman, G.  The Fake Revolt, New York, Breaking Point Press, I967.  Mailer, Norman. The Presidential Papers, Bantam Books, Toronto, 1964. " Olson, Charles. "  The Way. It Is, CBC Television, March 3. 1968. Call Me Ishmael, San Francisco, City Lights, 1958. The Distances, New York, Grove Press, i960.  145 "  Human Universe and Other Essays (ed. Donald Allen), New York, Grove, 1967.  "  The Maximus Poems, New York, Jargon / Corinth, i 9 6 0 .  "  Selected Writings (edited and with an introduction by Robert Creeley), New York, New Directions, 1966. The Contrary Experience, New York, Horizon, I 9 6 3 .  Read, Sir Herbert. Roditi, Edouard.  "Prophet or Pedant", Poetry # 77.  Russell, Bertrand.  p. 236.  History of Western Philosophy. London, Allen and Unwin,  1965. Sandperl, Ira., "Peace as P i t f a l l " , Institute^ for the Study of Non-violence Journal, #4, Carmel, California, November, I9Z7. Shapiro, Karl.  "To Abolish Children", Esquire Magazine, April,  1968.  Shipley, Joseph T.  Dictionary of Early English, Paterson, New Jersey, L i t t l e f i e l d , Adams and Company (Students Outline Series), I963.  Sidney, S i r Philip.  "The Defense of Poesie", i n O.B. Hardison (ed.), English Literary Criticism: The Renaissance. New York, AppletonCentury-Crofts. I 9 6 3 .  Spiller, Robert E., Johnson, Thomas H., Thorp, Willard, and Canby, Henry Seidel. Tate, Allen.  Literary History of the United States, New York, MacMillan, 19t)0~  Collected Essays. Denver, Alan Swallow,  Thoreau, Henry David.  1959.  " C i v i l Disobedience", in Sculley Bradley, Richard Croom Beatty, and E. Hudson Long (eds.), The American Tradition in Literature, New York, W.W. Norton, I967. Walden, in Bradley, Beatty, and Long, o £ . c i t .  "  Williams, William Carlos. The Farmers' Daughters, Norfolk, New Directions, I96I. "  In The American Grain. New York, New Directions, 1956.  "  Paterson. New York, New Directions, I 9 6 3 .  "  Pictures From Brueghel and Other Poems, Norfolk, New Directions, 1962.  Winters, Yvor. "  The Function of Criticism: Problems and Exercises, Denver, Alan Swallow, 1957. In Defense of Reason, Denver, Alan Swallow,  194?.  Woodcock, George. Anarchism. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, I 9 6 3 .  


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