Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Decoration for Book IX, The Thalians Choose Home

. . . six remaining children glimpse a sky
Where unfamiliar constellations rule
A dazzling zodiac - the Nine-tailed Cat,
The Throne of Fire, the Fount of Anguishing,
Un-mercy's Seat. I might go cruelly on . . .

     *     *     *

. . . Better to dream and say
That sparkling zodiac shows sympathy
For trial and weariness, presenting Hope
In Silver Feathers, Gabriel in Light,
The Mother's Arms, the Father's Sailing Boat,
The Seven Triumphant Against the Waste.

- Marly Youmans' Thaliad

The nod to Dickinson is entirely in place: the rhetorical move is pure Dickinson - fix your eye determinedly on your goal, and walk resolutely backwards. "I might go cruelly on," - and linger, that is, on the horrors of apocalypse - but instead, having given us the wrenching episode of "The Profane Madonna," we are going to swerve into innocent pastoral. The apophasis loads the innocence with unspoken nightmare, but it also tells us in so many words: this is the antidote for making up nightmare: we make up a lovely story about it. In the good zodiac there are still seven children, there are are still loving parents, and all is as it should be: and in fact we are about to meet the good, but faintly present and soon removed, father of the third covenant. All this is full of high theological doubt, also very reminiscent of Dickinson, and very canny about the narrator's implication in the story.

The broken covenant, and its restoration - the blind, profane madonna and her adopted son, determined to make a mother-and-child story regardless of what has to be ignored or fought to make it so: I took this to be the maybe best that could be done in the unredeemed world. To move to another, we need revelation. And we will get it; or at least Thalia will.

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