H.D Blog 13: "The Dream Parallel"

(detail of the Ishtar Gate in Babylon)

THIS POST by far is the most imagistically ambitious and referentially rich. READ ON and feel free to COMMENT!!!

Although section [15] adopts the dejected tone of [14], it makes a tonal shift into yet another articulation of what poets are:


Too old to be useful
(whether in years or experience,

we are the same lot)
not old enought to be dead,

we are the keepers of the secret,
the carriers, the spinners

of the rare intangible thread
that binds all humanity

to ancient wisdom,
to antiquity;

our joy is unique, to us,
grape, knife, cup, wheat

are symbols in eternity,
and every concrete object

has abstract value, is timeless
in the dream parallel

whose relative sigil has not changed
since Nineveh and Babel.

Any hope of H.D. being an “Imagiste” is lost: she unabashedly proclaims symbolism, that every “concrete object has abstract value.” Symbolism exists – and i love this phrase – in the “dream parallel.” Duncan, thruout the H.D. Book, navigates this “dream parallel” in his emplorations of H.D’s poetics, in theosophy and mysticism, and in his own poetics. This access to the :”dream parallel” is described as a unique “joy,” that the infusion of value to the quotidian, which is crumbling around her, brings this joy that is a kind of hope. The knife and cup bring us resolutely back to the beginning of “The Walls Do Not Fall,” where H.D. describes the “poor utensils show like rare objects in a museum” – except now, thru the dream parallel, these poor utensils have symbolic meaning, and are thus eternal.

The poet enters this “dream parallel” as the “keepers of the secret”, the “carriers” and “spinners” of that “rare intangible thread” that bind humanity to ancient wisdom, to the “true rune” of Spirit and Presence.

I’ve always been tripped up by the “whose relative sigil.” A sigil (from the Latin: sigilum: seal; or from Hebrew segulah: talisman) is a symbol created for a specific magical purpose. “Sigila are created to form a glyph, composed of a variety of symbols or concepts which carry intent and inherent iconic meaning. A sigil may have an abstract, pictorial or semi-abstract form. It may appear in any medium, physical or virtual, or only in the mind. Sigilia are commonly found in Jewish mysticism and Kabbalistic magic (being an especial focus of Sefer Raziel HaMalakh and other medieval Jewish mystical sources) upon which much of Western magic is based.” (wikipedia) A ‘hypersigil’ is an extended piece of artwork created with a similar intent as a sigil — couldn’t we consider Trilogy a “hypersigil”???

Anyways, I don’t think it means “relative” in the sense of “relativity,” but that these complete objects, which are symbolic in the dream parallel, are related to sigils – that the concrete world is magic, and that it is the poet’s responsibility to read the parallels.

(an excerpt from a jewish religious text “Book of Raziel the Angel” showing various magical sigils.

Of course, Nineveh and Babel are ancient cities. Nineveh was the flourishing capital of the Assyrian empire. Wiki gives a nice biblical history of city: “The book of the prophet Nahum is almost exclusively taken up with prophetic denunciations against this city. Its ruin and utter desolation are foretold (Nah.1:14; 3:19, etc.). Its end was strange, sudden, tragic. (Nah. 2:6-11) According to the Bible, it was God’s doing, his judgement on Assyria’s pride (Isa. 10:5-19). In fulfilment of prophecy, God made “an utter end of the place”. It became a “desolation”. Zephaniah also (2:13-15) predicts its destruction along with the fall of the empire of which it was the capital. Nineveh’s exemplary pride and fall are recalled in the Gospel of Matthew (12:41) and the Gospel of Luke (11:32).”

(The Imperial Palace at Nineveh)

Nineveh’s greatness was short-lived. About 633 BC the Assyrian empire began to show signs of weakness, and Nineveh was attacked by the Medes, who subsequently, about 625 BC, joined by the Babylonians and Susianians, again attacked it. Nineveh fell in 612 BC, and was razed to the ground. The people in the city who could not escape to the last Assyrian strongholds in the west, were either massacred or deported. Many unburied skeletons were found by the archaeologists at the site. The Assyrian empire then came to an end, the Medes and Babylonians dividing its provinces between them.

Now, Nineveh is home to a diverse population of Sunni Arabs, Kurds (Yezidi and Sunni), and Assyrian Christians, as well as the oil processing center Mosul, Nineveh promises to play a large role in Iraqi politics into the future.

(The Walls at Nineveh, today)

On Babel: from wiki: “According to Genesis 11:1-9, mankind, after the deluge, travelled from the mountain of the East, where the ark had rested, and settled in ‘a plain in the land of Shinar’ (or Sennar). Here, they attempted to build a city and a tower whose top might reach unto Heaven, the Tower of Babel.” Babel is the Hebrew name for Babylon, which has etymologized as both “to confuse and confound” and “the gate of god.”

Babylon has a rich history ranging from Assyrria, to Neo-Babylonian, to Persian, to Hellenistic (check out wiki for more).

(the hanging gardens of Babylon)

(The tower of Babel by Peter Brueghel the Elder, 1563)

NOT ONLY are Nineveh and Babel Biblical cities destroyed by God, but they both had a long history of war and ruin and Empire. Only similarity is that they are both part of present day Iraq. So, I’ve asked before what does H.D. have to do with us? How is TRILOGY still RELEVANT?

Well, look at this picture of u.s. marines at Babylon ruins:

“Saddam Hussein installed a huge portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins. He also had part of the ruins rebuilt with his name inscribed on many of the bricks, in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads: “This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq”. This recalls the ziggurat at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with “Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna”. (wiki)


“US forces were criticised for building a helipad on ancient Babylonian ruins following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The vibrations from helicopter landings led a nearby Babylonian structure to collapse. US forces have occupied the site for some time and have caused damage to the archaeological record.

In a report of the British Museum’s Near East department, Dr. John Curtis describes how parts of the archaeological site were levelled to create a landing area for helicopters, and parking lots for heavy vehicles. Curtis wrote that the occupation forces “caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity […] US military vehicles crushed 2,600-year-old brick pavements, archaeological fragments were scattered across the site, more than 12 trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists […] Add to all that the damage caused to nine of the moulded brick figures of dragons in the Ishtar Gate by people trying to remove the bricks from the wall.” (wiki)


4 thoughts on “H.D Blog 13: "The Dream Parallel"

  1. yr post makes me think about a question you brought up earlier about poets being bearers of secrets. does something become secret because people have forgotten its worth? are poets/poems a sort of container for lost and broken things? re-member/remember as you suggested earlier? because the “joy is unique to us” to see the ordinary things as symbolic and therefore spectacular?

    so much forgetting turns anything/ anywhere into a helicopter pad. so much blindness…

    mr. perez these posts have been wonderfully insightful. keep them coming!

  2. thanks for the comment! i definitely think yes to all your questions. Secret because forgotten iis interesting. and yes, containers for the thing lost. and yes, that joy amidst so many helicopters.

    please return and feel free to continue asking great questions / making comments.


  3. does that mean contemporary relevance is an accident? or is it inevitable the future (in the guise of the u.s.) will fuck up anything worth keeping of the past?

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