H.D. Blog 16: "let us light a new fire"

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. . . Thru the amber shining, into the ellipses that transports us into section [17] – the ellises enacting the crossing of the “dream-parallel” :

. . . coals for the world’s burning,
for we must go forward,

we are at the cross-roads,
the tide is turning;

it uncovers pebbles and shells,
beautiful yet static, empty

old thought, old convention;

*

From the amber post, we know that many peoples have used amber both as a source of heat and a source of light. The “amber shining coals” light the world for us to go forward in this time of crisis. The tone has shifted again now into a kind of ecstatic agency. The pebbles and shells – the concrete objects of the world that have “abstract value” [15] have become static and only reflect old thought and old convention. These objects are potential “sigils” that the poet must collect and transform into the amber shining of the dream parallel. The poem then turns again at an imperative:

let us go down to the sea,

gather dry sea-weed,
heap drift-wood,

let us light a new fire
and in the fragrance

of burnt salt and sea-incense
chant new paeans to the new Sun

of regeneration;
we have always worshipped Him,

we have always said,
forever and ever, Amen.

*

Sea-weed, of course, as food source in many countries (Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Peru, the Canadian Maritimes, Scandinavia, Ireland, Wales, Philippines, and Scotland, among other places).

Sea-weed is also used for the production of Alginate, a product that is used for the production of Agar, which is used in microbiology as a substrate for culturing organisms. It has also been suggested that sea-weed has curative properties for tuberculosis, arthritis, colds and influenza, and worm infestations.

*

The phrase “dry sea-weed” is found in Swift’s Gullivers Travels, Part 3, Chapter 1 (the scene very much reads into H.D. scene):

“About an hour before we saw the pirates I had taken an observation, and found we were in the latitude of 46 N. and longitude of 183. When I was at some distance from the pirates, I discovered, by my pocket-glass, several islands to the south-east. I set up my sail, the wind being fair, with a design to reach the nearest of those islands, which I made a shift to do, in about three hours. It was all rocky: however I got many birds’ eggs; and, striking fire, I kindled some heath and dry sea-weed, by which I roasted my eggs. I ate no other supper, being resolved to spare my provisions as much as I could. I passed the night under the shelter of a rock, strewing some heath under me, and slept pretty well.

The next day I sailed to another island, and thence to a third and fourth, sometimes using my sail, and sometimes my paddles. But, not to trouble the reader with a particular account of my distresses, let it suffice, that on the fifth day I arrived at the last island in my sight, which lay south-south-east to the former.

[…]I found the island to be all rocky, only a little intermingled with tufts of grass, and sweet-smelling herbs. I took out my small provisions and after having refreshed myself, I secured the remainder in a cave, whereof there were great numbers; I gathered plenty of eggs upon the rocks, and got a quantity of dry sea-weed, and parched grass, which I designed to kindle the next day, and roast my eggs as well as I could, for I had about me my flint, steel, match, and burning-glass. I lay all night in the cave where I had lodged my provisions. My bed was the same dry grass and sea-weed which I intended for fuel. I slept very little, for the disquiets of my mind prevailed over my weariness, and kept me awake. I considered how impossible it was to preserve my life in so desolate a place, and how miserable my end must be: yet found myself so listless and desponding, that I had not the heart to rise; and before I could get spirits enough to creep out of my cave, the day was far advanced. I walked awhile among the rocks: the sky was perfectly clear, and the sun so hot, that I was forced to turn my face from it: when all on a sudden it became obscure, as I thought, in a manner very different from what happens by the interposition of a cloud. I turned back, and perceived a vast opaque body between me and the sun moving forwards towards the island: it seemed to be about two miles high, and hid the sun six or seven minutes; but I did not observe the air to be much colder, or the sky more darkened, than if I had stood under the shade of a mountain. […] I took out my pocket perspective, and could plainly discover numbers of people moving up and down the sides of it, which appeared to be sloping; but what those people where doing I was not able to distinguish.

The natural love of life gave me some inward motion of joy, and I was ready to entertain a hope that this adventure might, some way or other, help to deliver me from the desolate place and condition I was in. But at the same time the reader can hardly conceive my astonishment, to behold an island in the air, inhabited by men, who were able (as it should seem) to raise or sink, or put it into progressive motion, as they pleased. But not being at that time in a disposition to philosophise upon this phenomenon, I rather chose to observe what course the island would take, because it seemed for awhile to stand still. […]”

*******

Driftwood is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach by the action of winds, tides or waves. Driftwood is formed in various ways:

When a tree or large tree branch washes into the ocean (or another large body of water), usually because of strong winds, as in a storm, or due to flooding. The tree dies and the dead wood shelters and feeds fish, birds, and other aquatic species, as it floats in the ocean. Gribbles, shipworms, and bacteria decompose the wood and gradually turn it into nutrients that are reintroduced to the food web. Sometimes, the partially decomposed wood washes ashore and shelters birds, plants, and other species. The driftwood can become part of the foundation of sand dunes.

Remains of wrecked wooden ships and boats.

Unwanted ship’s dunnage thrown overboard.

Miscellaneous wooden objects discarded into water from shore.

Remains of lost or jettisoned cargo.

Remains of buildings and their contents washed into the sea by floods, storms and tsunamis.

Driftwood carried by Arctic rivers was the main, or sometimes only, source of wood for some Inuit and other Arctic populations living north of the tree-line until they came into regular contact with European traders.

According to Norse mythology, the first humans were Ask and Embla – formed out of two pieces of driftwood, an ash and an elm.

(info, duh, from wiki)

******

(moses striking the rock, by Tintoretto – i wrote my art history senior thesis on Tintoretto!!!)

The connection To MOSES is thru “burnt salt”, which appears in Deuteronomy chaper 29 verse 23 (chap.29 is all about the renewal of the covenant with God) – the scene, again, resonates quite powerfully with H.D.’s scene and with Swift’s — if you don’t have time to read all of this, at least read 22-29* (esp. 29):

Deuteronomy Chapter 29

1 These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.

2 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;

3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:

4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

5 And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

6 Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.

[…]

9 Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.

10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,

11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:

12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day:

[…]

16 (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by;

17 And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)

18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood;

19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst:

20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven.

21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:

22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it;

23 And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and burning salt, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath:

24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?

25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:

26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:

27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:

28 And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.

29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

*******

THE KALLIKANTZARI

another connection to “burnt salt” is in Greek tradition around Chirstmas (which, again, resonates with the H.D.:

During the twelve-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (December 24th-January 6th), when it is believed that the “waters are unchristened, unhallowed,” the Kallikantzari make their appearance upon earth and cause mayhem in people’s lives.

The Kallikantzari are a species of goblins, or spirits, who appear only once a year, at Christmas time. They are believed to emerge from the bowels of the earth. All the year round, equipped with axes, they strive to cut away the tree which supports the earth; but by the time they are almost finished, Christ is born, the tree grows anew, and the spirits leap to the surface of the earth in a mad rage.

Fear of the Kallikantzari gives rise today to protective measures: the lower jaw of a pig (which is supposed to have protective powers) is hung behind the front door or inside the chimney; an alternative measure is to throw a handful of salt or an old shoe into the fireplace, for the bursting noise and the stench caused by the burnt salt or leather are believed to keep the naughty Kallikantzari away.

In other villages it is the custom in hang a ball of tangled thread or yarn over the front door of the house; by the time the Kallikantzari have finished untangling the thread, the cock crows and the sun scatters the spirits of darkness as Christ is born.

In other regions of Greece, people try to keep the Kallikantzari away by lighting large bonfires in the town squares on Christmas Eve. During the occasion, villagers gather round the fire singing Christmas kalanda and other religious hymns while the farmers ring the bells of their cattle in unison proclaiming the birth of Christ.

And while the sound of the bells and the smoke of the fire are said to neutralize the powers of the Kallikantzari, the villagers partake in a religious celebration, complete with added popular folkloric customs of an ancient tradition.

*****

The only thing i could find on “sea incence” is this Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 71: on Medicine:

“He said, ‘Allah’s Apostle was cupped by Abd Taiba, to whom he gave two Sa of food and interceded for him with his masters who consequently reduced what they used to charge him daily. Then the Prophet s said, “The best medicines you may treat yourselves with are cupping and sea incense.’ He added, “You should not torture your children by treating tonsillitis by pressing the tonsils or the palate with the finger, but use incense.”

******

Paean, in Homer, was the Greek physician of the gods. In other writers the word is a mere epithet of Apollo in his capacity as a god of healing.

The relation between Paean or Paeon in the sense of “healer” and Paean in the sense of “song” is unclear except for the ancient association between the healing craft and the singing of spells. The meaning of “healer” gradually gave place to that of “hymn.”

Such songs were originally addressed to Apollo, and afterwards to other gods, Dionysus, Helios, Asclepius. About the 4th century the paean became merely a formula of adulation; its object was either to implore protection against disease and misfortune, or to offer thanks after such protection had been rendered.

Its connection with Apollo as the slayer of the Python led to its association with battle and victory; hence it became the custom for a paean to be sung by an army on the march and before entering into battle, when a fleet left the harbour, and also after a victory had been won.***

Musically, the paean was a choral ode, and originally had an antiphonal character, in which a leader sang in a monodic style, with the chorus responding with a simple, informal phrase; however, later in its development, the paean was an entirely choral form.

Paean is now used in the sense of any song of joy or triumph. It also describes a poetic foot of four syllables, one long and three short.

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