Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Samuel Daniel--Part IV

(V. ii, 1428-1432) NUNTIUS (a messenger, exhorting the chorus to procure some asps for Cleopatra):

"And looke so long as Cleopatra shall
In after ages live in memory,
So long shall thy cleere fame endure withall,
And therefore though must not my sute denie
Nor contradict my will..."

The loyalty of servants onto death is a common theme in this play.

Hey! Some university in Australia has put out a selection of Samuel Daniel's poems.

(V. ii 1520-5) NUNTIUS (on the asp):

"Well did our Priests discerne something divine
Shadow'd in thee, and therefore first they did
Offrings and worships due to thee assigne,
In whom they found such mysteries were hid,
Comparing thy swift motion to the Sunne,
That mov'st without the instruments that move..."

I think this is quite good poetry. So unburdened and unstrained in its effect! The idea of the world it depicts is at such a great remove from the ordinary scenes and conceptions of my life that I must be scarcely receptive to it most of the time. However modest its power, there is a becalming, organic wholeness in the order it creates from its language that I have never been able to form out of the materials which have informed my own existence.

Another obvious point about this play not being intended to be performed is that there is not actually any, or at least not very much, action in it. The characters mostly just recite long speeches in verse.

Acting is another of those skills/experiences that as I get older I regret not having tried at some point in my development. I never thought much of it as, unless you move in (and are accepted as one of) a circle of fairly serious artistic people, it is not seen as having much value for young people as a pursuit, indeed if anything it is seen as frivolous. This tradition of course goes back a long way--in Mansfield Park for example the young people attempt to amuse themselves by staging a play only to have the master of the house come home unexpectedly and forbid the thing in horror. Now I am kind of fascinated by its possibilities and think it must have beneficial effects on one's social interactions and personality if nothing else. I look at some of the clips, especially of these old stage actors like Olivier on Youtube, here he is Hamlet, here Henry V, now Richard III, now he puts on the blackface and he is Othello, now he is Archie Rice--there must be a kind of refreshment in continually becoming someone else, someone usually greater than oneself but whose embodied greatness also depends in the instant upon your skill in infusing it with corporeal vigor.

Memorial to Samuel Daniel in the church at Beckington, Somersetshire. He is buried in the churchyard. I have not been to this place, though it is the kind of place I would go. I stole the picture off the internet.
The play closes with the chorus chanting a long bit about the Nile and death and the sun and the moon and the desert and the natural and eternal elements of the universe. I like this naturalism. It is highly satisfying to us to put and see put our language to such good use. It may not be why we invented it, but it is a craving that its existence has elicited in some of us. Here is some of the bit about the Nile, whose source was famously unknown throughout most of literary history (V. ii, 1702-11):

"And turn thy courses so,
That sandy Desarts dead,
(The world of dust that craves
to swallow thee up all)
May drinke so much as shall
Revive from vastie graves
A living greene which spred
Far florishing, may gro
On that wide face of Death,
Where nothing now drawes breath."

Eventually I am going to have to admit that my writing and insights are not as good as other people's are because they are just better and more intelligent than I am, but I am as yet still clinging to the hope that the circumstances of my life at the moment are handicapping me in such a way that someday when I am freed from them will bring me back to some parity with other people. My daily time for reading or writing or watching movies or whatever comes in extremely small increments, often late at night when I am really too tired to concentrate you know. Going to the bathroom is a opportunity to maybe read 7 pages or so of something (a goal nonethelessly frequently interrupted before it is accomplished. Here is another time where I can possibly watch 43 minutes of a movie. Oh, bother, there are no excuses. There are no excuses. There are no excuses. We are exactly what we are and if we really were what we want people to think of us as we would be those things too.
If you do a search for Cecil Seronsy, who wrote a book about Daniel that I checked out of the library and referred to in an earlier post, this blog is the #8 item--perhaps it will be higher after this post. Here is the #1 item; the contents of five boxes containing the academic and personal effects of the man's life. I like the photograph. This country was once full of people who were carrying that same basic style, for better or for worse. They're all pretty much gone now. The Daniel book was the only one Seronsy finished, at age 59. The flap on the back of it states that the professor is at present engaged in preparing a book on Shakespeare, but evidently this was never completed. He wrote his PhD thesis on Daniel also. Maybe scholars do look over this guy's class notes from 1962 or his masters-degree course papers from the 1930s. It isn't really sad in itself any more than life is sad. I think it is nice that all this stuff was preserved. I bet they threw him a swell party in '73 when he retired, with lots of drinking and smoking and literary references, who knows, maybe a few pretty English major girls in bell bottoms were there too. Who could ask for anything more?

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