Friday, February 10, 2012

Anatomy of Melancholy VI

Since the site is essentially dead as far as both readership and creativity goes, I was going to open this entry by indulging myself in an examination of the forms favored by my romantic imagination, which I suppose is more generally called fantasy, because for most people that is what being alive and attuned to the manifold physical possibilities of life is. An open-ended essay proved to be too difficult for me to rein in in my current sleep-deprived and mentally unfocused state, so I am going to present my findings in the form of categories.

Imaginative Scenarios Which Do Not Figure In My Fancy, and For the Most Part Do Not Appeal to Me: Hot tubs/scenes generally requiring me to be shirtless during the courtship phase of the relationship. Far-fetched scenarios (shipwreck onto abandoned island for long period of time with no or insignificant male competition, unlikely displays of domination on my part, etc). Very expensive or prestigious settings where my personal wealth or breeding would have to carry the day. Any time of life after about the age of 3o. I think it is actually criminal for most people to imagine themselves as a sensual being after that age; enough so that I seem to make a pointed and largely succesful effort to avoid doing so.

Scenarios Which Do Appeal to me, But Which I am Incapable of Bringing Myself to Imagine. People in movies who are supposed to be kind of dangerous are always persuading women to get it on with them in stairwells and closets and other semi-public places, frequently on a casual acquaintance. This image is a stand-in for all the relaxed, casual, routine type of encounters that most people actually never have, though it many instances the idea of it consumes thousands of precious hours of their lives, including so much of their youth as to seriously impinge upon and curtail their education. I have been able to incorporate aspects of this type of encounter into my dream-life, but always in a more surreptitous form. I cannot plausibly envision myself plunking anybody in the stairwell, however much I might want to do so.

What Does This Leave? Obviously high school and especially college scenarios, in which I am essentially myself--just slightly cooler enough to make things happen a little. Maybe a small harem of regular visitors to whom I can avoid getting overly emotionally attached. Maybe I study my math or my ancients a little harder and can offer such assistance or tutoring which leads to admiration and unforeseen escapades. The Christmas vacation fantasy has always been especially strong, suits my sensibility perfectly. This is where you are sitting around the house either the week before or the week after Christmas when out of idle boredom you decide to call up some person from your college who lives in your general area or someone from your old high school whom you did not know particularly well (or perhaps they call up you), and you make vague plans to meet, one thing leads to another, etc, etc. I heard of several instances where something along the lines of this scenario took place, and it seemed quite wonderful to me. I began to write a short story about such an encounter (happening to somebody else) once. The idea quite obsesses me. In addition to school, I also can call up a whole set of travel-related possibilities, as well as many at lower-class jobs full of sassy working-class girls who are good to go; even though I also hold these low-status jobs in these scenarios, I am somehow understood by everyone to be above them--I dress better than everyone else, am obviously smarter, my circumstances are less desperate, etc. I am really just there to amuse myself, and bring some excitement into the girls' lives, I guess.

"canis ad vomitum (like a dog to his vomit), 'tis so pleasant he cannot refrain." Great saying. Refers to melancholy.

On to the Second Partition:

St Hilary's (a male saint, by the way) bed was on display in the church in his hometown of Poitiers in western France for many centuries, and was said to cure madness in those who lay in it. It does not appear to be on display anymore. I cannot find any information as to why this is the case, though perhaps at some point it ceased to work its former effect on madness.

There is a discussion about the purity of water: "The waters in hotter countries, as in Turkey, Persia, India, within the tropics, are frequently purer than ours in the north, more subtile, thin, and lighter, as our merchants observe, by four ounces in a pound, pleasanter to drink, as good as our beer, and some of them, as Choapses in Persia, preferred by the Persian kings before wine itself." The residents of Bohemia, in particular the area around Plzen, frequently touted the unusual softness of the local water as one of the keys to the country's world-famous beer. I have noted at various times in my life that the tap water in Portland, Maine and in New York City struck me as superlative compared to that of other municipalities. These may have been sentimental impressions based upon some giddiness I was experiencing at the time, but I recall seeing my opinion as regards the surprisingly excellent taste of New York City water back up in the New Yorker magazine or some similar publication sometime back in the 90s.

"By overmuch eating and continual feasts they stifle nature, and choke up themselves; which, had they lived coarsely, or like galley-slaves been tied to an oar, might have happily prolonged many fair years." Worth considering?

"Tiberius, in Tacitus, did laugh at all such, that after thirty years of age would ask counsel of others concerning matters of diet; I say the same." O.K, that settles it. I'll stop obsessing.

I am so far behind in my book reports that in my notes the transition from considering myself as a real literary person to the vegetable I am conscious of being now has not yet been fully completed. It is almost touching to see these remnant of my old self. I would say my old earnest or naive self, but I'm sure I am still earnest and naive compared to what I need to be.

"Ficinus and Marsilius Cognatus put Venus one of the five mortal enemies of a student: 'It consumes the spirits and weakeneth the brain'." This is certainly true, but who are the other four? Later on in the same paragraph Aristotle is invoked as having determined that sparrows were short-lived due to their salacity, which makes an impression, but I am not sure it is really to the point even if true.

"I would see those inner parts of America, whether there be any such great city of Manoa or Eldorado in that golden empire, where the highways are as much beaten (one reports) as between Madrid and Valladolid..." Oh Spain, you ancient country. Little as I dare to protrude myself into experiences that should be reserved for more deserving people going forward, I would still really like to go to Spain sometime when I still have some stamina for walking long distances and staying up after dark. I am also still excited by the thought of going to the Prado, of seeing windmills, of going to Salamanca, of doing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. I am even somewhat tempted to want to go to a bullfight. The idea of my having any capacity for being affected by these things I know is ludicrous at this point to anyone with a real education or artistic sensibility, or who is even physically attractive, but we all need something ludicrous to look forward to and keep us going through the dreary grind of middle age.

"I Munster doth of cranes and storks; whither they come, whence they go, as yet we know not. We see them here, some in summer, some in winter; 'their coming and going is sure in the night; in the plains of Asia' (saith he) 'the storks meet on such a set day, he that comes last is torn in pieces, and so they get them gone." Eh? Yet I can picture this scene and the general impression of the world which the book gives quite vividly. The thought process at work in it is in sync with the way the imagination seems to operate.

"...or Delos, as the fabulous Greeks feigned (to be the center of the world): because when Jupiter let two eagles loose, to fly from the world's ends east and west, they met at Delos." I never heard this story before. I thought the Greeks regarded the oracle of Delphi to be the center of the world, energy and spirit-wise. That is what I took the idea of omphalos to mean anyway.

"Why so many thousand strange birds and beasts proper to America alone, as Acosta demands? Were they created in the six days, or ever in Noah's ark? if there, why are they not dispersed and found in other countries?..." Uh-oh.

Are lice really instantly consumed in the Azores and other warm places by a secret virtue in the air?

There is a charming section on the restorative qualities of views of beautiful vistas that I am tempted to reproduce in full, with its myriad examples. Since I am currently in great need of spiritual restoration and uplift myself, I think I will do this:

"The citizens of Barcino, saith (Gomesius), otherwise penned in, melancholy, and stirring little abroad, are much delighted with that pleasant prospect their city hath into the sea, which, like that of old Athens, besides Aegina, Salamis, and many pleasant islands, had all the variety of delicious objects; so are those Neapolitans, and inhabtants of Genoa, to see the ships, boats, and passengers go by, out of their windows, their whole cities being cited on the side of a hill, like Pera by Constantinople, so that each house almost hath a free prospect to the sea, as some part of London to the Thames: or to have a free prospect all over the city at once, as at Granada in Spain or Fez in Africa, the river running betwixt two declining hills, the steepness causing each house, almost, as well to oversee as to be overseen of the rest. Every country is full of such delightsome prospects, as well within land as by sea, as Hermon and Ramah in Palestine, Collalto in Italy, the top of Taygetus or Acrocorinthus, that old decayed castle in Corinth, from which Peloponnessus, Greece, the Ionian and Aegean Seas were at one view to be taken. In Egypt the square top of the Great Pyramid, three hundred yards in height, and so the Sultan's palace in Grand Cairo, the country being plain, hath a marvellous fair prospect as well over Nilus as that great city, five Italian miles long, and two broad, by the river-side: from Mount Sion in Jerusalem, the Holy Land is of all sides to be seen: such high places are infinite: with us those of the best note are Glastonbury tower, Box Hill in Surrey, Bever Castle, Rodway Grange, Walsby in Lincolnshire, where I lately received a real kindness by the munificence of the right honourable my noble lady and patroness, the Lady Frances, Countess Dowager of Exeter; and two amongst the rest, which I may not admit for vicinity's sake: Oldbury in the confines of Warwickshire, where I have often looked about me with great delight, at the foot of which hill I was born; and Hanbury in Staffordshire, contiguous to which is Falde, a pleasant village, and an ancient patrimony belonging to our family, now in the possession of mine elder brother, William Burton, Esquire. Barclay the Scot commends that of Greenwich tower for one of the best prospects in Europe, to see London on the one side, the Thames, ships, and pleasant meadows on the other. There be those that say as much and more of St Mark's steeple in Venice. Yet these are at too great a distance..."

"They know not how to spend their our modern Frenchmen, that had rather lose a pound of blood in a single combat than a drop of sweat in any honest labour."

The last one is supposed to be funny.

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