Thursday, 30 January 2014

Laodamia deflowering death and the Ulysses' big word

Laodamia deflowered Death, could Catullus die
Or gain Galatea breath from Pygmalion's sigh
The Eye in the Pyramid of Geist's hysteresis
Were Sauron to the Heart's synteresis.

A friend, who does not wish his comment on the above to appear here, has taken me to task for using an obscure word simply so as to pull off a facile 'June/ Moon' type rhyme.

In my defense, I went to a Catholic School, in Delhi, but didn't attend Catechism classes because I'm Hindu. I honestly didn't know that synteresis is not a commonly used word, at least, amongst Catholics.
I'd previously used it when translating the Sufi concept of 'guarding of the heart' which, I concluded, involved a Herostratic response to Hegel's pyramidal Synthesis.
When I was young, I read a bit of Joyce scholarship- without, of course, understanding a word- which is why it is interesting that my Google search for 'synteresis' yielded this- to wit, Richard Ellman saying-
'..the question that Stephen puts to his mother at the climax of the “Circe” episode, itself the climax of the novel. Stephen is appalled by his mother’s ghost, but like Ulysses he seeks information from her. His mother says, “You sang that song to me. Love’s bitter mystery.” Stephen responds eagerly, “Tell me the word, mother, if you know now. The word known to all men.” She fails to provide it. This passage has been much interpreted. I suggested a dozen years ago that the word known to all men must be love.1 Hugh Kenner has suggested that it is “perhaps” death—a revelation that would hardly require a mother’s ghost to divulge.2Another writer, Thomas Sawyer, in the James Joyce Quarterly, proposes that the word known to all men is “synteresis,” which would seem rather to be the one word unknown to all men.3 Anyway, synteresis, meaning conscience as a guide for conduct, is too cold and moralistic a concept for the excited Stephen to claim such prominence for it.
Gabler has happily recovered a passage that was, it seems, inadvertently left out of the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode. When Stephen is talking about Shakespeare’s affection for his granddaughter, he suddenly bethinks himself, in a passage that the typist probably skipped because two closely succeeding paragraphs ended in ellipsis. He says, “Do you know what you are talking about? Love, yes. Word known to all men. Amor vero aliquid alicui bonum vult unde et ea quae concupiscimus….” The rather tortured Latin, which uses the vocabulary of Thomas Aquinas though I have not found in his works the exact passage, means, “Love truly wishes some good to another and therefore we all desire it.” (In Exiles Richard explains love to the skeptical Robert as meaning “to wish someone well,” as in the Italian, “Ti voglio bene.”) In this view Stephen is following his master Dante, who has Virgil say, in Canto XVII of the Purgatorio—that canto in which the meaning of purgatory is set forth—“Neither Creator nor creature, my son, was ever without love…and this you know” (Singleton translation).
Now that we can be certain that the word known to all men is love, we can verify the implications of Stephen’s question. He is asking his mother to confirm, from the vantage point of the dead—for he thinks she may know now—what from the vantage point of the living he has already surmised. Presumably the dead can fathom the “bitter mystery.” (It will be remembered that at the end of A Portrait his mother hopes that he will learn elsewhere what the heart is and what it feels, and Stephen says “Amen” to that.) Stephen is of one mind with Leopold Bloom, who at an equally tense moment in the “Cyclops” episode declares, “But it’s no use…. Force, hatred, history, all that. That’s not life for men and women, insult and hatred. And everybody knows that it’s the very opposite of that that is really life.” “What?” says Alf. “Love,” says Bloom. “I mean the opposite of hatred.”
I'm fucking shite, I am. The question I'd ask my Mum is- 'you guarded your heart and gave it only to Daddy even when so supremely giving it to your children and your widowed Mum and brothers and countless others- more and more of them, precisely coz your heart was guarded so strongly for Dad and only Dad. So tell me- what was his password? Did he call you 'Honeybunny' or 'Cuddlebunny'? I NEED TO KNOW that word all other men know- coz they got wives who are Moms to kids who really fuckin' love their parents, even those who, like me, are totally shit.'
What is that word all men know?
I think it's 'Cuddlehoneybunny'. Gonna try it tonight coz I'm going on a date. Nine months from now- who knows?- I might finally put a bullet in the brain of this abortion of a blog.

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