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More On Beddoes
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 29, 2006 03:00PM

I have mentioned Thomas Lovell Beddoes before, especially his Dream-Pedlary poem that seems so haunting. Consider also the one below, titled The Phantom-Wooer. Why they both have (what appears to me to be) unnecessary hypens I can only speculate. Again, this one shows TLB's preoccupation with death, but pay particular attention to the third line in stanza #2 (in bold). Did Robert Frost read Beddoes? Does this lend credibility to the claim that RLF's theme of Stopping By Woods was really death? (I also left the apostrophe on snakes', since other sites keep it, but I doubt it was so written in the original.)


A ghost, that loved a lady fair,
Ever in the starry air
Of midnight at her pillow stood;
And, with a sweetness skies above
The luring words of human love,
Her soul the phantom wooed.
Sweet and sweet is their poisoned note,
The little snakes' of silver throat,
In mossy skulls that nest and lie,
Ever singing "die, oh! die."


Young soul, put off your flesh, and come
With me into the quiet tomb,
Our bed is lovely, dark, and sweet;
The earth will swing us, as she goes,
Beneath our coverlid of snows,
And the warm leaden sheet.
Dear and dear is their poisoned note,
The little snakes' of silver throat,
In mossy skulls that nest and lie,
Ever singing "die, oh! die."

For the correct formatting, see below - it is too tough to do it right with eMule's software and the < pre > tag I can't usually make work well either.

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I am also reminded of these two by Housman and Wordsworth, because of the tomb spinning in the earth, right:


The night is freezing fast,
To-morrow comes December;
And winterfalls of old
Are with me from the past;
And chiefly I remember
How Dick would hate the cold.

Fall, winter, fall; for he,
Prompt hand and headpiece clever,
Has woven a winter robe,
And made of earth and sea
His overcoat for ever,
And wears the turning globe.


A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seem'd a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 29, 2006 03:17PM

Yes it does seem to be

Reminds me of the similarity between McCartney's "Yesterday" and nat King Cole's "Answer Me"

"Yesterday, I believed that love was here to stay, won't you tell me where I've gone astray."

Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: joe-t (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 29, 2006 04:56PM

Were it not for the opening four lines of "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," I think I'd accept more readily that its theme is death.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow

It doesn't seem plausible that the owner of the woods, if he were truly God, or the Grim Reaper, or whoever it is that controls the afterlife, would live outside his domain (a house in the village) and with his powers, not be able to see the speaker stop by.

I can understand how some might see a double meaning in the last four lines, but I think the poem speaks more of the dichotomy between the perfect world of nature (the woods are lovely, dark and deep) and the world of obligations (promises to keep) created by humans.


Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 29, 2006 07:23PM

I've stated before...if it IS about death, it's the death of the spiirt

Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: joe-t (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2006 07:31AM


Death of the spirit certainly seems more logical than death of the body. I wasn't aware that you'd stated your opinion on this before.


Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2006 11:31AM

I recall saying something to the effect of...yeah I'd love to just stay here and watch the snow, but NOOOO.....I have to pick up milk, then the dry cleaning, and then still have to hear about how I took so damn long and where the hell was I and why can't you CALL if you're going to be late because you're writing your name in yellow snow

Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: PamAdams (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2006 12:53PM

Perhaps the poem would never have been written if Frost had had a cellphone.


Re: More On Beddoes
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2006 02:45PM

In some ways Beddoes was almost a comical character. As an example of dark humor, he (an aspiring doctor?) once tried to commit suicide by cutting his own femoral artery (like Hannibal Lecter did to the pickpocket trying to get his fingerprints) with a scalpel. Not only did he fail in the attempt, but managed to lose a leg in the process! Most embarrassing, not to mention a great bother in later life.

I cannot find any reference to his ever being married, so I guess most critics will now claim he was homosexual. Like Housman, no real evidence of that is readily found either.

His Death's Jest-Book (another hypen!) can be found online, and (to me at least) shows skills used by Master Shakespeare. Take the excerpt below, as an example, from Act I. Hard to follow unless we know that it was intended as a tragedy of revenge. Two brothers (Wolfram and Isbrand, who is disguised as a jester) seek revenge on Melveric, the corrupt Duke of Munstersberg. The Duke has been taken prisoner while on a crusade. Wolfram makes an expedition to rescue him, with the intent to kill him on his own, I believe. The time frame is supposed to be the end of the thirteenth century (say, 1275 or so?). Bracket notes are mine.

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Act I.

SCENE 1. Port of Ancona. [Central Italy, on the Adriatic]

Enter MANDRAKE [a zany to a mountebank? a clown I guesss] and JOAN [print book shows Kate. Also Homonculus/homunculus Mandrake - short person?].

Mandr. Am I a man of gingerbread that you should mould me to your liking? To have my way, in spite of your tongue and reason's teeth, tastes better than Hungary wine; and my heart beats in a honey-pot now I reject you and all sober sense: so tell my master, the doctor, he must seek another zany for his booth, a new wise merry Andrew [a clown]. My jests are cracked, my coxcomb fallen, my bauble confiscated, my cap decapitated. Toll the bell; for oh! for oh! Jack Pudding [buffoon] is no more!

Joan. Wilt thou away from me then, sweet Mandrake? Wilt thou not marry me?

Mandr. Child, my studies must first be ended. Thou knowest I hunger after wisdom, as the red sea after ghosts [see Gate of Tears, the strait of Bab-el-Mandeb & shipwrecks]: therefore will I travel awhile.

Joan. Whither, dainty Homunculus?

Mandr. Whither should a student in the black arts, a journeyman magician, a Rosicrucian? [Anachronism? Rosicrucians did not appear until 17th century, I believe] Where is our country? You heard the herald this morning thrice invite all christian folk to follow the brave knight, Sir Wolfram, to the shores of Egypt [Egypt? Crusades were to Jerusalem & would he go thru Egypt from the Adriatic to get there?], and there help to free from bondage his noble fellow in arms, Duke Melveric, whom, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre [in Jerusalem], wild pagans captured. There, Joan, in that Sphynx land found Raimund Lully [some alchemy references here] those splinters of the philosopher's stone with which he made English Edward's gold. There dwell hoary magicians, who have given up their trade and live sociably as crocodiles on the banks of the Nile. There can one chat with mummies in a pyramid, and breakfast on basilisk's [dragon] eggs. Thither then, Homonculus Mandrake, son of the great Paracelsus [another anachronism? Paracelsus 1493-1541]; languish no more in the ignorance, and weigh anchor for Egypt.


Isbr. Good morrow, brother Vanity! How? soul of a pickle-herring, body of a spagirical [another alchemy reference? means separate and reassemble] toss-pot [drunkard], doublet of motley, and mantle of pilgrim, how art thou transmuted! Wilt thou desert our brotherhood, fool sublimate? Shall the motley chapter no longer boast thee? Wilt thou forswear the order of the bell, and break thy vows to Momus? [god of blame and ridicule] Have mercy on Wisdom [of Solomon?] and relent.

Mandr. Respect the grave and sober, I pray thee. Tomorrow I know thee not. In truth, I mark that our noble faculty is in its last leaf. The dry rot of prudence hath eaten the ship of fools [written 1494?] to dust; she is no more sea worthy. The world will see its ears in a glass no longer; So we are laid aside and shall soon be forgotten; for why should the feast of asses [a real event] come but once a year, when all the days are foaled of one mother? O world, world! The gods and fairies left thee, for thou wert too wise; and now, thou Socratic star, thy demon, the great Pan, Folly, is parting from thee. The oracles still talked in their sleep, shall our grand-children say, till Master Merriman's kingdom [dunno] was broken up; now is every man his own fool, and the world's sign is taken down.

Interesting reading, the apparent anachronisms and unfamiliar references notwithstanding. It seems his 2nd attempt at suicide was successful, by poison this time. Which poison he used I have no idea. It doesn't seem a way I would choose to end it all. Most poisons are quite painful, I mean. Still, a hypo of potassium chloride would be quick and easy for a doctor-type person. Did they have hypodermic needles back in 1849? Not sure. Too bad society hasn't progressed to levels enjoyed by those who lived in the times of Soylent Green, where Edward G, Robinson's character (Sol Roth) was able to shuffle off in a peaceful manner.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/31/2006 12:25PM by Hugh Clary.

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