ANOTHER TAKE ON J.H. PRYNNE
Suddenly the firewall has come down (!) & at last I can peruse Litterbug in my lunch-hour. Doing so, I found myself being drawn in to the thread of debate/discussion about J H Prynne. In particular I was intrigued by the excerpt from ‘Field Notes’. Now, you know me, Alan, I’m not against the complex; in fact I’m a regular enthusiast. But I have to say the Prynnean disquisition on the word ‘Behold’ takes the proverbial biscuit (if not the piss). It strikes me all Prynne is actually saying here is that Wordsworth is using the word ‘Behold’ when he can’t, in fact, behold the ‘solitary Highland Lass’, because she isn’t physically there anymore. Wow! Wot a revelation. For my five cents Wordsworth probably wrote ‘Behold’ because it was a contemporary exhortation to mentally picture something. (In other words he’s saying ‘Look!’) And there’s also a bit of alliteration at play in ‘Behold her’.
And this business about how being a writer ‘is to be authorised to compose by backwards displacement into the site where what is to be now composed had then its germinal origin.’ Doesn’t this simply mean writers write about things they can remember? I think it does, you know.
In a later post you pose the question (rhetorically, I appreciate): to what does ‘Fissile drag under gang profile’ refer? I’d hazard – nothing at all. It’s deploys absolutely standard Prynne tropes: appropriated technical language set so as to emphasise its musicality (‘the ‘ile’ of ‘fissile’ to rhyme with the ‘ile’ of ‘profile’ – enclosing the short hard ‘a’s of ‘drag & ‘gang’). It puts me in mind a bit of what Pound’s always up to in the Cantos – that is, cutting & pasting from a set of standard components. In the Cantos these are palaces, terraces, columns, clouds, green seas, rocks, the sea under the rocks, the rocks under the sea, more columns, more clouds etc etc. Sometimes this produces exceedingly haunting & beautiful things; but mostly it doesn’t.
It’s all very confusing, isn’t it? Especially for those of us with jobs who only get the chance to think about such things in our lunch-hours.
Like you, I’m rather taken (in?) by the early Prynne. My head gets sort of turned by the modernist dash & swagger of it. The later stuff gives me a headache.
C. J. Allen