Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Christopher MiddletonNotes on a Viking Prow
(PN Review 10)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Lehbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This poem is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

Rough Notes for One or Two Undelivered Lectures on T. S. Eliot’s Dante (2) Frank Kuppner
15.  Now, no doubt the transcending of Humanity may not be conveyed in mere base untranscendent human words – and certainly not conveyed fully (but does the concept of transcending Humanity have any indisputable point of application in the real world at all?) – given that so little else of being human can ever be caught fully in words either. (Which is, I suppose, why your literature is an unending, unfinishable project, is it not? (Indeed, in some particularly prestigious cases, it barely even gets started.)

16.  (The fact that it is not really happening is part of the tragedy itself, I suppose? (Or perhaps merely part of the subject-matter? (Does that communicate any more to you, my Captain?)))

17.  Not that hints and wisps and promises of communication are themselves necessarily an indication that some broader or deeper communication is obscurely present, lurking away in there somewhere, patiently waiting its moment, perhaps hoping to be identified by advanced techniques of echolocation. Language, even highly obscure language, may indeed have valuable specific content which is not at first easy to discern. But there is also, is there not, a marvellously cultivated art of hinting at the possession of immense depths of reference which are, to a greater or lesser extent, illusory? (Most usually done by the skilful mimicking of the subtlest and most characteristic tropes of the above-mentioned profundities – often subtly marked ‘Try Excavating Hereabouts’.)

18.  (Certainly a reference to Eliot rather than to Dante himself. Even to your typical sceptic, Dante is working pretty well as forthrightly as possible, deep within an almost frighteningly delusional tradition. He is hardly bluffing as such.)

19.  Whereas a sort of high-minded, cultured mandarin bluffing is one of the most characteristic and typical ingredients of the OM’s critical register.

20.  Yes. The beautifully-judged, carefully weigh[t]ed mandarin prose of a very high-ranking civil servant indeed – who strongly suspects that, technically, in the last resort, he has at best only one extremely unsteady leg to stand on – but who is pretty confident that he can keep the opposition safely enough at bay nonetheless, by the sheer inoppugnable magnificence of his magisterial tone of voice.

21.  However, my fellow lost fossil descendants, as one sails effortlessly (more or less) past the ages which the authors themselves had reached when they started imitating voices from the clouds – (and how ridiculously young these intrepidly prestidigitating lads were, it now turns out!) – one grows ever less inclined to be frowned into submission by mere (as it were, ever more entertainingly callow) authorial-authoritative-authoritarian assertion, be it never so beautifully put. (Not all the music in the world, O my fellow over-complex replicator packagings, can give Bohemia a coastline, can it?) (Well … not in the present Czech Republic, at any rate.)

22.  Very intelligent men – (or comparatively intelligent current hominids at the very least) – presenting as the achievable ultimate in wisdom and insight a view of the Universe which is almost completely delusional. (Such a bitter lesson there, I dare say, for all but me and my good friend here!)

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image