Strange Arts & Visual Delights
Marriage certificate of Yancey Simpson and Mary Petrie, married 21 July 1888 by the Rev. E. P. Mayo. Witnesses were Walter Tuttle, Susan Bynum (soon to be Walter’s wife), and Gid Petrie, father of Mary and of Ellis Matthews.
Up to 300 participated in the effort to protect Arthur Tuttle; we know the names only of those men who were arrested, plus Arthur Tuttle’s sister (no women were arrested). Though those men are hardly a random sample of the participants, I am hoping that studying them will provide insight into their personal connections and social networks, in some cases their political and religious affiliations and their visibility to the white community. The primary motivation to participate must have been protecting a member of the community from torture and murder, but the situation threatened the entire community. In these networks and connections we may perhaps see evidence of the community at work.
In her dissertation, Miller suggests several reasons for the timing of the riot. First, the Black community had unrealized expectations of political participation and of patronage proportional to the size of their contribution to Republican electoral success. Second, the lynching of five men in Alabama in April had set the African American community in NC on edge; Miller’s evidence is an article in the AMEZ Star of Zion published in Charlotte and a resolution passed in June at an indignation meeting in Winfall, NC. In this tense context, Arthur Tuttle killed Michael Vickers, and the rumors of a lynching immediately spread through Winston-Salem (35-41).
Aside from the accounts of the killing of Officer Vickers and the murder trial, the newspapers have little information about Arthur Tuttle’s connections and social networks. To place him in a social context, his older brother, Walter, provides a good starting point. It is likely that Arthur knew many if not all of Walter’s connections, though that is only a surmise.
Walter Tuttle and Yance Simpson
One of the men arrested in the aftermath of the 1895 riot was Yance or Yancey Simpson (1861/1862 – 1930). He seems to have been a close associate of Walter. When he married Mary Petrie in July 1888, the witnesses included Walter Tuttle and Susan Bynum. When Walter and Susan were married the following month, witnesses included Simpson and his new bride.
The Rev. Elijah P. Mayo of the American Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church officiated at both weddings. He appears to have left Winston-Salem before the riot. He was appointed to a congregation in Hickory at the end of that year (Press and Carolinian, 12 Dec 1895), but had disappeared from the Winston-Salem newspapers two years earlier. He may have been a significant influence, however. Before his departure, he was politically active. In 1892 he was particularly outspoken in meetings of the Republican Party. Later posts will take up the political situation.
The year after their marriages, Tuttle and Simpson were neighbors on Mack Town Street. In 1891, Tuttle and Simpson were still neighbors, now on Blum Row. In December they were both arrested and fined $7; the newspaper did not report the charge (Western Sentinel, 10 Dec 1891).
Simpson and Tuttle had fewer documented interactions from 1892 to Tuttle’s death in 1894. As I described in an earlier post, Tuttle became increasingly violent and developed a bad reputation. Simpson may have joined Arthur Tuttle’s protectors because he knew Arthur, or perhaps because of his close association with Arthur’s slain brother, Walter.
Yance Simpson and Ellis Matthews
Yance Simpson’s wife, Mary Petrie, was the daughter of Gid Petrie (a witness at Yance’s wedding) and half-sister of Ellis Matthews, a son of Gid Petrie and one of the men arrested after the riot.
Yance Simpson and Henry Foster
In 1894/95, a man named Henry Foster (1355 N Main) lived near Yance Simpson (1366 N Main) and worked as a driver. This may well be the man of that name arrested after the riot.
Yance Simpson and Green Scales
Another man arrested after the riot was Green Scales. There appear to have been three men with that name in Winston-Salem, the first born in 1838 (died 1924, buried in the Odd Fellows’ cemetery), the next born 1845-1850, and the youngest born 1867/1868. Yance Simpson knew at least one of them. In the 1880 census, the youngest Green Scales was working in a tobacco factory and boarding nearby at 198 Chestnut. Other boarders included Yancey Simpson, then 19 years old. Yancey’s and Green’s boarding together suggests, if only weakly, that this was the man of that name who participated in the riot. Like Simpson and Walter Tuttle, this Green Scales was married in July 1888, but by a justice of the peace and with no overlap in witnesses with the marriages of Simpson and Walter Tuttle. (Surprisingly, perhaps, one of the witnesses was J. W. Bradford, then serving as deputy sheriff and jailer; he became Winston’s Chief of Police a few years later.)
In the 1891 city directory, one Green Scales owned a grocery at 1105 Old Town. By 1895, a Green Scales still lived at that address, while presumably another Green Scales lived and ran a restaurant at 205 E. Fifth Street. I do not know the connection between these men. They may have been the same man; people who moved in the course of the year could be listed in the directory at both addresses. In the winter of 1882, Green Scale’s “string band serenaded at several places in town on Monday night” (People's Press, 9 Feb 1882).
The restaurant owner lived and worked quite near three other men arrested after the 1895 riot—Peter Owens, who lived a few doors down at 122 E. Fifth, and Walter Searcy, a tobacco worker who lived at 120 E. Fifth. Owens was also a restaurant owner; his restaurant was located just around the corner, at 445 Church St, next door to the restaurant of another arrested man, Sam Toliver, at 447.
Familial connections and neighborhood proximity suggest that overlapping social networks of men participating the effort to protect Arthur Tuttle from the lynch mob. As we proceed, we will find more connections, and we will find men who, given the available evidence, cannot be placed in networks—indeed, who cannot be placed in the community beyond the fact of their arrest.
The men in the group described here worked as laborers. Like Walter Tuttle, in 1880 Yancey Simpson worked in a tobacco factory, as did the young Green Scales who lived in the same boarding house. Ellis Matthews’ work is not listed in the 1894/95 city directory, but most of his neighbors in Blumtown were laborers. Henry Foster worked as a driver. By 1895, a man or men named Green Scales owned a restaurant and had been a grocer.
Next post: Sam Toliver, Peter Owens, John Mack Johnson (or John McJohnson), and Henry Neal.
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The Union Republican (23 May 1895)
In 1880, Charles Tuttle (born around 1827) and his wife, Margaret (born around 1841), lived in Middle Fork Township in Forsyth County, a key part of the Black-majority Winston third ward from 1892 to 1895. Charles farmed (the 1900 census shows he owned the mortgaged farm), his wife kept house, and by 1880 some of the children were already working in factories, including Walter at the age of 12. Evidence gathered by Bertha Hampton Miller for her 1981 dissertation suggests that Charles Tuttle “had money and large land holdings which incited envy among many whites”; newspapers from the white and African American communities agreed that the Tuttle sons had “’unsavory reputations’” (“Blacks in Winston-Salem 1895-1920,” 46).
Five of their ten known children figure in the story—Ida, born in 1863; William, born in 1867; Walter, 1868; Robert, 1871; and Arthur, 1875. Until May 1895, Walter was the family member most often in the news. He was frequently in trouble with law, primarily for brawling (the actual charge was “affray”) and assault.
So far as can be determined from the surviving newspapers, Walter reached a turning point in his life in March 1892. A drunk white man paid Walter, also drunk, and Sim Brannon to attack a young tobacco farmer from Rockingham County. The attack took place in the Piedmont Tobacco Warehouse. Farmer Nelson gave better than he got: he seriously wounded Walter with a knife and escaped without serious injury, as did Brannon. Chief of Police J. W. Bradford and Brannon sat up all night nursing Walter’s wounds. Tuttle was sent home to recover; before his trial he left town and went into hiding. He was not caught until December 1892. In March 1893 he was convicted on several counts of assault and sentenced to 12 months of hard labor on the county roads. He then disappeared from the Winston-Salem newspapers for about 14 months.
In May 1894, Tuttle was arrested for assaulting Bradford, now the former chief, “probably on account of some old grudge because of Bradford’s course in some way against Tuttle during Bradford’s term of office as chief-of-police” (Western Sentinel, 26 July 1894). Possibly Bradford’s treatment of Tuttle for his knife wounds was not as benign as the newspapers reported. Even among his fellow officers, Bradford seems to have had a reputation for harsh treatment; a few years later, when the ex-chief was himself arrested, he accused the arresting officers of mistreatment. One replied, “D--- you, you have treated many a man worse than this for less offences” (Western Sentinel, 9 Dec 1897).
Whatever the reason for his assault, Tuttle was convicted. Desperate to avoid another stint at hard labor—aside from the rigors of the prison life, he had a wife and two-year-old daughter—he asked Policeman J. R. Hasten to accompany him to find someone to pay the fine on his behalf. According to Hasten, when they were on the grounds of a tobacco factory, Tuttle tried “to snatch the pistol from [the officer’s] hip pocket, … and … failing in this grabbed” the officer’s billy club (Western Sentinel, 9 Dec 1897). The officer said he pulled his .38 and mortally wounded Tuttle. Eventually, witnesses came forward claiming that the officer had lied, that Tuttle had not gone for the his gun. Hasten was indicted for murder—the first indictment against a Winston-Salem police officer for killing an African American—and in May 1895 he was put on trial. But on Saturday, May 19, the white jury found him innocent.
In the afternoon after the verdict, the sidewalks around the courthouse were as usual crowded with pedestrians. Among them was Arthur Tuttle, no doubt angry and upset by Hasten’s acquittal. He refused the orders of two policemen, Michael Vickers and Alex Dean, to move from the sidewalk to let others (probably white women) pass and became verbally defiant; he would move when he “damn got ready” (Union Republican, 15 Aug 1895). One of the policemen moved him from the sidewalk—it is not clear how much force was used—and Walter fought back. During the struggle, Tuttle grabbed a pistol (from his pocket or shirt or perhaps from the ground after it fell from his clothing) and twice shot officer Vickers. He was arrested on the spot; Vickers died the next evening.
Fearing that a lynching would be attempted, African Americans gathered near the county jail. The authorities quickly moved Arthur Tuttle to Greensboro, then farther away, to Charlotte. He was returned for the trial in August, despite the request of the defense lawyers for change in venue.
When the trial was in recess on Sunday, August 11, the white and black communities were swept by rumors of a gathering lynch mob. That evening, after church service, one of the Tuttle sons, Robert, asked a Methodist Episcopal congregation to take up weapons and gather near the church to protect his brother. In her memoir published just three years later, Ida Beard (daughter of a Confederate veteran) reported it as a night of rumor and fear, rumors that came to her from her husband, who worked in the office of a justice of the peace. To her disgust, he had helped in Tuttle’s legal defense and supported the effort to protect him from lynching.
I have seen no evidence that Robert joined the men guarding Tuttle. The oldest Tuttle son, William, evidently participated and then fled to avoid arrest. He was arrested in Statesville at the end of November, but I have not found stories indicating that he was tried. Years later, eyewitnesses reported in interviews that “Tuttle’s sister, Ida, weighing about three hundred pounds, sat on the courtroom steps brandishing two six gun shooters, and warned whites who had gathered a few yards aways: ‘The first white man comes across her to undo this jail door, I’m gonna kill him’” (Miller, 45).
Next posts: I will begin exploring the lives and connections of the men who gathered to protect Tuttle.
Sources: In addition to Miller’s Duke University dissertation, I have used contemporary newspapers and Fam Brownlee’s very useful account, ”Murder, Rumors of Murder and Even More Rumors…” For a more detailed account, see Appendix C of my annotated edition of Ida Beard’s memoir, My Own Life.
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White-ground lekythos, ca. 500-475 BC. Attributed to the Diaphos Painter. Public domain (Wikipedia).
José de la Heredia (1842 – 1905) was a French poet who was born in Cuba of a Cuban father and French mother. He was educated in France and settled there with his widowed mother. He is best known for the 118 sonnets in Les Trophées, published in 1893. He belonged to the Parnassian group of poets.
I probably came across Heredia when I was using English prose versions to “translate” poems in the Greek Anthology. I often found his sonnets difficult to follow, but beautiful and intriguing. I also liked the scope of Les Trophées--world history (though from a Western perspective; he wrote in the classic age of western imperialism), and nature poems. There are poems on Greek and Latin antiquity and the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a short section on the Middle East, the Far East, and the tropics. My attention then as now was devoted to the treatments of Greek and Latin myth and history.
The second poem in the collection is “Némée,” referring to a location (Nemea) and the Nemean lion, a beast whose golden hide was impervious to weapons and whose claws could penetrate human armor.
Depuis que le Dompteur entra dans la forêt
En suivant sur le sol la formidable empreinte,
Seul, un rugissement a trahi leur étreinte.
Tout s'est tu. Le soleil s'abîme et disparaît.
À travers le hallier, la ronce et le guéret,
Le pâtre épouvanté qui s'enfuit vers Tirynthe
Se tourne, et voit d'un œil élargi par la crainte
Surgir au bord des bois le grand fauve en arrêt.
Il s'écrie. Il a vu la terreur de Némée
Qui sur le ciel sanglant ouvre sa gueule armée,
Et la crinière éparse et les sinistres crocs ;
Car l'ombre grandissante avec le crépuscule
Fait, sous l'horrible peau qui flotte autour d'Hercule,
Mêlant l'homme à la bête, un monstrueux héros.
Hercules and the Nemean Lion (1st draft)
Since the Breaker of Beasts entered the forest
tracking the frightening pugmarks in the clay,
only a roar has betrayed their fierce embrace.
Everything is quiet. The sun dips and sets.
Through thicket and bramble, across a clearing,
the frightened herdsman, fleeing towards the city,
turns. Eyes widened by fear, he sees
the beast, stopped beside the woods, rising.
He cries out; he sees the terror of the lion
whose jaw is gaping open to the sky,
with his maw of fearsome teeth, his straggly mane.
For shadows that creep from the twilit trees
are making, under the hide draping Hercules,
a monstrous hero, blending beast with man.
Understanding the poem may be difficult for modern readers, because Heredia assumes intimate familiarity with the story. In the third line of the first stanza, for example, he refers to “their embrace” (“leur étreinte”) without providing an antecedent for their—an “oversight” that would probably evoke comments in a contemporary poetry critique group. My title, “Hercules and the Nemean Lion,” gives the modern reader a starting place and an explanation for their.
Heredia also feels no need to explain étreinte/embrace, a rather understated way to describe the action to come—the hand-to-paw death battle described in the myth and further discussed below.
The beginning of this line had another puzzle for me: “Seul, un rugissement a trahi…. Only a roar [or, one roar] has betrayed….” Some background reading clarified: since Hercules’ weapons were powerless, he used his hands to kill the beast by strangulation. Heredia’s version implies that the lion can manage only a single roar before his breath is cut off.
I was also puzzled, briefly, by the switch in tense from past to present perfect (from “entered the forest” to “has betrayed”). I wondered about the point of view implied by the change in tense.
The next line is in present tense, as is the following stanza (see the third line), but in the second line of that stanzas we find at last the point of view—“le pâtre/the herdsman.” What the herdsman sees, and what we see, is from a distance—the lion stopped at the age of the woods, mysteriously rising, presumably on his hind legs to grapple with Hercules; the lion’s fear; his fanged jaw opening on the bloody sky; and then the hide draped around Hercules (“floating around” him, in the original), for in the myth Hercules removes the pelt and head with the lion’s claws to use as his armor and helmet. The reader must bring these details to the poem.
In the gathering darkness, the herdsman sees a monstrous mingling of man and beast. Heredia’s use of monstreux/monstrous introduces another difference from today’s poetic practice. Monstrous meant, originally, a malformed animal or human, often a creature afflicted with a birth defect. Older museum exhibits used to display canisters filled with alcohol and deformed births labeled “monsters.” Later, the term meant an enormous or prodigious animal portending doom. These meanings are greatly attenuated now, and the attitude towards the abnormal has also changed, so it would be harder to use the term in a poem. The same is true for other terms used by Heredia--formidable, sinistre, and horrible. In general, we would likely use fewer adjectives of any kind.
These exhausted terms, as well as Heredia’s assumptions about his readers’ background knowledge of classical myth, are barriers to a contemporary appreciation of his artistry and subtlety.
Final notes: (1) I wish my rhymes were fuller and richer (especially mane/man) and followed more closely Heredia’s Petrarchan scheme. (2) I recently learned the term pugmark and used it here, where pawprint would probably be more suitable. (3) The final tercet departs furthest from the original.
Speculation: Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appeared a few years before Les Trophées, making me wonder if the devolution of the doctor into the animal-like Hyde influenced Heredia’s understanding of the monstrous man-beast. Since Heredia’s poems were apparently written long before publication, it may be unlikely on chronological grounds, if no other.
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The Method and Value of Prosopography
In August 1895, rumors of an imminent lynching swept the white and black communities of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Probably in response to a call for action at the end of a Sunday evening church service, a large group of armed African Americans went to guard the jail and protect he prisoner in question, young Arthur Tuttle. As I will explain in detail in the next post or two, Tuttle had killed a policeman on the street a few months before.
When the crowd did not disperse, the local militia and sheriff deputies gathered, someone fired a shot, then the firing became general. The crowd scattered, with an unknown number wounded and possibly killed. Approximately fifty African American men were arrested, many of whom were tried and convicted, with sentences ranging from a year at hard labor on the county roads to payment of court costs. Their names were published in the local newspapers.
In reading accounts of the riot, as it was called, I became interested in the fifty men: who were they? What were their family backgrounds, their trades and professions, their connections with each other? Which churches did they belong to? What were their political aspirations? One of the rioters, an older man called Cager Watt, was said by the newspapers to be a ringleader, and I wondered if there were a way to support or debunk that claim. Were there other likely leaders in the group?
So far as I have discovered, there are no surviving first person accounts from participants in the riot—no diaries, letters, memoirs, or photographs. [Update, 18 Aug 2022: In the 1970s, some eyewitnesses were interviewed; their accounts are reflected in the 1981 dissertation by Bertha Hampton Miller, "Blacks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina 1895-1920."] To draw the group’s portrait, I must rely on the information that can be gleaned from newspapers, city directories, genealogical records, vital records, etc. In 1971, Lawrence Stone defined prosopography (collective biography) as “the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives. The method employed is to establish a universe to be studied, and then to ask a set of uniform questions—about birth and death, marriage and family, social origins and inherited economic position, place of residence, education, amount and source of personal wealth, occupation, religion, experience of office, and so on.” It works best when “applied to easily defined and fairly small groups over a limited period” for which there are many sources. (“Prospography,” Daedalus 100:1, 46-79). A major question will be whether the sources are adequate for my purposes.
Before Stone’s essay, the discipline had been applied by Lewis Namier in his groundbreaking studies of British parliamentarians. Since then, digital tools—databases, visualization tools, etc.—have been devised to help construct and analyze social networks across a wide array of times and places. One example among many is the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (http://www.pbe.kcl.ac.uk/).
My techniques are old-fashioned and slow and my ambitions are on a far smaller scale. I am an amateur getting started rather late in life. But I hope to make a contribution that will be useful to more sophisticated and energetic researchers. The larger question under examination is the nature of African American political life between Reconstruction and Jim Crow, a period that I believe has been somewhat neglected by historians.
Next posts: “The Tuttle Family and the Riot of 1895.”
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In my annotated edition of a 19th-century memoir, My Own Life, or A Deserted Wife, I found it necessary to research the identity of the many people mentioned by the memoirist, Ida Crumpler Beard, as well as others involved in the events she recounts. My main sources were contemporary newspapers (digitized on newspapers.com), city directories, various other published sources, and the vital records and genealogical information on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com. Appendix E, “Index to People, with Biographical Sketches,” summarizes this research through approximately 200 biographical sketches. Since Ida spent most of her life in Winston-Salem, most of the sketches concern people who lived there between 1862, when Ida was born, and 1898, when she published her memoir.
These sketches provide information on the lives of men and women, both white and black, at various levels of society. But the treatment is uneven. In that period, there were no known newspapers in town owned or edited by African Americans; so far as I know, the first was the short-lived Twin-City Herald, founded and edited by the Rev. Jethro T. Gibbons in 1898. The extant newspapers from the period were all owned and edited by white men.
The Union Republican was founded and edited by Junius W. Goslen as a voice for the Union Republican party, “an interracial political party devoted to the principles of freedom, civil equality, and workers’ rights for all people, including the newly freed slaves. … Republicans endorsed political privileges for all men regardless of race or economic conditions” (Deborah Becket, Radical Reform: Interracial Politics in Post-Emancipation North Carolina, The American South Series, ebook, xvi, 158).
Goslen was a political ally of local African Americans, but they often felt his support was insufficient, particularly when it came to their aspirations to higher level elected positions and patronage positions. Goslen’s competition was The Western Sentinel and various related papers; they supported what they called “the Democracy,” that is, rule by white men in the Democratic party. They had supported secession and now openly supported white supremacy. However, The Western Sentinel could not simply ignore African Americans: the men could vote and were often elected to the town council from 1880-1896, an era that ended in 1898 with the statewide white supremacy campaign, followed by Jim Crow constitutional changes in 1900. The treatment by both papers may have been biased, sometimes vicious, but we can discern many of the leaders and politically active citizens in the African American community and at least some of their political goals.
However, all the African American leaders I have identified through the newspapers were men. My biographical sketches include only a single African American woman, Miranda Ratcliff, who had nursed Ida from birth. African American women are conspicuously absent from the pages of the local newspapers. They will continue to be largely absent from the collective biography on which I am currently engaged, a study of the fifty African American men who were arrested in 1895 as they attempted to protect a young man, Arthur Tuttle, from being lynched. The lynching never occurred, but many of these men were sentenced to hard labor or fines.
In this project, I hope to discover who these men were, their connections with each other, their family connections (including wives and mothers), their trades and professions, their religious and social affiliations—the stuff of the collective biographical discipline called prosopography.
Forthcoming posts include “The Method and Value of Prosopography” and “The Tuttle Family and the Riot of 1895.” Would you like to support my work? Buy my books!
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Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil in 1964.
Public domain (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Bishop#/media/File:Elizabeth_Bishop,_1964.jpg)
People sometimes ask where an artist’s ideas come from. It’s a hard question to answer; “it depends” is probably the most accurate answer, though hardly illuminating to the questioner.
On a few blessed occasions, the answer is, “from everywhere.” I like this comment from a letter by Elizabeth Bishop to her friend, Robert Lowell:
Your poems “have that sure feeling, as if you’d been in a stretch … when everything and anything suddenly seemed material for poetry—or not material, seemed to be poetry, and all the past was illuminated in long shafts here and there, like a long-waited-for sunrise. If only one could see everything that way all the time! It seems to me it’s the whole purpose of art, to the artist (not to the audience)—that rare feeling of control, illumination—life is all right, for the time being.” (Elizabeth Spires, "One life, one art: Elizabeth Bishop in her letters,” https://newcriterion.com/issues/1994/5/one-life-one-art-elizabeth-bishop-in-her-letters)
An amusing side note comes from Cole Porter’s many stories explaining the origins of “Night and Day” (see William McBrien, Cole Porter, 1998). I’ve captured his various accounts, with poetic license, in my poem, “Theories of Origin,” recently published in Skating Rough Ground:
Theories of Origin
a little hotel, a patio,
ivory dealers in burnouses,
the barkeep simpatico,
a round on the house,
night and day the phonograph playing
Night & Day
while Porter’s in the corner saying
I wrote that in a taxi
in the roar of the traffic--
no, at lunch with the Astor’s
in Newport, when it was raining
drip drip drip—but no,
it wasn’t so prosaic--
I took the wife (no, lover)
to the starry mosaic
vault of a mausoleum--
no no no, it was the plaintive
cry of the muezzin
from a mosque in Morocco--
and no it doesn’t matter
darling where it was
on the Black Sea or a bus’s
if in a bar in Zanzibar
or on far out Antares
or in patent dancing shoes
under a nightclub moon.
That’s the best answer perhaps—it doesn’t matter.
Photo is in the public domain.
Creator:Jan Tomas - M. Manea, B. Teodorescu, Istoria românilor de la 1821 până în 1989, Ed. Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti, 1998, p. 188
Mihai Eminescu (1850 –1889) was a Romanian Romantic poet from Moldavia, and (according to Wikipedia) is generally regarded as the most influential Romanian poet. Several years ago, near the end of 2012, I worked on translating Eminescu’s Sonnet 1 from Romanian to English. Not knowing Romanian, I consulted an English translation, a French translation, Google Translate, and an on-line Romanian dictionary. To avoid a footnote, I added one line—the last line of the third stanza is an explanation of the story of Dochia (which I’ve spelled “Dokia” to clarify the pronunciation). I used Wikipedia to guess at the context of the tale of Dochia for the poem. I also had the help of a young woman from Romania who was excited about seeing the poem in English; she provided literal translations and comments on many words and lines.
Recently, I shared the poem with a friend with a background in Romanian folklore and literature. I was concerned about the switch from 2nd person to 1st person in the poem, but she assured me that it’s in the original, though the 2nd person has the sense of the French “on,” which in English can be quite awkwardly rendered as “one.” Using 1st person throughout would provide a more seamless reading experience, but for now I’m sticking with 2nd person in the octave.
My Linked-in connection says Dochia was not a fairy, but Eminescu thought otherwise, at least for the sake of the poem:
Outside, the leaves scatter. A fierce shower
beats its heavy drops against the pane,
while you pull out your frayed letters again
and relive a whole life in one short hour.
You hope no one knocks on your shut door
as you ponder things once said, the past’s refrain
of sweet nothings that soothe away cold rain.
You nod in pleasant daydreams by the fire.
Lost in that thought, as mist fills up my room,
I call to mind Dokia’s fairy sighs.
In dead winter she coveted spring’s bloom.
The rustling of a skirt is in my ear…
Footsteps lightly skip from stair to stair…
Those elegant cold fingers press my eyes.
"Virtually every sentence that contains the word 'brand' is bullshit...."--Cory Doctorow, "The Memex Method" (https://doctorow.medium.com/the-memex-method-238c71f2b46). This post prompted me to consider what I was reading and thinking about 10 years ago.
Portrait on Wittgenstein's being awarded a scholarship from Trinity College, 1929. Clara Sjögren - Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius by Ray Monk. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_Wittgenstein#/media/File:35._Portrait_of_Wittgenstein.jpg. Public domain.
Somewhere—probably in Ray Monk’s biography—I’ve read of the value the philosopher Wittgenstein placed on a poem by Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862), “Graf Ebenhards Weißdorn.” In that poem, Wittgenstein claimed the unsayable was “contained in what has been uttered” (qtd. in Tilghman, Wittgenstein, Ethics, and Aesthetics, 64).
When positivists of the Vienna Circle “met with Wittgenstein at times expecting elucidations on the nature of logic… instead [they] received defenses of religion or listened to Wittgenstein recite and discuss poetry” (Tilghman 18; Martin Pulido, "The Place of Saying and Showing in Wittgenstein's Tractatus," Aporia 19:2, 2009, 25).
Here's my rendition of Uhland’s poem. I wrote it several years with the help of Google Translate and other translations posted on the web; I no longer recall the sources. At the time, I was puzzled by what Wittgenstein claimed to have seen in the poem, but now I think I understand a little. In Christian legend, Christ’s crown of thorns was sometimes said to be from a hawthorn. I do not know whether Wittgenstein associated the sprig in the count’s helmet with the crown of thorns, but it seems possible.
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Count Eberhard’s Hawthorn
by Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862)
Count Eberhard the Beard
From Wurttemberg’s domain
On a pious journey fared
To the shores of Palestine.
One day as he was riding
A woodland path in spring
From a hawthorn bush
He took a little cutting.
In his iron helmet
He placed the hawthorn spray;
He carried it off to war
Over the flowing sea.
And when he was back home
He set it in the earth,
And soon the leaves and buds
Into life were stirred.
The count, faithful and true,
Each year came to the sprig;
He was filled with joy
To see it grow so big.
The count shrank with age,
The sprig became a tree.
Beneath it the old man sat
In deepest reverie.
Its high-arching limbs,
Its whisper in his ear
Remind him of the past
And of the distant shore.
For years, I've been collecting quotations that catch my eye or ear. Here's a set of roughly related thoughts on style and matter. The flowers were on our now demolished deck.
The fool is disturbed not when we tell him his ideas are false, but when we suggest they have gone out of style.--Nicolas Gomez Davila
Those who yield and adopt the style of the moment are killed the moment after.—Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch
The only books that matter are those of which it could be said that their author would have suffocated had he not written them.—Julian Green
The weight of our craft stays the same: / To change time into a stanza, / To concentrate fear into meaning.—Tomas Venclova
The greater the probability of a symbol's occurrence in any given situation, the smaller will be its information content. – E.H. Gombrich
Where we can anticipate we need not listen. – E.H. Gombrich, "Art and Illusion"
Today … the range of possible poetic attitudes often excludes such opportunities for satire, argument, and moral opinion as … seen in … [Wordsworth's "Great men have been among us," Shakespeare’s Sonnet 110, and Goldsmith's riff on David Garrick in "Retaliation"], favoring instead detailed particulars of person and setting, confessionalism, and the anti-intellectual role of seeming sincere. These preferences leave out formality and the play of rhetoric, especially any rhetoric with heroic content, as in Wordsworth’s poem. But also in Shakespeare’s 110th sonnet we witness a willingness to explore extremes not of experience only but even of culpability; it is this possibility of guilt that is even further antipathetic to most late-20th-century poets’ threshold of self-esteem.—Mary Kinzie, A Poet's Guide to Poetry.
In the 10th century, when the Kievan knights entered Haggia Sophia...they did not know if there were still on earth or... in heaven.—Czesław Miłosz
[In poetry] straining comes to nothing, for we receive the gift whether we are deserving of it or not.—Czesław Miłosz, Milosz's ABCs, “Ambition.”
Horror is the law of the world of living creatures, and civilization is concerned with masking that truth.—Czesław Miłosz
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: / a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us.—Czesław Miłosz
The clothes of my name fall away and disappear.—Czesław Miłosz