Power And The Glory


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power and the glory Addisons "Campaign" and Grays "Elegy".

Addison's "Campaign" and Gray's "Elegy". (Joseph Addison)(Thomas Gray) Rodney Stenning Edgecombe.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 Heldref Publications

In the meditation set at the heart of the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," which he completed in 1750, Gray notes that deprivation curtails opportunities for evil as well as for good. Chief amongst these is violent individual ambition, which Gray deplores (in marked contrast to Addison's "Campaign" of 1704, which had celebrated the military success of the Duke of Marlborough):

The applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise.
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
(Gray, Collins, and Goldsmith 129-30)
These strophes also figured in an earlier version of the "Elegy," the "Stanza's Wrote in a Country Church-yard" (ca. 1742), in which Gray chose figures from Roman rather than English history to make his points:

Some Village Cato [that] with dauntless Breast
The little Tyrant of his Fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Tully here may rest;
Some Caesar guiltless of his Country's Blood. (Gray and Collins 37)
Although at first glance the reference to "senates" in the later text might suggest an unedited carryover from the earlier, more Latinate one, it is clear that Gray was writing with the entire panorama of human history in mind. For although he let the culturally specific "senates" stand, he pluralized the noun to give it a general application to all significant bodies of government, the English Houses of Parliament amongst them. And once we accept that the senates in question are not only those of Rome but also those of England the historical reference opens up. When Gray wrote about Caesar in the first version of the "Elegy," he had in mind the military campaigns in Bithynia and Gaul by which the leader qualified himself for political office and by which he aspired to an oriental, absolute power, the "throne" that would displace the Senate in course of time. But when Gray altered the antonomasia, Cromwell did not tally with Caesar quite as neatly as Hampden did with Cato, for even though, like Caesar, Cromwell had triggered a civil war, he corresponded more closely to Brutus, while Caesar corresponded to Charles.

However, Gray seems to have had an additional candidate in mind for the category of people who "wade through slaughter to a throne." Recent history had seen the Duke of Marlborough approach a throne (not in act of usurpation, but in the sense of gaining the favor of the monarch) by his success in a bloody international war, which Addison had documented in "The Campaign." This poem contains no fewer than three collocations of blood and bodies of water: "Plunging through seas of blood his fiery steed / Where'er his friends retire, or foes succeed" (1: 46); "Thousands of fiery steeds with wounds tranfixed / Floating in gore, with their dead masters mixt" (1:50); and "With floods of gore that from the vanquish'd fell, / The marshes stagnate, and the rivers swell" (1: 51). Roger Lonsdale, in The Poems of Gray, Collins, and Goldsmith, cites Pope's Temple of Fame and Blair's Grave as the most immediate sources for the sea-of-blood topos in Gray's Elegy, and in both these instances the stance is one of outraged rejection. Addison, on the other hand, registers little sense of horror, but blandly celebrates Marlborough as an ineluctable force of nature, an idea he seems to have borrowed from Marvell's "Horatian Ode upon Cromwel's Return from Ireland": "And pleased the Almighty's orders to perform, / Rides in the whirlwind and directs the storm" (1: 50).

If Gray was thinking of "The Campaign" when he wrote of people who wade "through slaughter to a throne," it would almost certainly account for his shifting from bloody tyrants to venal, fulsome poets. Addison had celebrated the Battle of Blenheim in just this way, and, securing political advancement from the Whigs, he ... more

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Hemingway and Camus: Construction of Meaning and Truth

Once we knew that literature was about life and criticism was about fiction--and everything was simple. Now we know that fiction is about other fiction, is criticism in fact, or metaphor. And we know that criticism is about the impossibility of anything being about life, really, or even about fiction, or finally about anything. Criticism has taken the very idea of "aboutness" away from us. It has taught us that language is tautological, if it is not nonsense, and to the extent that it is about anything it is about itself.-Robert Scholes One of the fascinations of reading literature comes when we discover in a work patterns that have heretofore been overlooked. We are the pattern finders who get deep enjoyment from the discovery of patterns in a text. And true to the calling we have noticed a pattern in and around A Farewell to Arms which, to our knowledge, no one has seen before. Although there are many editions of the novel, and as a result the pagination is slightly different in various editions, it is the case that all editions have forty-one chapters to be found in five books. Here is what we have discovered: if you multiply 41 by 5 you get 205. And now if you take the number of letters in Frederic's name (8) and add that to the number of letters in Catherine's name (9) you get 17. 205 + 17 = 222. And if you grant that the time of the events in the novel, counted properly, is three years, then the pattern we have discovered starts to emerge as figure on ground or as lemon juice ink on a secret message when held over a candle. For what is the product of 222 and 3 but the infamous 666 of Revelations 13:18? Imagine now our delight when we discovered a similar 666 pattern in The Outsider. If you multiply the number of letters in Meursault's name times the number of letters in `Albert' times the number of letters in `Arab' you get 216. Add to that the 6 of `Albert' and multiply by 3 (which is the number one gets when dividing the number of chapters in Part one (6) by the number of books (2) that make up The Outsider) and surprise of surprises: the meaning revealing number `666' once again emerges! Clearly, when seen in this light, these two novels take on new meaning, and this pattern discovery provides a conclusive way to counter all earlier critics who have failed to see this talisman of interpretation, this key to understanding the complexities of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and Camus's The Outsider. `666' offers a key to understanding in that it clearly refers us back to the text which these texts are "playing" with and are in some way about, if "aboutness" is a viable concept and if they are about anything at all. "Wait a minute, here!" shouts Bickford Sylvester, "there is some nonsense even Hemingway scholars will not condone." And of course this pattern of 666 is a bit of nonsense which could be discovered almost anywhere by someone forcing the facts into the pattern. Good 666 sleuths can find that devilish number anywhere; if you don't believe us just ask the soap company. But what are the legitimate limits to interpretations? Does anything count? How can we know when the interpretation we are working on or reading has slipped into the realm of nonsense? There are facts to be observed by the act of looking at the text and then there are interpretations to be deduced using those facts plus everything else one knows about what counts as a fact and what is to be counted as important in producing a coherent and consistent reading. Just as there are different interpretations of quantum theory which must deal with the same facts (taking a fact to be what is) there are different interpretations of A Farewell to Arms and The Outsider. In fact, the difference between science and art may be teased out just here: when a scientific interpretation becomes the accepted one it achieves a privileged status (e.g., evolution), but in ... more

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