Alan Munton, C. H. Sisson, Alan Munton, C. H. Sisson
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Collected Poems and Plays
Alan Munton, C. H. Sisson, Alan Munton, C. H. Sisson
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About This Book
At the beginning of his career Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) wrote vigorous poetry, and plays which in their form and vehement characterisation resemble the later work of Samuel Beckett. This volume includes major works: One-Way Song, and Enemy of the Stars in its two very different versions, as well as other writings that can now be seen as central to the formation of Lewis's work. The plays and poems crackle with ferocious energy, concentrated and brilliant, as Lewis creates a literary equivalent to the visual revolutions of Cubism and Vorticism. He explores how an artist should think and write in an oppressive world, the relationship between imagination and action. This edition, with Alan Munton's annotations, is a definitive text based on Lewis's own final corrections. An introduction by C.H. Sisson places these radical works in the context of Lewis's other writings.
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ONE IS IN IMMENSE COLLAPSE OF CHRONIC PHILOSOPHY. YET HE BULGES ALL OVER, COMPLEX FRUIT, WITH SIMPLE PITH OF LIFE. VENUSTIC AND VERIDIC-TYPE OF FEMININE BEAUTY CALLED 'MANNISH.' THE HERO'S PONDEROUS MASK IS OF BEST NORTHERN WORKMANSHIP.
IT IS HIS AGON. FIRST HE IS ALONE. A HUMAN BULL, BOOTED AND BLINKERED, RUSHES INTO THE CIRCUS. THIS IS THROG, OF NO MORE CONSEQUENCE THAN LOUNGING STAR OVERHEAD. HE IS NOT EVEN A 'STAR.' HE RUSHES OFF, HE CHARGES BACK, INTO THE DARKNESS BENEATH THE SURFACE OF THE SCENE.
CHARACTERS AND PROPERTIES BOTH EMERGE FROM A PRECIPITOUS RAMP DESCENDING INTO THE EARTH. THIS TRAP IS UPON THE CIRCUMFERENCE OF THE PIT INTO WHICH THE SPECTATORS GAZE-NOTHING BUT 'GALLERY' IN THIS TELESCOPIC STAGECRAFT. THE PROTAGONIST REMAINS A LONG WHILE NEGLECTED, AFTER THE INFERNAL ASSAULT, AS THOUGH HIS FELLOW ACTORS HAD FORGOTTEN HIM, CAROUSING IN THEIR PROFESSIONAL CAVERN.
Second Character. Jew-beaked and jag-taloned—a gorcrow, as sleek and sable—the juvenile apache. Black bourgeois aspirations undermine that blatant virtuosity of self. Criminal instinct of intemperate bilious heart, the violent underdog, is put at service of Unknown Humanity, our King. The latter's boundless royal aversion for the great Protagonist (for the premier character, whose agon it is—statue-mirage of Liberty in the great desert) finds expression in the words and attitudes of this humble locum-tenens.
Mask of discontent, anxious to explode (he is restrained by qualms of vanity). Eyes grown venturesome in native temperatures of Pole—indulgent and familiar, blessing with white nights.
Throughout, the type of the characters, very pronounced in this all-star cast as well, has been selected from those broad compact faces where Europe grows arctic, intense—human and universal.
['Yet you and me! ' I hear you— What of you and me? 'Why not from the english metropolis?' But in this mad marriage offalse minds, is not this a sort of honeymoon? We go abroad. Such a strange thing as our coming together requires a strange place too for the initial stages of our intimate ceremonious acquaintance. It is our 'agon' too. Remember that it is our destiny!]
THERE ARE TWO SCENES THE STAGE ARRANGEMENTS
RED OF TARNISHED COPPER PREDOMINANT COLOUR. UP-ENDED EGG-BOXES, CASKS, RUBBLE, CHEVAUX DE FRISE, COLLECTIONS OF CLAY-LOAM AND BRICK-DUST, HAVE BEEN COVERED, THROUGHOUT ARENA, WITH DISUSED SAIL-CANVAS, STAINED AND HENNAED.
HUT OF SECOND SCENE - THIS IS SUGGESTED BY CHARACTERS TAKING UP THEIR POSITION AT THE OPENING OF THE SHAFT LEADING DOWN INTO MIMES' QUARTERS. THE COWLS OF TWO UPCASTS, FOR VENTILATION OF LATTER, PROTRUDE TO LEFT OF HATCHWAY.
A GUST, SUCH AS IS MET WITH IN THE CORRIDORS OF THE UNDERGROUND, CAUSES THEIR CLOTHES TO SHIVER OR TO FLAP. THIS ARTIFICIAL SUBTERRANEOUS WIND BLARES UP THEIR VOICES-THE MASKS ARE FITTED WITH TRUMPETS OF ANTIQUE THEATRE-WITH EFFECT OF TWO CHILDREN BLOWING AT EACH OTHER WITH TOY INSTRUMENTS OF METAL.
THE AUDIENCE LOOKS DOWN INTO THE SCENE-AS THOUGH IT WERE A HUT ROLLED HALF UPON ITS BACK, DOOR UPWARDS, THE CHARACTERS GIDDILY MOUNTING IN ITS OPENING.
INVESTMENT OF RED UNIVERSE.
EACH FORCE IN TURN ATTEMPTS TO SHAKE HIM. HE IS ROCKED AND TOSSED—INFLUENCE AFTER INFLUENCE IN SLOW SUCCESSION IS BROUGHT UP TO ASSAIL HIM, EACH AFTER ITS MANNER.
CENTRAL AS STONE, THE FIRST PLAYER (THE FIRE-NAME OF ARGHOL) IS A POISED MAGNET, OF SUBTLE, VAST, SELFISH THINGS.
WHEN LYING, HE IS THE HUMAN STRATUM OF INFERNAL BIOLOGIES, SILL UPON SILL, HIGHLY COMPRESSED. WALKING, HE APPEARS A WARY SHIFTING OF BODIES IN DISTANT EQUIPOISE. A GOD BUILT BY AN ARCHITECTURAL STREAM, FECUNDED BY MAD BLASTS OF SUNLIGHT, SITTING, HE MOST RESEMBLES. THE LAST POSE BECOMES HIM BEST-THE AFFINITY WITH THE BUDDHA.
THE ACTION OPENS
The first stars appear. Arghol comes out of the but—it is his cue. The stars are his cast. The player is a matter of thirty minutes behind time and emerges compulsing into its buttonhole a whalebone disk. A murmur disturbs the cream of Posterity, assembled in silent ranks, generation behind generation. One hears the gnats ' song of the Thirtieth Centuries.
They strain to see him, the gladiator who has come to do battle with an ideologic phantom, namely, Humanity. It is the great popular recreation of the Future Mankind. This is the outstanding athlete, the prime exponent of this sport in its palmy days. Posterity slowly sinks into the hypnotic trance of art; then the arena is transformed into the necessary scene.
THE RED WALLS OF THE UNIVERSE NOW SHUT THEM IN, WITH THIS FOREDOOMED PROMETHEUS. THEY BREATHE IN CLOSE ATMOSPHERE OF TERROR AND NECESSITY, UNTIL THE EXECUTION IS OVER AND THE RED WALLS RECEDE-THE DESTINY OF ARGHOL CONSUMMATED, THE UNIVERSE SATISFIED!
[THE BOX OFFICE RECEIPTS HAVE BEEN ENORMOUS.]
ROUGH EDEN OF ONE SOUL-TO WHOM ANOTHER MAN, AND NOT EVE, WOULD BE MATED.
THE EARTH HAS BURST, A GRANITE FLOWER, THAT IT MAY DISCLOSE, IN EARTHQUAKE FASHION, THE APPOINTED PROSCENIUM.
A WHEELWRIGHT'S YARD. Once a figure-yard, of the statuary's trade, there are still the fragments of granite cupids, and a torso of a horse which has lost its ears and. lips. Here arethe hoops for sport of nurseling giants—the axes of splintered radii, starfish-wise, axletrees, rotted limbers and rusted linchpins, fasces of spokes.A refuse of chariots—the lumber-place of absolute equipages, for fashion and for industry.
The yard is full of dry, white volcanic light. It is compact with the emblems of one trade: there are tall stacks of pine-ribbons of iron, wheels stranded. A canal bank traverses one side of the allotted octagon. The night is pouring into it like blood from a butcher's bucket—a red night.
Rouge mask in aluminium minor—the grimace of sunset through the dark glass of twilight-it rushes in almost with a faint roar of water. A leaden gob, slipped at zenith, the first drop of violent night. The drop spreads cataclysmically in the harsh waters of evening—caustic Reckitt's stain. The black night comes down on top of the red. The white night follows, with its fierce blue steadfast glare.
Three trees, above the canal—a sentimental black trinity. They are in three sizes, the third is a splendid creature, six feet across the butt. They drive their leaf flocks, they propel them with jeering cry. They plunge, with their anchored herds. They recover themselves—they hurl themselves forward. They do not fall down. They repeat the trick—with a great gasp of mockery—at their Encore. They shiver erect, all the rout of their foliage swirling upon their bodies. Else they slightly bend their joints, impassible acrobats—step rapidly forward, faintly incline their heads.
Across the mud-in-pod of the canal the shadows of the lofty trees are gawky toy crocodiles (sawed up and down by infant giant?). Gollywog of Arabian symmetry, Arghol drags them in blank nervous hatred. There is a thin moon beneath a puff of blood-red cloud. A merganser comes up out of the patch of opal mist where the recumbent giant is to be attacked and goes to its nest somewhere.
Arghol is seen to cross the yard, he wanders upon the banks of the canal until he reaches the patch of mist. There he sits down, all but his trunk immersed in the miasma.
'ARGHOL!' THERE IS A BELLOW OUT OF THE BLACKNESS BEHIND HIM.
Ί AM HERE,' HE RESPONDS, IN A STRONG CROAK, FROM WHERE HE LIES HALF HIDDEN IN THE TERRENE CLOUDLET.
His voice is raucous and disfigured with a catarrh of lies, contracted in the fetid bankrupt atmosphere of life's swamp-but clear and splendid among Truth's balsamic hills, shepherding his agile thoughts.
Like the hateful summons of the tiny-tot, hunting its truant, its dejected, mommer, it breaks out in a rage of incontinence. Primitive distress sharpens the thick bellowing bluster. Out rushes the figure—it arrives rushing without running visibly, as if discharged along the surface of the earth.
Arghol heels over upon his left side. It is the female gesture to facilitate aggression, born of the instinct to reduplicate and breed. Careened in this fashion, the right-hand ribs thrust up offered to the blind assault, a jackboot batters them. These are the least damaged: it is their turn to be struck at, hence his position.
Upper lip shot down, covering half of the black silk chin, like a tight-fitting cap, his body reaches, with the method resulting from long-established habit. Upon the receipt of each crashing kick, in muscular spasm, he makes the pain pass out. He revolves, contracts and vaults up against the boot—he crouches and flings his grovelling Enceladus weight against it, like swimmer with wave.
The boot, the heavy shadow above it, passes. With a whistling noise peculiar to it, the self-centred and elemental shadow passes softly and sickly into the doorway's brown light. The second attack, in its absence—the pain that is, left by the first shadow, lashing him—is worse. He loses consciousness, at this empty repetition—the recollection—the rankling—of the blackened flesh.
His eyes wake first, shaken by rough moonbeams. A crude volume of brutal light—blanched, toneless and vivid—blazes in the planetarium surmounting the narrow arena. He looks up into this narrow dome. Bleak electric advertisement of God, sky-sign of the cosmos. An extravagant immensity—with anoutlay of sheer candle-power—it crushes the onlooker—it oppresses the creature—with wild emptiness of stress.
Arghol meditates, his head out of the mist-patch. The ice-fields of the sky sweep and crash silently overhead. Blowing wild organism out of the mouth of nothing into the hard splendid clouds, some Will casts down its glare, as well, over him. He lies dazzled and still in the silent illuminations.
The canal, that is headed in one direction—his blood, weakly, ploddeth in the opposite. Nature and he pursue opposite paths, in a hostile polarity.—But now the stars shine madly in the archaic blank wilderness of the Universe, machines of prey. Mastodons, placid in electric atmosphere—they are white rivers of power. They stand fixed, in eternal black sunlight. They stand up and sing, louder than the morning, shriller than the firstcomers of the twilight, more profoundly than the foghorn of the sun.
Tigers are beautiful imperfect brutes. The animal beauty of the star-stamped intoxicating heavens is greater than tigers' (for all the head-lights of the killer, muscles of quicksilver)—it is the imperfection much more of the splendour of gods. At the steadfast lightning of this dark storm of worlds the eyes of Arghol wink starwise in sympathy with the effects of a far-offness of long light years.
Throats iron eternities (drinking heavy radiance)—limbs towers of blatant light—the stars poise, stupendously remote. Metal-sided, meteoritic, they are the pantheistic machines fashioned by the astronomer.
The farther, the more violent and vivid, Nature! thinks he, staring back at the flood-lit super-systems. Weakness is crushed out of creation—hard weakness, a flea's size, would be pinched to death in a second could it get so far as that!
Next, truncated by the mist-patch, he has risen to his feet, yawning and swaying—confronting this chill cliff of cadaverous beaming force. Imprisoned in a messed socket of existence, his place in this panorama of power is obscure. He stands, his hands in his stomach-pockets. 'Will it some day, ' says he to himself, 'will energy some day reach Earth, like violent civilization descending—smashing or hardening all? ' He rocks his head, which blares with the pressures of his charging blood.
In the consciousness however of this giant tenderfoot a chip of distant hardness is tugged at dully like a tooth. Thisdistant pull causes him to ache from crown to toe. But so far the violences of all things have left him intact. He is whole as a stone, the core of erosions.
Hanp comes up out of the property-hut. He walks slowly, coughing, chopping the air in goatish spasms. He rolls, as he stumbles forward, a ragged cigarette between his uncouth fingers of his hands all thumbs. Thrusting it into the hair-edged hole of his musty mouth, he coughs its smoke out as it collects, and climbs towards the place where Arghol lies, again inert, after a haggard moment upon his feet. Hanp stirs him roughly with his boot.
Straining and stretching elegantly, with the grace of cats, face over shoulder, this casualty—like a sleepy bed-cramped mistress—responds to the boot's brutal caress.
'Come, you fool Arghol, and eat!'
Are you there?
Have your supper.
'Is that you?'
'Get up now! It is time.'
'It is you then?'
'I have cooked the food.'
'I am not hungry.'
'It is ready for you. Get up and come in.'
Hanp walks back to the open hut. He leaves Arghol writhing, where he has been sleeping. Hanp exits, with a young bark of precocious catarrh. But Arghol remains upon the ground, his face turned up to the expanse of stellar electr...
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Citation styles for Wyndham Lewis
APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2020). Wyndham Lewis (1st ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2011660/wyndham-lewis-collected-poems-and-plays-pdf (Original work published 2020)
[author missing]. (2020) 2020. Wyndham Lewis. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2011660/wyndham-lewis-collected-poems-and-plays-pdf.
[author missing] (2020) Wyndham Lewis. 1st edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2011660/wyndham-lewis-collected-poems-and-plays-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. Wyndham Lewis. 1st ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.