Captain Cock’s Journal

Captain Cock’s Journal During Another Voyage Around the Girls

Tuesday, 17th. I farted soon as my lids passed the scape of mine eyes. My bed rumbled, wakening stole into me like last night’s stew, and my cabin was at once a jungle of barbarous scents and cheek-flapping echoes. The squall of the fart blew 15 degrees past my left thigh and 43 degrees up my central-buttocks. I felt it tickle mine taint, where I’ve a pimple like a stuffed pinto bean, and I’ve been tempted to pop it, but I suspect the pus might fly 50 some degrees west into the rear of my gentleman’s grain-sacks. I observed this morn how the hair on those bulbous mounds of His Image had grown, and I much thought of my wife Grace and her fascination with shaving my intimacy. The hairs bent at some 5 degrees south, my captain’s fleshy finger bent similarly in the southern direction, and I was much pressed by God to not relieve my white man’s burden in a stupendous arc and spray of some 69 degrees north onto the walls of mine cabin. Instead, I took up my journal, that silly numbers pomposity the King will read, and I took to recording the rest of my much burdened day. And what a burden I had between mine legs. I am loath to enter into disputes, but I would swear that I was as blue as the sea with which we plied 51 miles east and 30 north.

Friday, 20th. ARRIVAL ON UNNAMED ISLAND. Having been incited by the man in the crow’s nest sighting of land – which during he made the mistake of pointing towards said land at a 40-degree angle and not a 45-degree angle – pushed, was I, towards the relief of my rage in the forms that came as they may. God as my witness, the King shall never bear witness, and so I shall not be judged until the Judgement, and who might judge me for that? My Grace? She is at home. She is no witness. I corrected the boy the 5 degrees and bid the men escort me to the village. They took hold of me, exalted as they were in my generosity in leadership, and they forced me to give in to my base temptations. With dark copper in her hair, and some golden native links in her ears, who can blame my member for the 180-degree tilt it took, most horizontal and rigid in our ship’s wood, in response to the back-frontal 90 degree angle that dark temptress took? My thrusts were, as follows, 40-some degrees inward, followed by a declination angle of 20-some degrees outward, followed by another inward of a higher and – from her -shriller 59 degrees, and naturally this followed with a 19 degree exit during which she screamed at an octave of some 80-plus decibels, and I was much irritated with the half-second lengths with which her screams echoed in my cabin. There was blood dripping at some intervals of 2 or 3 seconds, and it fell most divinely straight into a 180-degree verticality. I noted that the chains around her wrists sagged at some arc of 57 degrees and I though that most disenchanting. I found myself overtaken by the savagery within my shipmen, that savagery with which they take these savages, and I found myself striking her at some intervals of 4 or 5 seconds until she had adjusted the chains to my preferred, and uplifting, 60 degrees precisely. I freed her after the act, bid her go, and I took to disciplining the men for having possessed me so. We pressed on, sailing for some 20 miles north and 50-some miles east, and I thought of how Grace lifted mine hidden hairs to such perfect and well-learned degrees of 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s…

Review of Captain’s Cock’s Journal:

By Ivan Sternovich

            The writer of this “parody” article, Ian Sterns, is a liberal fanatic who cannot remove his bias from anything he writes. His choice to adopt the cerebral tone of Captain Cook’s Journal is well-meaning, but even I, the esteemed reviewer Ivan Sternovich, cannot decipher his point in the constant referencing of numbers. It’s almost as though he was making fun of Captain Cooks obsession with numbers – how they seem to represent the progress of the expedition and are somehow a ridiculous commodity, a value, showing to his audience, the King, how far Cook has gone – but that couldn’t be it; the writer of this parody isn’t that good. No way is that bald dummy Sterns alleging that Cook was concealing the horrors of his journey by summarizing journeys in “miles” and reducing actions to “degrees.” Sterns couldn’t see that Cook was a liar – who probably left out evil actions by himself and crew to spare his reputation – if Cook smacked Sterns in the face with a longboat. Sterns is a pretentious idiot who is anti-feminist. How dare he conceal the horrors of colonization and rape with descriptions of sexual assault through “degrees” and “intervals!” Is he trying to say that the short distance involved in the sexual act and the vast distances of Cook’s travels are one and the same – that both are somehow inherently damaging, and that both can be reduced to numbers and terse description? Is Sterns alleging that Cook uses language as some kind of veil? And do I even need to talk about that introduction? Do we really need lengthy descriptions of Captain Cook’s genital habits? What is even the point of that? Could Sterns be pointing to the inherent humanity in such intimate actions and thoughts? Could he be setting up the strange brutality of his next paragraph by implying that the reader could, possibly, share an embarrassing connection with Cook? Is Sterns even writing about Cook? Or is he writing about Captain Cock? Does Sterns even know what he’s writing about?

Sternovich’s Grade: F+. Radical liberal propaganda with a smattering of white guilt. Just go see the Green Book instead of reading this anti-woman drivel.

Ivan Sternovich, Editor-At-Large,

The Deification and Degeneration of the Traditional Gaelic, or – as they would be Colloquially Renamed – the Irish, and – To Their English Dominators – the Barbarian’s Harp; How the Alteration and Demonization of the Interpretive Symbolism and Corporeal Mechanism of a Country’s National Instrument Reflects the Degradation of Pride and Titles

               Since Ireland’s twelfth century,  when the island was ruled by Gaelic High Kings and chiefs, the harp has been a prominent – and prideful – symbol. Once seen as symbol of sophistication, the decline of Gaelic civilization to English colonization saw the harp bastardized as the sole measure of articulation in the otherwise barbaric – and mostly subjugated – Gaelic people. The Irish poet Thomas Moore, in his poem The Harp that Once Through Tara’s Halls, invokes both initial pride – and subsequent English tainting – in portraying the harp as a bittersweet symbol of Gaelic nostalgia and oppressed outrage.

               The title of the poem, and also the first line of the poem read, “The harp that once through Hara’s halls” in reference to the Hill of Tara, an ancient Gaelic site and, allegedly, the seat of the High King of Ireland. Moore writes of the harps music in the past tense implying that, like the defeated and colonized Gaelic peoples, the harp’s beauty – and therefore it’s reflection of Gaelic sophistication and pride – has been erased or at least altered. To Moore, the harp – and therefore the “soul” of the Gaelic people – is “fled,” and his choice of verb here is intentional; fled implies a conflict prior to the flight itself, and this is a clear reference to Gaelic warriors that fought and died against English colonization. They have been broken, and they have fled, and “the pride of former days” now “sleeps.” Although indirectly, Moore relates the harp’s music to the beat of Gaelic hearts and – just as the music has been silenced – those pulses are “no more.” In the next stanza, and in continuance of the heart/harp motif, Moore writes that “the harp of Tara swells,” as though the heart of Ireland is swelling in grief over the “chiefs and ladies” who are “no more.” Implicating a loose narrative into his poem of remembrance, the harps chord breaks – in the same vein as a heart breaking over a lost love – and what is told in the final twang is a “tale of ruin.” Wrapping up his very clear message – in a thesis like line – Moore claims that “freedom” now “so seldom wakes” and that the “only throb she gives is when some heart indignant breaks to show that she still lives.” Moore, in implying that the damaged heart – and the defeated soul – of the Irish people is resurrected in painful, “broken” spurts – but only to show that there is still some pathetic morsel of life left. This follows the actual progression of the mechanisms and meaning of the harp; following English conquest, the harp’s design was changed to a portable version – one that completely altered the original sound of the harp – that was more adept for what the harp – and it’s artists – had become. Harpists were curried into English courts and made to perform. The harp had become the lone semblance of Irish intelligence and even then, that semblance – and the interpretations of that intelligence – was controlled by the English on a direct and symbolic level. Yes, the harp – and the heart – “breaks” to show proof of life, but that heart is still tainted by the indignance of the original unjust breaking. 000


A man from the stalking brown hills once told me;

“Rides the river an ocean of distance

‘Tween two banks in the grove that is a grotto

Down from the path’s turn at the path’s end.

Slight slant to the earth rushes clear ink

In a clean stream, cleaves erosion and carves motion

Into the rock. Sun’s shimmer on the surging surface,

Life’s breathes in the whistle of the wind

As it whispers through the grasses along the banks.

In profile; a long visage set in sediment

Sits, watches the water, weathers it’s wails

With ears waxed wet lichen and eyes winnowed hollow

Under a furrowed brow tousled porous

And knotted by bloodless cool contempt.

Nose upturned; stratification’s projection.

Lips folded in union, their earthen sculptor

With marred hands marked melancholy’s wrinkle

Within time’s vista. Given life, binds vise

Around the boulder, and like a boulder

It gets older, never moving and ever never aging.

Stale tears of pale moss down flat cheeks defaced

By splinters and supplication, by tears

And by tears,” claimed he, “And on the bank opposite;

Mirrored in despair in the deadened river;

Wreathed in kin; a tree. A most crooked tree!

Leering twisted, a bark-bitten beauty

Whose bole, long ago, was bisected.

A pair of arms hang, over the edge,

Across the jumping span, over pellucidity

And above the brow of the immobile stone;

Like fluttering fingers flicking mockingly,

Like frigid spume from the turgid maelstrom below,

Like licentious lover’s lilt, that last lifting touch,     

Like dancing askance afore the fires over the hills;

Branches in broken precision, draping all light,

Brokered into the skein of a scattered weave.

Slits revealed through the net; the skin of the sun                 

Scintillating, burning bright as the days as the days drag on.”

But another man, from the same green grass hills, told me thus;

“You see I saw with these eyes of mine;

Some little stream in the seam of the earth,

Inside this side of a broken bride’s dream,

Down where the path leaves the path’s end.

Earth’s shivering wine ever flows a-shimmer, a fluid feast flush

With silver flower-buds forever unblossomed

And undulating under water unburdened

As unbroken water under un-needed bridges.

A valley extended to mortal arm’s full extension,
Where one foot afore another’s affectations

Quickly effect’s end of the vista’s affections.

From my vantage – during the cricket sung-adage

Of day’s repose, when shadow spreads as a shawl,

And the moon casts pale glares through sun’s glaring death-mask –

I did see a tree. A most bereaved tree!

Bowing to boughs full-leaved and leaning,

Bole trunkless, breastless, and pair-armed,

Bare as the cloudless night, white as a beech bleached lunar

On the grass-stalked banked beach. Verdant dawn far off

But not forgotten – Nothing, at all, forgotten

By the lover of the tree; the rock.

A stolid fellow despite his cocked, concave eye.

As solid as a spine yet spineless despite height,

Relenting on a whim to what he had given

To win the heart of his heartless mirror;

His sight and his everything, across the river

And over his brow – where, writ in the land,

She stands, touching that brow upon it’s furrow

With naught but a single breadthless branch

To breach the breathless breath between them –

And a single sliver of pale bark falls between them,

Landing upon the feast’s silver plate reflected there. Between them.

And between them…how much cheese they had!”

Robbing Blind Cripples to Pay Starving Children

Among the most austere of their respective collections – be that the collection of Coleridge and Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads or the choices of painting presented to the class for this assignment – Andrew Jones by Williams Wordsworth and Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea both portray narratives that are – on their seven-stanza and washed-blue gray faces – rudimentary yet, when analyzed deeper, profound in commentary on the psychological concepts of perspective and projection. The Monk by the Sea is seemingly focused on the eponymous monk; he stands alone, facing the ocean, apparently in deep contemplation. A soft light prevails at the paintings top but, as the ocean is neared, the horizon grows darker and darker. Whether a storm is brewing or whether it is simply the shadows off the ocean – whether the monk is vanguard against the darkness or whether that darkness is representative of the monk’s troubled thoughts – is left to the viewers interpretation. The relative lightness of the sand under the monk’s feet could support the assertion that the monk is standing steadfast – or it’s contrast to the sea’s darkness could be a commentary on the randomness of nature. It doesn’t actually matter as there is no objective interpretation – or, more accurately, no viewer’s perspective on the painting is more correct than another viewers – and there is no doubt that a Romantic painter would agree with such an assertion.

            A Romantic poet would be equally hard-pressed to claim that one perspective is more valid than another’s. Invested in the liberation of their minds from a harsh society’s preconceptions of value, the Romantic poets – Wordsworth, author of Andrew Jones, among them – would agree that the mere words on a page – or the simple colors of a painting – are conduits demanding a reader – or viewer’s – interjection. Andrew Jones, for instance, seems a straightforward tale of how Andrew Jones filches a beggar Cripple’s strawpenny. A second reading, however, might leave the reader questioning the accuracy of the purported tale. First the narrator is neither Andrew Jones, the Cripple, or the Horseman who throws the penny to the ground – rather, the narrator is both unnamed and undescribed; a faceless, background-less “I” whose only thoughts outside the direct actions of his story are “He’ll (Jones) breed his children up to waste and pillage.” Remember that the narrator’s ire for Jones is not inspired by Jones’ “swear and tipple” habits but, instead, is drawn from the events to follow; the narrator, therefore, is deriving his perceptions on not only Jones as a parent – but also the potentially unborn children of Jones – off this single incident. While a swearing degenerate who steals pennies from beggars might not inspire a positive perception of parenting skills from the poem’s reader, the narrator’s perception of Jones might, in fact, be corrupting the rest of the work.

“Under half-a-crown,” Andrew Jones is purported to have told the beggar as they pleaded for the penny, “What a man finds is all his own, And so, my friend, good day to you.” Given that the narrator began the poem by applying a negative connotation to Jones, the reader is expected to understand the implication that Jones’ words are dismissive and, after speaking them, he turns from the beggar and marches off with the penny. However, if the reader applies the same interpretive logic to this poem as they do The Monk by the Sea – in terms of questioning the artistically painted turmoil, or lack there-of, of the lone monk’s thoughts – then the reader might begin to question why, if the narrative is so intense and verbose in his hatred of Jones, that the narrator neglects to explicitly mention Jones’ handling of the penny. Suppose that the narrator is, in fact, another beggar. Suppose that the penny, then, was thrown to both the cripple and the narrator. Jones, walking along merrily and by totally innocent happenstance, becomes the arbiter of the penny’s fate; he must decide whether the Cripple or the narrator should receive the penny. Perhaps Jones then stuck to a deeply engrained moral code – based off who originally saw, or “found,” and therefore claimed, the penny – and gave the penny to the well-deserving Cripple to the chagrin of the narrator-beggar. Or maybe Jones did, in fact, walk away with the penny. Yet Wordsworth, in a previous line, describes the recent weather as “droughty.” If Jones does in fact have children, and if there is in fact a drought, perhaps Jones truly needs that penny. Perhaps his family is suffering from the droughts and – given that there is no physical description of Jones – perhaps Jones is in an even worse state than the Cripple. Perhaps his children are starving, or are dehydrated, and perhaps that penny is the only thing that Jones can find to provide for his family. When Jones spouts off his justification for taking the penny, perhaps it is a thinly-veiled attempted to hide his grief over what his circumstances have driven him to. Further, with all of Jones’ purported immorality, it is curious that he deigns to call the Cripple – who the narrator himself had described as a “friendless Man” – “friend” when he takes – or doesn’t take – the penny. Why would Jones – who to the narrator seems the height of arrogance and well deserving of a “press-gang” to “sweep him from the village” – show such familiarity to a crippled beggar who he is robbing? The lack of objective description around the events is revealing in itself – and it is startingly revealing of a narrator whose bias throws off the entire narrative’s legitimacy.

If a visual piece of media, such as a painting, can have it’s apparent narrative and inherent meaning derived from the literal eyes-based perspective of a viewer, there is nothing stopping a poem’s meaning and events from being defined entirely by the mental perspective of a reader. No reader – or purveyor’s – interpretation of a piece of art is more accurate or legitimate than anybody else’s, and the impossible – and far-reachingly implicit – connection between Wordsworth’s Andrew Jones and Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea is proof of that.

  • Ian Sterns

The Rime of the Rockstar

            Despite a century-and-a-half’s gap between the release of the two versions, Iron Maiden’s heavy metal version of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is both faithful recreation and modern stylization of the traditional Romantic structure. On a lyrical level, Iron Maiden follows a somewhat tight ending rhyme structure of ABAB. The beginnings of the lines, at times, will adopt a rhyme – “Hear, see, here,” in the opening lines – and there are even more complex plays on words – “His eye, mesmorize” – that indicate a mastery over the musical presentation of poetry. And make no mistake; the ample use of poetic conventions is proof enough that this version – despite strong bass and roaring guitar – is indeed a form of poetry. Iron Maiden mimics and takes artistic liberty with the Romantic strive for beauty in the simple reading – or listening – of language.

            On a musical level, the simple – but violent – riff of the instruments provides an audible tempo to the song in the same way that an implicit tempo is created in the mind of a poetry reader. A discerning listener – and a reaching poetic analyst – might conclude that the differences between background riff – such as when the drums flare during intense singing sections or when the instruments cool off near the climax – is an example of “musical stanza.” In the same way that poetic stanzas signal a separation between rhyme scheme, subject, or even tempo and meter, Iron Maiden’s alternations in bass-line is a defining characteristic of a Romantic metal song.

            Finally, on a meta level, the song’s eccentricity – it’s booming flare and the simple fact that it is a metal song – is evidence of Romantic inspiration. The entirety of the modern music industry is inspired by the selfish ideals of the Romantic poets – and selfish is not written here in a derogatory fashion. The Romantics were invested in themselves, their own experiences – and their own perceptions and reactions to the world – and, most of all, other’s reactions to them. Despite all the solitary posturing of the Romantics, their enamoration with nature is still a rejection of society. The Romantics only find themselves in nature because they find in nature an opposite of a society they seem to distrust, or even despise – but that does not excuse them from the fact that without that society to reject, there would be no Romanitc thought. For better or for worse – and surely much to the chagrin of the poets themselves – the Romantics are defined by their society. Their poems, as critical of society as they are, are still for society. Within the original Rime of the Ancient Mariner, there is the Mariner addressing the wedding guest – and yet there is the implication that the Mariner is actually speaking to the reader of the poem. This is a constant theme of Romantic poetry – of poetry in general – and Iron Maiden conveys this excellently; when they get up on stage to perform the song, and they belt out the lyrics and the their instruments are banging, they are addressing the audience of their concert in the same way that Romantic poets are addressing their readers. In feeling the gazes of the audience members – in taking in their admiration and adoration – Iron Maiden is transcending beyond the “standard” plane of existence and, in feeling the intensity of the singers, the audience members are transcending along with the band. They lose themselves in the music, in the smashing vibe of their fellow concert go-ers, and they step out of their mind – or at least out of their usual perception of reality – in the same way that readers do when they are struck – or when they lose themselves – in the intricate beauty of a Romantic poem.

The Undying Equiano

The Undying Equiano

In his “Interesting Narrative,” Oladuah Equiano is constantly referencing and quoting texts by the English writers and prominent figures that were contemporary to him. He critiques and revises, agrees and disagrees, and he yet always maintains his narrative’s arc. The references are largely supplementary to the text; he uses them as a reflection for his own thoughts rather than simply summarizing their contents and he never seems to allow a quotation to supersede his narrative. That is, at least, until page 101. Equiano has been seized and forced aboard a ship bound for the West Indies. The enforced departure from those he considered “friends” and the unknown of his destination has made him feel as though he has “plunged, as I supposed, in a new form of slavery (98).” As the ships sail, Equiano is afforded the opportunity to reflect on this. It is here that, for the first time, Equiano allows a quotation to take over his narrative

            “…and I called on death to relieve me from the horrors I felt and dreaded, that I might be in that place

            Where slaves are free, and men oppress no more.

            Fool that I was, inur’d so long to pain,

            To trust to hope, or dream of joy again.”

            Almost as though it overtakes his thoughts in a quasi-stream-of-consciousness-fashion, Equiano has his writing jump immediately into a stanza from the 1773 poem, “The Dying Negro.” Inspired by the true tale of a black servant’s suicide over being separated from his white fiancé and published by John Bicknell and Thomas Day, the poem is considered “the first significant piece of verse propaganda directed explicitly against the English slave systems’ (Wood, Oxford University Press, 2003). It adopts the first-person perspective of the deceased black servant and so, as you can image, the section that Equiano quotes is a description of the poem’s protagonist yearning to be free. Equiano chose this section of the poem because he relates to the protagonist; it could even be said that Equiano is suggesting that their thoughts on were essentially the same. Though he is not being separated from a romantic love, his enforced voyage will separate him from those he considered “friends” – such as Daniel Queen – and the “comfort” – relative to his prior years as a slave – of his situation in the aftermath of the fleet’s successes. For Equiano, that time seemed to represent a calm, of sorts, in the middle of a storm. He had become inured to the pain of his slavery, just as the black servant was, and Equiano cannot help but be “ready to burst with sorrow and anguish” that his meager dreams of joy have been subverted.

            There is something else to be said about Equiano’s quotation and, more importantly, his incorporation of it into his writing. The way in which his writing “jumps” without formal transition into the poem’s mid-stanza is unusual – and, for Equiano, thus far unprecedented. It is clear that Equiano is writing in a stream of consciousness here. The poem’s next lines support this:

            “Now dragg’d once more beyond the western main,

            To groan beneath some dastard planter’s chain;

Where my poor countrymen in bondage wait

The long enfranchisement of ling’ring fate;

Hard ling’ring fate! While, ere the dawn of day;”

The poem goes on to describe the “burn” of “shame and anguish” and the “slow pac’d sun.” “Morn” is “unwelcome.” Somehow, the poem and Equiano’s thoughts – and his objective situation – are in sync. Equiano is going to the literal “West” Indies – where, incidentally, he will describe the “scorching West India sun” being “very painful (102).” It is important to note that Bicknell and Day, whose writing seems to so align with Equiano’s thoughts, are both white English-men. “The Dying Negro” is a poem written by two white men about the first-person perspective of an enslaved black men. What is also important to note is that – as far as I am able to tell based off google searches on the poem – Equiano has actually moved around lines in the poem and rewritten certain sections of the piece. Disclaimer: there might actually just be different variations of the poem, but I was not able to find another with the exact same line order of Equiano’s quotation.

I wonder, then, if Equiano’s choice of “The Dying Negro” was as much a stylistic choice to convey his thoughts as it was a back-handed gesture for the original white writers. His editing of the poem seems to suggest that he was not entirely satisfied with how the calamitous thoughts are originally portrayed. To me, it seems that Equiano’s editing is a subtle linguistic powerplay. By quoting the poem in his “own” way, Equiano has taken power over it and the language behind it; he has debased the notion of quotation by presenting his quotation in a revised way, and he has attacked the double-edged power behind language; that is, language’s ability to depict truths in untrue ways. For all of “The Dying Negro’s” commendable anti-abolition sentiments, it is still inherently untrue; Bicknell and Day thought of the poem based on a news story about the servant – which in itself is a second-hand portrayal. Bicknell and Day did not actually live through the black servant’s experiences – but Equiano lived through his. Equiano, for all his admissions to the forgetful flaws of memoir writing, is still subtly claiming that not only is his truth about his slavery more valid than a white Englishman’s, but his thoughts on slavery – and his interpretations of other slave’s thoughts – is more valid given that he himself was a slave.

-Ian Sterns

Of the three images published by the “bullies” of Alexander pope, this final image is perhaps the subtlest in its criticism. It portrays one of the Grub Street writers – the “low-end” writing order that Tories Pope and Swift were members of – in a “stereotype” Grub street writing environment; chaotic, with the presence of harlots – or of similarly disreputable women – with the discarding of honor and virtue as represented by the sword forgotten on the ground, and with the distraction – and ultimate hack-quality production – of the Grub street writer himself. Although there is no explicit mention of the Grub Street writes in the fourth book of the Dunciad – our prescribed reading for this question – it must be made clear for the sake of context that, despite being a Grub Street writer himself, Pope himself satirizes Grub Street. That fact alone provides a new angle on the Dunciad and the motivations of Pope: he sought to satirize his contemporary English society – but he was also able to recognize his, and his works’, roles in society.

            Based off my interpretation that the woman on the far left in this image is a harlot, I believe that Pope’s invocation of the “harlot” figure in his Fourth Book of the Dunciad was intentional. In the fourth book of The Dunciad, Pope opens with a vivid stanza – a metaphoric reflection on Pope’s cynical view on English society – portraying the gagging and binding of Logic and the stripping of “fair rhetoric.” I believe that this is a jab at either the Grub Street writes or what the Grub Street writers represented to the “elites” of English society: the degradation of their valiant and proper language. Much like Swift attacks the elitism behind “proper” English through the horse-people’s ridiculous dialect, Pope not only acknowledges his order’s impropriety – he also turns it into a double-entendre assault against the originators of the highly elitist “degraded English” perspective on Grub Street. He does this by invoking the harlot figure as a savior:

When, lo! a harlot form soft sliding by,

With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye:

Foreign her air, her robe’s discordant pride

In patchwork fluttering, and her head aside:

The harlot enters the chaos that is this perceived denigration of the English language. Her voice is “small” to symbolize that she does not conform to the boisterous righteousness of proper English, her robes are “foreign “and “patchwork” to pronounce her position as a commoner, and her occupation as a harlot is degraded enough.

It is curious, then, that Swift seems to have “stolen” this savior harlot from his critics. Note that the harlot in the above image is holding a scripture of her own. I believe that, from the perspective of Pope’s critics, this was meant to represent that Grub Street was so disgusting that even harlots could write there. Pope “steals” this idea by portraying the “soft” and “foreign” harlot as being the only figure capable of halting the chaos and calling out the agents behind them;

She tripped and laughed, too pretty much to stand;

Cast on the prostrate Nine a scornful look,

Then thus in quaint recitative spoke

The “Nine” referred to above were the “Logic” and “Rhetoric” and other such capitalized concepts mentioned by Swift; highly powerful concepts, with a lot of order and pre-established rules surrounding them – and yet Swift seems to almost agree with his critics that not only do base commoners have voices such as the harlot in the critics image and the harlot in Swift’s poem – he takes it a step further by suggesting that voice is the only voice able to actually silence the rabid and needless chaos that surrounds the elitist exaltation of the English language.

Gulliver’s Gullet Gelded

            In my initial reading of Gulliver’s Travels, I found that I had breezed through the opening letter – from the “author” to his cousin – out of an eagerness to get to the ridiculous descriptions and sardonic plotline that the satire became known for. This was a mistake – and that’s not because there isn’t plenty of metaphor to dissect in the “novel’s” pulp – but because upon a rereading, I believe that the opening contains some of the most potent satire of the captivity narrative.

            The entire opening reads like an angry rant. The author seems to be attempting to dissociate himself from the text – and it’s potential veracity – as early as the first line; “I hope you will be ready to own publicly, whenever you shall be called to it, that by your great and frequent urgency you prevailed on me to publish a very loose and uncorrect account of my travels…” In the context of this book’s original publication as a “serious” account of captivity and voyage, it seems totally ludicrous – and profitability damaging – to suggest that the author is, in a sense, lying. This, however, is the first of Swift’s multi-faceted prods at writers of captivity narratives.

 In the case of Mary Rowlandson, numerous parts of her allegedly true narrative seem censored or obscured. And as we established in class, her motivation behind the half-truths in her narrative was probably her reputation and profitability as a religious woman. I am unsure of whether Rowlandson attempted to disassociate herself from her narrative but I imagine that –  if she were to do so – she would do so with a letter similar to Gulliver’s letter to his cousin. Passing the buck of even desiring to write the narrative while simultaneously calling into question the truth of it’s contents. Gulliver claims that a “paragraph about her majesty Queen Anne, of most pious and glorious memory” was untrue. He is, of course, referring to his incident of urination upon a representation of the Queen’s palace.

Rowlandson never goes as far as pissing on her own religion or her community’s perception on Native Americans but her choice to only briefly portray moments of their hospitality and to make ambiguous whether she accepted King Philip’s pipe would certainly have caused a stir amongst Puritan close readers. She describes in visceral detail the attack on her home – as Gulliver describes in visceral detail his imprisonment and his destruction of the Blefuscu fleet – but she, like Gulliver, chooses to leave uncertain particular facts of her captivity. Gulliver does so in the form of an angry rant and Rowlandson in a more reserved ambiguity but it is clear the motivations of both “authors” was the same; the protection of their reputation as upright members of a highly religious society.

            – Ian Sterns

Prince William and Princess Mary

William: As I should have said unto you woman, your principles were skin deep. Improper and undue would embody the destruction of your stead but might you not defend your virtues too? Might you not fight as your men do? What is the heathen that mingles with savages such as I and mine and their children? Is there some humor here? I should profess to it and so enjoy; I read your text, woman, and I found it worthy of Jesus Christ. Did you know that I read it to him? He came to me and I found his skin like yours. What value is that to you?

Mary: It is a lie.

William: Have we not lied enough in letting you live thus far? You have your chastity  and you have washed your child’s blood off. Those are lies to you? I have read some of your people’s tales and have concluded that you should have luck on your side that you wouldn’t have been forced to do the babe yourself. Do I mourn for your child?

Mary: I don’t know.

William: What should be the matter if I should say I don’t know either? We sold you for timber and that should have been the end of you. The end of us, as it were, and you shall go on without us having ever begun. Here I am, and I am not vengeance. What am I?

Mary: I don’t know.

William: I am Jesus Christ, woman. I take the image of God and do not embrace him not because I do not wish but because I have no need to. God has done nothing for me except leave me to your white man’s paradigm; I breathe in the blood of Christ and hack out the black spittle of God’s intention.

Mary: You are a blasphemer.

William: I submit again that God has done nothing for me. If he had given me skin he had given me tar. My people light fires and chant. My parents were abominations and I color my language like you might yourself with jewels. No man and no God showed me how I might make myself shine and so I am left to conclude, woman, that your eyes are mirrors. There is a reason I asked to be let into your residence. You are finding us amenable people, yes? We have offered –

Mary: My eyes are mirrors?

William: Only so that I might see myself. And then they go and they close again and I forget that you ever even had a child. Have you forgotten as well?

Mary Rowlandson is my Mom

Mary Rowlandson would probably have made a lot of dough as a writer nowadays and that is because she is incredibly conscious of her audience. The entirety of her narrative reads as a careful “tightrope walk” between telling her story’s truths and protecting her own identity as a Puritan woman. There is a certain ambiguity regarding certain events in the story – such as whether she hits the pipe or even whether her “chastity” was violated – and this lends to the story’s overall narrative being a passive “floating.” This allows Rowlandson ample opportunity to delve into her own psyche – though it is important to remember that she is writing this in retrospect. This is not a journal and, therefore, she has a great degree of agency with how she portrays the events and her reactions to them. In many ways, her simply writing this novel and it being as successful as it was was already a subversion of the Puritan’s tropes regarding women. She has total control over her characterization and she uses this control to great monetary effect: the ambiguities in the story are a result of her needing to respect Puritan ideals to actually capture a Puritan audience. Even as she is being empowered by having control over her own captivity story, she is still forced to portray herself as more passive and more reserved with the natives than many in the class were positing she actually was. It would be interesting to have a conversation with Rowlandson pre and post captivity. I think pre you might see a devout Puritan mother but I wonder if post, and despite her insistence that she thanks God for what happens her, if you would actually see as devout a Puritan as before. I wonder if she was forced into portraying a more passive version of herself compared to how she actually acted.

To be honest – and if I am going on a tangent here, I am sure that Zakhir will reflect it in my grade but I still have to say it: I was a little disgusted by just how many people in the class claim they would not sympathize with Rowlandson’s circumstances. I really do think that this viewpoint comes from one of ignorance and of a need to be self-affirmed in a bizarre set of virtues. From an objective angle, Rowlandson was not a combatant and neither were her children. She was not personally attacking anybody and if you removed the races from the equation, I bet that a lot more people in the class would be sympathetic to a character who has just had their home suddenly raided and burned and their children shot in front of them. I really do think there is a severe degree of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance affecting those who voted “No;” they appear to have forgot that, prior to Rowlandson’s captivity, they and Rowlandson could be compared extensively on a matter that goes above race and gender: that of cultural identity. Whether those “No” – sayers like it or not, they are no different from Rowlandson in that they are, presumably since they’re in college, attempting to build and maintain a life while living under a government that still exhorts imperialism and nationalism. It is perplexing to me just how many people in our class forget that they are living under a government that does the same thing to impoverished nations across the world that the Puritans did to Indian. Now, however, the United States uses more subtle tactics of conquests such as election manipulation or wide-spread invasion – but when you look at the Puritan’s overt brutality, they and the current United States did not exactly achieve different results. Yes, I am accusing everybody who voted “No” of hypocrisy. You all seem to forget that you are citizens – or at least participants – in a nation that is just as imperialistic and violent as it ever was. You can refute this by saying that you did not vote for Trump, that he is not your president, that you don’t support the betrayal of the Kurds or that you don’t support the U.S. providing the weapons that the Saudis are using to kill millions – MILLIONS – of Yemeni – but all I say to that is bullshit. Everybody in this class, including me, goes on with their lives despite the fact that, many hundreds of miles away, our government is persecuting and murdering en masse. To me, those people who voted “No” are very close-minded people. They are configuring a moral compass by which we might measure which grieving mother should be empathized with…and yet they are not applying that moral compass to themselves. If you want to put yourself in a position to decide who is worthy of being sympathized with, you need to look at yourself: by the standards of the moral compasses put forth in that “No” answer, the only response to the United States contemporary imperialism would be to quit paying taxes and live off the grid, separate from the government and maybe even in another country. If just by being a citizen trying to build a life in an imperialist country you are somebody abhorrent and somebody who deserves no sympathy when your child is shot in front of you…then what the hell is everybody in this class? Don’t forget what kind of a government we live under. Don’t forget what kind of a government we pay taxes to and “participate” in.