Saturday, March 28, 2009

Counsel from Poor Richard

For the Year of Christ, 2009, being the First after Leap Year:

The financial crisis will not break the banks. They will recover, stimulated in part by the injection of the trillion plus dollars of new cash by the Fed in the coming months. These cash credits, known as reserves, will soar in the effort to prevent deflation--or overvalued, scarce cash.

The system will have more lubricity and inflation will soon rise. While this is happening, it is not sound to hold on to too much money because the inflation will act as a sort of tax--charging you at the rate at which money is devalued by its overabundance.

But this is kind of the point--to stimulate finance while simultaneously punishing its tendency to use the held money of long-term investment for short-term gain. It would be unwise then to stand near while the dunce gets lashed. It would be wiser indeed to invest instead in non-money, valued, material assets--such as land, merchandise (for a future business or personal project), etc., because these will become harder to acquire in the next year (as the currency is devalued).

When and while the currency is most devalued, sometime around the middle of 2010, it will be recommendable to save. This is to say that you get it while it's cheap--wait until the excess liquidity is phased out by increased interest (and tax!) rates--and gain as the money is revalued. Whatever you earn from interest during this period will be compounded with the discount of having purchased your investment (ie. your money) on inflationary discount.

Ben Franklin, primordial American money printer, on the way this works:

"This currency, as we manage it, is a wonderful machine. It performs its office when we issue it: it pays and clothes troops, and provides victuals and ammunition; and when we are obliged to issue a quantity excessive, it pays itself off by depreciation. But this depreciation, tho' in some circumstances inconvenient, has the general good and great effect of operating as a tax, and perhaps the most equal of all taxes, since it depreciated in the hands of the holders of money, and thereby taxed them in proportion to the sums they held and the time they held it which generally is in proportion to men's wealth."

Moral of the ant and the grasshopper was that ant bought into something while it was easy to get. In seasonal scarcity, the value of what he'd gotten naturally got gooder. Buy things you want now--invest in material--and when money gets cheapest either sell or save, or sell and save, and watch your dollar earn.

You can tell 'em you bought it on the Fugio Special.

First coin issued by the U.S. government, designed by Franklin, 1787.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sun Ra's Syllabus, II

In 1848, Elder Joseph Brackett of the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine, wrote "Simple Gifts." The lyrics:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come out right.

This is a Shaker work song and, though not demonstrative of the more amorphous, spontaneous strain of Shaker music, seems meaningful to pause over as monodic argument for the asemic strain. The liberating gift of descent lands the singer in a valley of love and delight, wherein of bow and bend there shall be no shame.

The bow is both an embodied descent and a bent strip of wood, strung taut to launch arrows. The bend is a tripartite bend of this bow, its bend of the body, and the bend of the musical measure of the song, sensible in the stretch from the iambic phrase, 'to bow,' to the anapestic phrase, 'and to bend.' The confluent 'bends' here echo the structure of Paz's 1956 El arco y la lira, tr. The Bow and the Lyre (ie. political instrument and musical instrument), which articulates a theory of poetry as distinct from poem, and of poem as discrete but not excluded from poetry as political organization.

There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.

The poetic society then, in its realization, according to Elder Joseph's song, is a thing of which we will feel no shame. Having been liberated, to continuously turn in that liberty will be our delight--and by such delightful, reorienting volutions, we will come out right--come out in accordance with what is good.

In the more asemic strains of their music, the Shakers did not articulate their reorienting volutions but rather demonstrated them. Many lyrics of these songs consist of words from unknown tongues, imitated from the sounds of Native-American languages and the songs of African slaves, whom the Shakers would purchase to liberate, thus precluding further enslavement. The poetics of such a society become an abstract splendor; this is to say that the music was as consequent of political frame as political frame was of musicality embodied and emboldened.

In such bold presentation, Sun Ra descends to planet Earth. Sun Ra traveled from Saturn, where he was designated as the eye of God, to observe humanity and show them that they had entered a new age (of 'colorful presentation' and 'abstract images'). Saddened that Earth's sound was 'one of guns and thunder,' Ra was torn between the transmission of this observation back to God and the desire to reflect for humans the splendors of the age in which they were living. This was his simple gift.

In addition to the bibliography I detailed in the post previous to this, Sun Ra's syllabus included a reference list of his own, most essential albums. I have linked the albums on that list here:

My Brother the Wind, Vol. I
My Brother the Wind, Vol. II

The Night of the Purple Moon
Strange Strings
Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. I
Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. II
Heliocentric Worlds, Vol. III
The Magic City

The Nubians of Plutonia
Fate in a Pleasant Mood

Monorails and Satellites

And, simply because it is beautiful, I am including Spaceways, 1968, as well:

Part I

Part II

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sun Ra's Syllabus

In the 1970s Sun Ra taught a class at UC Berkeley listed as 'Sun Ra 171' in the Afro-American studies department. His syllabus, as recounted by Arkestra drummer, Samurai Celestial, and others, follows:

John Wilson, Jazz: Where it Came From, Where It's At (United States Information Agency, 1967)

Yosef Ben Jochannan, Black Man of the Nile (Alkibu Ian Books, 1972)

Stylus, 13:1 (Temple University Student Publications, Spring 1971)

Henry Dumas, "Ark of Bones," Ark of Bones And Other Stories, ed. Eugene B. Redmond (New York, Random House, 1974), pp. 3-18

Henry Dumas, Poetry for My People, ed. Hale Chatfield and Eugene Redmond. With a pref. by Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and an introd. by Jay Wright (Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Press, 1971)

Imamu Amiri Baraka, Black fire; an anthology of Afro-American writing, ed. LeRoi Jones and Larry Neal (New York, Morrow, 1968)

Alexander Hislop, The two Babylons, or, The papal worship proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife : with sixty-one woodcut ilustrations from Ninevah, Babylon, Egypt, Pompeii, &c. (3rd ed. Edinburgh : J. Wood, 1862; Also: New York, Loizeaux Bros., 1956)

David Livingstone, Missionary travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda, on the west coast, thence across..., (New York, Harper & Bros., 1858)

Bill Looney, Radix, 2nd ed. (Fort Worth, Branch-Smith, 1975)

Theodore P. Ford, God wills the Negro: an anthropological and geographical restoration of the lost history of the American Negro people (Chicago, The Geographical institute press, 1939)

Archibald Hamilton Rutledge, God's children, illus. with photographs by Noble Bretzman (Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill, 1947)

C.F. Volney, The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires: And the Law of Nature (New York, The Truth Seeker Co., 62 Vesey St, 1913)

"The Source Book of Man's Life and Death," i.e. The Bible, King James Version

P.D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe: Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art, Tr. by R. R. Merton, under the supervision of the author (New York, Knopf, 1931)

Frederick Bodmer, The Loom of Language: An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages, ed. Lancelot Hogben

"Blackie's Etymology," C. Blackie, Geographical Etymology: A Dictionary of Place Names Giving their Derivations (London, John Murray, Albemarle St, 1887)

Thomas Browne, Hydrotaphia (London, Cambridge UP, 1922)

John Ballou Newbrough, Oahspe, A Kosmon Bible in the Words of Jehovih and his Angel Embassadors, 3rd ed. 1912 (dictated to him in a trance)

Radix (a 19c astrological journal, of which I have been able to find no further information)

Helena P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings, compiled by Boris de Zirkoff, (London, Theosophical Publishing House, 1950)

Arthur Edward Waite, The Real History of the Rosicrucians (London, George Redway, York St, Covent Garden, 1887)

Franz Hartmann, In the Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom (Boston, The Theosophical Society and Occult Publishing Company, 1890)

Magus Incognito, The Secret Doctrine of the Rosicrucians (Chicago, L. N. Fowler & Co., 1918)

Hargrave Jennings, The Rosicrucians: Their Rites and Mysteries (New York, E.P. Dutton and Co., 1907)

"Those that imagine heaven and hell neighbors, and conceive a vicinity between those two extremes, upon consequence of the parable, where Dives discoursed with Lazarus, in Abraham's bosom, do too grossly conceive of those glorified creatures, whose eyes shall easily out-see the sun, and behold without perspective the extremest distances: for if there shall be, in our glorified eyes, the faculty of sight and reception of objects, I could think the visible species there to be in as unlimitable a way as now the intellectual"

-Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, 1643

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Denuding of Tenochtitlan

I have for a year had in my possession a dear friend's global history of Mexico in manuscript form. The idea of Mexican literature and history as world literature and history is not a new one. This history, however, supposes a universalism in Mexican history. From without, the history is the face of history. From within, a portrait of Mexico.

A lengthy quote from the history:

On the invisible lake of Texcoco the waving reproducible image of a brown eagle descends on the featherless serpent, lands on the nopal, and decimates the history of a city. It had sighted all that could be seen on that land, in one fell swoop: the founding of Mexico-Tenochtitlan by the Mexica, the wandering tribe of Huitzilopochtli; the Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, brought to fruition by Itzcoatl and the ingenious Nezahualcotoyl; the imperial achievements made by Ahuitzotl in the expansion of the empire; the melancholy surmises of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, in conversation with his priests; the three year war for Tenochtitlan, and the Conquest to last 300 years hence; the Victory of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the coming of the Angel of Independence; the entrance of a Hapsburg into the city gates; three years after, the restoration of the Republic upon the entrance of a Zapotec into the City of Mexico; the assassination of Maximilian I; the countless reforms by Juares, and the re-establishment of the Republic; the thirty-year Porfiriato that would return Mexico to the French Intervention it had just overthrown, and regress the national achievements of the Zapotec liberator; the Revolution that would destroy everything that existed before it and build up a storm that would last decades after the first wave; the establishment of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, and the 70 years of a perfected dictatorship under the umbrella of a revolutionary cause that continues to thrive in the hears of partisans; & the positivist urbanizing spirit of the times that would bring skyscrapers, the 1968 Olympics, the Tlatelolco Massacre, the 1970 World Cup, and NAFTA to the neo-classical post-modern streets of Mexico - extending blood and expanding borders and exploding the free market, at the helm of a mystic nation - from a moment's perch on the cactus - in the solitary eye of the eagle...

For Moctezuma, Jose-Luis Moctezuma, Joseph, my dear friend, author, the yet unheard song of the federal district was already sung when the tribe of Tenoch saw the eagle eating the snake--to be found is to be founded--and Mexico, historical locus, will never escape the fact and the fate of its founding myth. But myth, it must be remembered, is metaphor. And metaphor is limited by language and that which language cannot represent.

Language can only ever expand because of the fact that it cannot claim total comprehensibility between itself and the universe. Language is both total and not total: We have words for everything we need to say; until we realize that we do not have the words to say something which suddenly needs to be said. The non-total aspect of language then allows us to discover or create that which need be said. These are the moments that the impenetrable crudity of life reveals its presence and its invisibility.

The invisible crudity, as the limit upon which language determines its usefulness, is the fact of the universe. It precedes our vocabularies. It is the territory of life itself. Though life itself is lived through language. There are, as I have just said, monumental moments when these two drives sensibly intersect in the mind. Such, I would argue, was the moment of Moctuzuma's (Xocoyotzin) meeting with Cortez.

A moment which is not mentioned in my dear friend's history but which seems monumental in the collapse of Xocoyitzin's Tenochtitlan is described in William Carlos Williams' 'Destruction of Tenochitlan:'

Here in this large building whose great hall was to serve the Spaniards for barracks from that time until the end, Montezuma (sic) and Cortez found themselves seated at last face to face. Montezuma spoke: "They have told you that I possess houses with walls of gold and many other such things and that I am a god or make myself one. The houses you see are of stone and lime and earth." -Then opening his robe: "You see that I am composed of flesh and bone like yourselves and that I am mortal and palpable to the touch..."

Upon which Cortez demands the Aztec ruler declare himself subject to the king of Spain. It is a stupid and obfuscating falsity that the Aztecs ever believed the Europeans to have been gods. They knew they weren't gods--but men of flesh like their own. Their initial graciousness was premised--and more admirably so--upon this.

Moctezuma Xocoyitzin, sensing the crudity of his universe necessitating new metaphor, new linguistic alignment with the strange, inexplicable European, bared his bareness in an attempt to bare the European. The metaphor of his myth could not sustain itself and, rather than project, he assumed vacuity, flesh, bone and stone. The European then imposed metaphor, myth and sovereignty. But this is inessential to Moctezuma's gesture--which was a moment when the impenetrable crudity of life revealed its presence and its invisibility or incomprehensibility.

Before the incomprehensible, then, he went nude--the nude serpent in the marshy vale. Mr. Moctezuma's (Jose-Luis') argument surfaces again. BUT, with his self-denuding, that man, Moctezuma, breathed for the first time in a universe with no claim upon myth except that myth could not claim him. He became the ineffable crudity--a different kind of king.

As a bit of an aside, my central issue with Hegelian dialectic is such, and I will cite another of my dear friend's passions (Tarkovsky) to illustrate my issue: In 'The Mirror,' Arseny Tarkovsky, Andrei's father, recites from his own poetry:

"A soul is sinful without a body,
Like a body without clothes"

The spiritual (thesis) needs the inert material (antithesis) to realize its comprehensive grace (synthesis) in the same way that a body needs clothes to cover it to contain its grace. But the act of covering is a kind of obscuring. If the soul were verily realized in grace by its presence in material, there would be no need to further cover that grace. Thus dialectic becomes a sort of piling on--despite its suggestion of totalizing. Moctezuma Xocoyitzin attained true sovereignty when he went into the inert material--into flesh, bone and stone--not because of a fusion he attained in so doing, but because of a displacement he sensed and gestured. By displacements, we expand. Such is the nature of the simultaneous totality and expansiveness of language.

In this way, in expanding, we are not static, are not myth.

We are more metaphor. I do not agree with Joseph Moctezuma on many points, but I am certain that we agree on this: The psychic life of humans is most profound on the surface, like Tenochtitlan on the landfill. The deeper you dig, the more you'll find you're in a ditch. We are both, in distinct ways, material universalists, with a faith in the flesh. But he is, in his way, a kind of sun-worshiper--loves cycles and monarchs, and the irreversibility of blood history.

I sometimes consider him a Tory (his adoration Dr. Johnson speaks of this)--but probably only do this to whet the blade of republicanism in my own mind. I know that his thoughts are actually too twisty for Toryism. He is divided within himself. Sometimes he conflicts, sometimes lies. I have loved and hated him with equal intensity. He has been a brother, a buffoon, a best friend and a brilliant counter to my movements. He is a very dear friend. This post is dedicated to him. He keeps an excellent blog on film:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Imperialism and Washington Irving: Some Types of Epic

Having in earlier posts described imperial timescales, in contrast to republican timescales, I'll shorthand the distinction now by saying that imperial time presupposes immemorial custom and, by the prescriptive nature of custom, reflexively claims ethical primacy. The politics of epic writing are such: The Julio-Claudian dynasty was willing to cede laureate status to a secondary poet (Virgil over Horace) to get themselves an Aeneid. Virgil got it and was copied for it.

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam fato profugus Laviniaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram,
multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem
inferretque deos Latio; genus unde
Albanique patres atque altae moenia Romae.

In Camoes' Lusiads (epic of a burgeoning imperial Portugal) becomes:

As armas e os barões assinalados
Que, da ocidental praia lusitana,
Por mares nunca de antes navegados
Passaram ainda além da Taprobana,
Em perigos e guerras esforçados,
Mais do que prometia a força humana,
E entre gente remota edificaram
Novo reino, que tanto sublimaram.

In empire, new reign must be timeless, sublime reign, which the fates have indeed ordained. It's worth noting that unlike Homer's Odyssey, no time is set for the events which take place during the Aeneid. The Greeks had no imperial scaffold to construct. The Odyssey is nearer the tradition of 16c, itinerant Cossack bards transmitting Dumas, or military poems with religious undertones.

Ostap Veresai, one of the last Slavonic kobzar, or blind bards, from Poltava region, Ukraine.

In this rather roundabout way, I want to focus this lens of epic imperialism on Washington Irving's Diedrich Knickerbocker's 'History of New York,' which, much like Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, begins at the very beginning, when the world was yet an 'inanimate mass, floating in the vast etherial ocean of infinite space,' shaped, as it were, like an oblate orange. The history of the Empire State cannot be discussed without positioning it in a vast, preposterous cosmogony. Knickerbocker later both attributes and does not attribute the peopling of America to the issue of a globetrotting Noah, under the protection of St. Nicholas.

The preposterous tone seems to work to hedge its speaker: While inflating the absolute, unquestionable authority of empire and imperial legality, the contours or consequence of America, esp. New York, as empire are impossible to determine. Dutch patriarchs are forebears to D Knickerbocker but not with the emotional investment evident in the Persian imperialist, Xerxes, who wept when surveying his army, knowing that not one of them would be alive in one hundred years, or on the timescale of empire. This is to say that Diedrich seems to invoke an imperial sense of time invested but allow it to balloon with republican sensibility, ie. with no emotive sensitivity to its antient lineaments.

Elsewhere, Irving on the Mutability of Literature and the Sovereignty of the Present:

'For my part,' I continued, 'I consider this mutability of language a wise precaution of Providence for the benefit of the world at large, and of authors n particular. To reason from analogy, we daily behold the varied and beautiful tribes of vegetables springing up, flourishing, adorning the fields for a short time, and then fading into dust, to make way for their successors. Were not this the case, the fecundity of nature would be a grievance instead of a blessing. The earth would groan with rank and excessive vegetation, and its surface become a tangled wilderness.'

The mutability of language and literature itself becomes forensic evidence for the sovereignty and responsibility of the individual in time. The Empire State, in this lens, seems rather an empire of the democratic individual. That Irving continuously resists affixing himself to a single pseudonym or personality (Geoffrey Crayon, Gent; Diedrich Knickerbocker; etc.) further suggests an internal, psychic democracy, or mental republic of varied, indeterminable, subjective agents. More on psychic republicanism soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Outline Suggesting a Useful Introduction to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester

1. Rochester is a materialist: his understanding is premised on proofs and elements that are tangible to him – he resists metaphysical presumption (unlike his poetic forebears, who I have recently discussed at length in this blog)--Rochester arrives in the Fruitful Restauration of Charles II.

2. This lack of metaphysical presumption even surfaces as a contempt for metaphysical conceits. He distrusts abstractions (and therefore discredits the capacity REASON has to apprehend)

Cf. “A Satyre against Reason and Mankind,” 37-42: wit is a whore, fatal to admiring fools; 62-81: the creative flights of fancy, beyond Material sense, makes a mite think he’s the image of the infinite—“And tis this very Reason I despise;”

3. Having dismissed metaphysic, his business is articulating pleasure of life. His intellectual understanding is conscientiously focused on material with the intent to elicit GREATER PLEASURE from his activities –intellectual or otherwise ('Satyre')

Cf. “A Satyre…” 92ff: “And we have modern Colystred Coxcombs, who/ Retire to think, ‘cause they have nought to do:/ But Thoughts are given for Actions government,/ Where Action ceases, Thought’s impertinent./ Our sphere of Action is Lifes happiness, And he who thinks beyond, thinks like an Asse; 104-05: Your Reason hinders, mine helps to enjoy, Renewing appetites yours would destroy. My reason is my friend, yours is a cheat, Hunger calls out, my Reason bids me eat…

4. HE IS NOT, HOWEVER, outside his time: He asserts responsibility and role of the citizenry to organize government and the material purpose of a sovereign’s rule—that is to protect the citizenry and promote greater appreciation of life (as Rochester understands it—drink and fuck) among his citizenry ('Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery')

Cf. “To the Reader” Rochester is no anarchist: 17: To be lawless is true vassalage; 71: Lawless liberty is the Lowest slavery; “To the Reader:” 38: The certain way to reigne is to protect; “Sodom” 1ff: Bolloxinian: Thus in the Zenith of the lust I reigne:/ I eat to swive and Swive to eat againe./ Let other Monarchs who with their Scepters beare to keepe their subjects less in love [than] feare/ Bee slaves to Crownes, my nation shall be free… FURTHERMORE the central premise of the drama is that Bolloxinian is expected to fuck and his wife and all his mistresses and boys (read subjects)

5. SO THE RULER IS STILL A FOUNTAINHEAD from which the LIFEFORCE of the nation courses--the first and the last cock to cum in any political structure

Cf. as in Sodom, when the Prince ceases to trickle down power (semen and sex) the structure disintegrates and Cuntigratia is compelled to find others to fuck her Act II, Scene 2, 14-15 Lady Officinia: That day of marriage you may JUSTLY rue/ Since he will neither Swive nor suffer you

6. The complication is that, if Rochester is promoting an Enlightened Despot, he does not seem to bother suggesting that this despot necessarily must promote didacticism or knowledge—-promotion of pleasure and protection of welfare alone are the virtues he assigns as the DESPOT’S duties (this becomes problematic when Bolloxinian, his prince, can’t fuck everybody)

Cf. 'Sodom:' Scene B2: 100: Where Pintle cannot gain new breath/ the resureccons wors than Death

7. Rochester seems a good case for examining the reality of a frame inspired by Hobbes taken to its most extreme conclusion: if ruler does not care to advance his people except to licentiousness of body and living—should a body politic still be obliged to follow? Cuntigratia does not. Charles the II could not either and basically gave up on trying

8. Would Rochester say that such is necessarily a BAD thing? Compared to intolerance or violence? Can we presume that Rochester did not understand or perceive his disassociation with the PURITAN flavor of his time (of course not)—-he instead chose a more perpetual tendencies, i.e. the body, sexuality and lawful liberty in love (in doing so associated such with the court of Charles II, as anodyne to the convulsions of the Commonwealth)

Cf. Evident by his invective against the savagery of man: Satyre… 129ff: You see how far Man’s wisdome extends… Birds feed on birds, Beasts on each other prey, But savage Man alone does man betray: Prest by necessity they kill for food, Man undoes Man to do himself no good; Sodom: The Phallic sovereign: Act 4, Scene 5, 31: Damn silly dildoes—had I but the blisse/ of once enjoyeing sucha a prick as this,/ I would his will eternally obey, / and every minute Cunt should tribute pay; 41: A God to rule and keep our sex in awe!; Vide 'Artimizia to Chloe;' The destruction of Sodom by Sexually Transmitted Disease only occurred when the Prince swayed from the organization of sexuality—there is no invective against liberal sex as such, only against the Prince not having fucked the necessary amount of cunts to keep his kingdom functioning (Fuckadilla’s Epilogue)

End note: Rochester is verse already on its way down to, or out to, or toward, pure song in the English language. Rather than an architectizing rhetorician, Rochester was something like the outgrowth of a return to boggier lands.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Marvell's Republicanism

Marvell’s historical moment is marked by conflict between social content and the larger, political form encasing that content. The transformation of a culture from an emergent within is, as Raymond Williams says, the effective penetration by alternatives to the dominant social order. The emergent culture “depends crucially on finding new forms or adaptations of form” to account for the evident transformations in the content or the character of society.

(An illustrative example of this would be the transition from the Ptolemaic model of the universe to the Copernican. Hans Blumenberg: “To describe the innovation initiated by Copernicus as the simple interchange of the position of the earth and sun is to make a molehill out of a promontory in the development of human thought. If Copernicus' proposal had had no consequences outside astronomy, it would have been neither so long delayed nor so strenuously resisted.” The difficultly in establishing the argument for a transition out of the Ptolemaic model of the universe was rooted in the lack of a larger paradigm in human thought that could validate the new facts presented by Copernicus and allow his model for the universe to transplant the old in a more immediate manner. Content preceded form but form had to eventually reevaluate and restructure itself to account for the transformations in the content of a society’s development. The genesis of the Copernican world, tr. Robert Wallace (Cambridge 1987), 1,772.)

The conflicted orders in Marvell’s political moment are the immemorial monarchy and the emergent Republicanism of the puritan revolution. Beside the distinct structures of power that such a transformation bridges, the emergence of Republicanism also produced a different sense of time, history and contingency. J.G.A. Pocock posits that Republican theory necessitates and, in its implementation, imports a certain kind of historicism:

The republic… was at once universal, in the sense that it existed to realize for its citizens all the values which men were capable of realizing in this life, and particular, in the sense that it was finite and located I space and time. It had had a beginning and would consequently have an end; and this rendered crucial both the problem of showing how it had come into being and might maintain its existence, and that of reconciling its end of realizing universal values with the instability and circumstantial disorder of its temporal life.

Unlike monarchical time, in which law and sense of self-legitimation presuppose immemorial custom, republican time has no prescriptive foundation upon which to legitimate its presence. It must make its own myths to promulgate an argument for its necessity. The central action Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” seems to be the ratiocination of the role of historical agents in different kinds of time. The notionally perlocutionary poem weighs one timescale against another:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood:
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.

Although the British Raj had not yet been instituted in India, the East India Tea Company had had a Royal Charter since 1600 and, as shown by ‘The Great Case of Monopolies” in 1683-85, there was already legal contention to the fact that the monarchy had given monopolistic sanction to the Company in Marvell’s time. The mention of the lady’s presence in India must then be read as associated with commercial empire. The timescale of empire as evoked the poem, were it a possibility for these lovers, would be one in which passive courting would be possible.

As the poem goes on to assert that such patience is not possible, with “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near,” that timescale is repudiated in favor of one in which individual agency is so aggressive that it makes even the sun run. In the line previous to this last, however, the poet admits that they cannot make their sun stand still. Having admitted that the lovers have no capacity to control the sun’s immobility, it cannot stand to reason that they should have a capacity to control the sun’s mobility.

Marvell’s investment in a republican sense of time—-or one in which individual agency amounts to historical events—-is undercut by the autonomy of events (the sun’s autonomy), while simultaneously underscoring the urgent need for the kind of individual agency required in republican theory (making the sun run). Pocock might argue that this is essentially a dialectic failure inherent to republican theory of the time, in so far as he understands the English revolutionary moment to have been:

[S]ubjected to strain by the republican decision to pursue universal values in a transitory form…

The crux of the issue seems to be that Marvell is attempting to position himself in a double time—-at once needing to assert the political stasis and reflexivity of naturalized institution (a reliant sun), while allowing—and indeed arguing for-—the revolutionary emergence of republican historicity. That is, the poet here expresses a sense of responsibility to the contingency of events albeit in a vestigial frame of timeless, naturalized custom.

In a previous post I've suggested that the Metaphysical moment was a sort of political reaction--or even a physical response to the political terms as exhibited in the corpus of some 17c poets. In thinking about Marvell against Crashaw and Herbert, something beneath the surface seems similarly disembodied.