mnn

TRANSLATION AND STYLE

by Murat Nemet-Nejat

[edited]

Understanding translation is embedded in the concept of faithfulness. What is a faithful translation? The traditional answer is Platonic, best represented in our day by the critic George Steiner, especially in his introduction to the The Penguin Book of Modern Verse Translation (1966). According to this view, the original poem exists in an ideal, static state, and the translator attempts to transmigrate this ideal totality into the second language. Since two languages never “mesh perfectly,” a translation can never be completely successful; something is lost. Steiner quotes Du Bellay to that effect: “That it is untranslatable is one of the definitions of poetry. What remains after the attempt, intact and uncommunicated, is the original poem.”

In this traditional approach, completely successful translations are rare, discontinuous, mystical happenings, “a medium of communicative energy which somehow reconciles both languages in a tongue deeper, more comprehensive than either.”

The problem with the traditional, Steiner approach is that it is ahistorical, empirically incorrect. Major achievements and transformations in a language are often associated with translations. To cite only English cases, Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, Sidney’s translations from Petrarch, the King James version of the Bible, Ezra Pound’s The Seafarer from the Anglo-Saxon and Exile’s Letter from Li Po, each of which played a key role in reorienting the English language.

These translations are based on a different concept of faithfulness. They fragment the original totality, starting with a conception of “lack.” The translation senses a quality in the original language, reflected in the original poem, which the second language lacks. The translator is faithful to this conception and tries to recreate it in the second language. A translation in this sense starts with criticism and ends by pointing, not to the first, but to the second language. It explores the second language and, if successful, changes it by assimilating this lack. I define this kind of translation a transparent text.

The ideal of transparent translation is not to be perfect in terms of a Platonic concept of wholeness but to create shifts in the second language. In fact, subtle distortions due to fragmentation and misreadings caused by the central vision of lack are integral parts of it, often pointing to some of its most successful moments.

One quality often regarded as a virtue in the traditional approach is a red flag of failure in the transparent translation: making the language of the translation so natural as though it were a poem written in that language, not a translation at all.

This is the sure sign of a bad translation, not worth reading. A successful translation must sound somewhat alien, strange, not because it is awkward or unaware of the resources or nature of the second language, but because it expresses something new in it. The best ones remain strange even after poems deriving from them make them more familiar. They affect the course of a language without being entirely part of it. A translation completely assimilated into the conventions, norms, of the second language, solely acceptable in its terms, is a failure.

This strangeness endures because in a transparent translation, style often precedes meaning, which, in the form of theme or feeling, is transformed when attached to stylistic expansion. A transparent translation always has an independent stylistic identity. This is why Walter Benjamin says in his essay, The Task of the Translator, that meaning is attached to a translation “loosely.” In original poems, style appears contingent on meaning, more integrated with it.

In its suggestiveness describing the relationship between two languages during translation, Benjamin’s essay is a powerful text. At its centre, it asserts that it is the foreignness of a work that makes it translatable: “The higher the level of the work, the more does it remain translatable, even if its meaning is touched upon fleetingly.” This thought is one step from the concepts of lack and fragmentation, which define transparent translation. But Benjamin’s ideas are, linguistically, intricately linked to, dominated by Hegelian idealism, which contradicts and finally thwarts their developments. He sees a perfect translation to reside in an ideal, pre-Babel state; a “hitherto inaccessible realm of reconciliation and fulfilment of languages.” This concept is regressive in two ways. First, it retains the ghost of a perfect match, which his essay also negates. Steiner’s introduction is a restatement of the idealistic side of Benjamin’s text. Second, it leaves Benjamin completely silent on the relationship of the translation to the second language.

The present essay tries to demythologize Benjamin’s The Task of the Translator from Hegelian idealism to the American practicality, by fragmenting and exploiting contradictions inherent in it. The focus here is the relationship of a translation, not to the first, but to the second language —– different ways in which that language is altered and expanded.

The Seafarer is, along with the Exile’s Letter, perhaps the major transparent translation in the twentieth century in English. Pound’s focus in translating this poem is sound, the harsh sound he hears in Anglo-Saxon. The Seafarer is part of Pound’s “heave to overthrow the iambic.” The result is not a natural English poem recreating the syntax and the meter of the original; its purpose is rather to force a shift from vowels to consonants as the organizing principle of a poem in English. By making the substance of the language more palpable, through inversions and abundance of consonants, it opens the door to making language itself a subject matter, the equivalent of Picasso’s and Braque’s revolutions in sculpture, “Bosque taketh blossom, cometh beauty of berries.” There is a direct link between The Seafarer, Louis Zukofsky, and the language poets.

In a successful transparent translation, much more than the surface gets transposed: “He hath not heart for harping, nor in ring-having/Nor winsomeness to wife, nor world’s delight…” “Winsomeness” is a medieval, not an Anglo-Saxon concept. In this subtle distortion, at this moment, The Seafarer is a translation from a Provençal poem.

The theme of exile itself is another dimension that The Seafarer transposes from Anglo-Saxon into English. Not only does it appear in the figure of Ulysses at the beginning of The Cantos, but, as Charles Bernstein pointed out, for Gertrude Stein, Louis Zukofsky, and Charles Reznikoff, English was not the language they grew up in. In fact, as writers, they tended to treat it as a foreign language. Their works can be seen as translations, transparent texts, from their alien language, English, into their private idioms, a reason for their strong stylistic identity. Their relationships to English are those of linguistic exiles. The Seafarer creates a shift in English which is not in the original. It points out that a plastic involvement with language entails a distancing between the writer and the language —- and consequently between the writer and the audience. The Anglo-Saxon original was a poem accompanied by music, implicitly for an audience. The Seafarer is a poem to be read by an individual. Finally it is the most radical, significant bent Ezra Pound creates in the original.

I, Orhan Veli (Hanging Loose Press, 1988), consisting of my translations of poems by the Turkish poet Orhan Veli (1914-1950), is another example of a transparent translation. Its purpose is to alter intimacy, between reader and poem, by redefining colloquial speech. On the one hand, it possesses, I hope, the sounds, the smells, the music of a strange city, Istanbul; on the other hand, the voice feels very much as if it belonged to New York, like a New York voice.

This contradiction is at the heart of the shift I, Orhan Veli tries to create in contemporary colloquial speech. In American speech, colloquialism is often associated with natural speech. informality and streetwise humor. Though I, Orhan Veli reflects that, it also has a contemplative, melancholy, lyrical dimension. It is this dimension which is new and which sounds Turkish in the poems. It makes the colloquial speech as though the reader were walking side by side with the poet, overhearing his conversation.

This intimacy is reinforced by the way these translations alter the concept of poetic closure. Generally, Orhan Veli’s poems and these translations end where the subject matter ends, not where the poetic tradition expects them to end. The result is a seamless clarity, language pushing away from itself, losing body, as though these were not poems but overheard pieces of conversation. This helps replace the figure of the exile, the solitary prophet, by a friend.

I, Orhan Veli‘s colloquialism is not really daily speech. It is a very terse, precise abstraction from it, its stylistic, plastic identity as a translation. The purpose of I, Orhan Veli is to create a clear hard-edged sharpness, also relaxed and intimate. It is an offshoot of the clarification, at moments the spiritualization, of language that Pound started in Cathay, particularly with Li Po’s Exile’s Letter, and which poets on and off —- T.S. Eliot in the garden sequence of Burnt Norton, a good portion of Charles Reznikoff, John Yau’s A Suite of Imitations After Reading Translations of Poems by Li He and Li Shang-Yin —- try to continue.

Talisman, 1991 (Spring 6), pp. 98-100.


back to pound note

If anyone can supply further details of the provenance of this essay, please mail cichw-0@cichw.net.

pmlight4

 

Smeaton built his house to last, in stone. It was meticulously planned, all the way, and, remarkably, outlasted the rock it was founded on.

When replaced by the Douglass tower, it was dismantled and re-erected in Plymouth, where it may still be seen.

EDDYSTONE FOUR
1759-1882
JOHN SMEATON

Above, Monamy. Below, a lithograph of Smeaton’s lighthouse, after J.M.W.Turner, 1824. See here.

Turner was not influenced by Monamy’s lighthouse paintings, which he had probably never seen; but he seems to have been fully aware of Monamy’s storm scenes. The lithograph comes from Sunday at Home, published 1869. Both the images to right above, circa 1890-1910, from Ballantyne’s The Story of the Rock, and below, undated, appear to be influenced by Turner’s lighthouse scene. None of these pictures owes anything to van de Velde, but much to Monamy.

John Smeaton, along with Benjamin Franklin, was a corresponding member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, which existed from 1765 until 1813 and has been described as “the revolutionary committee of that most far reaching of all the eighteenth century revolutions, the Industrial Revolution”. See here.

introduction
winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M1
winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M3
winstanley’s lighthouse 2
rudyerd’s lighthouse: M2
smeaton’s lighthouse
miscellaneous lighthouses
lighthouse paintings composition

monamy website index

cxiiteg

Esaias Tegnér & Charles XII

Charles XII: on the centenary of his death 1818

Kung Carl, den unga hjelte,
han stod i rök och dam.
Han drog sitt svärd från bälte
och bröt i striden fram.
“Hur Svenska stålet biter
kom låt oss pröfva på.
Ur vägen Moscoviter,
friskt mod, I gossar blå.”

Och en mot tio ställdes
af retad Vasason.
Der flydde hvad ej fälldes,
det var hans lärospån.
Tre konungar tillhopa
ej skrefvo pilten bud.
Lugn stod han mot Europa,
en skägglös dundergud.

Gråhårad statskonst lade
de snaror ut med hast
den höga yngling sade
ett ord och snaran brast.
Högbarmad, smärt, gullhårig
en ny Aurora kom:
från kämpe tjugoårig
hon vände ohörd om.

Der slog så stort ett hjerta
uti hans Svenska barm,
i glädje som i smärta,
blott for det rätta varm.
I med och motgång lika,
sin lyckas överman,
han kunde icke vika
blott falla kunde han.

Se, nattens stjernor blossa
på grafven längese’n,
och hundraårig mossa
betäcker hjeltens ben.
Det herrliga på jorden
förgänglig är dess lott.
Hans minne uti Norden
Är snart en saga blott.

Dock — än till sagan lyssnar
det gamla sagoland
och dvergalåten tystnar
mot resen efterhand.
Än bor i Nordens lundar
den höga anden qvar
han är ej död, han blundar:
hans blund ett sekel var.

Böj Svea, knä vid griften,
din störste son göms der.
Läs nötta minneskriften,
din hjeltedikt hon är.
Med blottadt hufvud stiger
historien dit och lär,
och Svenska äran viger
sin segerfana der.

Esais Tegnér, 1818

King Charles, the conquering boy,
Stood up in dust and smoke;
He shook his sword for joy,
and through the battle broke.
How Swedish iron bites,
We will make trial new;
Stand back, you Muscovites;
Forward! my own true blue!

Not ten to one appal
The angry Vasa’s son;
Those fled, who did not fall:
So was his course begun,
He drove three Kings asunder,
Who leagued against him stood;
And Europe saw with wonder
A beardless Thundergod.

Old grey-haired schemers muttered
Their plots with wily care
The brave young hero uttered
One word, and burst their snare.
High-bosomed, goldhaired, slender,
A new Aurora came:
From his throne’s young defender,
The temptress turned in shame.

So great a heart was heaving
In his true Swedish breast,
In gladness, or in grieving,
Justice he loved the best.
Though fortune smiled or lowered,
He dauntless kept the field:
He could but be o’erpowered,
He knew not how to yield.

The stars have long been glowing
On his sepulchral stones;
A century’s moss is growing
Above the hero’s bones.
Thus glory passes forth,
So soon its records fall:
Their echo in the North
Is but an old man’s tale.

Still is the old land hushed,
The tale still calls up wonder,
Low dwarfish sounds are crushed
By the old giant thunder.
Still in our Northern numbers
The lofty spirit burns;
It is not dead, it slumbers,
Its hour of pride returns.

Kneel, Sweden, where reposes
Thy greatest, noblest Son;
The crumbling stone discloses
The honour thou hast won.
There bards, to read his story,
Come reverently bare;
And Sweden’s flag of glory
Is dedicated there.

J.E.D.Bethune, 1848

King Carl, the youthful hero,
In smoke and dust he stood;
He drew his belted longsword
And into battle strode.
“Come, let us try its war-bite,
What Swedish steel may do:
Make way, you Muscoviters,
Fresh heart, the lads in blue!”

So one at ten was pitted
By Vasa’s angered son,
And all unfelled had fled when
Their lesson’s day was done.
Three hostile kings united:
The boy stood like a rod,
And calmly faced Europa,
A beardless thunder-god.

As grizzled statesmen plotted
With hasty craft their trap,
The lofty stripling uttered
One word their snare to snap.
Full-bosomed, slender, golden
Aurora came one day:
The warrior of twenty
Turned her unheard away.

So great a heart was beating
Within his Swedish breast,
In gladness as in anguish
Alone for what is Just.
Alike at flood or ebbtide
Too resolute to quell,
The overlord of fortune,
He fought until he fell.

See! Stars of night an epoch
Upon his grave have shone,
And mosses now centennial
Bedeck the hero’s bone.
All glory that is mortal
Is fated so to fade.
His name in Northern story
Will soon be just a shade.

Yet — to the tale may hearken
This ancient saga-land,
And dwarfish talk fall silent
When giants rise to stand.
Still in the Northern forest
The noble spirit stirs,
Not dead, but sleeping merely:
His sleep, one hundred years.

Kneel, Svea, by the graveside,
Thy greatest son here dwells;
And scan the worn memorial
Thy epic story spells.
All history, bare-headed,
Will to this place repair,
And Swedish honour hallows
Her victory-banner there.

CHW, 1998


Comment

“On the 27th June 1682, was born King Charles the Twelfth, a Man the most extraordinary, perhaps that ever appear’d in the World.” With these words in 1732, from the first English translation of Voltaire’s vividly readable Histoire de Charles XII, the legend of the adamantine warrior received an indelible imprint. The French original was first published in 1731, and remains one of the most frequently re-issued and re-translated works in literary history. Rigorously nurtured in the Protestant religious ethic by devoted parents, Charles placed his deceased father’s crown on his own head, at the age of fifteen. Three years later, in 1700, Sweden’s then extensive Baltic and North German territories were opportunistically attacked by a coalition of three kings ruling four countries, Russia, Poland, Saxony and Denmark. Charles spent the remaining eighteen years of his life at war, leading the resistance to this onslaught in person. The first nine of these eighteen years were attended by unparalleled success, followed by nine years of virtually unremitting defeat. By 1721 a diminished Sweden was left to lick her wounds in peace. Charles had been killed in 1718, murdered, according to the latest investigations, by a ball fired from close range, encased in the brass or silver metal of one of his own coat-buttons.

Voltaire set the mould for an enduring legend, but the panegyrists were engaged from the moment of Charles’s shattering first victory over the Russians at Narva on the Baltic coast in the early months of the war, the news of which spread rapidly throughout Europe. In 1951 Olov Westerlund published his doctoral dissertation at the University of Lund, Karl XII i Svensk Litteratur, a 350 page study in the ways of poetic iconography from Dahlstierna (1661-1709) to Tegnér (1782-1846). This analysis of myth-making could rank with The Road to Xanadu by J.L.Lowes, and it demonstrates that almost every line of Tegnér’s poem on Charles XII has its origin in the effusions of the preceding hundred years.

Tegnér’s centenary verses were a milestone in the long process of debate on the character and historical significance of Charles and his Great Northern War, in which the human individual has now almost vanished under successive layers of hagiography and censure. Westerlund reveals that one of the king’s most virulent critics in the mid-18th century was a man at least as extraordinary as himself, Emanuel Swedenborg. Attitudes to Charles XII within Sweden, which hardened against him as his star began to fall, have always been subject to swings of hero-worship and denigration. It has proved almost impossible for Swedes to reach a consensus in weighing reverence for their boy David, against the fact that his obsessive pursuit of his hydra-headed Goliath merely led to the collapse of their 17th century European status. A well-judged biography by Bengt Liljegren, published in 2000, may finally have achieved the desirable balance of passion and objectivity.

In a trenchant article in Tidningen Boken, 1998, a Swedish historian and novelist, K. Arne Blom, expressed his concern with the devaluation of Sweden’s historical and literary heritage. In his view a major victim of this revisionism is Esaias Tegnér, who can fairly be described as his country’s first international best-selling author. Within 15 years of its appearance in 1825 his principal work, Fritiofs Saga, had been translated, partially or completely, twenty times, and the present reckoning is reputed to be once at least into every European language, as well as twenty-two times into English, and twenty times into German. The basic theme of this verse epic is the continuity of human values underlying the transition, during the Viking age of Scandinavia, from paganism to Christianity. Tegnér ended his life as a bishop, albeit of an unorthodox sort. Apart from his poetry, his work centred mainly on education and pan-Scandinavian cultural enfranchisement.

Until about the mid-1960s Tegnér’s summation of the memory of Charles XII would have been known to every Swedish schoolchild. Although anthologies of pre-modernist Swedish poetry occasionally appear in English, one of the latest being The North! To the North!, by Judith Moffett, published by Southern Illinois University Press in 2001, the only known previous attempt to translate Tegnér’s extremely familiar lines has been by J.E.D.Bethune, in his Specimens of Swedish and German Poetry, 1848.

Few translators of formal, rhymed, metric, 18th and 19th century verse seem able to resist expressing their contempt for the efforts of their predecessors, and Bethune is no exception. Disingenuously admitting that “I have not myself attempted a version of Frithiof”, he rides into an attack on those that have, with “I am ready to allow that all the previous English translations of Frithiof are indeed very bad”, and singles out that of George Stephens, 1839, as the worst of the lot. It is true that Stephens, a pioneering runologist who spent most of his life in Denmark, appears to have no ear whatsoever for the rhythms of English verse. A much later translator, C.D.Locock, 1924, agrees that Stephens’s “versification can only be described as ludicrous”, but concedes that as regards the first essential prerequisite, “The reproduction ….. of the author’s meaning”, it is “almost too unimpeachable”. In Stephens we perhaps have a significant forerunner, in the advocacy of literal translation, to no less a practitioner than Vladimir Nabokov.

The fact is that a poet, whatever s/he writes and whether in a style of the strictest traditional formality or the most outré avant-garde, is expressing his/her love-affair with his/her mother-tongue. For any poet older than about fourteen there can be no fully acceptable surrogate in this relationship. How then is the well-meaning translator to tackle his/her self-imposed and thankless task? Another of Tegnér’s translators, Clement B.Shaw, in 1908, set out a number of rules, of which the following are only a sample: “A translation should produce the effect of the original. But this identity of emotional effect is by no means always to be secured by literal rendering ….. Moreover, the translator must translate — must faithfully reproduce the matter of the original, — no more, no less ..… One must not depart from his course for a rhyme too good to be lost; must not employ ‘mountains’ to rhyme with ‘fountains’, when the original does not allude to mountains.” Shaw’s native origins are plainly evident from this excerpt. He, too, can only disparage his predecessors: “no European English paraphrase of Frithiof’s Saga preserves the Tegnerian measures with enough felicity even to evince literary courtesy to the great poet. Yet each translator claims to have done this very thing”. However, he reserves “very high indorsement (sic)” for two American translations, “the works of Mr and Mrs Holcomb, and of Professor Sherman. No consideration of nationality prompts the opinion that these two translations have not been equaled (sic) in England.”

Devotees of Nabokov’s masterpiece, Pale Fire, may surprise themselves with a start of recognition at Shaw’s instancing the rhyme of “fountains” with “mountains”, and might wonder if the well-read polyglot was also familiar with the numerous English paraphrases of Fritiofs Saga. Yet another of its British translators, in 1872, was Captain H.Spalding, of the 104th Fusiliers — a gentleman too upright to belittle his rivals. By 1881, when he translated Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, he had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and he is jocularly referred to in Nabokov’s own impeccably non-paraphrastic 825-page conundrum as “bluff Spalding”, or “matter-of-fact Lt.Col. Spalding”. Nabokov’s dissection and “literal” translation of Eugene Onegin in 1964 produces an effect on the English reader at least as ludicrous as Stephens’s Frithiof’s Saga. My suspicion is that the roguish genius was consciously constructing a monumental academic joke at the expense of lickspittle scholarship. Pale Fire is the obverse of this performance: a comic novel which is deeply serious, and the prankster’s shade may now somewhere be chuckling at the Kinbotes he has spawned.

In the foreword to his three volumes devoted to Eugene Onegin Nabokov asserts “To reproduce the rhymes and yet translate the entire poem literally is mathematically impossible. But in losing its rhyme the poem loses its bloom ….. Should one then content oneself with an exact rendering of the subject matter and forget all about form? Or should one still excuse an imitation of the poem’s structure to which only twisted bits of sense stick here and there, by convincing oneself and one’s public that in mutilating its meaning for the sake of a pleasure-measure rhyme one has the opportunity of prettifying or skipping the dry and difficult passages?” ….. “A schoolboy’s boner mocks the ancient masterpiece less than does its commercial poeticization, and it is when the translator sets out to render the ‘spirit’, and not the mere sense of the text, that he begins to traduce his author.”

To coagulate a poem’s spirit, sense, metre, verbal tropes, rhymes and meaning, into a language other than its original, would be a supernatural achievement. Mortals are left to compromise. While agreeing that “in losing its rhyme the poem loses its bloom”, I can only dissent from Nabokov’s opinion that the translator who sets out to render the spirit of the text “begins to traduce his author”. What other objective should s/he have, which could not otherwise be accomplished by handing the would-be reader several dictionaries, a selection of grammars, the rest of the literature in the source language, and locking her/him up for a year or ten? Clement B.Shaw, in my view, is correct to say that “a translation should reproduce the effect of the original”. Spirit is certainly communicable, and its inter-cultural transfer has been the aim of translation since poetry first began — the only issue is the translator’s ability to prioritise from those factors that are irreconcilable. In the end it is a matter of taste and judgement and, pace Nabokov, the verdict of the consumer.

The modern reader might wonder that a military man, at the apogee of Queen Victoria’s Empire, addressed himself to translating verse masterpieces from Swedish and Russian, and be curious about what he was doing between 1872 and 1881. It is recorded that on 22nd January, 1879, a Brevet Major Henry Spalding, of the 104th Regiment, rode out of a tiny British supply depot in Southern Africa, leaving a Lieutenant J.R.M.Chard in command, with the memorable words “You will be in charge, although, of course, nothing will happen. I will be back by evening.” The defence of Rorke’s Drift during the following 24 hours is one of the most astonishing actions in the annals of military history, unmatched since the Battle of Narva. I must try to emulate the disciplined restraint of “bluff Spalding” by limiting myself to remarking that J.E.D.Bethune seems to have been mesmerized by his overwhelming compulsion to reproduce Tegnér’s rhyme-scheme.

Published in Looking Eastward: Modern Poetry in Translation No 21, King’s College London, 2003

a new translation of tegnér’s poem: into chinese

more translations & other swedish miscellanea

cxii 1       cxii 2       cxii 3
c xii & the critical backlash
esaias tegner & charles xii
index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003
all rights reserved

pm1

TITLE PAGE

Peter Monamy

1681-1749

INTRODUCTION

Apart from a fleeting mention, possibly by Smollett, in the Critical Review of March 5th, 1758, almost nothing that appeared in print about Peter Monamy before 1981 was of any critical merit, accuracy, comprehension or interest. I except the anecdotal and incidental information supplied by W.H.Pyne in 1823 and J.T.Smith in 1828, and one or two perceptive and original comments by writers such as Marcel Brion, who mentions “the sensitive and agitated seascapes of Peter Monamy” in the Larousse Encyclopedia of Renaissance & Baroque Art, 1964. Oliver Warner, in British Marine Painting, 1948, and Fighting Sail, 1979, shows some discernment. John Wood, in an article entitledSeascapes Worthy of Greater Fame, which appeared in Country Life, 28th May 1959, took the trouble to respect the works, but both he and Warner are still overwhelmed by the body of misleading literature. There is some factual detail, minimal but valuable, in Treasures of the Foundling Hospital, by Benedict Nicolson, OUP 1972, and William and John Linnell, by Hayward & Kirkham, Studio Vista/Christie’s 1980, and in one or two other publications. But otherwise, all “professional” academic literature purporting directly to address the Monamy oeuvre, and to offer some critical or art-historical guidance, consists of tired remarks, almost entirely recycled from earlier commentators, themselves dull, uninformed or prejudiced.

This website addresses the work of Peter Monamy by standing traditional English art history on its head. It is based on the premise that it is of less interest to indicate the influences on an artist’s oeuvre than to try to appreciate what is original, new and different about his paintings; in essence, what he brought to his art, rather than what use he made of the past. Discrimination is a matter of defining differences, not similarities. These pages present Monamy’s life and works as they deserve to be remembered: not as the imitations of a Dutch genre which had passed its peak, but as original productions of tireless invention and resource, by a man who, with unceasing industry and fierce loyalty to his peers, almost single-handedly hauled English painting up from its native roots and pointed the way to the mastery of Turner. But I am biased, and those who discount the truth of what I say, for that reason, are welcome to ignore the evidence I shall produce before their eyes. The proliferating text is strictly work in progress, and subject to constant review, correction, and I hope improvement. The site is 100% non-profit, and the only gain sought is the small personal satisfaction of, in passing, arraigning a few successful crimes, and restoring credit where it is due.

Monamy’s oeuvre, and the claim here made for him as the founder of the English School of Painting, will always remain unvalued and belittled by those who cannot recognize that his life and work, in the spirit of his time and place, represent unswerving commitment to the cause of

click for glory

an outmoded commodity, now reduced to matchbox proportions

Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre
Rudyard Kipling 1897

click for sunset

patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel
Samuel Johnson, 1775

One gets more real truth out of one avowed partisan
than out of a dozen of your sham impartialists —–
simpering honesty as they suppress documents.

Robert Louis Stevenson, letter to Mrs Churchill Babington, Summer 1871

Art history, as you probably know, is a nasty, vicious profession
Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair, 1990, Chap 2

A Conference Paper: January 2004
summarising the contents of this website, at that date

A Conference Paper: January 2005
Reputation & Reality

article by john wood, 1959
fantasy by harry parker, 1911
fantasy by m.w.knott, 1936

article 1981       article 1983
family background
artistic range
monamy website index
title page

pmlight

These pages on the Eddystone lighthouses revise and replace those previously posted during 2003. They are greatly indebted to the generous advice, recommendations and co-operative interest of Maureen Attrill, Alison Barnes, Nigel Overton, Roger Quarm, Janet Tamblin, and Ken Trethewey. The errors contained in these pages, and the more contentious opinions aired below, are not necessarily theirs, but entirely mine.


From Chambers’ Book of Days, Vol II, 1864. With special thanks to Alison Barnes

Above is an imaginative Victorian engraving illustrating the destruction of Winstanley’s lighthouse, including its keepers and the architect himself, in 1703. Narrative history pictures are not, in normal circumstances, painted immediately after the events they portray. All that can be said with certainty is that they were not painted before. They could, however, be painted at any time at all, even centuries, after the event. Marine art-history seems bedevilled by failure to recognize this simple truth.

English marine painters in the early C18th were illustrators, not eye-witness reporters like the van de Veldes. Not one of the English painters, Sailmaker, Vale, Monamy, Scott, had any opportunity of watching a naval battle or other single-ship encounter at first-hand. Of the earlier names, Hollar had the remarkable fortune of being present at the battle of the Mary Rose against the Algerine pirates in 1669; but no native painter practising in England was favoured by the king with his personal galliot to attend and record a major sea-battle for posterity, as the van de Veldes were.

Humphrey Vale depicted the Relief of Barcelona, 1706, on a canvas dated 1713, seven years after the event. Monamy’s painting of the same action is dated 1725, nineteen years after the event. Scott’s painting of Wager’s Action off Carthagena, 1708 was executed probably in about 1745 or ’46, or approximately thirty-eight years after the event. I well recall attending a splendid exhibition of dramatic combat paintings in about 1990. These pictures recorded the stirring aerial duels of the Battle of Britain: a full fifty years after the events they were commemorating.

THE
EDDYSTONE
LIGHTHOUSES

The line between illustration and other kinds of painting in oils was, it may be assumed, not strongly drawn at the beginning of the 18th century. Like any modern illustrator, who sifts through historic photographs and echoes classic compositions, these painters used a variety of aids to their trade, including prints and drawings by earlier practitioners. It is imperative to bear this in mind when attempting to understand their works; as well as to realise that the interpretation and recording of history can never accord precisely with wie es eigentlich gewesen, as von Ranke once put it. Nevertheless, some accounts of historical fact are decidedly nearer the truth than others.

The following three paintings by Monamy of the lighthouses on the Eddystone rock provide a remarkable insight into the way he went to work, as well as his progress over what I believe to be a ten or fifteen year period. Although complemented by his first-hand observation of water and sky, they do not depict these constructions as they ever actually appeared. In fact, they are idealised representations, and achieve their effect by Monamy’s heightened sense of occasion, and the strength of his appreciation of the unique achievement of their inventors, in particular the vision and indomitable spirit of Henry Winstanley, 1644-1703.

The pictures are displayed below in the order in which I believe them to have been painted, the last being finished anything up to 15 years after the first.. In the following pages I will refer to them as M1, M2 and M3. M1 and M3 portray Winstanley’s first lighthouse, 1696-1698. No painting by Monamy of Winstanley’s second construction, 1699-1703, is so far known.


Monamy 1. 37 x 53. Plymouth City Art Gallery. This painting is currently being cleaned.


Monamy 2. 30 x 57. Auctioned by Sotheby; 1/11/95.


Monamy 3. 24 x 54;. Yale Center for British Art.


Monamy 3. Available colour added.


From The University of Leeds Review, Vol III, Number 4, December 1953.

The considerable differences between Winstanley’s first and second lighthouses are not often fully appreciated, and sometimes not even recognized. Comparison of the two drawings below, by Ken Trethewey, brings out the contrast, and emphasizes the fragility of the first, completed in 1698, against the robustness of the second, completed in 1699, after Winstanley’s heroic efforts to strengthen the construction. He could not have anticipated the phenomenal force, four years later, of the fiercest storm ever recorded.


These drawings are based on reproductions in Majdalany’s The Red Rocks of Eddystone
With acknowledgements and many thanks to Ken Trethewey. See his website: here.

See also here: http://ddb.libnet.kulib.kyoto-u.ac.jp/exhibit-e/f05/f05cont.html

An idea of the relative sizes of Winstanley’s two structures is provided by the sketches at right, which demonstrate just how radical his alterations were.

The complicated relationships of Monamy’s three paintings to the many earlier and contemporary graphic depictions of the first three structures, as well as their illustration of Monamy’s painting style and development, are examined in succeeding pages.

After the death of Winstanley and the destruction of his final lighthouse in the early hours of November 27, 1703, the great value of his pioneering work was even more widely appreciated, and John Rudyerd’s project for a new lighthouse attracted enthusiastic support. See here for the Lighthouse Act of 1705. Rudyerd’s construction was completed in 1709, surviving until it was destroyed by fire in 1755. It was followed by Smeaton’s meticulously planned stone structure, which lasted until 1882.

introduction
winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M1
winstanley’s lighthouse 1: M3
winstanley’s lighthouse 2
rudyerd’s lighthouse: M2
smeaton’s lighthouse


lighthouse paintings composition
miscellaneous lighthouses
monamy website index


Visit the Eddystone lighthouse of today by clicking here.

A Lighthouse Medley
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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2004
all rights reserved

pmarvel

When the Sword glitters ore the Judges head,
And fear has Coward Churchmen silenced
Then is the Poets time, ’tis then he drawes
And single fights forsaken Vertues cause.
He, when the wheel of Empire whirleth back,
And though the World’s disjointed Axel crack,
Sings still of ancient Rights and better Times
Seeks wretched good, arraigns successful Crimes.

Tom May’s Death   [Author? Date?]

ANDREW MARVELL


The Forward Youth

1621-1678

 

Courage my Soul, now learn to wield
The weight of thine immortal Shield.
Close on thy Head thy Helmet bright.
Ballance thy Sword against the Fight.
A Dialogue, between The Resolved Soul, and Created Pleasure

The earlier he gets hooked on Marvell, the longer the reader’s life of literary delight. Marvell resides at the very epicentre of the English experience, literary, moral and political, and no one who does not know his works can fully understand the last 500 years of our history. His balance between the two parties of fury is matchless; apart from which his mastery of the English language is miraculous and, yes, I’ll say it, marvellous.

On the Victory obtained by Blake over the Spaniards,
in the Bay of Sanctacruze, in the Island of Teneriff. 1657
For Sanctacruze the glad Fleet takes its way
And safely there casts Anchor in the Bay. ….
Deluded Men! Fate did with you but sport,
You scap’t the Sea, to perish in your Port.
‘Twas more for Englands fame you should dye there,
Where you had most of strength, and least of fear. ….
That they with joy their boasting General heard,
Wish then for that assault he lately fear’d.
His wish he has, for now undaunted Blake,
With winged speed, for Sanctacruze does make. …
Fate these two Fleets, between both Worlds had brought
Who fight, as if for both those Worlds they fought. …
And neither have, or power, or will to fly,
There one must Conquer, or there both must dye. …
Our Cannon now tears every Ship and Sconce
And o’re two Elements Triumphs at once.
Their Gallions sunk, their wealth the Sea does fill,
The only place where it can cause no Ill.
Ah would those Treasures which both Indies have,
Were buryed in as large, and deep a grave,
Wars chief support with them would buried be,
And the Land owe her peace unto the Sea.

Published 1674, 1678 & 1681: selected lines

 

A Poem upon the Death of O.C.

As long as rivers to the seas shall runne,
As long as Cynthia shall relieve the sunne,
While staggs shall fly unto the forests thick,
While sheep delight the grassy downs to pick,
As long as future time succeeds the past,
Always thy honour, praise and name, shall last.

Published 1681; withdrawn, then not until 1776

 

On Blake. From Lives of the Admirals Vol II, p.222; published 1742;
by Dr John Campbell:   “I will add a short Encomium in Verse”
While the Dutch fish, the Spaniard vaunts his Mines,
To stealing Conquests while proud
France inclines
While Seas still roar, while Ships divide their waves,
While Death, for Fame, each gallant Sailor braves,
Thy Praise shall live: and future Heroes take,
As
Cæsar’s once, —- the nobler name of BLAKE
Letter from Peter Monamy Cornwall, November 1st, 1767, to
“His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, at Claremont, near Esher, Surrey”
I conclude with the Lines which I heard you repeat with so much cheerfulness and Satisfaction in our Senate House,Dum memor ipse mei; dum Spiritus hos regit artus
Semper Honos, Nomenque Tuum, Laudesque manebunt

To This, my Lord, permit me to subscribe myself your most Dutiful and Obedient Servant,
Peter Monamy Cornwall”.

Bludius et Corona
Bludius, ut ruris damnum repararet aviti,
Addicit fisco dum Diadem suo:
Egregium Sacro facinus velavit Amictu:
(Larva solet Reges fallere nulla magis).
Excidit ast ausis tactus pietate prophana,
Custodem ut servet, maluit ipse capi.
Si modo Saevitiam texisset Pontificalem,
Veste Sacerdotis, rapta corona foret.
When daring Blood to have his rents regain’d
Upon the English Diadem distrained,
Hee chose the Cassock Circingle and Gown,
The fittest Mask for one that Robs a Crown.
But his Lay pitty underneath prevailed.
And while hee spared the keepers life hee fail’d
With the preists vestments had hee but put on
A Bishops Cruelty, the Crown had gone.

“1673-4: Marvell (code name ‘Mr Thomas’) operating with fifth column promoting Dutch interests in England, in touch with Dutch secret agents. (Winter).” From John Carey, Andrew Marvell, 1969, Table of Dates. “1674: (summer) Mentioned by Government spies as member of a Dutch fifth-column in England”. From Hilton Kelliher, 1978, Table of Dates. “1672-74 War with France as ally against Holland. Marvell as ‘Mr Thomas’ active in Dutch-based, anti-French, anti-Catholic fifth column.” From George deF. Lord (ed.); Andrew Marvell, 1968, Chronology of Important Dates. Nicholas Murray has this to say in his biography of Marvell: “….. there existed at this time a fifth column, described by its historian as ‘a strange story of spies and secret agents, smugglers and conspirators, which at times reads more like historical fiction than sober fact'”. From World Enough and Time, 1999, p.208.

The historian is K.D.H.Haley, whose book is entitled William of Orange and the English Opposition 1672-4, published 1953. His study contains much fascinating information about the roles of Blood and Marvell during these two years. It is a pity that the book ends in 1674, just about the time that Pierre Monamy appears on the scene. Haley suggests (p.65) that Blood’s release from custody by Charles II was because “Blood could and did supply valuable information to the government about the activities of the political and religious ‘underground’ of the time.” It seems not unlikely that Blood’s enjoyment of the treacherous monarch’s favour allowed him to continue his career, but now as a double agent, supplying both sides with selected inside information. Alan Marshall’s comment is interesting. He remarks in Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II, p 205, that “Blood was working for the greater ends, for a ’cause’ ….. stealing the king’s crown thus becomes the worthy act of a true commonwealth-man.”

It seems to me remarkable that Pierre Monamy, towards the end of September 1676 actually wrote to King Charles with a “Petition for release on bail, having been committed, 28 July last, on suspicion of complicity in counterfeiting the Sign Manual and the handwriting of the Earl of Arlington to warrants for freeing foreign-built ships, being innocent and so ill that he can only last a short time.” If de la Marche is to be believed, Monamy had turned over about £3,300 in his forged warrant business, and according to a website (here) that sum would have the purchasing power of about £310,000 in UK currency in 2001. His illness, and claim to be innocent, can be taken with a large dose of salt. As he was quite clearly released and not subsequently prosecuted, it appears to me that we have here a carbon-copy of the resourceful Blood. Both Blood and Monamy might, of course, in certain quarters, be regarded as “a knight-errant of civil and religious liberty” to quote G.L.Turner, whose opinion of Blood is cited by Haley. This certainly goes for Marvell, also deeply involved in spying, smuggling, and the production of widely circulated anti-Stuart propaganda.


“bold, and yet sober”

An informer’s report to Williamson, 21/9/1671. “It tends to prove that Bl[ood] and Marvell were in touch as being both agents ‘from Bucks’; ie the Duke of Buckingham.” From Margoliouth’s Andrew Marvell, Vol I, p 379. Hilton Kelliher expands this note slightly, p.103. In 1674 Buckingham impeached the Earl of Arlington. Williamson got his job.

Pierre Monamy’s name occurs in context with Blood’s in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic. A Mr Blood makes his appearance in the pages of the Papers in 1678, conversing with de la Marche, an informer against Monamy. It seems Blood was in the Gatehouse in 1678 (DNB), perhaps in company with de la Marche. Payne is also a name that re-appears.

 

Andrew Marvell died on 16th August 1678. It was strongly suspected that he had “suffered under the effect of poison” (Dove, p.65). Perish the thought; which was nevertheless no doubt firmly believed for at least the next 150 years by all those who saw him as the British Aristides.

 


1621-1678

If Marvell’s features ever resembled those of the youth above, the liberal refreshments imbibed by his muse had taken effect by the time the likeness to the left was painted, c. 1658. Blake was perhaps not as handsome as shown on a recent stamp; but that he was ever quite as ugly as the print on the right may also be doubted.


1599-1657

William Popple’s epitaph of 1764 claims that Andrew Marvell, like Robin Hood, was “Belov’d by Good Men, fear’d by Bad.” The same might be said of Robert Blake, which is why in 1661 his body was dug up and removed to “a pit in St Margaret’s churchyard”.

To the left is the miniature of Robert Blake, General-at-Sea, c.1645, on which the stamp portrayal appears to be based. The engraving above right looks as if it could have been produced by one of Horace Walpole’s hack engravers. But it’s a bit too early for that.

 

ancient Rights: “pace Wilson, these rights are those of the ancient monarchy, in which Cromwell has no part.” Margoliouth: p.299, comment on An Horatian Ode. By about 1674 Marvell had firmly concluded that there were other rights, when Adam delved and Eve span, even more ancient than those of a hereditary sacred monarchy.
cause no Ill: Marvell was not to know that the gold had been off-loaded, and was on shore.
Caesar: ‘Marvell’s Cromwell perhaps doubles the parts of Lucan’s Caesar and Pompey’. (Syfret). Margoliouth; p.301. Campbell is saying that Blake was nobler than Cromwell.
Semper Honos etc: “Always thy honour, praise and name shall last.” The passages culminating in these words have, I believe, their ultimate origin in Virgil. Their repetition by young P.M.Cornwall may be purely coincidental, but the suspicion that they are in fact a hopeful and semi-coded message to Newcastle is not allayed.


Portrait of Blake, Wadham College, Oxford.
The engraved monstrosity, above,
must derive from it.

He hangs in shades the Orange bright,
Like golden Lamps in a green Night.

                        Bermudas

   

marvell: comment & reading list
article 1981: arlington
chronology & authenticity
monamy website index
artistic range

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© Charles Harrison Wallace 2005
all rights reserved

Is this piece what it seems, or does it want deciphering?

essind

Essays and Papers

 

Some of these essays were originally prepared for different publications set in other contexts, so there is occasional repetition of content. Some are frivolous, others less so.

 

Anfloga, Wearn, (H)wælweg
Anglo-Saxon Verse: W.J.Sedgefield
Biblical Echoes
Bird, Ship, Sun, Sea
The Central Crux of The Seafarer
The Cambridge Old English Reader
Empress of Hel, Part 1
Empress of Hel, Part 2
Housman, Masefield, Burns, Drayton
Hugr, Hyge, Håg
Journey’s Jargon
The Meaning of Fer(h)ð
Old English Grammar: A.Campbell
R.I.Page and the DOE
Pound Note 1
Pound Note 2
Pound Note 3
The Prefix Un-
Psalm 46
Re unwearnum: A Digression 1
Re unwearnum: A Digression 2
Re unwearnum: A Digression 3
Seafarer Fidelity
G.V.Smithers One
G.V.Smithers Two
The Structure of The Seafarer 1
The Structure of The Seafarer 2
The Structure of The Seafarer 3
Swedish Sprachgefühl for Anglo-Saxon
Tower of Babel
Translation Two

 

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