Visions of Innocence/Experience Pt. 1

An elegiac issue: is the Elegiac Protagonist, as he appears in the Cheltenham Elegies, an egomaniac; and, if so, does it reduce or abrade his presence in the Elegies? The premise the Elegies work from is that this Protagonist left Cheltenham to make his name in the world as an artist, and proceeded to do so, with a reasonable amount of success. The claim he stakes in 261—“I say “I” and it works”— reinforces the impression that his self-image is assured, possibly bordering on arrogance. Yet, the subtext (it seems to me) is that the Elegiac Protagonist’s self-confidence or (pejoratively) arrogance, manifest in his stance before Cheltenham, was adopted as an adolescent as a self-protective measure against Cheltenham’s intrusions into his consciousness— nothingness places, nothingness voices. The phenomenological tension of feeling these places and voices in his consciousness meant that he would need to develop his own places and voices to counter them. Thus, the Elegiac Protagonist begins the meta-dialogic task: building a repertoire of voices to protect him from the niggling voices which haunted him growing up, and which he can never quite eradicate from his conscious and unconscious mind. The cognitive dissonance of appearing arrogant in the Elegies is balanced by the sense that the Protagonist’s arrogance has in it also the courage of making a bold stand against nothingness realms, nothingness people. If it is taken as precisely that, it is not (then) mere arrogance (though it can appear to be arrogance when backlit the right way); it is a mutable, chameleon like force which allows the Protagonist to navigate tight, uncomfortable phenomenological corners from within the resources of his individual mind— although, inevitably, some may see it as mere arrogance.

Keats’ Odes and the Cheltenham Elegies both have to do with youth and adolescence— in Keats, the innocence and ecstasy of youth, both its sensuality and its creativity; in the Elegies, how youth may look from many years into adulthood, once objectivity has enumerated how the world works and why it works that way. In the Gyan Books chap, which is interestingly sequenced— Apologia, some Elegies, Odal Cycle, more Elegies— it is interesting to note how the Elegies and the Odes condition each other. The exquisite musicality of the Odes and the exquisite dramatic tensions of the Elegies find a way/manner of commingling that is more complimentary than one might think. The Blakean dichotomy here— innocence versus experience— gives rise to some rather spooky, uncanny tensions between the two sets of poems. What the Odes seem to say to the Elegies— music is eternal, and (to quote Nietzsche) life without music would not be worth living— chides the Elegies for their cynicism, bleakness, and clipped terseness, and also places bets on the immortality of joy and affirmation over pain and despair. The Elegies are happy (so to speak) to answer back incisively— that the beauty here is in truth consonance, and that when dealing with flesh over archetypes, and the phenomenology of mind against mind (or minds), music must fade to the back, however immortal and gloriously innocent it might be. Keats’ “brooklet scarce espied” is a nod to the rarity of real music (immortal music); and the Odal Vision is the manifestation of something rare and precious in the world. The Elegies counter by their superabundance of material which we see everywhere in human life— not only mind or minds against mind (and the phenomenology of minds within minds), but the one against the many, the individual against the community, the artist against the philistines, and the present against the past— not to mention the omnipresence of duplicity, treacherous self-interest, and absolute human homogenization to abased norms.