“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

damned, rammed and sunk

We’ve been thinking of Abiezer Coppe.

The reason we’ve been thinking of Abiezer Coppe is that Infinite Thought, in the course of visiting a May day celebration in some village in England, came across some “prophetic (and poorly-spelled) religious missives [that] were posted on walls around a place that already seemed pretty religious (in a whitebread, exclusivist, entirely British kind of way). Russia will attack Israel, apparently according to Ezekiel 38-39 (The Gog-Magog bit).” She has photos up of the broadsheets here.

Now, unlike the bestselling leftbehind apocalyptic novels put out by rich evangelical types, in which we see the happy merger those two ur-American tropes, the Caucasian utopia and the action hero movie, the older style of apocalyptic lit digs into the pork and corruption of a world that runs over the oppressed and sees its dark ends – the first who shall be last, here, include the rich evangelical types, being fed into the maw of some rich Bosch-style monster. When the World is turned Upside Down, the values that held it right side up will be turned upside down too – which means that profit seekers will suffer, while the idle will be rewarded for their intense study of the lilies of the field; which means that the pure to whom all was pure – the whores, wankers, tramps, schizos, pennyante artists, Sal Army Hall bedwetters, holy toothless fools, runaways, all the tranquillized children in all the foster homes, etc., etc. – will invade, with much hooting, the halls of power; which means the meek housewives who took up steak knives and studied their husband’s backs on all those electric lightbulb sick nights, Raymond Chandler’s heroines, will pack like Amazons and destroy the peace of mind we’ve all purchased by disciplining the libido, and banning the Id. Those mean streets, it turns out, are the streets of the New Jerusalem.

The World Turned Upside Down was the title of the book by Christopher Hill that re-introduced the Levelers, the Diggers, the Ranters, and the Muggletonians to the world. I think it is that book, with its sections from Coppe’s Fiery Flying Roll, that insinuated the man into the subdeb niches – and even into the Norton Anthology of English Lit, for a guest appearance, between Donne and Milton.

Coppe, from Hill’s description, was an exemplary Ranter. He believed in free love, and drinking, and throwing himself under the wheels of luxurious carriages. He was a freelance prophet, not connected to the Diggers or Levelers and their more rational political schemes. When he was examined by the court, he supposedly bawled at them and tried to throw fruit about. He was more like Huck Finn’s father crossed with Ezekiel, if Ezekiel had been transplanted to the much colder climes of Albion. Then, of course, imprisonment, Cromwell’s reign, and the Restoration made him as lonely as a recalcitrant Yippie in the Reagan years, and he wilted away. Anyway, the intro to his most famous pamphlet, copped from the subgenius site:

An inlet into the Land of Promise, the new Hierusalem, and agate into the ensuing Discourse, worthy of seriousconsideration.
My Deare One.
All or None.
Every one under the Sunne.
Mine own. My most excellent Majesty (in me) hath strangely and variously transformed this forme.
And beholde, by mine owne Almightinesse (in me) I have been changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound ofthe Trump.…

And it hath pleased my most excellent Majesty (who is universall love, and whose service is perfecte freedom) to set this forme(the Writer of this Roll) as no small signe and wonder in fleshly Israel; as you may partly see in the ensuing Discourse.

And now (my deare ones!) every one under the Sun, I will onely point at the gate; thorow which I was led into that new City,new Hierusalem, and to the Spirits of just men, made perfect,and to God the Judge of all.First, all my strength, my forces were utterly routed, my houseI dwelt in fired; my father and mother forsook me, the wife ofmy bosome loathed me, mine old name was rotted, perished; and Iwas utterly plagued, consumed, damned, rammed, and sunke intonothing, into the bowels of the still Eternity (my mother'swomb) out of which I came naked, and whetherto I returned againnaked. And lying a while there, rapt up in silence, at length(the body or outward forme being awake all this while) I heardwith my outward eare (to my apprehension) a most terriblethunder-clap, and after that a second. And upon the secondthunder-clap, which was exceeding terrible, I saw a great body of light, like the light of the Sun, and red as fire, in theforme of a drum (as it were) whereupon with exceeding trembling and amazement on the flesh, and with joy unspeakable in thespirit, I clapt my hands, and cryed out, Amen, Hallelujah,Hallelujah, Amen. And so lay trembling, sweating, and smoaking(for the space of halfe an hour) at length with a loud voyce (Iinwardly) cryed out, Lord, what wilt thou do with me; my mostexcellent majesty and eternal glory (in me) answered & sayd,Fear Not, I will take thee up into mine everlasting Kingdom. Butthou shalt (first) drink a bitter cup, a bitter cup, a bittercup; whereupon (being filled with exceeding amazement) I wasthrowne into the belly of hell (and take what you can of it inthese expressions, though the matter is beyond expression) I was among all the Devils in hell, even in their most hideous hew.


Brian Miller said...

Gosh. As a somewhat repressed, very middle class, very conventional American of the suburban world, I had better hope that Revelations is pure fiction, no?

roger said...

Ah, Mr. Miller, I'm with you there. I don't want to be stuck with a crowd of hooting bedwetters for all eternity.

My cosmological beliefs are more like George Bernard Shaw's. You know, in Man and Superman, I think, he portrays heaven as unendurably quiet and spiritual, whereas hell is party city. In fact, one of the few denizens of heaven is Nietzsche -- he couldn't stand the noise in hell. Everybody else has gone to the inferno for drinks and kicks.

roger said...

ps -- have you ever read that great story by Flannery O'Connor, "Revelation" in Everything that Rises Must Converge? O'Connor had a rare appreciation of the Coppe type.

Deleted said...

My modest contribution to this, a warning to the conventional and repressed to stay that way!

818 said...

tho Locke was not exactly a hepcat his material on enthusiasm still seem relevant to this "who is the authentic prophet" issue. As one temporarily out in the sticks of the US of A, I note that there are Abrahams if not Koreshes and Mansons and McVeighs on every street corner. Perhaps I generalize, but for those not lucky or wealthy or smart enough to have made it to real colleges, their schemas are, for the most part protestant enthusiasm filtered through pop or sports culture: a person formed from impressions of NASCAR, Eminem, and the Book of Revelation........or something of that sort....

roger said...

Actually, I think they have sensibly retreated from street corners to libraries. At least, in every public library in a mid to large city you will find the troop of the disinherited, with their med bags. But you know -- the most high brow journal in the States, Partisan Review, was founded by an unemployed man who sought warmth in the Public library back in the depression days. Myself, as a writer barely floating above the street, I have both an appreciation and a vast fear of these folks -- I look upon them the way Scrooge looked upon Christmas future, these are the things that may be... for me.

Anonymous said...

I hear ya. The disinherited deserve our respect, but from afar, as Twain might have said.

You certainly wield a nice pen man; a bit overly laden with pomo jargon but less so than most who have endured some continentalizing. I gave up on being any sort of dialectician and aim for low-rent Wittgenstein or perhaps Ayer on some decent Chronic. Then again I think beatnik-muslim strategies against all professional belle-lettrists
tis not a bad idea. Great writers come from everywhere--streets, jails, mansions, whorehouses--generally not from Cunt State
or chi chi ivy league bathhouse-schools........... Saroyan grew up in an orphanage fighting paisas in the thug fresno streets and he's no primitive. Even Jack Kerouac triumphs over 90% of the philosophical and lit crit frauds playing grab ass among the jocks of Academe Inc.

May we say naughty things about Infinite Thought here?