And the first poem of his I found intrigued me:
[The Old Man]
The old man
In the mirror
But the young man
In the photograph
from: Unpublished Poems; Collected Poems of George Oppen
Meeting Daniel Defoe
Yes, of course, I knew him from Robinson Crusoe but I never new what an interesting character he was. I thought of him as the kind of Englishman who ruled anyone who broke the law--committed a crime--should be hanged. Again, thanks to Simon Lokely, this morning I ran into Daniel Defoe--Simon is reading Robinson Crusoe every Saturday morning for the next several weeks on his 1 and 1/2 hour radio show here in New York City. He did a biography of Defoe and it fascinated me. This man first was an international trader--he travelled all over Europe buying and selling goods and working as a trader out of London until he went bankrupt after going 30,000 pounds in debt--he avoided debtor's prison with the help of a rich patron--paid back every penny of his debt and then went into another business. He failed again; this time in debt for 3,000 pounds though this time he couldn't come up with it and he spent several years in prison during which time he began writing.
Later, again Defoe got in trouble with the law and was sentenced to the pillory--where they put your head on the pillory chin rest and then yoked your head in place and chained up your hands to each side of your head and there you were left--in Defoe's case he was sentenced to 12 days in the pillory. The trouble with being in the pillory was that the rabblerousers would gang around you and harass you with words, spittle, rotting things, excrement, and with impunity, such so that it was possible for them to kill the pilloried bastard if they so desired--maybe a well-hurled stone right between the eyes--EXCEPT Defoe before he entered the pillory wrote an essay on it and when they put him in the stocks he started reading from his essay and passing copies out to the rabblerousers. The mob so liked the way Defoe wrote they cheered him and shouted for his early release--thereby probably saving his life. That was enough for me, it got my curiosity up, and I found this essay by Defoe on "Swearing" and I found it fascinating as a piece of writing--wow, how this dude could use the King's English.
On SwearingDaniel Defoe, An Essay upon Projects (1697):
Swearing, that lewdness of the tongue, that scum and excrement of the mouth, is of all vices the most foolish and senseless; it makes a man's conversation unpleasant, his discourse fruitless, and his language nonsense.
It makes conversation unpleasant, at least to those who do not use the same foolish way of discourse; and indeed, is an affront to all the company who swear not as he does; for if I swear and curse in company, I either presume all the company likes it, or affront them who do not.
Then 'tis fruitless; for no man is believed a jot the more for all the asseverations, damnings, and swearings he makes; those who are used to it themselves, do not believe a man the more, because they know they are so customary, that they signify little to bind a man's intention; and they who practise them not, have so mean an opinion of those that do, as makes them think they deserve no belief.
Then, they are the spoilers and destroyers of a man's discourse, and turn it into perfect nonsense; and to make it out, I must descend a little to particulars, and desire the reader a little to foul his mouth with the brutish, sordid, senseless expressions, which some gentlemen call polite English, and speaking with a grace.
Some part of them indeed, though they are foolish enough, as effects of a mad, inconsiderate rage, are yet English; as when a man swears he will do this or, that, and it may be adds, God damn him he will; that is, God damn him if he don't: this, though it be horrid in another sense, yet may be read in writing, and is English: but what language is this?
Jack, God damn me Jack, how dost do, thou little dear son of a whore? How hast thou done this long time, by God? — And then they kiss; and the other, as lewd as himself, goes on:
Dear Tom, I am glad to see thee with all my heart, let me die. Come, let us go take a bottle, we must not part so; prithee let's go and be drunk by God. —
This is some of our new florid language, and the graces and delicacies of style, which if it were put into Latin, I would fain know which is the principal verb.
But for a little further remembrance of this impertinence, go among the gamesters, and there nothing is more frequent than, God damn the dice, or God damn the bowls.
Among the sportsmen 'tis, God damn the hounds, when they are at a fault; or, God damn the horse, if he balks a leap. They call men sons of bitches, and dogs sons of whores: and innumerable instances may be given of the like gallantry of language, grown now so much a custom.
To read the rest of this essay, here's the link:
It's a wonderful site to bookmark, by the bye--run by a guy out in Minneapolis--Good job, dude.
Have a nice coming Sunday--the day we should respect our true god, The Sun,
...and remember, don't watch the politico shows on the teevee Sunday morning--just read about them in The Daily Howler the next day. See, we respect all bloggers who are interesting, able to write distinctly--unlike ourselves--and know what the hell they're writing about. Good brains make for fun living.
for The Daily Growler