Poem beginning “The”
1926/ The Exile 3 (Spring 1928)
Ahearn, Barry. Zukofsky's "A": An Introduction.
Berkeley: U of California P, 1983. 20-37.
Bernstein, Charles. Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and
Inventions. Chicago UP, 2011. 134-136.
Dembo, L.S. "Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for
Form." American Literature 44.1
(March 1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 298-301.
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. Genders, Races and Religious Cultures in
Modern American Poetry, 1908-1934. Cambridge UP, 2001. 166-174.
___. Purple Passages: Pound, Eliot, Zukofsky, Olson, Creeley and the Ends of
Patriarchal Poetry. U of Iowa P, 1012. 64-68.
Ma, Ming-Qian. “A ‘no man’s
land!’: Postmodern Citationality in Zukofsky’s ‘Poem beginning “The”’.” In
Scroggins (1997): 129-153.
Harold. “Zuk. Yehoash David Rex.” Paideuma
7.3 (Winter 1978): 559-569. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 235-245.
Scroggins, Mark. Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge.
Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 1998. 124-132.
Shreiber, Maeera Y. Singing in a Strange Land: A Jewish American
Poetics. Stanford UP, 2007. 105-127.
Shoemaker, Steve. “Between
Contact and Exile: Louis Zukofsky’s Poetry of Survival.” In Scroggins (1997):
Sandra Kumanoto. Louis Zukofsky and the
Transformation of a Modern American Poetics. Berkeley: U of California P,
Tomas, John. “Portrait of
the Artist as a Young Jew: Zukofsky’s Poem Beginning ‘The’ in Context.” Sagetrieb 9.1 & 2 (Spring & Fall
Tim. The Poetics of the Limit: Ethics and
Politics in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. NY: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2002. 27-33.
LZ’s first major work, written at age 22, “Poem beginning ‘The’”
is a parodic homage to his modernist elders, and especially T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, published just four
years previous. As with The Waste Land,
LZ adds notes, in this case upping the ante by putting them up front, and line
numbers as if already a canonical text, but absurdly numbering every line and
in one instance a blank “line” (noted as “The French Language”). The notes,
which for the most part are simply references to other authors and works echoed
in LZ’s poem, are sometimes sensible, sometimes comic and sometimes simply
ludicrous. A few remarks on “Poem beginning ‘The’” in relation to The Waste Land can be found in the
original version of “American Poetry 1920-1930,” The Symposium 2.1 (Jan. 1931): 73.
Title “And out of olde bokes, in good feith”:
from Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), the Proem to the “Parliament of Fowls”:
For out of olde feldes, as men seith,
Cometh al this newe corn fro yeer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feith,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
But now to purpos as of this matere—
To rede forth hit gan me so delyte,
That al the day me thoughte but a lyte.
2 Jesus I. Rush:
I. Rush < Irish, so perhaps suggesting James Joyce.
4 A boy’s best friend
is his mother: there are numerous versions of a popular song with this
title and refrain going back to the 1880s.
8 From the candle
flames of the souls of dead mothers: LZ notes D.H. Lawrence here, which
could refer to any number of works, but perhaps most likely his first novel, Sons and Lovers (1913).
12 Tyrrhenian: sea
bounded by the western coast of Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. LZ notes
Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves (1925), a satirical novel
set at an Italian Renaissance palace owned by a wealthy Englishwoman near the
coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea where she gathers artists and intellectuals who
carry on lengthy discussions.
14 South Wind: 1917
novel by Norman Douglas (1868-1952) set on the imaginary island of Nepenthe
(based on Capri) in the Tyrrhenian Sea where a cast of curious characters
converse at length on various, often hedonistic topics. The novel was immensely
successful on its publication during the war. The South Wind is a constant
physical presence in the novel and would be identified with the sirocco, hot
dry winds that blow up from north Africa into parts of southern Europe.
15 the age demands an
image…: from EP, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley: Life and Contacts,” section II of
The age demanded an image
Of its accelerated grimace,
Something for the modern stage,
Not, at any rate, an Attic grace […]
18 Mauberly’s / Luini in
porcelain: from EP, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (misspelled or misprinted in
LZ’s poem), the opening line of the concluding section, “Medallion,” of Part
II. Bernardino Luini (1480-1532), Milanese painter and follower of Leonardo da
Vinci; this line in EP is usually understood as alluding to a refined but
superficial artist; see CSP 195.
18 Chelifer: Francis
Chelifer is a disillusioned poet in Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves (see 12).
19 Lovat who killed
Kangaroo: in D.H. Lawrence, Kangaroo
(1923), Richard Lovat Somers is the Lawrence character who does not literally
kill Kangaroo, a charismatic political figure, but does so in the sense of
refusing to carry on the latter’s work as he is dying in the chapter “Kangaroo
20 Stephen Daedalus with
the cane of ash: in James Joyce, The
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1915) but especially in Ulysses (1922), Stephen Daedalus rarely
appears without mention of his ashplant cane.
21 les neiges: from
François Villon’s most famous line, “Mais
où sont les neiges d'antan?” (Where are the snows of yesteryear?), from the
ballade, “Des dames du temps jadis.”
22 Mary’s Observations:
Marianne Moore (1887-1972), Observations
(1924) was her second book and includes many of her best-known poems.
24 Kerith is long dry…:
LZ notes here the Irish novelist George Moore (1852-1933), whose novel The Brook Kerith: A Syrian Story (1916)
is one of several modernist period versions of Christ after the Crucifixion.
However, LZ is actually echoing the original reference from I Kings 17:3-7
(Tomas 46): “[the Lord to Elijah:] Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and
hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that
thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee
there. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and
dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him
bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he
drank of the brook. And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up,
because there had been no rain in the land.”
27 sacred wood: T.S.
Eliot’s first volume of essays, The
Sacred Wood (1920).
alluding to Homer and Odysseus’ ten years of wandering on his journey home,
which then is extended in the following line to James Joyce, Ulysses (1922), which takes place in a
single day and involves Stephen Daedalus from The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (see 20).
29 bibbing: moderate
but regular drinking, to tipple.
30 O why is that to
Hecuba as Hecuba to he!: from Shakespeare, Hamlet II.ii: Hamlet’s soliloquy beginning, “O, what a rogue and
peasant slave am I,” which includes the following lines referring to an actor:
What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and cue for passion
That I have?
33 Il y a un peu trop de
femme…: Fr. there is a bit too much of the female.
38 O the Time is 5 / I
do!...: this passage echoes the pub closing section of T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land Part II. LZ notes E.E.
Cummings’ is 5 (1926)—is LZ or an
editor responsible for the (mis)punctuation of this title in the notes?
45 For it’s the
hoo-doos, the somethin’ voo-doos: LZ notes this as “College Cheer,”
although it echoes Vachel Lindsay’s performative poem, “The Congo (A Study of
the Negro Race)” (1914), which includes variations on the chorus, “Mumbo-Jumbo
will hoo-doo you,” as well as mentioning “voo-doo.”
46 And not Kings
onlelie, but the wisest men…: from Christopher Marlowe, Edward II, I.iv:
The mightiest kings have had their minions,
Great Alexander lovde Ephestion,
The conquering Hercules for Hilas wept,
And for Patroclus sterne Achillis droopt:
And not kings onelie, but the wisest men,
The Romaine Tullie loved Octavius,
Grave Socrates, wilde Alcibiades:
Then let his grace, whose youth is flexible,
And promiseth as much as we can wish,
Freely enjoy that vaine light-headed earle,
For riper yeares will weane him from such toyes.
Koichiro Yamauchi points out that these lines are spoken by the elder Mortimer,
suggesting a possible buried reference by LZ to his Columbia classmate Mortimer
J. Adler, the philosopher who apparently was often called Plato by his friends
(personal communication)—in any case he was a passionate advocate of the classics
and of the Great Books movement instigated by John Erskine at Columbia (see
note at 184).
52 Dalloway!: Mrs. Dalloway (1925), novel by Virginia
53 The blind portals
opening, and I awoke!: possibly echoing John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale.”
56 Not by graven images
forbidden to us: referring to the prohibition among the Jews against
creating images of Jehovah; see especially the second of the Ten Commandments
in Exodus 20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any
likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,
or that is in the water under the earth.”
59 Spinoza grinding
lenses: the Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) was
excommunicated from the Jewish community of Amsterdam because of his views and
made his living grinding lenses.
60 Cathedral Parkway:
runs east-west along the upper end of Central Park, a few blocks from Columbia
University, and becomes 110th Street on the east side. The year LZ wrote “Poem
beginning ‘The,’” his family moved to 57 East 111th Street (?).
Title An International Episode: title of
an 1879 novella by Henry James concerning typically Jamesian cross-cultural
encounters experienced by two British friends on both sides of the Atlantic.
62 Peter Out:
suggests the ending of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (1925): “Not with a bang
but a whimper,” although this could also suit The Waste Land’s trailing off in shored fragments.
66 ’Tis, ’tis love, that
makes the world go round…: presumably echoes a popular song, although LZ
parodically notes Dante here.
68 Jew goat-song: LZ
notes Franz Werfel (1890-1945), Czech-born German Jewish writer, who wrote the
Expressionist play, The Goat-Song
(1921); an English language production played in NYC Jan.-March 1926. The play
concerns humankind’s unredeemed animal nature. Goat-song is the original Gk.
meaning of tragedy (tragoidia).
70 Not the old Greeks
anymore: LZ notes this as “University Extension,” which was a pioneering
school for non-traditional or adult students established at Columbia University
in 1904 by its long-standing president, Nicolas Murray Butler (from 1902-1945).
74 “Il Duce: I feel God
deeply”: It. The Leader, i.e. Mussolini. In 1926 there were several
assassination attempts on Mussolini and in an interview he reported stated: “I
feel God deeply. I believe in God, I am fully convinced that those who attempt
my life cannot harm me. While God protects me no human force can stop me.”
75 Black shirts:
Mussolini’s fascist followers.
76 Lion-heart, frate mio:
although Lion-heart (Coeur de lion) refers to King Richard I (1157-1199), here
it is a pet name for LZ’s younger friend Ricky Chambers, mentioned several
times in “A”, who committed suicide
in Oct. 1926, which accounts for the funereal imagery in the following through
109 (see “A”-2.6.24, “A”-3, which is an elegy for Ricky, and
“A”-7.42.3). Frate mio: It. my
brother; the phrase appears at least twice in Dante’s Purgatorio.
110 And his heart is dry…:
as LZ notes, through 129 is a translation from the Yiddish poet Yehoash,
pseudonym of Solomon Bloomgarden (1872-1927), from the volume In the Weaving (2 vols, 1919 and 1920),
whose work includes adaptations or imitations from other languages, including
Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. Yehoash made a well-known Yiddish translation of
Longfellow’s Hiawatha, which no doubt
is the version LZ mentions reading as a boy (Autobiography 33). Here LZ translates a passage of a poem entitled
“Bakhr Esh-Shytan” in the translation by Barbara and Benjamin Harshav in Sing, Stranger: A Century of American
Yiddish Poetry, A Historical Anthology (Stanford UP, 2006): 110-112. See
also 205-223 and 318-330 for further Yehoash translations, and others are
incorporated into “A”-4.
116 asilah: an Arabic name meaning strengthened; here presumably
referring to the Bedouin’s camel. Yehoash studied and translated from classical
Arabic, and his poem is sprinkled with various Arabic terms.
132 “Tilbury”: LZ notes
Edwin Arlington Robinson’s Children of
the Night (1897), which includes a number of his most famous poems
concerning characters from the imaginary New England town of Tilbury.
132 “The West-Decline”:
Cf. Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), The
Decline of the West (1917, 1923; English trans. vol. 1, 1926).
133 “The Happy
Quetzalcoatl”: Cf. D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), The Plumed Serpent (1924) concerning an effort to revive the Aztec
worhip of Quetzalcoatl, who is the supreme nature god in Aztec religion.
141 indomitaeque morti:
as LZ notes, from Horace, Ode II.xiv: “Eheu
fugaces, Postume, Postume, labuntur anni, nec pietas moram, rugis et instanti
senaectae, adferet indomitaeque morti” (Alas, Postumus, the fleeting years
slip by, nor will piety give pause to wrinkles, to advancing old age, to unconquered death).
146 “The Dream That Knows
No Waking”: there was an 1880s popular song with this title.
161 —And r-r-run —the Sun!:
probably alluding to the final lines of Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”:
“Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run”
Title More “Renaissance”: referring to
Walter Pater (1839-1894), Studies in the
History of the Renaissance (see 176).
163 Drop in at
Askforaclassic, Inc.: see note at 184.
167 Plato’s Philo:
Philo of Alexandria was a first century Hellenized Jew who attempted to
reconcile Greek (particularly Plato) and Judaic thought through allegorical
interpretation. Tomas states that as a result the Jewish tradition considered
Philo a traitor (54); whether or not this is accurate, it is true that
contemporary Jews of his day rejected his work, and his considerable influence
was primarily on the development of early Christian thought.
168 Engprof, thy lecture
were to me…: through 182 are a parodic rewriting of Edgar Allan Poe, “To
Helen,” echoing key words and phrases of the original. On the “Engprof” see
note at 184:
Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicean barks of yore,
That gently, o’er a perfum’d sea,
The weary way-worn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.
On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the beauty of fair Greece,
And the grandeur of old Rome.
Lo! in that little window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand!
The folded scroll within thy hand—
A Psyche from the regions which
Are Holy land!
169 roast flitches of red boar: flitches are
salted and cured side of bacon (AHD). LZ may be alluding here to the Boar’s
Head Society, which was a student literary group that met at Columbia
University’s Low Library under the general supervision of John Erskine (see
note at 184) and edited the poetry journal, The
Morningside, in which LZ frequently published poems.
176 Pater: Walter Pater
(1839-1894), British essayist, whose conclusion to Studies in History of the Renaissance (1873) was something of a
manifesto for English aestheticism.
180 Phi Beta Key: Phi
Beta Kappa is a scholastic honors society, which uses a symbolic key as a token
of membership. LZ was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at Columbia.
184 Gentlemen, don’chewknow…:
LZ’s note identifies this as spoken by John Erskine (1879-1951), which
indicates that lines 164-167 are as well. Erskine was an English professor at
Columbia University, specializing in Elizabethan literature, as well as a
musician and novelist. He is best known as initiator of the Great Books
movement, which began as a General Honors course in 1921, taught using the
Socratic method and emphasized an extensive but core canon of classical texts,
which presumably is satirically alluded to in line 163, “Drop in at
185 never wrote an epic:
alluding to Poe’s claim in “The Poetic Principle” (1850) that a poetic epic is
a contradiction in terms: “[Paradise Lost],
in fact, is to be regarded as poetical, only when, losing sight of that vital
requisite in all works of Art, Unity, we view it merely as a series of minor
poems. If, to preserve its Unity—its totality of effect or impression—we read
it (as would be necessary) at a single sitting, the result is but a constant
alternation of excitement and depression. […] It follows from all this that the
ultimate, aggregate, or absolute effect of even the best epic under the sun is a
nullity; —and this is precisely the fact. […] The modern epic is, of the
supposititious ancient model, but an inconsiderate and blindfold imitation. But
the day of these artistic anomalies is over. If, at any time, any very long
poems were popular in reality—which I doubt—it is at least clear that no very
long poem will ever be popular again.”
187 Gathered mushrooms…:
LZ notes Robert Herrick (1591-1674), “To Virgins, to Make Much of Time”:
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
191 Un in hoyze is kalt:
Yiddish, “and in the house it’s cold.” LZ notes that this is a “Jewish Folk
Song.” Hana Wirth-Nesher identifies this as “Oyfn Pripetshok (or Pripitchek),”
one of the best know of Yiddish songs, actually composed by Mark Warshawsky in
the late 19th century although often taken to be a folk song (Call It English: The Languages of Jewish
American Literature (2005): 18). The first stanza is:
Oyfn pripetshok brent a fayerl,
Un in shtub iz heys,
Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlech,
(On the hearth a little fire is burning, / And it is hot in the house, /
And the rebe’s teaching the little children, / The ABC); trans. Ruth Rubin).
197 your Russia that is
free: the Russian Revolution took place in 1917; LZ’s parents emmigrated
from Russia in the 1890s.
199 “So then an egoist can
never embrace a party…: LZ notes the German philosopher Max Stirner
(1806-1856), The Ego and His Own
(1844; English trans. 1907):
“A party, of whatever kind it may be, can never do without a confession of
faith. For those who belong to the party must believe in its principle, it must
not be brought in doubt or put in question by them, it must be the certain,
indubitable thing for the party-member. That is: One must belong to a party
body and soul, else one is not truly a party-man, but more or less—an egoist.
Harbor a doubt of Christianity, and you are already no longer a true Christian,
you have lifted yourself to the ‘effrontery’ of putting a question beyond it
and haling Christianity before your egoistic judgment-seat. You have—sinned
against Christianity, this party cause (for it is surely not e.g. a cause for
the Jews, another party.) But well for you if you do not let yourself be
affrighted: your effrontery helps you to ownness.
So then an egoist could never embrace a
party or take up with a party? Oh, yes, only he cannot let himself be embraced
and taken up by the party. For him the party remains all the time nothing
but a gathering: he is one of the party, he takes part.
best State will clearly be that which has the most loyal citizens, and the more
the devoted mind for legality is lost, so much the more will the State, this
system of morality, this moral life itself, be diminished in force and quality.
With the ‘good citizens’ the good State too perishes and dissolves into anarchy
and lawlessness. ‘Respect for the law!’ By this cement the total of the State
is held together. ‘The law is sacred, and he who affronts it a criminal.’
Without crime no State: the moral world—and this the State is—is crammed full
of scamps, cheats, liars, thieves, etc. Since the State is the ‘lordship of
law,’ its hierarchy, it follows that the egoist, in all cases where his
advantage runs against the State's, can satisfy himself only by crime” (trans.
Steven T. Byington).
205 Winged wild geese,
where lies the passage…: through 223 a translation Yiddish of a Yiddish
poem by Yehoash (see 110) entitled “Cheshvan,” indicating a month in the Hebrew
calendar (Schimmel 243); translated as “October” by Barbara and Benjamin
Harshav in Sing, Stranger: A Century of
American Yiddish Poetry, A Historical Anthology (Stanford UP, 2006):
101-102. LZ has apparently reversed the order of the two parts of the poem,
with the opening line of the original translated at 211.
245 Trawtsky: Leon
Trotsky (1879-1940) Russian revolutionary leader; at the time of this poem
Trotsky was locked in a struggle with Stalin as to who would be the successor
of Lenin as leader of the USSR.
245 Tchekoff: Anton
Chekhov (1860-1904), Russian fiction writer and playwright.
248 Angles: LZ mischievously notes the Venerable Bede’s Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical History, which gives an
account of the arrival of the Germanic tribe Angli or Angles into Britain where
they settled in what became Northumbria, where Bede lived.
250 If I am like them in
the rest…: LZ notes Shakespeare’s The
Merchant of Venice through 265, from which he draws on passages from
back-to-back scenes in Act III (see also 262). From III.i:
Shylock: To bait fish withal: if it
will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and
hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned
my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and
what's his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands,
organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt
with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you
prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us,
do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a
Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a
Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute,
and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.”
253 Shagetz: or
shegetz, Yiddish, a young non-Jewish man, usually with derogatory implications
of being rough or untrustworthy.
254 Donne: John Donne
(1572-1631), whose “Elegy on the Lady Marckam” may be echoed in the following
line: “Of what small spots pure white complaines! Alas / How little poyson
cracks a christall glasse?” (Shoemaker 35).
255 leopard in their spots:
from Jeremiah 13:23-25, where Jeremiah admonishes Jews who take up foreign
ways: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Therefore
will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the
wilderness. This is thy lot, the portion of thy measure from me, saith the
Lord; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.”
256 says their Coleridge, /
Twist red hot pokers into knots: alluding to an epigram by Samuel Taylor
Coleridge (1772-1834), “On Donne’s Poetry”:
With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots,
Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots;
Rhyme's sturdy cripple, fancy's maze and clue,
Wit's forge and fire-blast, meaning's press and screw.
262 It is engendered in the
eyes…: through 265 from a song or madrigal in Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, III.ii, sung
while Bassanio is deciding on which casket to chose (this song is quoted 3
times in Bottom 60, 175, 286):
Tell me where is Fancy bred,
Or in the heart, or in the head?
How begot, how nourishèd?
It is engender’d in the eyes;
With gazing fed; and Fancy dies
In the cradle where it lies.
Let us all ring Fancy's knell;
I'll begin it, —Ding-dong, bell.
266 I, Senora, am the Son
of the Respected Rabbi…: from Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), last stanza of
the ballad “Donna Clara,” in which the mysterious ideal lover of the aristocratic
and virulently anti-semetic Donna Clara reveals his identity:
Ich, Sennora, Eur Geliebter,
bin der Sohn des vielbelobten,
großen, schriftgelehrten Rabbi
Israel von Saragossa.
I, Senora, your beloved,
Am the son of the respected,
Worthy, erudite Grand Rabbi,
Israel of Saragossa. (trans. Emma Lazarus)
Kadish wird man sagen: from Heinrich Heine, “Gedächtnisfeier”:
Keine Messe wird man singen,
keinen Kadosch wird man sagen.
Nichts gesagt und nichts gesungen
wird an meinen Sterbetagen.
No mass will be sung,
No Kaddish will be said,
Nothing said nor sung
On my deathdays. (trans. Margit Waas)
270 Under the cradle the
white goat stands, mother…: popular Yiddish lullaby, “Raisins and Almonds”
(Schimmel 244), from Abraham Goldfaden’s 1880 romantic operetta Shulamis. Goldfaden would undoubtedly
have been a familiar name to LZ in his youth as he is considered the founder of
Yiddish theatre and lived the last few years of his life in NYC, where on his
death in 1908 the New York Times
called him the “Yiddish Shakespeare”:
Under Baby’s cradle in the night
Stands a goat so soft and snowy white
The Goat will go to the market
To bring you wonderful treats
He’ll bring you raisins and almonds
Sleep, my little one, sleep.
277 Tophet: city near
Jerusalem particularly identified with the worship of Molech and its practice
of sacrificing children. LZ possibly has in mind Jeremiah 19:14-15: “Then came
Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the Lord had sent him to prophesy; and he stood
in the court of the Lord’s house; and said to all the people, Thus saith the
Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon
all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have
hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.”
280 Shulamite: the
female beloved in Song of Solomon (see 270).
281 In my faith, in my
hope, and in my love…: through 285 from Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the
satiric fantasy Peer Gynt (1867);
281-283 are from the very end of the play, whereas 284-285 are from the end of
288 The Royal Stag is
abroad, / I am gone out hunting…: unidentified; LZ notes as “Popular
291 Angles: see 248.
292 faisant un petit bruit,
mais très net: Fr. makes a little noise, but very neat.
295 katydid: a type of
American grasshopper, whose name is onomatopoeic of the distinctive loud noise
it makes, as mimicked in the following line, with euphemistic suggestion as
305 Baedekera Schönberg: The usual assumption is that
this refers to the Viennese Jewish composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951), who
controversially pioneered atonal music in the early decades of the 20th century
(Tomas 59). However, in context this seems more likely a parodic European (and
gentile) sounding female name. Baedekera suggesting the Baedeker series of
travel books, mentioned in T.S. Eliot’s “Burbank with Baedeker: Bleistein with
a Cigar” (1920), and thus a tourist perspective on high culture.
309 Our God immortal such
Life as is our God: LZ notes this line as from Bach and also from “Myself.”
This line as well as the phrase “errant star” at 311 are from a 1925 poem, “For
a Thing by Bach,” apparently a translation or adaptation of a Bach text that LZ
published in Pagany (Oct.-Dec. 1930)
and also quoted many years later in “A”-18.391.12-17.
310 Bei dein Zauber, by thy
magic: from Beethoven, Ninth Symphony,
fourth movement (Ode to Joy): “By thy magic is united what stern custom parted
wide, / All mankind are brothers plighted, / Where thy gentle wings abide”
311 Open Sesame, Ali Baba,
I, thy firefly…: from Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral suite, Scheherezade (1888), based on tales from
the Arabian Nights (Tomas 59).
313 O my son Sun, my son,
my son…: see David’s lament for Absalom in II Samuel 18:33: “And the king
was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he
went, thus he said, O my son
Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!
would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (Tomas
meinen grossen leiden mach ich die kleinen lieder: from the first stanza of
a Heinrich Heine song set by various composers”
Aus meinen großen Schmerzen
mach ich die kleinen Lieder;
die heben ihr klingend Gefieder
und flattern nach ihrem Herzen.
my great sorrows
I make small songs;
they lift their ringing feathers
and flutter to her heart. (trans. Emily Ezust)
318 By the wrack we shall
sing our Sun-song…: through 330 adapted from Yehoash’s “Oif di Churvos” (On the Ruins); see 110.
Schimmel points out that LZ changes the original “I” to “we.”