Little (1970)

Little began with the title Little Baron Snorck, and LZ wrote the first 8 chapters in 1950, which he finished 12 Nov., then dropped the novel for many years. On completing Catullus, “A”-18, -19 and -21 in 1966-1967, LZ turned back to Little sometime in August 1967, first revising the early chapters and then completing the novel on 28 July 1969, before continuing with the final push to complete “A”. The first eight chapters were published in Kulchur 5 (Spring 1962) under the original title and then by Black Sparrow Press in 1967; Grossman brought out the complete novel in 1970.

 

Commentary

Golden, Seán. “ʽWhose morsel of lips will you bite?’ Some Reflections on the Role of Prosody and Genre as Non-Verbal Elements in the Translation of Poetry.” Nonverbal Communication and Translation. Ed. Fernando Poyatos (1997): 217-245.

Sloboda, Nicholas. “Introducing the Ludic: The Poetics of Play in Louis Zukofsky’s Fiction.” English Studies in Canada 23.2 (1997): 201-215.

Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. “Louis Zukofsky.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 22.3 (2002): 37-52.

 

Notes to Little

 

Paul Zukofsky’s notes appended to the Dalkey Archive edition of the Collected Fiction identify the numerous real-life figures, both famous and not so, that appear in this autobiographical novel, as well as other inside information.

 

One of the curiosities of Little is the recurrent interest in ancient Welsh literature, especially homophonic renditions from medieval poetry. According to Golden, LZ began “welshing” at the suggestion of a student after a poetry reading at Yale (235). In LZ’s working notebook is copied out a note/letter from Jon Price on the standard works on Welsh poetry and nine short selections (2 to 12 lines each) with translations by Gwyn Williams that he suggests LZ might try his hand at. All the Welsh renditions in Little are from this selection, although in a few cases LZ does not translate the entire poem/passage. Most of the selections can be found in Gwyn Williams, An Introduction to Welsh Poetry: From the Beginnings to the Sixteenth Century (London: Faber and Faber, 1953), which LZ would later use extensively in both “A”-22 and “A”-23, and I have indicated references to Williams’ book below.

 

Epigraph: this is a parodic reworking of the standard fictional disclaimer, which is more obvious in the original draft qtd. in Scroggins Bio 428.

1          Verchadet von Chulnt: verchadet from Yiddish for cloudy according to Scroggins (Bio 233). Chulnt or Cholent is Yiddish for the traditional Jewish stew eaten for lunch on the Sabbath (Heb. Hamin).

1          Dala: this name is probably derived from the Heb. dalah, which appears in “A”-15.363.30 as dalas and translated there as “the poorest” (see also 15.363.37 and 21.507.9). It can also mean old and thin or worn out, both of which are appropriate given LZ’s physique and his fondness for portraying himself as a drudging workhorse.

1          dolphin: of the various symbolic possibilities, this likely alludes to the final stanza of William Butler Yeats’ “Byzantium”:
Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood,
Spirit after spirit! The smithies break the flood,
The golden smithies of the Emperor!
Marbles of the dancing floor
Break bitter furies of complexity,
Those images that yet
Fresh images beget,
That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

14         Eurycleia […] Telemachus, Greek as a drawing of Flaxman…: this refers to the scene at the end of Book I of the Odyssey, partially quoted in the following paragraphs, when Telemachus’ nurse, Eurycleia, leads him to his bedroom. LZ refers to a famous set of illustrations to Homer done by John Flaxman (1755-1826), and may particularly have in mind one entitled, “Telemachus in Search of His Father,” showing Telemachus following behind Mentor.

14         read Homer: opened the door of the handsome room…: from the Odyssey Bk. I when Telemachus prepares for sleep with the help of his old nurse. The translation is that of W.H.D. Rouse, which LZ used predominately but not exclusively in “A”-12, Bottom and elsewhere.

19         Count Murda-Wonda: as PZ indicates, this is LZ’s brother-in-law Al Wand, who in the 1920s worked for the mobster Dutch Schultz (Scroggins Bio 234).

21         Hören sie, sehen sie / Wissen sie was?…: Ger. Listen, look / Do you know what? / Cook, guzzle / Do you eat that?

21         In alten Wald…: Ger. In the old woods / in the dark night / Sits an old / Italian and strives—.

22         Loure from Bach’s Third Partita: J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and partitas for solo violin are a set of six works; the sections of the partita are based on dance tunes and loure designates a moderate time dance.

23         Piotr Ilytch Leonovitch Stephanovitch Ivanovitch Dimitricki Zhikovski: a comic conglomeration of Russian names, the first two of which indicate the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) and the last name suggesting Zukofsky.

23         Brighteyes—you Zeus Cronion: bright-eyes (Glaukopis) is a common epithet for Athena, goddess of wisdom and daughter of Zeus. Cronion means son of Cronus.

23         Leider, leider…: Ger. Sorry, sorry; Defense de = F. forbidden; Verboten = Ger. forbidden, not allowed.

26         “when I was sick and lay abed…: the various verses exchanged by Little and Dala through 28 are all taken from Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885).

32         ANTHOS: from Greek meaning flower.

32         Jawohl: Ger. yes, certainly; a vole in the preceding line is a small rodent similar but distinct from a mouse.

35         Norns: three Norse goddesses of fate.

39         rabelais…: at around the time LZ returned to Little in Aug. 1967, he was reading François Rabelais (c.1490-1553) and taking extensive notes, which he would use in both “A”-22 and -23. This is a typically playful pseudo-etymology and Hebrewization of Rabelais’ name.

40         eisteddfod: ancient annual competitive festival of Welsh poets and musicians.

41         Le Spectre de la Rose, La Forza del Destino: the former, The Spirit of the Rose, is a short ballet first performed by Nijinski and the Ballets Russes in 1911, and the latter, The Force of Destiny, an opera by Guiseppe Verdi.

45         Vesper adest: L. the evening star is at hand, from the opening words of Catullus, Carmina 62. See “A”-15.366.22.

45         the “gates” of the 24th Psalm: Psalm 24:7 & 9: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.”

47         Handel’s Largo: aria composed by Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759); see “A”-12.158.8.

48         O T’d aerie too hid his Strad…: homophonic translation from the Welsh Black Book of Carmarthen, a 13th century compilation of diverse poetry. The longer poem from which this stanza comes is not attributed to Llywarch Hen’s son, but concludes with a stanza in praise of one of his sons who was killed in a raid the poem describes. The first line of LZ’s rendition refers back to the phony Stradivarius label in Little’s violin on page 13:
Ottid eiry tohid istrad.
diuryssint vy deduir y cad.
mi nidaw, anaw nimgad.


Snow is falling, the way is covered,
warriors hurry on to battle,
I will not go, my wound won’t let me. (Williams 52)

51         letter from Curt Budder: this is a somewhat revised letter written to PZ by school friend Kirk Bader, dated 19 Jan. 1950, which survives among LZ’s papers (HRC 42.3).

54         blessed philosopher…: Spinoza (1632-1677), whose first name, Baruch or Benedict, means “blessed,” and LZ often refers to him in this manner. Quotations and references to Spinoza’s works, especially Ethics, are frequent throughout LZ’s works, particularly the second half of “A”-9, “A”-12 and Bottom. LZ identifies the location of the following quotation, although it is actually a note to the proposition, and he slightly edits the passage for conciseness, using his standard Everyman’s Library edition of Ethics translated by Andrew Boyle.

54         Alive ’n’ I’ll my lamb wed…: from the Welsh attributed to Llywarch Hen (9th century?) found in the Red Book of Hergest:
Alaf yn eil meil am ved
nyt eidun detwyd dyhed
amaerwy adnabot amyned


Cattle in the shed, a cup for mead;
the happy do not ask for fighting.
Patience is the fringe of knowing. (Williams 35-36)

56         “La mia moglie: It. my wife.

56         Oedipe—you know storia—old member quatuor walk on one…: quatuor = a quartet, applied chiefly to instrumental compositions (WD). Here referring to the Sphinx’s riddle that Oedipus solves: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?

56         hic opus, hic labor est. Jam post bellum: L. this is the hard work, this is the toil; a proverbial saying from Virgil, Aeneid 6.129; correctly the first hic should be hoc. Jam post bellum = L. already or soon after the war.

57         Svecik: Otakar Sevcik (1852-1934) famous violin teacher who published a number of standard violin teaching books.

57         Bis: musical term meaning to play again.

58         D.A.R.: Daughters of the American Revolution, a women’s organization that promotes historical preservation and patriotism, whose members must be direct descendents of ancestors who aided in the struggle for American independence.

60         stochastic: of or related to conjecture, conjectural.

66         Laila’s Majnun: the ancient Persian/Arabic tale of Laila and Majnun, often compared with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, summarized by Basil Bunting in a 5 Sept. 1949 letter to LZ: “Laila’s parents refused to let her marry him and he went mad, the stereotype of the lovers who go mad all through romantic poetry in Europe as well as the East” (qtd. in Sister Victoria Marie Forde, S.C., “The Translations and Adaptations of Basil Bunting,” in Basil Bunting: Man and Poet, ed. Carroll F. Terrell (1981): 327). As Bunting says, the story is pervasive in many forms throughout Persian and Arabic writing and beyond, and in a previous letter Bunting had sent LZ a translation of a poem attributed to Sa’di that mentions “Laila Majnun’s plight” (Collected Poems 137). Also mentioned at 169 and Bottom 120.

68         De Bériot: Charles de Bériot (1802-1870), Belgian violinist and composer.

70         from Gorhoffedd of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd: / is the dent roc towered: see 126 below, the last quoted line.

71         Teeth help to keep the tongue quiet: LZ’s slight revision of Gwyn Williams’ translation of the preceding line on page 70 by Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd; see 126 below.

75         My Institute News: a copy of the Bulletin of the Association of Poly Chemists (Fall 1953), on which the following extracts are based, survives among LZ’s papers (HRC 42.3). “Poly” is the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn where LZ taught from 1947-1965.

76         o what a beautiful morning, o what a beautiful day: opening lines of the opening song of the immensely successful Broadway musical Oklahoma! (1943-1949) by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, later successfully adapted as a film (1955).

76         time’s thievish progress […] To take a new acquaintance of thy mind […] thou wilt look…: as indicated, from Shakespeare, Sonnet 77 (qtd. Bottom 437). Characteristically, LZ indicates his preference for unemended readings of Shakespeare’s texts; in this case at the top of 77, putting into the mouth of Little a preference for the 1609 Quarto reading of line 10, which has “blacks” rather than the commonly accepted emendation “blanks,” a reading first proposed by Lewis Theobald. The emendation’s shift of emphasis from the physical letters to the more general pages would strike LZ as loss of visual focus. Such textual questions are dealt with at some length in Bottom:
Thy glass shall show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind’s imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show,
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial’s shady stealth mayst know
Time’s thievish progress to eternity.
Look at what thy memory cannot contain,
Commit to these waste blacks, and thou shalt find
Those children nurs’d, deliver’d from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book.

79         Wozzeck zeig mir deine Zunge: Wozzeck is an opera by Anton Berg (1885-1935) first performed in 1925, based on a play of the same title by Georg Büchner (1813-1837). The German phrase is from the opera: Show me your tongue.

81         Memnon…: a colossal Egyptian statue of Memnon, an Ethiopian king, made a sound like a harp when it was first struck by the morning sun.

81         The man that hath no music in himself…: from The Merchant of Venice V.1:
Lorenzo: The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

81         (quote 77) shall profit thee: quoting Shakespeare, Sonnet 77; see note at 76.

82         satis quod sufficit: L. what suffices is enough, from Shakespeare, Love’s Labor’s Lost V.i.

84         Pamphilia: see notes to the poem “Pamphylian” (CSP 133) written in 1951, which works with the allegorical tale of Er the Pamphylian that concludes Plato’s Republic.

85         Potiphar: in Genesis, captain of the palace guard to whom Joseph was sold as a slave, where he rose to head of the household. At 96 it is noted that the name means “belonging to the sun or gift of the risen one.”

92         hapax legomenon: a word or form occurring only once in a document or corpus; >Gk. (something) said only once (WD).

93         The Northern Propylaeum: a propylaeum or propylaea is any monumental gateway based on the original at the Acropolis.

93         Feminore Coupran: from James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), U.S. novelist.

97         fêtes galantes: a rural entertainment, particularly as depicted in the 18th century French genre paintings of this designation.

107       Hammurabi: an ancient king of Babylon (d. 1750 BC) responsible for one of the earliest written codes of law inscribed on large stone tables, known as Hammurabi’s Code.

119       not o’ wame a’ that…: as LZ indicates, from the legendary Welsh bard, Taliesin:
Nyt o vam athat
pan ymdigonat.
am creu am creat.
o naw rith llafanat.
o ffrwyth o ffrwytheu.
o ffreyth duw dechrreu.
o vriallu a blodeu bre.
o vlawt gwyt a godeu.
o prid o pridret
pan ymdigonet.
o vlawt danat
o dwfyr ton nawvet
.


Neither mother nor father
was my maker;
my source and my mould
were the sense, ninefold,
springing from fruits,
the fruit of God’s roots
primroses and hill bloom,
of tree and shrub blossom,
of earth and of clay,
on my birth day,
of nettle bloom
and the ninth wave’s foam. (Williams 30)

121       R. Z. Draykup: PZ’s notes give an explanation of this designation for the EP. Also draykup in Yiddish means a turned around head, that is, someone who is confused. At this time EP was confined in St. Elizabeths prison asylum on treason charges. He would in fact be released in 1958 without being brought to trial and still classified as mentally incompetent, but now harmless. The young PZ played violin for EP at St. Elizabeths in July 1954 (see “A”-13.298.35 and note).

126       Courtesy whin do’n’ dee were nighed…: as LZ indicates, from the Gorhoffedd of the Welsh poet Hywel ap Owain Gwynedd (12th century):
Keueisy vun duun diwyrnawd
keueisy dwy handed mey eu molawd
keueisy deir a phedeir a phawd
keueis bump o rei gwymp eu gwyngnawd
keueis chwech heb odech pechawd
Gwenglaer uch gwengaer yt ym daer hawd
keueisy sseith ac ef gweith gordygnawd
keueisy with yn hal pwyth peth or wawd yr geint
ys da deint rac tauawd.


I had a girl of the same mind one day;
I had two, their praise be the greater;
I had three and four and fortune;
I had five, splendid in their white flesh;
I had six without concealing sin;
a beauty above the white fort brought me debt;
I had seven and a grievous time of it;
I had eight, paying part of the praise I sang.
Teeth are good to keep the tongue quiet.  (Williams 82-83)

127       A gait   an unhurried   eat gear hastened—: this is a working version of the first line of the passage from Aneirin’s Y Gododdin that is fully rendered at 134.

127       The Mabinogion and Manawyddan the Son of Llyr: The Mabinogion is a collection of ancient Welsh prose stories, probably originally from the 11th century. Manawyddan the Son of Llyr is one of these tales, frequently mentioned throughout the rest of Little. In the tale, Manawyddan with Pryderi and their wives, find themselves in an empty waste land after a mysterious mist descends on Wales, so they move to England where they make a living at various handcrafts—as saddlemakers, shield makers and cobblers—but each time their workmanship is so superior to that of the locals that the latter drive them out. Although Pryderi urges that they resist, Manawyddan insists on remaining calm, moving to a new town and beginning again in a new trade. Eventually they return to Dyfed (Wales), experience various strange adventures before finally managing to lift the enchantment that has been plaguing their land. However, it is the first part of the tale that most interests LZ, which is importantly evoked in two episodes at 131 and 175; see also 144, 159.

128       “The Lady of the Fountain”: as LZ indicates the ninth tale in Lady Charlotte Guest’s translation of The Mabinogion.

131       Manawyddan…: see note at 127.

133       lusus naturae: a freak of nature; anything of a monstrous or unnatural kind; specifically in nat. his. and phys. geog., an isolated and curious growth or form, including, in natural history, mere unusual variations as well as pronounced monstrosities (CD).

134       Gear a grief’s ascent be ant geat night…: from the Y Gododdin of the Welsh poet Aneirin (6th century):
Gwyr a gryssyassant buant gytneit
hoedyl vyrryon  medwon uch med hidleit
gosgord vynydawc enwawc en reit
gwerth eu gwled o ved vu eu heneit
caradawc a madawc pyll ac yeuan
gwgawn a gwiawn gwynn a chynvan
peredur arueu dur gwawrdur ac aedan
achubyat enggawr ysgwydawr angkyman
a chet lledessynt wy lladassan
neb y eu tymhyr nyt atcorsan.


The men who attacked had lived together,
in their brief lives were drunk on distilled mead,
Mynyddawg’s army famous in battle.
Their lives paid for their feast of mead.
Caradawg and Madawg Pyll and Ieuan,
Gwgawn and Gwiawn, Gwynn and Cynvan,
Peredur of steel weapons, Gwawrddur and Aedden,
attackers in battle, they had their shield broken;
and though they were being killed they killed.
Not one came back to his belongings.   (Williams 23)

136       ho oikeús: Gk. inhabitant of one’s house, member of the household.

138       Einem Pferd Schmitzik: Yiddish, a horse gizmo.

140       asceptical: free from the living germs of disease, fermentation, or putrefaction (< Gk. not liable to decay) (CD). See “A”-19.430.5 where the Greek skeptic philosopher, Sextus Empiricus, is referred to as the “Aseptic doctor.”

140       Sir Horse: see “A”-14.356.22.

141       Hywel and Aneirin: see 126 and 134.

143       Borsalino: an Italian hat manufacturer particularly well-known for its fedoras.

144       Parens., Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd— / panic air eke it pan arc y’pate frying…: Parens. L. parents, ancestors. LZ identifies this as from the Welsh of Hywl Owain Gwynedd (12th century), “Ode VII.” LZ picks out various lines:
Pann ucher uchet, pann achupet freinc,
          Pann ffaraon foet,
     Pann vu yryf am gyryf am galet,
     Pann vei aryf am varyf a vyryet;


Yng goet Gorwynwy yng gordibet Lloegyr
          A llygru y threfet,
     Llaw ar groes, llu a dygrysset;


A llad a lliwet a gwaetlet y levyn
          A gwaetliw ar giwet
     a gwaetlen am benn a bannet
     a gwaetlan a granny n greulet.


When the sky darkened above, when foreigners were taken,
          When the king was routed,
     When warriors were armed for battle,
     When there was a weapon struck at a beard;


In Gorwynwy woods punishing England
          And spoiling its homesteads;
     With a hand on the cross a host rushed forward.


There was killing, and a band with blood-sprinkled blades,
          And the colour of blood on a rabble;
     A bloody sheet over heads and leaders,
     A place of blood and blood-stained cheeks.

144       Parens., Aneirin / lour mom ai dagger are y’ hám rant: from the Welsh of Aneirin, Y Gododdin, line 673. In this case LZ renders just one line of the six copied into his notebook:
llawer mama e deigyr ar y hamrant.
And many a mother with tears on her eyelids.

146       in sanie / semper…: this mock Latin motto or salutation heads the letter of R.Z. Draykup, alias EP, because he was incarcerated in the prison asylum St. Elizabeths in Washington D.C. from 1946-1958. The motto can be read as meaning insane (or inspired) always or as in health always.

147       Durable fire […] from itself never turning: quoting from the concluding stanza of the 16th century ballad, “As ye came from the holy land / Of Walsinghame,” often attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh, although LZ does not; the subject of these phrases is “true love.” The entire poem is included in TP 68-69; qtd. Bottom 13.

149       Narodnev and Hecsteud: anagrams of Mark Van Doran (1894-1972), U.S. poet and literary critic, who was one of LZ’s professors at Columbia University; and Babette Deutsch (1895-1982), U.S. poet and critic (see SL 232-234, 270-278).

151       biscuit tortoni: a type of ice cream.

160       Parahelsus who said, ‘I don’t shun music…: Little means Paracelsus (1593-1541), Swiss alchemist and occult doctor, who is quoted and paraphrased extensively in “A”-12. Evidently the remark eluded to is: “‘But because I am alone, […] because I am new, because I am a German, do not scorn my writings, do not let yourself be drawn away from them’” (qtd. “A”-12.146.14-16).

160       new “chance” score of dots, dashes and carets…: PZ’s notes identify this as a reference to a John Cage score; see “A”-14.347.30.

162       Kunst der Fuge: J.S. Bach’s Art of Fugue, one of his late encyclopedic works left unfinished at his death in 1750; see “A”-12.127.23.

164       besom: a broom made of twigs bound to a handle.

164       a facsimile of Bach’s manuscript of the partitas: see Bottom 185.

165       Tourte bow: François Tourte (1747-1835) is the most important figure in the modern design of the bow for classical stringed instruments. In the bow world, a Tourte bow is considered analogous to a Stradiveri among violins. The Bach or Vega bow, a 20th century invention, is a curved bow that enables the playing of three or four strings at once. The article “On Strads” PZ refers to in his note is reproduced on his Musical Observations website: www.musicalobservations.com/publications/strad.html.

165       QUATUOR: Fr. quartet.

169       Laila’s Majnun: see note at 66.

171       “This goodly frame the earth” […] “A congregation of vapours”: from Shakespeare, Hamlet II.ii; Hamlet is speaking with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, expressing his gloomy mood:
“I have of late—but wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.”

175       Sextus Empiricus: (c.160-c.210) Greek Skeptic philosopher used significantly by LZ in “A”-19.427-430.8.

175       “Raupenfliege so wie verbum…: a nonsensical string of phrases mostly in German: Caterpiller-fly just like word [in Latin], without weather, and so there, and so on, Amadeus all-time.

176       pye, you bed whom?…: although LZ identifies these lines as from Llywarch Hen, actually they are from “The Stanzas of the Graves” in the Black Book of Carmarthen. The confusion perhaps is due to Gwyn Williams’ mention that some scholars have attempted to relate these stanzas to the work of Llywarch Hen:
Piev y bet hun.
Bet hun a hun. gowin ymi. mi se gun.


Whose is this grave?
It’s so and so’s grave. Ask me. I know. (Williams 56)

176       air panicked        die our aneirin…: as LZ indicates, from the Book of Aneirin, although as Gwyn Williams points out, it appears clearly to be by a later poet. Cf. LZ’s opening phrase with his version of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd at 144:
Er pan aeth daear ar aneirin
nu neut ysgaras nat a gododin
.


Since earth has covered Aneirin
now song has left the land of Gododdin. (Williams 24)