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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Thomas Wyatt: Recursion (It may be good)


La serveuse de chocolat
(La belle chocolatière/The chocolate girl): Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789), 1743-1745 (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden)

It may be good like it who list
..but I do dowbt who can me blame
..for oft assured yet have I myst
..and now again I fere thesame
..The wyndy worde[s] the Ies quaynt game
..of soden chaunge maketh me agast
..for dred to fall I stond not fast
Alas I tred an endles maze
..that seketh to accorde two contraries
..and hope still & nothing hase
..imprisoned in liberte[s] oon unhard & and still that cries
..alwaies thursty & yet nothing I tast
..for dred to fall I stond not fast
Assured I dowbt I be not sure
..and should I trust to suche suretie
..that oft hath put the prouff in ure
..and never hath founde it trusty
..nay sir In faith it were great foly
..and yet my liff thus I do wast
..for dred to fall I stond not fast

Hase hazard, attempt
ure use

Illustration of "the nurse" on Droste cocoa tin, showing a visual form of recursion known as the Droste effect; the woman in the image is holding an object which contains a smaller image of herself holding the same object, and so forth: Jan (Johannes) Musset (?), c. 1903

Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542): It may be good like it who list: transcription from original text (British Library Egerton MS 2711, fol. 22) by Richard Harrier in The Canon of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Poetry, 1975


Ed Baker said...

That Wyatt piece directly transcribed from the original text/ms?

let us now return to recursion again and again to those yes-ter-years...and
The Lone Ranger
& all thy luves ferever (or was it "lewes/laws" ?
Ths Wyatt the Elder..... well, I 'cut my eye-teeth on'im...

then chomped down (on something ...another "her"

want from her(e) is to get to you something....but to where
I just don't know

I tell yuh, another GREAT combinate here....


my recursive "chocolate girl" is tawny, again and again..&


"Alas I tried an endless maze
that seketh to accorde two contraries
and hope still and nothing hase
imprisoned in libertes (...)"

(maybe delete the "&" there before the "and"

I mean recursion is recursion is recursion?

TC said...


They say it's wise to trust in one's friends, and I think this is doubly wise for the old-timers in the gang, who can always use every bit of help they (i.e. I) can get-- even (especially?) with the little things -- I mean everybody gets the humour in watching a half-blind old person fumble with cash register change, shoelace tying & c. -- but since when does anybody offer a helping hand.

In short, I am greatly indebted to you, my friend, for your poet's eagle eye in spotting that (now gratefully-corrected) typo -- my errant transcription of a transcription of a transcription (it's not clear whether the handwriting in the Egerton ms. is actually Wyatt's, or that of an intermediary).

Anyhow, the impression here is that the closer one can come to seeing the thing in something like its original state, the closer one then comes to having a sense of the reality of the compositional moment.

In this case, another uneasy moment in the short, extremely eventful, certainly often anxious and perilous, life of one of the very greatest of poets.

(I wouldn't trade one Wyatt poem for twenty Grand Pianos, myself -- but then, I've always liked a quiet tune.)

(By the by, on the subject of editorial "corrections" of Wyatt's texts, those depredations have been doing on since a few years after his premature demise, when the anthologist Richard Tottel "regularized" -- i.e. destroyed -- his unique, original and very effective metrical conception and practise... and this steady corruption of the texts has continued down through the centuries to now, when it's assumed, even inside the jello-firm bastions of academia, that the original look of the poems will put off dumb American students; my view is that condescending to and patronizing audiences in this way is a sure sign of the failure of the culture built upon this language; but oh well, & c.)

TC said...

(And by the by, speaking of recursion, it's pretty certain that the fellow who did the cocoa ad had one eye on that lovely pastel of the chocolate girl drawn by the Swiss painter Liotard...)

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. I wonder if there's a book about references to works of art in advertising. There ought to be if there isn't.

I didn't know it was called the Droste effect. I've always loved their chocolate.

This may be the post I've enjoyed the most, Tom, (and I've enjoyed many).


Ed Baker said...

so it is with that which of my "stuff" is getting published; facsimile editions...

Points/Counterpoints. rtv

and told the publisher.. "no going to correct a single typo... let the reader enjoy the supreme pleasure of discovering any typos.."miss" spellings"



wasn't TOTTEL name of that first mimeo ...'rag' that Ron Silliman produced wayyyyyyyyyyy back wen

when staples were an interegal essentiol?
hang in

some of those 'things' just-as-they-were/are the originals scanned and on my site...

not GREAT poetry or Literasure... but,
what is.

some, for me, neat "stuff" in that black "Selected"

and The City... thats a Bodoni type font.... very close to the elite font on mu

Underwood #5 (ca 1940-something

Ed Baker said...

Hey "abadguide"

try Ad Reinhardt's


especially sections towards the end... those 1963 notes of his re: "things"


just maybe, though I can't recall the titles some, Henry Miller

(a friend who "knows a lot of shit.... "turned me on" to Ad Reinhardt..
would that I had known
i jus might have
excurded over to Patmos in 1968...

TC said...

I see that Google is offering so very minuscule a sliver of Ad Reinhardt's Art as Art as to merely tease.

It seems that advertising has always incorporated art to its own uses, whether or not directly.

I was thinking about this a short while ago when putting up the top image of a Ford V-8 roadster in this post.

"Ah," thought I, "Winslow Homer".

The nuance of having the flight of birds execute a convenient perfect figure-8 within a V-formation would be the creative contribution of the ad men.

Anonymous said...

Like the other correspondents, I find
Wyatt's poem stunning and very moving. Two nights ago, I watched the most wretched reality show I'd ever seen featuring the comedian Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa and various extra appendages seeking the "big time" in a reality tv show on the WE network. Ever since then, I can't get the phrase "imitation of life" off my mind. The Wyatt poem (and the two ladies) brought me back to something real and fine.



Thought I sent something like this comment yesterday (but it's not here, helas) -- good to see old Wyatt still standing fast in 'original' spelling (if not hand writing, which I once read in person in the reading room of the British Museum), in lovely company of these chocolate girls. . . .


grey blackness of sky above still black
ridge, white circle of moon by branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

place as “copy” of painting,
as difference between

is as has been, that if not,
so that “subject” and

grey of clouds on horizon beside point,
whiteness of snow against top of ridge

TC said...


Imitation of Life is a "funny you should say that".

The comments earlier re. art in advertising had set me off on a Douglas Sirk "Written on the Wind" Fifties-research digression into Mad Ave Nowhere.

(I suppose I was thinking of the scenes of the ad layouts being shown in the lofty high rise skyscraper aerie offices.)

(This must be Fears and Phobias Week around here.)


For a pleasant longish moment of senior dementia I took you as saying you had read the Egerton manuscript in the reading room in lovely company of these chocolate girls.

In fact as there's no harm in persisting in taking you as having said that...

I'm still trying to get over the strange Drostean Coincidence by which a drinker of Droste should be found looking at a post containing an image of a girl serving Droste, & c., itself a seeming proof of the existence in the universe of infinite loops.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ed. I've ordered it.

Artur ("Art" for short.)

Ed Baker said...

just for the heck of it checked via for
Art is Art..
amazon has gone BONKERS prices for their used REAL
books have "gone through the roof"

they have for this boo $ 14 $18 $21 & $28
PLUS $4.99 for shipping!

so over on abe's they got same book for $8!

I guess amazon if murdering books and switching everyone to something called kindle.. ALSO AT EXORBITANT PRICES !!

won't ever again use amazon and NEVER their kindle!



Ah, would that it were so (reading in the company of those lovely chocolate girls) -- I will dwell in that pleasant moment awhile too, thank you. . . .

Anonymous said...

Amazon is owned by a man called Jeff something who wants to fly to the moon. So that's why the book prices went up, probably.

TC said...

Perhaps a modest penny surtax on all transactions would enable his trip, with the ultimate hope he'll take his business with him and never come back.

TC said...

Well, I suppose if any one of us had pulled 1.52 billion in revenue last year out of what used to be known as literacy, we too might be sporting that bug-eyed evangelical stare.

(It worked so much better on the face of Elmer Gantry impersonated by Burt Lancaster, though -- but of course Elmer Gantry had to settle for tent shows, not shoot for the moon rockets -- and too, really, Jeff does fall a bit shy of Burt Lancaster in the "man-up" dept.)

Anonymous said...

Is that Jeff? No, he's no Burt Lancaster. Elmer Gantry must have been Burt's best role, I can't be the first to say that.

In fairness to Jeff and his kind, not that they need me, Norwegian bookshops charge more than double the US price for imported books. You can't beat a City Lights or William Stout's Architectural Bookstore, also in SF, but I can't pay that much. I'm certainly not going to buy one of Jeff's little television sets, though. I like paper; my thoughts are ephemeral enough without the books disappearing before my eyes.


TC said...

I'm pretty much the same way, Artur, though it seems one is supposed to be embarrassed to admit it.

I believe our Jeff was in on the, if he did not actually himself invent, that terribly noisome Kindle business.

When I think of Kindle I think of book burning bonfires, Fahrenheit 451 & all that.

This post could never have existed had it not been for paper -- the paper employed by Thomas Wyatt or his scribe copying from a fair copy, to start with... all the way down to the 48" x 36" sheets of architectural design paper upon which one had, for reasons yet to be fully fathomed, many years ago, laboriously inscribed, in large carefully measured monastic script, a transcription of Richard Harrier's transcription from the Egerton ms.

A person who lives here and who has read virtually every novel worth reading, several times over, says she is simply unable to "read things on a screen".

I dare say this is the unvoiced position of many less courageous paper recidivists.

Anonymous said...

Since I can't see the originals, do you have any pictures of those 48 x 36 inch sheets? What a great project. Quite difficult to lay flat a piece of paper that big. There used to be a standard sheet of paper in England, that was phased out when they joined the Common Market and went decimal, called "Double Elephant". That was only 27" x 40". I liked the name.

Ed Baker said...

ahhh those signatures... remember when you laid out a book
both sides of a single sheet?

fold the sheet and number each square to see the order
and upside-down or right-side up layout...

just try to fold an i-pod (or whatever those pads are called)...

I bet you that you can't even find out on the NET what a signature is!

Ed Baker said...

a newspaper sheet is 24 x 22 ...

remember newspapers?

TC said...

Cottage industry has always been pretty much the name of the game hereabouts.

For years I made handmade books -- with, of course, the help of someone. I designed and inscribed them, A. stitched them together.

As to the big sheets... being an inveterate pedestrian, over the years, when I was still ambulatory and yet capable of at the same time looking about me, I found in someone's "recycling" (i.e. street trash) several sets of very large sheets containing architectural designs for a Kaiser Permanente Hospital (in Fresno, yet), rolled up much like collections of giant papyri.

I dragged these home and, again over the years, working mostly in the middle of the night (one could never do such a thing in plain sight of day), on my knees, painstakingly inscribed, on the verso sides, sets of designs presenting not only the original drafts of poems, but a good deal of related material.

There were some two dozen Wyatt scrolls.

There were various sets featuring other poets as well.

There was a set of these "scrolls" relating to the poetry of Keats. A half dozen of these, under the title "Deep Keats Scrolls", were posted here two years ago.

Here are two of them.

(By clicking upon the images one can instantly make them big.)

From the Deep Keats Scrolls: Negative Capability

From the Deep Keats Scrolls: Byron on Keats

By navigating from the side links on those posts, one can find more of these, all headed "From the Deep Keats Scrolls".

TC said...

In case anyone's interested, the, er, iconography deployed in those scrolls often involved figurations of literary history by way of cartoon images; for example, the influence of George Herriman's Krazy Kat is pretty obvious here:

From the Deep Keats Scrolls: Want of an Object

Ed Baker said...

didn't Walt Disney steal from Krazy Kat the mouse
that became Mickey?

I'm yet "doing" things via pen/pencil on (mostly)
8 1/2 x 11 cheapest white typing paper...

one of these days I''ll get me some carbon paper
make spontaneous copies and USE those as the originals...

the only reason to use this computer?

to scan into it those sheets just-as-they-are ...

working on a new book now..... using India Ink and an home-made quill (feather) pen

getting near-on to impossible to find decent feathers.... looking for a local turkey farm...

actually, it s near-impossible to find anything (these days) decent

or .... in decent, for that matter.

Anonymous said...

Oh, they're lovely! I'll have to read some more tomorrow.

I liked Angelina who asked if you do Algebra II.

TC said...

That was, I think, one of those soon-to-evaporate identity-shifting mystery commenters who make life on the internet so interesting (as long as they're not the kind who are into death threats & c.).

Marie W said...

This is a thread long gone, but talking about images of oneself within images of oneself, I can't help posting our national redhead. She is wearing earrings depicting.... herself of course. And she has been around since 1921!
La Vache Qui Rit.