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Saturday, 5 May 2012

History as Apocalyptic Dream


Dream Vision (Apocalyptic Dream): Albrecht Dürer, 1525. Watercolour on paper, 30 x 43 cm. Text written by the artist beneath the watercolour:  "In 1525, during the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whitsuntide, I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the ground about four miles away from me with such a terrible force, enormous noise and splashing that it drowned the entire countryside. I was so greatly shocked at this that I awoke before the cloudburst. And the ensuing downpour was huge. Some of the waters fell some distance away and some close by. And they came from such a height that they seemed to fall at an equally slow pace. But the very first water that hit the ground so suddenly had fallen at such velocity, and was accompanied by wind and roaring so frightening, that when I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time. When I arose in the morning, I painted the above as I had seen it. May the Lord turn all things to the best." (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna) 


He came forward a pace and stood by the table. His underjaw fell sideways open uncertainly. Is this old wisdom? He waits to hear from me.

-- History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?

-- The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All human history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.

Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:

-- That is God.

Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!

-- What? Mr Deasy asked.

-- A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

James Joyce: from Ulysses (Episode 2), 1918-1920; published 1922

by Enrique Metinides

 Adela Legoretta Rivas, run over by a Datsun at Avenida Chapultepec and Calle de Monterrey in Colonia Roma, Mexico City: photo by Enrique Metinides, 1979 (via American Suburb X)




Ohhhh! -- the Durer alone would have been enough (watercolor 1525 still as wet and moving as the day AD's brush touched the paper) but together with JJ's passage (with its "shout in the street" -- which must have struck you with a whole new set of "meanings") and the Enrique Metinides photo (likewise) this post rises to powerful new heights.


first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, edge of moon through branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

in reaction to it, response
was implicit and even

pencil line, subject almost
drawn, on the left is

tree-lined green of ridge above channel,
cloudless blue sky to the left of point

Conrad DiDiodato said...

We never talk enough about Joyce and yet it's been said (and done) there already: language, art, history, etc.

TC said...

Conrad, Oh but we do talk endlessly about Joyce here, and then again before that here as well, yet it seems no one hears us! As in a fevered dream!

It must be that authors do not exist unless they are on Penn Sound, even if totally blind or run over!!

TC said...


Yes, that shout in the street must be what did it. reaction to it, response
was implicit...

New heights built upon the deepest of new lows, as 'twere, mayhap.

TC said...

The but-a-moment-earlier-rather-glamorous woman in "the Greek"'s photo (made for La Prensa, I believe), by the way, was a celebrity author on her way to a bookstore appearance. Just goes to show. Celebrity is such a mayfly thing really. I know of actual authors who direct their whole lives entirely toward their next author appearance. Would that a democracy of chance were universally applicable. Indeed Justice complains against Fate in this regard. Or is it 'tother way round? Was it the "Ancient Rights"? -- The blow to the head is evidently playing havoc with my memory of the Horatian Ode. (That must be the last thing to go, if one is an incorrigible pedant.)

Dürer of course was much affected by the contemporary sense that the world was about to come to an end. But then isn't everybody always, with or without Revelations as provocation.

ACravan said...

Answer to your last question is "yes, of course." This gives rise to all kinds of unfortunate consequences, I think. A remarkable assemblage, which takes time to absorb and get used to, especially the final piece, which is deeply unsettling, but seems to be a logical end, especially now that I know the story behind the image. Curtis

TC said...


I suppose some things will never change.

No, everything always changes every minute, mutatis, mutandis.

As to the post, terrible headaches from my lacerated and swollen cranium, or perhaps some obscure inhabitation by the Devil, cause me do these things. Indeed I do hope it's the latter. In any case at least this time I had the decency not to blame everything on Aram. An Innocence Protection Program is now in place.

(SO kind of you, by the way, Curtis, to have used the word "logical". Thanks, one needed that. Even if it were to have been a bit of generous fibbing.)

Anonymous said...

The brain tides too Tom excessively stirred by a fuller full moon than is usual?!!

“One day . . .”

is ever so far away

in this world ending
for everyone sudden or slow

each breath



May the healing continue C

TC said...

Aye, la luna, large, soft and swollen, almost as in a dream.

"...when I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time."

Hazen said...

Tom, Memory’s balky this day, but you no doubt recall that Jayne Mansfield met a similar Fate involving an automobile accident and, I think, her decapitation. There was a gruesome photo of the aftermath, in black and white, not unlike that of the unfortunate ‘Adela Legoretta Rivas, run over by a Datsun.’
As a reporter on a San Antonio radio station, I was told to leap from the newsroom into one of the Dodge Valiant ‘newsmobiles’ and race to the scene of car accidents reported on the police scanner, and from there provide ‘live coverage,’ as it were, the bloodier the better. I balked, often busy preparing what I thought a more worthy newscast involving Texas politics, money, the Cold War, and Dick Clark (we were a Top-40 format). The bosses pointed out how shamefully and selfishly wrong I was. This ‘live coverage,’ I was given to understand, was sponsored, often by a car dealer . . . apparently with a sense of humor if not a feeling for irony . . . so there was money to be made every time misfortune (or is that Miss Fortune?) laid it down. This was money on top of the ads slotted in around the music. There were to be a quota of such reports each day. It’s the news biz. Capitalism can commodify anything, tangible or intangible . . . even chance and accident.
I’m glad for James Joyce’s existence for lots of reasons, not the least of which is his take on history as nightmare.
Good day.

Anonymous said...

The weather has been damp and dreich here these last few days but i think I'll venture into the garden to putter and weed among the birdsong and forgo the keyboard for a while ...

A green ripple

as the trees flare ‒

their plastic

Anonymous said...

A wonderful coincidence that I should read your Saturday post moments after finished T. J. Clark's wonderful new essay. Resonances abound, which I think you will appreciate.

Re: the Joyce passage. I've long been taken by the shrug of Stephen's shoulders. God made low, so ho hum obvious, it seems.

TC said...

To putter and weed and say ho hum and shrug one's shoulders would be good therapy.

Hazen, Of course everybody in the great broad lowest-common-denominator media audience dynamic loves good clean country car wreck mayhem. The Mexican channel I get has a one hour show featuring violent crashes of all kinds. I am reminded of an interesting news photographer from Denver named Harry M Rhoads who took pictures of accidents, lots and lots and lots of accidents. With crowds of gaping gawkers having a fine time in many shots. Rhoads' photos are pornographic in a way Enrique Metenides' photographs are not. Metinides' photos are not about good clean country violent thrill-seeking wild west fun. They are about Death.

Jayne Mansfield since you bring her up was in a 1966 Buick Electra traveling through a Louisiana swamp on a narrow country road befogged by a mosquito sprayer when the car slammed into a tractor trailer. Jayne never knew what hit her. The cause of death was cranial avulsion, an extreme form of scalping in which there is crushing of the skull and forcible detachment or separation of cranium and brain. The poor dear. I believe I almost know how she would be feeling were she to have ever again been feeling anything.

Whereas I can't begin to fathom what it might have felt like to have the intact brain of James Joyce at any "point in time".

Anonymous said...

The best therapy tends to be the slowest, too. All the more reason for them to look both ways repeatedly, maybe even with stopping, like he's caught in a dream, or a nightmare.

Which reminds me, in a very random way, as I think about shouting and dreaming. I had my first night terror in some twenty years. I was dreaming I was hiding from somebody, and I was feeling particularly smug about my hiding spot. Upon discovery, I was beaten repeatedly with several baseball bats. I knew I was dreaming, and desperately tried to scream myself awake. To no avail -- it took a concerned dog's wet nose & a kind wife's touch.

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Revelatory this post of yours, in more way than one I suspect, and so painfully close to your current event class involving car crashes but the “Greek’s” photograph appearing “out of the blue” puts everything in perspective. “A shout in the street” is what did it, indeed.

Chris said...

"May the Lord turn all things to the best." Not sure what else there is to say.

gamefaced said...

tc i've had that dream, with the ocean. many times. there is not a single time i get in my car and begin to drive that i don't play out an accident scene in my head.

TC said...

The dream and reality aspects of sudden accident events being difficult to sort out -- that must be "natural".

Still hard to keep from replaying this bit (street scene semi lucid, yet vivid). Car as lethal weapon. Body parts disconnected.

Sleep sought but elusive, dreams rare, brief but super intense and then (perhaps lucky this) impossible to remember.

Likewise names, events & c. Every piece disconnected from the next; scared to death to set foot out of the house. The cars never cease to whiz by out front.

Whitsuntide, when Dürer had that dream, the most pleasant season of the year.