[DWJ] Incoherent Notes on THB and Shelley

Kyra Jucovy arykiy at gmail.com
Wed Oct 1 07:06:01 EDT 2014


I'm posting this at Janet's request, but I feel embarrassed about it, so I
do want to warn that I'm not sure it makes much sense!  I hope if you
decide to read it you can get something out of it anyway!

-"Shelley very definitely lies behind it. I did a lot of work on Shelley
just after I came down from Oxford and before I got married, and it later
bore fruit." Diana Wynne Jones, to Minnow, on *The Homeward Bounders*, as
relayed to me in personal e-mail, Nov., 2006.

-"For a while after that, I went round seeing all worlds as nothing more
than coloured lights on a wheel reflected on a wall. *They* are turning the
wheels and lighting the lights, and all we get is the reflections, no more
real than that. But when you get into a new world, it's as solid as grass
and granite can make it, and the sky shuts you in just as if there was no
way through." -THB, 36 (with thanks to Cathy Butler for pointing me to this
passage in the first place
<http://www.suberic.net/pipermail/dwj/2005-March/022502.html>)

-"'You have sat down in a place of glass,' she said. 'Glass is all round
you, and the place is dark. Now, light a light inside your place of glass.
All round you, at once, there are reflections, going back infinitely, until
your glass place is multiplied many times over. That is like the worlds, in
a way. Except that it is not, because now you have to imagine other people
in the reflections of your glass place, and lights lit on the outside of
your place of glass too, so that you can see these lights reflected,
outside and inside also, over and over again, along with your own place. By
now there are myriads, all shining and overlapping, and you do not know
which is real. This is the way of the worlds. All are real, lights and
reflections alike. We pass from one to another, like light.'

"Helen stopped and thought a bit. 'Except,' she said, 'that no one these
days can pass through the glass. I was given two explanations of that. One
is that, in the midst of all the lights, you sit in your place of glass,
and this you know to be real. So it is the Real Place. But the other
explanation was that, in the midst of the multiplicity of worlds, there is
a true Real Place, known to be real by Uquar. They told me Uquar lived in
the Real Place.'" -THB, 95

-"Now what is the beauty here? It has nothing to do with the blood or the
menstrual process." -Plotinus, "On the Intellectual Beauty"
<http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Ennead5.html#eighth> (This has nothing to do
with DWJ or Shelley, but I just needed to quote it because Plotinus totally
does say: "Why do we think women are beautiful? It certainly isn't because
they menstruate!" and I think that is the funniest thing anyone has said
ever.)

-"If material extension were in itself the ground of beauty, then the
creating principle, being without extension, could not be beautiful: but
beauty cannot be made to depend upon magnitude since, whether in a large
object or a small, the one Idea equally moves and forms the mind by its
inherent power. A further indication is that as long as the object remains
outside us we know nothing of it; it affects us by entry; but only as an
Idea can it enter through the eyes which are not of scope to take an
extended mass: we are, no doubt, simultaneously possessed of the magnitude
which, however, we take in not as mass but by an elaboration upon the
presented form." -"On the Intellectual Beauty" (He also TOTALLY says,
"Beauty can't be the same thing as size, because our eyes are too small for
most beautiful things to fit inside of them." I kind of love Plotinus, in a
bewildered, pitying kind of way.)

-"To “live at ease” is There; and, to these divine beings, verity is mother
and nurse, existence and sustenance; all that is not of process but of
authentic being they see, and themselves in all: for all is transparent,
nothing dark, nothing resistant; every being is lucid to every other, in
breadth and depth; light runs through light. And each of them contains all
within itself, and at the same time sees all in every other, so that
everywhere there is all, and all is all and each all, and infinite the
glory. Each of them is great; the small is great; the sun, There, is all
the stars; and every star, again, is all the stars and sun. While some one
manner of being is dominant in each, all are mirrored in every other.

"Movement There is pure [as self-caused] for the moving principle is not a
separate thing to complicate it as it speeds.

"So, too, Repose is not troubled, for there is no admixture of the
unstable; and the Beauty is all beauty since it is not merely resident [as
an attribute or addition] in some beautiful object. Each There walks upon
no alien soil; its place is its essential self; and, as each moves, so to
speak, towards what is Above, it is attended by the very ground from which
it starts: there is no distinguishing between the Being and the Place; all
is Intellect, the Principle and the ground on which it stands, alike. Thus
we might think that our visible sky [the ground or place of the stars],
lit, as it is, produces the light which reaches us from it, though of
course this is really produced by the stars [as it were, by the Principles
of light alone, not also by the ground as the analogy would require].

"In our realm all is part rising from part and nothing can be more than
partial; but There each being is an eternal product of a whole and is at
once a whole and an individual manifesting as part but, to the keen vision
There, known for the whole it is." -"On the Intellectual Beauty" (This is
long but also actually relevant. Note that it is "On the Intellectual
Beauty." What does Shelley write? "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty." Paul Fry
talks about Intellectual Beauty in practically ALL of Shelley's poetry. And
when I first read this particular passage, I think I burst out laughing
because "There, There, There" made me think so much of *Them*. And Plotinus
is clearly writing about the Real Place. But he clearly thinks that "there
is a true Real Place, known to be real by Uquar.")

-"The title is followed by an epigram of Plato which Shelley elsewhere
translates: Thou wert the morning star among the living, / Ere thy fair
light had fled; / Now, having died, thou art as Hesperus, giving / New
splendour to the dead." -Notes to Shelley's *Adonais* (How *can* you tell
whether something is Platonic or Neo-Platonic, anyway?)

-"Thus thou, Ravine of Arve-dark, deep Ravine- / Thou many-colored,
many-voicéd vale," -Shelley, "Mont Blanc," 12-13 (coloured lights, grass
and granite)

-I keep on thinking that there ought to be *white* in "Mont Blanc," but the
word doesn't actually appear in the poem. I think I just think this because
Mont Blanc is "snowy" (61, 74). It has "glaciers" (100) and "beaming ice"
(106). "In the lone glare of day, the snows descend / Upon that Mountain-
none beholds them there, / Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun, /
Or the star-beams dart through them-Winds contend / Silently there, and
heap the snow with breath / Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home / The
voiceless lightning in these solitudes / Keeps innocently, and like vapor
broods / Over the snow" (131-9). It's all the snow which makes me think
white. But Mont Blanc is part of nature, just like the Ravine of Arve -
they aren't really representing opposing principles. So maybe I shouldn't
be looking for white versus color here at all.

-"The One remains, the many change and pass; / Heaven's light forever
shines, Earth's shadows fly; / Life, like a dome of many-colour'd glass, /
Stains the white radiance of Eternity, / Until Death tramples it to
fragments" -*Adonais*, 460-4 Here, OTOH. Plus, shadows!

-Shadows: "An awful lot in that place was vague, including *Them*. The
shadow of the canal was in here too, and the only things I could see
clearly were those that happened to come in the slabs of dark shadow where
the arches were. In between, it was white sky, with everything confused in
it. *They* were in the sky." -THB, 22 (Well, of course *They* were.)

-"It was all so blurry and flickery, and the reflection of the canal arches
went striding through the lot, as if that was the only real thing there."
-THB, 25 (reflection=shadows, and of course
<http://steepholm.livejournal.com/profile>steepholm
<http://steepholm.livejournal.com/> is right about the Cave allegory)

-"That Light whose smile kindles the Universe / That Beauty in which all
things work and move, / That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse / Of
birth can quench not, that sustaining Love / Which through the web of being
blindly wove / By man and beast and earth and air and sea, / Burns bright
or dim, as each are mirrors of / The fire for which all thirst; now beams
on me, / Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality." -*Adonais*, LIV
(really, really creepy in the context of THB and Helen's explanations,
given above. Really, really creepy. If you believe one light kindles the
Universe/multiverse, and that everything else contains "mirrors of the fire
for which all thirst," then you believe that there is a true Real Place.
The light there is the only real light. In THB, that's only true if it's
*Their* light.)

-"'Except,' he said, 'when I discovered all this, each world was its own
Real Place. They still seem that way to those who are not Homeward Bound.
But they aren't, not now, and that is my fault.'" -THB, 249

-"'Well, it came to me that if reality were removed from the worlds, it
could be concentrated in one place.'" -THB, 249

-"'I think *They* have been pretending to be Uquar all these years, and
deceiving everybody!'" -THB, 95-6 (For a novel about a giant fight against
the Greek gods, there's surprisingly little explicitly about religion in
THB, but it comes up here, I think.)

-"If you start talking of *Them*, people cut you short and ask you what sin
you were condemned for. They're always sure you've sinned if you talk about
*Them*." -THB, 68 (and here, I guess)

-Oh, duh, and obviously in the Ahasuerus part - "'Listen to the wisdom of
Ahasuerus, who was among the first to have the Mark of Cain set on him"
-THB, 168. Interesting references at Wikipedia
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Brother%27s_Keeper> (explicitly links Cain
to the Wandering Jew) and here
<http://books.google.com/books?id=x8y1HdrGT40C&pg=PA221&lpg=PA221&dq=%22mark+of+cain%22+shelley&source=bl&ots=ki_XzHx9gp&sig=jJhL4_Kb__vtJvTnd4rYoLNmcAw&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result>
(explicitly
links the Mark of Cain to the mark Shelley places on one of his
representations of Ahasuerus). My inner Paul Fry wants me to claim that
this is Byron showing up, because it can't be a book about Shelley without
a reference to Byron ;-).

-"'And *They* put a lie in my mouth, so that I may not tell the worlds
about *Them*, but must say that I sinned against God. But this is a lie. .
.'" -THB, 169 (That's actually quite explicit. This doesn't fit with
Shelley's Ahasuerus, who is equally explicit about the fact that the person
whom he is defying is God. It might fit with Demogorgon's answers to Asia,
though - "God" "made the living world" and "all that it contains,"
including many many good things, but Demogorgon is somewhat more confusing
on the subject of the bad things. It doesn't answer "God," it answers "he
reigns." And when Asia protests that Demogorgon isn't really telling her
anything, Demogorgon's only real answer is "the deep truth is imageless."
(all of this comes from PU 2.4.). This particular line in THB sounds almost
Gnostic to me, which is funny, because THB is VERY MUCH NOT a Gnostic book,
ultimately.)

-"In fact I had little to do with the church otherwise because I settled my
religious muddles by deciding that I had better be an atheist." -DWJ, Something
About the Author autobiography <http://www.suberic.net/dwj/bio.html> (thanks
to Deborah for putting this up on the Internet) (Is it relevant? Shelley
was a rather virulent athiest. . . but also a Platonist/Neo-Platonist? I
don't even know if DWJ had remained an atheist.)

-Before I forget, "'I'd guess Helen was Pakistani.'" -THB, 172. Because
that makes her look like she's from Asia? Or is that *really* reading too
much into it?

"To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; / To forgive wrongs darker than
death or night; / To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; / To love, and
bear; to hope till Hope creates / From its own wreck the thing it
contemplates; / Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent; / This, like thy
glory, Titan, is to be / Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free; / This
is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory." -*Prometheus Unbound*, 4.570-8
("to hope till Hope creates from its own wreck the thing it contemplates" -
very obvious. If contradictory.)

-"'If you cast hope aside,' the old tramp lectured us, 'then all evil is
cast out with it. Love and beauty enter in and a new world dawns.'" -THB,
167 (I used this line as a .sig very briefly. Two people, neither of whom
had read THB, responded with utter bewilderment as to how this could
possibly make any sense. So, yes, contradictory - but more or less what PU
says. Obviously part of what the book is trying to work out is how this
could possibly be true. But Shelley is really contradictory; in the context
of THB, what Ahasuerus says is pretty darn understandable. But do a text
search for "hope" in PU. It's very unclear what Shelley is actually getting
at.)

-"But my soul, / From sight and sense of the polluting woe / Of tyranny,
had long learned to prefer / Hell’s freedom to the servitude of heaven."
-Shelley,*Queen Mab*, there are no line numbers on this online edition, but
it's in the middle of part VII, and you might as well read part VII in
full, even though it's part of *Queen Mab*. Ahasuerus should be in THB,
just given the basic premise, just as the Flying Dutchman should be. But is
it relevant that he pops up in *Queen Mab* and plays the role he does? He
apparently pops up in other Shelley poems I haven't read, too. For that
matter, is it at least in part *because of *Ahasuerus in Shelley that THB
has the basic premise that it does?

-*Alastor*, 149-227. A bit too much to quote. But basically the fundamental
premise of Alastor is that the Poet sees something that makes everything
else seem less worthwhile and is then driven to wander. This is very much
literalized in THB, though. What Jamie sees is hardly Intellectual Beauty
(although he sees it out of dogged curiosity - maybe this is relevant), and
he is literally rather than figuratively cast out of his material world. He
wants Home more than anything else, not *Them*.

-Well, okay, one quotation: "He eagerly pursues / Beyond the realms of
dream that fleeting shade; / He overleaps the bounds." -*Alastor*, 205-7.
Because heh.

-No, two: "At night the passion came, / Like the fierce fiend of a
distempered dream, / And shook him from his rest, and led him forth / Into
the darkness.", -*Alastor*, 224-7

-Because: "I was riding along with them, helping keep the cattle together,
when, about midday, I had the most peculiar sensation. It was like being
pulled, strongly and remorselessly, sideways from the way we were going.
With it came a worse feeling - from inside me. It was a terrible yearning
and a longing. My throat hurt with it. And it was like an itch too. I
wanted to get inside my head and scratch." -THB, 32

-"So came a chariot on the silent storm / Of its own rushing splendour, and
a Shape / So sate within, as one whom years deform, / Beneath a dusky hood
and double cape, / Crouching within the shadow of a tomb; / And o'er what
seemed the head a cloud-like crape / Was bent, a dun and faint aethereal
gloom / Tempering the light." -"The Triumph of Life," no line numbers
again, argh.

-"I saw a fellow inside who seemed to be wearing a sort of cloak. Anyway,
it was long and greyish and flowing, and it had a hood. The hood was not
up. It was bunched back round his neck, but even so I couldn't see much of
his face. You never do see *Their* faces." -THB, 14 (self-explanatory,
really.)

-"'. . .whether life had been before that sleep / The Heaven which I
imagine, or a Hell / Like this harsh world in which I woke to weep, / I
know not.'" -"The Triumph of Life"

-"If my mother had to cut up her old skirt to make Elsie a dress in order
to afford them, we never went without boots. And I used to take that for
granted. I've gone barefoot enough since, I can tell you." -THB, 38

-"'So did that shape its obscure tenour keep / Beside my path, as silent as
a ghost; / But the new Vision, and the cold bright car, / With solemn speed
and stunning music, crossed / The forest, and as if from some dread war /
Triumphantly returning, the loud million / Fiercely extolled the fortune of
her star." -"The Triumph of Life" (As Paul Fry pointed out, very clearly
connected to *Alastor*. In *Alastor*, the poet sees Intellectual Beauty in
a dream wakes up, she's gone, and that's the huge problem. "The Triumph of
Life" is riffing off the same theme, but it's different; Rousseau sees
Intellectual Beauty, but as soon as he gives in to her, he sees another
vision, the horrible vision of the Triumph of Life. For ever afterwards, he
can't tell "whether life had been before that sleep the Heaven which I
imagine." This is closer to THB, maybe - curiosity is like Intellectual
Beauty, which makes you want to lift the painted veil - to which I promise
to get in a second - but all that's really behind it is *Them*. You'd think
that *They* wouldn't be Life, but they are, because *They*'ve succeeded in
making everything else less real. *They are* in the Real Place, *They do*
 play *Their* games with humanity, we *are* under *Their* control.)

-One thing all of these quotations bring home to me is that Shelley is
really heavily about sex and death, and THB is not, or, to the extent that
it is, it's negative - no sex because Jamie is "a perfectly ordinary boy. .
. still. . . in a way" (8), no death because Homeward Bounders can't die.
Not sure what to think about this.

-"The painted veil, by those who were, called life, / Which mimicked, as
with colours idly spread, / All men believed or hoped, is torn aside; The
loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains / Sceptreless, free,
uncircumscribed, but man / Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, /
Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king / Over himself; just, gentle,
wise: but man / Passionless? — no, yet free from guilt or pain, / Which
were, for his will made or suffered them, / Nor yet exempt, though ruling
them like slaves, / From chance, and death, and mutability, / The clogs of
that which else might oversoar / The loftiest star of unascended heaven, /
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane." -PU, 3.4.190-204

-"Lift not the painted veil which those who live / Call Life: though unreal
shapes be pictured there, / And it but mimic all we would believe / With
colours idly spread,--behind, lurk Fear / And Hope, twin Destinies; who
ever weave / Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear. / I knew
one who had lifted it--he sought, / For his lost heart was tender, things
to love, / But found them not, alas! nor was there aught / The world
contains, the which he could approve. / Through the unheeding many he did
move, / A splendour among shadows, a bright blot / Upon this gloomy scene,
a Spirit that strove / For truth, and like the Preacher found it not."
-Shelley, "Lift not the painted veil which those who live" (Maybe this, of
all Shelley's works that I've read, contains the largest amount of THB.)

-I'd really like to know something specific about the timing of those two
passages. This link
<http://books.google.com/books?id=J_tuKvEPmj4C&pg=PA220&lpg=PA220&dq=shelley+%22lift+not+the+painted+veil%22+publication+date&source=web&ots=taOW6EAiQ7&sig=TP0odTy5d_hvrNMspotXHRB4KmU&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result#PPA222,M1>
suggests
that this one came later but not much later. It also gives an explanation
as to why they're so contradictory, but I'm not sure I find the explanation
convincing. It seems just as plausible to me - although maybe this is Paul
Fry's fault - that Shelley's thought changed over his life - although if
the two passages were written at a very similar time that wouldn't actually
help.

-I tend to think of THB as coming down on the "lift not the painted veil"
side - look at what happens to Jamie. But "if you like, you can all think
of it as my gift to you" (THB, 267). What happens to Jamie is awful for
Jamie but is good for basically everyone else (except, well, *Them*).
Everyone else has hope, and their hope is in fact rewarded. So you don't
want to lift the painted veil, but you certainly want *someone else* to
tear it aside. . . .

-"When I wrote THE HOMEWARD BOUNDERS I was trying to understand the
relationship between hope and memory, and then the nature of hope. And the
more I thought, the more it seemed to me that hope was an evil as much as
it was a good. It was in Pandora's box, you see, which was otherwise full
of evils, and it seemed to me that the Greek people who invented the story
of Prometheus and his brother knew what they were doing. Hope inspires you,
but it also makes you sit back and accept a bad situation." -DWJ, Replies
to Fans <http://www.leemac.freeserve.co.uk/answers2.htm>

-But how do you go about writing a book with the message that "hope was an
evil as much as it was a good?"

-"'*They* brought me back here and *They* chained me as you saw me, and
*They* said, "Don't be afraid. This isn't going to be for ever. It's
important you know that. We just want to know if what you said is true."
And I said, "But it is true. There's no need to chain me." And *They* said,
"But there is a need. If you are chained, there will eventually be someone
for whom no place is real, and he will come along and release you. And you
are bound to hope that he will come."'" -THB, 250

-If you are in "a bad situation," and you know that the only way to get out
of it is to give up hope, then how can you give up hope? (BTW, I should
note that from my own perspective it's very obvious that "hope. . . makes
you sit back and accept a bad situation," so I'm not arguing that it's not
true.) Because if you hope that doing something will make it better, ("hope
inspires you") then you're not giving up hope. This is why Prometheus is
bound; this is why Jamie must be doomed forever, if he is the one who
unbinds Prometheus. Prometheus's hope *is* what binds him; Jamie couldn't
be successful if he had really thought he was ever going to get anything
out of any action he took (and, of course, he's *right*; he never does get
anything out of any action he takes).

-". . .to hope till Hope creates / From its own wreck the thing it
contemplates. . . ." How *can* it make any sense?

This
<http://www.amazon.co.uk/Homeward-Bounders-Diana-Wynne-Jones/dp/0006755259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1231364142&sr=8-1>
is
my edition of THB. For Shelley's poems, I used the web - just Google any of
them, take the first hit, and you'll get the text I used [this was written
in 2009, so probably my references are unrecoverable. . .].

---Kyra


More information about the Dwj mailing list