Quotations from ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys

Today’s quote from A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (1933) by John Cowper Powys —

“The best time for any human being to pray to the First Cause if he wants his prayers to have a prosperous issue is one or other of the Two Twilights; either the twilight preceding the dawn or the twilight following the sunset. Human prayers that are offered up at noon are often intercepted by the Sun — for all creative powers are jealous of one another — and those that are offered up at midnight are liable to be waylaid by the Moon in her seasons or by the spirit of some thwarting planet. It is a natural fact that those Two Twilights are propitious to psychic intercourse with the First Cause while other hours are malignant and baleful.”

I am currently re-reading this massive novel, one that had its First Cause for me when I first read it in 1975.

I hope further quotes will follow in comments below.

Clacton Pavilion earlier this century

76 responses to “Quotations from ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ by John Cowper Powys

  1. Today’s quote from THE GLASTONBURY ROMANCE by John Cowper Powys:
    “Not a breath of wind stirred. Not a leaf-bud quivered. Not a grass-blade swayed. There was only that elfin waterfall and, except for that, the very earth herself seemed to have fallen asleep. ‘This is Norfolk,” he said to himself, and in that intense, indrawn silence some old atavistic affiliation with fen-ditches and fen-water and fen-peat tugged at his soul and pulled it earthward. And then came to his nostrils, as he lay with his eyes shut, a far-flung, acrid, aromatic smell. it was not the smell of mud, or leaf-buds, or grass-roots, or cattle-droppings, or ditch-water. It was not the smell of last night’s rain, or of the sleeping south wind. It reached him independent of the eel slime that still clung about the bottom of the boat. it was the smell of East Anglia itself. It was the smell to greet which, on uncounted spring mornings, his Isle-of-Ely ancestors had left their beds and opened their back doors!”

  2. Every girl lives so constantly in the imaginative atmosphere of being made love to that even the most ignorant of them is rarely shocked or surprised. It is the material consequences that they dread, not moral remorse or any idea that they are allowing what is wrong. John’s way of love-making might, however, have easily palled on a more passionate nature than Mary’s; for he was not only profoundly corrupt but extremely egoistic, touching her and holding her in the manner that most excited his own childishly fantastic imagination and never asking himself whether this was what suited her, nor for one second forgetting himself in any rush of tempestuous tenderness. But Mary, as though she really *were* a hamadryad, who had known the shamelessness of hundreds of whimsical satyrs, treated the whole thing with grave, sweet, indulgent passivity. Something in her kindred nature, some willow-rooted, fen-country perversity, seemed to need just this protracted cerebral courtship to stir the essential coldness of her blood and nerves. One quaint feeling often came to her, in the oddest moments of his ‘sweet usage,’ namely that he was one of her old, faded, wooden *dolls*; yes, the most dilapidated and injured of all four which used to belong to her, come to life again, but this time full of queer, hardly human exactions that she would willingly prostitute herself for hours to satisfy, so long as she could hear those wooden joints creak and groan in their joy.

  3. “All this the ash tree noted; but its vegetative comment thereon would only have sounded in human ears like the gibberish: ‘wuther-quotle-glug.'”

  4. “Penny Pitches was not deformed. She was no humpback. What Nature had done was to make her back so broad and her legs so short that she presented the appearance of a Playing-Card Queen of Spades; a Queen of Spades endowed with the privilege of three dimensions and the power of locomotion, but denied that natural separation of head from shoulders and of bust from hips which is the usual inheritance of female mortality. She was in fact the animated Euclidean Square moving about over the earth. Nature had, however, in order to compensate Penny for these peculiarities, given her a volubility of speech that was womanly and more than womanly. To speak the truth, the tongues of a dozen cantankerous shrews and a dozen loquacious trollops  resided in this gnome-like skull.”

  5. Another passage quoted by someone on my Facebook page yesterday:
    “It was with a shock of real amazement, as something that seemed more blood-red than sunlight hit the left-hand column of the great broken arch, that the girl lifted her head now. She let her twisted dressing-gown fall loose about her shoulders and propped herself still higher in the bed, with the palms of her hands pressed against the mattress, for she became aware that the sight of this unnatural light – in reality it was a wine-coloured red, touched with a quite indescribable nuance of purple – was giving her a spasm of irrational happiness. She leaned forward, allowing her dislodged dressing-gown to slide down upon the pillows behind her and quite disregarding the fact that a cool sunrise wind was blowing aginst her flimsily clad figure. Her soul had come back with a violent spasm, like a rush of blood to her head, and her whole nature seemed to pour itself out towards the reddish light on that tall column. Her pulse of happiness was intense. What she experienced was like a quivering love-ecstacy that had no human object. She could actually feel the small round breasts under her night-gown shiver and distend. Her head instinctively fell back a little, while her chin was lifted up. Her lips parted, and a smile that was a smile of indescribable peace flickered over her face. She would have served at that moment as a model for some primitive Flemish artist painting a passionately concentrated vision of the rape of Danae.
    Whatever it was that stirred her so, the effect of it soon passed; but Mary told no one, not even John, of the experience she had had on the dawn of the Baptist’s day. The invisible Watchers however of human life in Glastonbury noted well this event. ‘She has been allowed to see It,’ they said to one another. ‘Will she be the only one among all these people?’”

  6. “Their love was lust, a healthy, earthy, muddy, weather-washed lust, like the love of water-rats in Alder Dyke or the love of badgers on Brandon Heath. They were shamelessly devoid of any Ideal Love. Born to belong to each other, by the same primordial law that made the Egyptian Ptolemies marry their sisters, they accepted their fatal monogamy as if it were the most casual of sensual attractions.
    And in the etheric atmosphere about those two, as they stood there, quivered the immemorial Mystery of Glastonbury. Christians had one name for this Power, the ancient heathen inhabitants of this place had another, and a quite different one. Everyone who came to this spot seemed to draw something from it, attracted by a magnetism too powerful for anyone to resist, but as different people approached it they changed its chemistry, though not its essence, by their own identity…”

  7. “Mat Dekker had certainly never seen a girl with more beautiful, more alluring breasts than hers; nor had he ever seen one who dared to wear a bodice so tightly fitting, so mediaeval-looking, so unfashionably piquant! These beautiful breasts seemed indeed to dominate the whole occasion. Mat Dekker felt that there was something so unusual about their loveliness that they endowed their owner with a sort of privileged fatality; a fatality that might lead to halcyon happiness; or on the other hand, to tragic devastation and destruction. They seemed meant, Mat Dekker thought, as his eyes wistfully followed them, for something beyond the suckling of any human infant. At this point the man’s ingrained morality pulled him up short. But he could not resist the feeling that there was something in the loveliness of such breasts that carried a person far from ordinary life, to those old wild legends of immortal creatures of mist, of dawn, of dew that have troubled good men’s minds from the beginning.
    ‘It is only children of the elements,’ he said to himself, ‘that such breasts ought to suckle!'”

  8. Today’s quoted passage from THE GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (1933) by John Cowper Powys. This represents the first appearance of Geard: with a head like mine! But can one ‘own’ one’s head that is joined to the body. Don’t you only own things that need not be yours to own until you do own them?

    “Here there was a suspended gas-globe, and here the strangers turned, revealing the black bowler hat and hooked Roman nose of Mr. Owen Evans, and a broad-shouldered, rather fleshy individual, without any hat, whose grizzled head under that suspended light seemed to Sam the largest human head he had ever seen. It was the head of a hydrocephalic dwarf; but in other respects its owner was not dwarfish. In other respects its owner had the normally plump, rather unpleasantly plump figure of any well-to-do-man, whose back has never been bent nor his muscles hardened by the diurnal heroism of manual labour.”

  9. Tender Shadows
    Today’s quoted passage from THE GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (1933) by John Cowper Powys is given below. But first, has anyone compared the phenomenon of Marianne and Marguerite Le Patourel in GREEN DOLPHIN COUNTRY (1944) by Elizabeth Goudge with that of Cordelia and Crummie Geard in THE GLASTONBURY ROMANCE by John Cowper Powys? No? Well, I just did. They are both sets of sisters, with similar tensions of difference, physically and mentally, as well as a very intriguing psychological confusion of names and (mis-)aptness of names that lead to semi-confusions of identity, a fact which in the Goudge novel at least is an experience of the reader whiich implicates him or her more deeply in the narrative in a very disturbing way. That may also become true of the Powys novel but this is my first re-reading of it since 1975 and my memory is not good!
    “As Cordelia watched the delicate softness of Crummie’s limbs during the lengthy ritual, and the whiteness of her flesh thrown into tender shadows by the ruffled hem of her garment, there did come over the plain girl’s mind a faint, flickering spasm of revolt. Why should her own poor knees be so bony and rough-textured? Why beneath her bony knees should her legs be like a pair of broom handles? If God had willed everything from the very Beginning of the World, why had He willed everything that all this exquisite delight in one’s own body — Crummie was at the mirror again now, turning this way and that way, as she tried on her new party dress — should be given to one girl, while another girl felt her body to be a troublesome burden to be carried about? Oh, it didn’t depend on having men to admire one, or to embrace one. ‘It is the feeling,’ thought poor Cordelia, ‘of being beautiful to one’s own self that matters!'”

  10. “As all Merlin’s disciples well know, there is a mysterious  word used in the Grail Books about his final disappearance. This is the word ‘Esplumeoir.’ It is inevitable from the context to interpret this as some ‘Great Good Place’, some mystic Fourth Dimension, or Nirvanic apotheosis, into which the magician deliberately sank, or rose; thus committing a sort of inspired suicide, a mysterious dying in order to live more fully. As he sought for one of his favourite passages — for ‘Esplumeoir’ does not appear in Malory — he kept murmuring that particular invocation under his breath, pondering intently on the occult escape offered by this runic clue from all the pain of the world, an escape so strangely handed down from far-off centuries in these thaumaturgic syllables.”

  11. ‎”Something was certainly wrong with this day! All animal nerves felt it. All human nerves felt it. All living things were irritable, restless, disturbed; sick without being sick; sad without being sad; annoyed without any apparent cause for annoyance!”

  12. ‎”‘Mr Crow misconducted himself some eight years ago with Jenny Morgan. Jenny seems to have forgotten herself completely and the result was that she had a baby.’ / The style in which Louie delivered herself of this grand climax was, it is needless to point out, entirely her own. No one but Louie would have used that derogatory and indeed disagreeable word ‘misconducted.’ No one but Louie would have used the expression ‘forgot herself’ for the normal lapse from the virginal state.”

  13. “On this particular afternoon Mr. Wollop was seated serenely (as he always was) on a polished swivel-chair in a small iron cage. He had bought this cage from a bankrupt bank in Taunton, bought it at an auction for next to nothing. No living person except the Mayor and Bert Cole would have been as much interested in a man-cage as in a bird-cage. But Mr. Wollop, casting his Bert-like eyes round the auction-room, had been agreeably struck by this object, and had promptly bought it. That he bought it for no sinister purpose was soon obvious; for the person he put into it was himself.”

  14. “His mind seemed at that second absolutely balanced on a taut and twanging wire between two terrible eternities, an eternity of wilful horror, and an eternity of bleached, arid futility, devoid of all life-sap. He could feel the path to the horror, shivering with deadly phosphorescent sweetness. He could feel the path to the renunciation filling his nostrils with acrid dust, parching his naked feet, withering every human sensation till it was hollow as the shard of a dead beetle! The nature of his temptation was such that it had nothing to redeem it. Such abominable wickedness came straight out of the evil in the heart of the First Cause, travelled through the interlunar spaces, and entered the particular nerve in the erotic organism of Mr. Evans which was predestined to respond to it.”

  15. “He saw his soul in the form of an unspeakable worm, writhing in pursuit of new, and ever new mental victims, drinking new, and ever new innocent blood. *And he saw the face of this worm.* And it happened to him now that he obtained what is given to few to obtain, an actual certain knowledge of what thoughts they were, if they could be called thoughts, that would come to stir in the darkness under the mask of that face that was no face!”

  16. “The oil-lamp reeked vilely, and from the tortured woman’s bed there emanated a sweetish-sour and very sickly smell, which made Mat Dekker shudder as he stood there mute and helpless. It was as if, beyond and behind the living-room, some unspeakable Entity of Pain writhed in the darkness, and it was from the substance of this thing and not from any human flesh and blood that the abominable smell issued forth.”

  17. “She treated her slim boyish legs very roughly as she pulled on her stockings. She thought, ‘Oh, if I can only get my stockings and skirt on before he comes back he won’t touch me any more!’ With vicious jerks she *did* get her stockings on; and then, heedless of the dust on the carpet, she stepped into her skirt, allowing it to trail upon the floor. The pattern upon the carpet consisted of big, bunchy roses, each rose encased in a square frame of dull, brown lines. The disgust at seeing her nice grey skirt in contact with this horrible carpet made her prick her fingers as she pinned its black band with a big safety pin. ‘My waist has never looked so small!’ she thought,…”

  18. “In real temptation the ‘flesh’ does not enter at all. There is the generative nerve where like a twisted serpent the scales of the embryo Lust-Dragon simmer and ferment, and there is the brain nerve towards which that quivering forked tongue sends out its cry of confederacy! The repercussions of both these things are mental, spiritual, ethereal, astral, immaterial, psychic and as utterly removed from the ‘flesh’ as they are from ‘matter’. It is a thing of *nerves*, this ‘brutish sting,’ this erotic obsession, of nerves and of the psyche, the soul, the self! The flesh is pathetically, beautifully, grotesquely *innocent*. It is in the nerves that all lecheries, all lusts, all passions lie . . . in the nerves and the imagination. It is the erotic nerve, the tightly coiled snake with the flickering tongue, always waiting to leap, that creates that under-sea of fluctuating images, wherein Matter and Flesh have been reduced to tenuous and filmy wraiths, but from which the ‘nerve perilous’ can feed with its vibrant tantalisations the excited soul! All good springs from the nerves and from the mind. All evil springs from the nerves and from the mind. Innocent, neutral, harmless, beautiful, neither good nor evil, is the mortal flesh of men and of beasts and of the grasses of the field!”

  19. “Death-runes, death-rumours, ruins and rains of death”

  20. “‘There’s the whole pit of Hell in ourselves, fire, smoke, sulphur, pitch, stench, burning! Some souls have a firm floor, Cordelia, that anyone can stamp on and it makes no difference. But other souls have trapdoors in their floors leading down to . . . to places unthinkable!'”

  21. “‘There do come to I, of nights, the shaky-shivers, as ye might say, when as I lies awake in thik girt white ward, where thro’ they cold windies be blowin’ every draught of Heaven; and I do hear they ghosties come out of they Ruings, brother, and go whush, whush, whush over all the roofs, and I feel, for sure, that some girt change be coming over this town.’
    ‘Thee’s talk be silly talk, brother,’ said Mr. Twig. ‘What do ‘ee mean by a girt change?’
    ‘I do mean what the planks and stones of this town do feel in their wet innards, when night be over they, and all be sleeping! I do mean the shivery-shaky of they wold posties and windies and chimbleys and rafties, when dark be on ‘un. Say what ye will, brother Aby, say what ye will, ’tis the nature of stones and timber to know when changes be coming upon the earth.'”

  22. “Delicate fragrances rose and sank around him as if they had been aroused and as if they had been suppressed by their own mysterious volition. There were two big lilac bushes and several clumps of white peonies on the edge of the dew-wet grass; and near the drive gate was an ancient red-blossoming hawthorn tree. There must have been scents from all these upon the air; but what Sam felt in his troubled fancy was that the tormented body of his Redeemer Himself, bathed, in its nakedness and its blood, by the waves of the cool moonlight, was diffusing this almost mortal sweetness through the atmosphere of the night.”

  23. “Their three pairs of eyes were turned simultaneously to the fire now, where at last there had appeared a solitary tongue of orange-coloured flame dancing up and down on the top of the black coals. And there fell upon them all, at that moment, that mysterious, paralysing quiescence, full of inertia and a strange numbness, which sometimes seizes a group of human consciousnesses when conversation flags. It is an inertia made *cubic*, so to speak, by being shared. It was, at that second of time, as if the souls of these three East Anglians had suddenly clung together and plunged down the great backward slide of biological evolution. They had become one vegetative soul, these three consciousnesses, weary of their troublesome misunderstandings.”

  24. “‘Mad . . . mad . . . mad,’ murmured Young Tewsy dreamily, contemplating with a lack-lustre eye the revelation of the woman’s bald head, as her black-beaded, black-feathered hat slipped awry.”


    “‘Over the garden wall,’ chanted Young Tewsy as he hopped up and down, ‘I’ve let the baby fall, and missus came out and gave me a clout, and asked me what the row’s about . . . over the garden-wall!'”

  25. Today’s quoted passage from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys. I think the insertion of the word ‘doubtless’ in the last sentence gives a strangely humorous slant on Powys’ dated unpolitical correctness!

    “One of Mr. Geard’s deepest characteristic wherein his long line of Saxon ancestors, preserving their obstinate identity under centuries of Norman tyranny, had provided the basis, and his own psychic aplomb the magnetic poise, was his power of relaxing his whole being and enjoying physical sensations without the least self-consciousness or embarrassment in anyone’s presence. This characteristic, this complete absence of nervous self-consciousness, always had a reassuring effect upon women, children and animals, as it doubtless would have had upon savages.”

  26. “There were no modern books in these shelves at all. Folios and quartos of every shade of brown and yellow and dirty-white, but principally brown, combined in some of the upper shelves with a few duodecimos, bound in the same manner, presented to Mr. Geard’s eye and mind a most curious and almost dreamlike impression.
    The presence of these books had a peculiar effect upon him as he sat sipping tea and listening to these three Zoylands talking of their family affairs. He became suddenly conscious, with a grim exaltation, of the long history of the human race. And he felt as if every movement in that history had been a thing of books and would always be a thing of books! He thought of the great books — books like Plato, Rousseau, Marx — and there came over him an overpowering sense of the dramatic pliancy, suggestibility, malleability, of the masses of human beings.
    The three Zoyland heads fell, as he looked at them, and looked past them at those huge shadowy brown shelves, into a symbolic group of human countenances. The high thin brow, big nose and pointed beard of the Marquis, the roving blue eyes and great yellow beard of Will Zoyland, the white face, clustering brown curls and long black eyelashes of the young girl, became to him an allegorical picture, rich with Rembrandt-like chiaroscuro, of the three ages of the journeying human psyche.
    Their three extended shadows — with a huge toadlike image of watchful detachment, hovering above them, that was himself — became to him the dreamlike epitome of what those silent, brown-backed creators had projected, had manifested in palpable form, from their teeming Limbo of bodiless archetypes.”

    In my current re-reading — first read by me in the 1970s — of ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys, I think I have discovered a genuinely scary ghost story within the chapter entitled ‘Mark’s Court’. Mr Geard is made a bet to sleep in a haunted room where nobody previously could sleep…. A discrete classic.
    So today’s quoted passage from the book is from that section:

    “But he clenched his hands together stubbornly, and stared at the red fire, resolute, in his massive way to beat down this fear, to beat it down and hold it down, so that it should not grow into panic; so that it should not *get into his legs*. So far it was only in his heart and in his throat. But he could feel it descending. It ran down a funnel . . . the fear-funnel it was that it ran down . . . inside his ribs . . . no, between his spine and his stomach.”

    (Oct 2014): I have now read ALOUD a large section of ‘The Fear Funnel’ as linked from here: http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/dfl-readings-aloud/

  28. “But it was a velvety lust, an orchid-spotted lust, a dark, delicious, quivering, maddening lust, which surprised the man himself by its intensity. […]
    The steady aggravation of his hatred for Philip had indeed so mingled with his lust for Philip’s girl that they formed together a completely new passion for which there is at present no name. As he shaved in the morning, as he went to the little wooden privy in his mother’s back-garden, as he paused in his work at the municipal factory, he would mutter to himself half-aloud  — ‘I ‘ate ‘im! I ‘ate ‘im! I’ll ‘ave ‘er! I’ll ‘ave ‘er!’
    There can be no doubt that when in his cockney fashion, he used the word “‘ate” instead of “hate”, this curious difference between two monosyllabic sounds was not without its own faint psychic repercussion upon his nervous organism. Between the human feeling expressed by the word “hate” and the feeling expressed by the same word without the aspirate there may be little difference; and yet there probably *was* some infinitesimal difference, which a new science — halfway between philology and psychology — may one day elucidate.”

  29. “Human thoughts, those mysterious projections from the creative nuclei of living organisms, have a way of radiating from the brain that gives them birth. Such emanations, composed of ethereal vibrations, take invisible shapes and forms as they float forth. Thus to any supermaterial eye, endowed with psychic perception, the atmosphere of Mrs. Legge’s front parlour that night must have been a strange scene. The secret thoughts of her guests rose and floated, hovered and wavered, formed and reformed, under those glittering candelabra, making as it were a second  party, a gathering of thought-shapes, that would remain when all these people had left the room. All thought-eidola are not of the same consistency or of the same endurance. It is the amount of life-energy thrown into them that makes the difference. Some are barely out of the body before they fade away. Others — and this is the cause of many ghostly phenomena — survive long after the organisms that projected them is (sic)  buried in the earth.”

  30. “Something in the human mind leaps up with rapturous release when some outrageous event is occurring. Most men live but a half-life, dull, tame, monotonous. The occurrence of something that is outrageously startling, upsetting to all proprieties, to all conventions, stirs such people with a primordial satisfaction. The submerged Cro-Magnon in them, or at least the submerged Neolithic man, swims up in them like a rising diver from the bottom of the atavistic sea and they rush forward, towards the spot where the forbidden thing is occurring.”

  31. “Different from all other essences in the world the smell of primroses has a sweetness that is faint and tremulous, and yet possesses a sort of tragic intensity. There exists in this flower, its soft petals, its cool, crinkled  leaves, its pinkish stalk that breaks at a touch, something which seems able to pour its whole self into the scent it flings on the air. Other flowers have petals that are fragrant. The primrose has something more than that. The primrose throws its very life into this essence of itself which travels upon the air. But the odour which floated now over that little garden of Benedict Street and hovered about Miss Crow as she looked at the proud timidity in those grey eyes that faced her so steadily, at that light-poised figure gripping so tightly the long hoe she had been using, had yet another pervading  element in it — **the scent of moss**. Not a patch of earth in any of those spinneys, and copses, and withy beds, that edged those water-meadows, not a plank, not a post, in the sluices and weirs and gates of those wide moors, but had its own growth, somewhere about it, of moss ‘softer than sleep.’ More delicately, more intricately fashioned than any grasses of the field, more subtle in texture than any seaweed of the sea, more thickly woven, and with a sort of intimate passionate patience, by the creative spirit within it, than any forest leaves or any lichen upon any tree trunk, this sacred moss of Somersetshire would remain as a perfectly satisfying symbol of life if all other vegetation were destroyed out of that country. There is a religious reticence in the nature of moss. It vaunts itself not; it proclaims not its beauty; its infinite variety of minute shapes is not apprehended until you survey it with concentrated care.  With a peculiar velvety green, a greenness that seems to spring up like a dark froth from the living skin pores of the earth-mother, this primeval growth covers with its shadowy texture every rock and stone and fragment of masonry, every tree root and hovel roof and ancient boarding, over which the rain can sweep or the dew can fall. The magical softness of its presence gathers around the margins of every human dream that draws its background from life in the West Country. The memories of youth are full of it; the memories of old people who have gone to and fro in West Country villages wear it like a dim, dark garment against the cold of the grave; and when the thoughts of the bedridden turn with piteous craving to the life outside their walls, it is upon deep, rain-soaked, wet moss, sprinkled with red toadstools or with brown leaves or with drifting gossamer weed, that they most covetously brood!”

  32. ‎”Did you have a fear when you were little that you’d never meet anyone as exciting as the people in books?”

  33. ‎”Don’t you sometimes feel as if you were a changeling? Don’t you sometimes feel that when your own people are talking and telling you this and that — quite ordinary things — that you’re all the time living in a different world? I don’t mean exactly a different *place*, only seen in quite a different way?”

  34. “Across this field he led her, their shadows making long monumental outlines that were scarcely human as the rays of the sinking sun fell on their backs. These two vast shadows moved in front and Nell and Sam followed behind. It was a silent procession in that isolated field full of so much old corn stubble and so many small green weeds; for the two inhuman shadows spoke not nor made any sign and the two solid figures behind them were also silent. The shadows were, however, luckier than the figures, for they had the power of overlapping with each other, so that they frequently lost themselves in each other. This desirable power was denied the human figures who now followed after them, silent, solemn and tragic, — two Solids following two Shadows across the dead stubble and the green weeds.”

  35. “Thus, in immediate juxtaposition with Pilate’s prolonged soliloquy and also with the pantomimic fooling of Capporelli, as the clown moved from group to group, Christ was led before Caiaphas and Peter denied Christ. The part of the  cock was introduced. This was a too dangerous experiment even for the two Dubliners. They maintained that there was such a deep and primordial poetry about the crowing of cocks, drenched in the dews of ten thousand dawns of human suffering, full of such equivocal, treacherous, and yet Homeric braggadocio, carrying memories of women in travail, of dying soldiers, of millions of tortured, imprisoned and executed victims of Society, — that it would be vulgar, sacrilegious, a blasphemy against the dignity of the human spirit, impious, gross, offensive, ridiculous to introduce a pantomimic cock upon the stage. Besides — the two Dubliners had argued — no human eye ever actually sees the cock that makes its eyelids open. The crowing of the cock brings with it the passionate revolt of all the desperate lovers who like Romeo and Juliet would fain, if they could, hold back the coming of the dawn! It has become — so the Dubliners protested — one of the eternal symbols of the human race, recognised from Ultima Thule to Thibet, from Greenland to the Cape of Good Hope; and to introduce a *visual mockery* of such a thing in any performance would not be merely Aristophanic. It would be diabolic.”

  36. “Perhaps a girl’s nerves respond to the nerves of another girl and send out magnetic currents that can be caught from far off; whereas something in the masculine constitution, something dense, thick, opaque, obtuse, *stupid*, has the power of rejecting such contacts. Or it may be that the erotic emotions, when they brim over from the masculine spirit, extricate themselves, as women’s feelings never do, from the bitter-sweet honeycomb of Nature and shoot off, up, out, and away, into dimensions of non-natural existence, where the nerve-rays of women cannot follow.”

  37. “Mr Evans had, as a matter of fact, been caught up into a region of feeling utterly beyond the comprehension of any Latin or any Teutonic mind. This had gone on since he stood before Pilate until the moment when he shouted “Eloi, Eloi!” It was not, as St Paul has put it so well – he the one among them all who would really have understood Mr Evans – it was not with flesh and blood that he was contending, but with mysterious powers of evil upon levels revealed to few. No equivocal perversity gratified by divining the feelings of Persephone entered for a second into the terrible visions with which, as he hung between heaven and earth, his mind was bruised and broken [ . . . ] It was the prolongation of the scene – drawn out so foolishly, by that luckless Dance of Death of the two Marys – that had brought about his collapse, and it was the strain on his arms, bound too tightly by those ropes, and the tension of the muscles of his shoulders, stretched between the cross-bars, that had caused him such anguish. But not since the bloody King put the last Abbot of Glastonbury to death had such physical pain been experienced by anyone upon the slopes of Gwyn-ap-Nud’s hill. But it would be a mistake to say that the spirit of Mr Evans yielded, or weakened, or regretted his undertaking. Right up to the end, till by straining his torso to the breaking-point he had lost consciousness, he not only endured this anguish but he exulted in enduring it. His exultation kept mounting and mounting – extreme pain and ecstatic triumph embracing each other in dark mystic copulation.
    Mr Evans became indeed Three Persons as he hung on his self-imposed cross. One person was his body, another was his soul. He felt his soul – or rather his soul felt itself – to be entirely outside of his body. This phenomenon was to him, as he hung alone there, looking down on that vast crowd, as much of a definite, concrete experience as the pain itself. The pain became a Third Person, and the soul of Mr Evans kept urging on the pain. He felt as if that crowd beneath him was the whole human race and that by the transaction that was now proceeding between these Three Persons, thus suspended in the air above them, this crowd, an immense animal passivity, was in some way re-created, purged, cleansed, transformed. His body, as the pain increased – as his soul deliberately caused the pain to increase – began to overbrim the confines of its human shape. His body projected itself under the pain in great waves of filmy chemical substance. It flung forth this filmy substance in streams, in torrents, in a mighty, rushing rain! And then there arrived a moment when Mr Evans knew that his body was the whole hill, the whole field, nay! the whole wide-stretching landscape. Into this landscape, into this earth-bulk that was his body, his soul kept driving the pain, compelling it to bury itself deeper and deeper into this living mass. This continued till his body became more than the mere immediate landscape. It became the whole round earth, swinging on its orbit through space. And above this earth-body hung the master-spirit of Mr Evans still driving the pain on. He was the Zeus and Prometheus and the Vulture – all three linked indestructibly together! And all the while a triumphant ecstasy poured down from him like a bloody sweat.”

  38. “Into the poppied juices of black death’s own veins that perfect sweetness by his side had crept, cozening him, cajoling him, anointing him, with an ointment that was like a Lethe within Lethe, an oblivion within oblivion.”

  39. “That bit of red petticoat tied to the plough seemed to become a symbol — like a gallant flag  held up by the old battered sun-warmed earth — that there yet remained, in spite of everything, a hope, a chance, faint, so faint! but still a chance, that all the hideous miseries beneath the sun might have, down deep underneath them, some issue, some flickering outlet,  some remedial hope.”

  40. “She took the comb now and began combing out her hair, holding her head so far back that she made her long tresses hang straight as seaweed, clinging to a smooth-oval-shaped stone. And she really did forget her anxiety now and Miss Drew and everything; for the electricity in her hair, as she pulled the comb through it, gave her such a delicate, amorous shiver that it made her feel as if butterfly wings were caressing her nipples under her short shift.”

  41. “He prodded the crumbling stonework of the wall with the end of his stick in angry pity: pity for Miss Drew, pity for that suffering beast on the West Pennard Road, pity for the whole array of anguished nerves upon which the great, blunt thumb of evil was strumming its nightly gamut amid these sweet summer scents.
    Once more he listened intently. How hard not to listen! What was the trouble with that beast over there? What were they doing to it? What were he and Mary doing to Miss Drew? If only he knew that there were a God, who *for one second* had an ear open, what things he would pour into that gaping, hairy, stupid orifice. In the old days their gods made them sacrifice their enemies to propitiate the great pain-engine.”

  42. Today’s quoted passage from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys, telling of Mr Merry, the curator of Glastonbury Museum:

    “A rush! If there was one thing in life that Mr. Merry could not abide it was what he called ‘one of those damned rushes when you don’t know what you’re eating.’ And here he was, heading steadily, moment by moment, towards a rush. Partly by disposition, for he was one of those slowly moving persons who savour intensely their own physical functioning as they go to and fro over the earth, and partly from the habit of his profession, which dealt in huge tracts of time, the curator had come to resemble the biblical Creator; for to his erudite and historic mind, ‘a thousand years were as one day.'”

  43. “This particular day was indeed as characteristic of autumn in Somerset as any day could be. A blue haze was over everything, so thick and intense, that it was as if the blueness in the sky had fallen upon the earth, leaving only a vague grey hollowness in the upper air. The blue haze invaded everything. It crept through gaps in hedges; it floated over old crumbling walls; it slipped into open stickhouses and haysheds. And though it was blue in colour, it smelled strongly of brown mud and of yellow apples. The blue mist, reeking of cider-juice and ditches, seems to possess a peculiar somnolent power. Travellers from the north, or from the east, coming into Glastonbury by train through Wareham, may be sitting erect and alert as they pass Stalbridge and Templecombe but they will find it difficult to keep their eyes on the landscape when the train has carried them beyond Evercreech and they come into the purlieus of Avalon.
    Sleep seems to emanate from this district like a thin, penetrating anaesthetic, possessed of a definite healing power, and it is a sleep full of dreams; not of the gross, violent, repulsive dreams of the night, but of lovely, floating, evasive day-dreams, lighter, more voluptuous, nearer the heart’s desire, than the raw, crude, violent visions of the bed.
    Nancy Stickles felt a wave of delicious languor steal over her as she contemplated the Glover family enjoying themselves on the little lawn and as she watched the blue mists floating over the old walls and lying in hollows between the narrow alleys, and hovering in pigsty doors, and privy doors and fowl-run doors, and flowing like the vaporous essence of some great blue apple  of the orchards of space over everything she could see.” 

  44. “The composers of fiction aim at an aesthetic verisimilitude which seldom corresponds to the much more eccentric and chaotic dispositions of Nature. Only rarely are such writers so torn and rent by the Demon within them that they can add their own touch to the wave crests of *real actuality* as they foam up, bringing wreckage and sea-tangle and living and dead ocean monsters and bloody spume and bottom silt into the rainbow spray!”

  45. “The man rubbed his shins meditatively and leaning forward in his low arm-chair, pulled with both hands the shiny black material of one of his trousers close round his leg. This action seemed to give him some kind of spiritual comfort and he continued to enjoy the warmth, gazing into the fire with a curious film over his black eyes, the sort of film that might have covered the ophidian stare of the world-snake, at the bottom of the Northern Sea.”

  46. Today’s quoted passage from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys as I continue to re-read this truly massive novel:

    “Lovely were they both, as they lay there in that glimmering light, but whereas Angela seemed to draw to herself from out of the storm-cleansed darkness everything that was pallid and phantasmal in the rain-soaked meadows, in the dripping hazel-spinneys, in the cold, moss-covered hill slopes, Persephone seemed, as she lay listening to her friend, as if she were an incarnation of all the magic of the brown rain-pools and the smooth-washed beech boughs and the drenched, carved eaves of fragrant woodwork, and the wet reed roofs of the dyke-hovels down there in the marshes of the Brue.”

  47. “‘Yes, yes! Oh, Lord! Anything. Oh, Lord! For to make thee stop; for to make thee stop even for a little while, Lord! Yes, yes. Oh, there thee be again!’
    The tortured woman had come recently to talk to her cancer as if it were a living person. She called it ‘Lord’; for it represented the nearest and most wilful power she knew.”

    “–but even pain, and all the other indescribable horrors of life seemed, as he stared at the backs of those moving sheep, to be made of a ‘stuff’, as Shakespeare calls it, that could be compelled to yield, to loosen, to melt, to fade, under the right pressure.”

    ” But John’s imagination was at work now. What on earth was Geard doing to that woman? Most repulsively — for John’s mind had a Goya-like twist for the monstrous — he saw his employer dipping the poor creature in his precious chalybeate water! He saw the scene with hideous and telescopic minuteness. He saw the filthy underwear of the poor wretch, unchanged for a week no doubt while she beat the nurse away, and all stained with ordure. He saw vermin, frightened by the water, leaving her clothes and scurrying away across the slabs of the fountain where they would undoubtedly perish miserably. He saw the loathsome image of the cancer itself. Geard was bathing it in that reddish water and muttering his grotesque invocations, while the woman — John could see her face — was terrified into forgetting her pain by the cold shock of the water. No doubt it had come into her simple mind that the Mayor had decided to rid Glastonbury of her. John’s imagination after being so dazed by the sheep was now seized with a terrifying clairvoyance. He followed one of Tittie’s vermin in flight from Bloody Johnny’s vigorous ablutions. And he saw it encountering a lusty wood louse which had had to turn itself into a leaden-coloured ball to avoid Mr. Geard’s feet but which, appearing now in the other’s path like an immense Brontosaurus, had uncurled itself to the view of the human louse.
    ‘All is strange to me,’ said the human louse to the wood louse. He spoke the lice language with its beautiful vowel sounds to perfection.
    ‘On the contrary,’ said the wood louse, speaking the same ancient tongue but with a rude rural intonation, ‘*you* are the only strange thing here to me.’
    ‘Could you direct me–‘ the human louse enquired, giving its words a classical resonance, indicative of the fact that its ancestors had lived with the Romans, ‘to any human skin in this vicinity?'”

  48. The Copulation-Cry of the Yes and No

    “It was as if his physical form had already sunk into the waters of that Cimmerian sunset-realm which he called ‘yr Echwyd,’ while some power from outside of him was making his lips move in his corpse-like face!
    ‘They sought for more than a fish, for more than any great chub of Lydford . . . they sought for the knot of the opposites, for the clasping of the Two Twilights, for the mingling-place of the waters, for the fusion of the metals, for the bride-bed of the contradictions, for the copulation-cry of the Yes and No, for the amalgam of the Is and Is Not! What they sought . . . what the Fisher Kings of my people sought, and no other priests of no other race on earth have sought it . . . was not only the Cauldron and the Spear . . . not only the sheath and the knife, not only the Mwys of Gwyddno and the Sword of Arthur, but that which exists in the moment of timeless time when these two are one! What they sought was creation with-out-generation . What they sought was Parthenogenesis and the Self-Birth of Psyche. What they sought was the Stone without Lichen which the people before my people worshipped, when they set up—-‘
    The voice proceeding from the lips of the corpse-face of Mr. Evans became so hoarse and broken at this point that it hardly seemed like a human voice. Lady Rachel could clearly hear the footsteps on the pavement outside, through the street door which they had left ajar; and these steps sounded to her like the steps of all the generations of men treading down the stammerings of the Inanimate Bottom of the World.”

  49. Today’s quoted passage (about hawling?) from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys:

    “For the last month the tin had been pouring forth with such a steady flow that Philip’s spirits had mounted up to a pitch of excitement that was like a kind of diurnal drunkenness. He dreamed of tin every night. The metal in all its stages began to obsess him. He collected specimens of it, of every degree of weight, integrity, purity. He carried bits of it about with him in his pocket. All manner of quaint fancies — not so much imaginative ones as purely childish ones — connected with tin, kept entering and leaving his mind, and he began to feel as if a portion of his innermost being were the actual magnet that drew this long-neglected element out of abysses of prehistoric darkness into the light of day.
    Philip got into the habit of walking every day up the steep overgrown hillside above Wookey and posting himself in the heart of a small grove of Scotch firs from which he could observe, without anyone detecting his presence, the lively transactions at the mouth of the big orifice in the earth, where the trees had been cut away and where the cranes and pulleys stood out in such startling relief against the ancient sepia-coloured clumps of hazel and sycamore, still growing around them upon the leafy slopes. Here he would devour the spectacle of all this activity he had set in motion, until he longed to share the physical exertions of every one of his labourers, diggers, machinists, truckmen, carters, stokers, miners, and haulers.”

  50. “And into this warm, firelit room, full of the aura of a young feminine body that had been so assiduously courted and caressed that its sweet essence pervades the air, there now projected itself a presence that was monstrous, revolting, intolerable.
    From each particular hair of Mr. Toller’s beard this presence emanated. From the adam’s apple in his bare, dirty neck, from the blood-stained rims of
    his watery eyes, from the yellowish fluff, growing like fungus on cheese from the back of his hands, from a certain beyond-the-pale look of his naked, shirtless wrist-bones, this presence grew and grew and grew in that closed room. It sprang from Toller; but it was distinct from Toller.”

  51. “Nowhere in all the fertile and leafy regions of Somerset, so heavy in vegetation, does Winter set in with more definite emphasis than in the regions around Glastonbury. The thicker the foliage, the richer the earth odours, the bluer the apple-scented vapours, the more stark and desolate is the contrast. Then begins a wet, chilly, lamentable nakedness; and the three Glastonbury hills weep together like three titanic mourners over Arthur and Merlin and Lancelot and Gwenevere.”

  52. Rain-Smell, Rain-Taste, Rain-Secret
    “As a matter of fact, although neither of these human lovers were aware of this, between the Scotch fir and that ancient holly there had existed for a hundred years a strange attraction. Night by night, since the days when the author of Faust lay dying in Weimar and those two embryo trees were in danger of being eaten by grubs, they had loved each other. The magnetic disturbance of the atmosphere at that spot, while the distorted mouth of Mr. Evans was pressed against the distorted mouth of Cordelia, was an agitation to the old tree in the hedge, so that in its creaking there arose that plaintive yearning of the vegetable world which comes to us more starkly in the winter than in the summer.
    In the summer when the wind stirs the trees, there is that rushing, swelling sound of masses of heavy foliage, a sound that drowns, in its full-blossomed, undulating, ocean-like murmur, the individual sorrow of trees. But across the leafless unfrequented field these two evergreens could lift to each other their sub-human voices and cry their ancient vegetation-cry, clear and strong; that cry which always seems to come from some underworld of Being, where tragedy is mitigated by a strange undying acceptance beyond the comprehension of the troubled hearts of men and women.
    It is on such gusty, early December afternoons, when darkness falls before people prepare for tea, that the symbolic essence of rain is most deeply felt. And that they should be realised in their essential quiddity, these whirling gusts of grey rain tossed obliquely across the darkening hills, they must not come in a steady, tropic downpour. *Floods* of rain destroy the quality and the significance of rain. Drops they must be, many, many drops; an infinity of drops if you will; but still numberless separate drops, grey or brown or whitish-grey, in order that they may retain that rain-smell, rain-taste, rain-secret, which separates rain from ordinary water.”


    ‎”There are faces made for moonlight. There are faces created to respond to the wind. There are faces for sandy deserts, for lonely seashores, for solitary headlands, for misty dawns, for frosty midnights. Cordelia’s face was *made* for rain. It had nothing in it that was normally beautiful; and yet it became at this moment the living incarnation of all those long hours when rain had mingled with her secretest hopes. Her face was charged with the rain that had streamed down the window-panes at Cardiff Villa, twilight after twilight, while her thoughts had been flying far away; far over dripping forests, far over swollen rivers to green-black castle walls of which she fancied herself the mistress or the captive.”

  54. “All human minds, as they move about over the face of the earth, are in touch with a dark reservoir of our race’s psychic garbage. Just as all the thrilling and vibrating thoughts that have animated human organisms survive the deaths of those organisms, so all the heavy, cloddish, murderous, desolate thoughts, in which free will and faith and happiness perish like asphyxiated gnats, roll themselves in a foul torrent into a great invisible planetary Malebolge. This Malebolge is always present and near, a little way below the surface, for all our human minds; and it only needs certain occurrences, or certain arrangements of matter, to cause an odious and devastating effluvia from its surface-scum to invade the arteries of our consciousness.”
    — today’s quoted passage from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys

  55. “Furtively in the darkness she allowed herself to fondle the man’s muscular wrist; and then from his wrist her long slim hand slipped down to his great swaying hips. Here, as her fingers strayed, she found one of the leather straps of his braces hanging loose; for when he had been buying that set of heavy tea-cups at Wollop’s, he had been persuaded to purchase a new pair of braces for himself by the youth who read Nietzsche and these articles his powerful fingers found it very difficult to button. When he felt her knuckles against his side the spontaneous intimacy of the gesture tickled his fancy as much as her actual touch tickled his ribs; and with a deep-drawn chuckle he stopped dead.
    ‘Do it up, if you can, kid!’ he laughed. ‘It’s beaten *me*, that bit of leather.’
    She put both her hands to it and finally — though not without an effort — she got it fastened. This was the first time in Persephone’s whole life that she had buttoned a man’s button.”

  56. “…the Protagonist and Antagonist of this memorable occasion. Never had the contrast between the two men been more marked.
    Philip was dressed in a fawn-coloured overcoat and light soft grey hat. He wore spats beneath his blue-serge trousers and in his hand he carried a cane with a round jasper knob that Persephone had given him. He had a red camellia in his buttonhole and his whole demeanour was composed, debonair, alert.
    Bloody Johnny, on the contrary, was really scandalously attired. He had dodged, as his custom was, on public occasions, all attempts of his family to groom him. He was not even picturesquey [sic] untidy. He looked like a deboshed verger who had turned billiard-marker in some fifth-rate club.”

  57. “Once more John began (or was it his dizziness returning upon him?) to feel as if all those upturned faces were thousands and thousands of ghosts, all the nekuōn ameneena kareena, ‘the powerless heads of the dead,’ of the long Glastonbury history, listening to Mr. Geard.”

  58. “They were both silent and something very peculiar passed between them. There are certain topics which resemble certain *substances* in the world, such as blood and semen and the liquefaction of decomposition, in that they trouble some unique nerve in human mortality and produce, even in the naming, a peculiar *frisson*. Such a *frisson* they experienced now, and as they gazed in each other’s face in this dim, littered, empty place, these two cynical East-Anglians felt like dogs who had met an absolutely new smell; dogs, let us say, who are sniffing at a new-fallen meteorite!”

  59. “He tried to coax her to give up her awkward and timid habit of retreating into the never-used drawing-room, a room that smelt, not of dust and mustiness for it was the only room in the house where Penny was allowed to scrub and tidy up without let or hindrance, but of the Dead Time itself, like a palpable ghost brooding there inside that locked door, brooding over the heavy, magenta coloured tassels that hung down above the front of the mantelpiece, brooding over the green plush sofa, brooding over the massive marble clock that never ticked, brooding over the footstool, trimmed with tarnished gold thread, brooding over the upstanding wool basket of Sam’s mother that had never been touched since that young woman died.”

  60. glast

    Above is my Picador edition bought new in 1975. Next year I took my then young family on holiday to Glastonbury. I am rereading it in 2012, and the gap shows where I have got up to so far.


  61. Today’s quoted passage from ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys. [I’ve today realised that I’ve got the title wrong in all my recent posts about this book. It should be ‘A Glastonbury Romance’ not ‘The Glastonbury Romance’!]

    “His father’s hands came out of his pockets now and one of them was thrust into the aquarium! He had caught sight of something there that Sam, at any rate, had never seen in the aquarium; no! not since as a small child, he had watched his father changing its water and its weeds.
    There were now three kinds of weeds in the aquarium, two of them river-weeds, and one of them a pond-weed; and it was in an entanglement of this pond-weed that Mat Dekker had found what was such a shock to him and what, at any other time, would have been an event of the first importance in Glastonbury Vicarage. He had found a dead fish.
    ‘Dead! One of the Meare-Rhyne ones!’ muttered Mat Dekker now, holding out the tiny little corpse for Sam to see.
    It looked very small indeed in the priest’s great brown palm — very small and silvery — like an ‘animula, vagula, blandula’ in the hand of God.
    ‘That’s what it is — one of the Meare-Rhyne ones!’ echoed Sam.”

  62. Just reached the aesthetic, workmanlike, spiritual and psychotic emanations from Sam Dekker’s ‘clay-hauling’.

    (Or ‘hawling’: http://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/hawling-in-john-cowper-powys/)

  63. After my reading yesterday of Sam Dekker’s high mystic encounter with the Grail in the remarkable ‘Is it a tench?’ scene, today’s quoted passage from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys brings us down to earth – or does it?

    “Poor old Abel had been suffering of late from two most vexing physical maladies, either of which would have rendered him miserable, but which together broke down his spirit. One was his villainous constipation, and the other a still worse attack of piles. With the utmost difficulty, under the encouragement of his faithful crony Number Two, the old man had been persuaded to go to the hospital clinic; but the slap-dash methods of the internes, and an interview, in an ether-smelling corridor, with the competent Aunt Laura, had sent him home trembling with nervous indignation, and resolute to confine himself henceforward to his own private remedies — Beecham’s Pills for the first trouble and copious Vaseline for the second.”

    internes’ is sic. A vague premonition of ‘internet’?

    One wonders if the tench was meant to relate to the Stench (!) that must have accompanied Sam’s application of the enema on Abel Twig and the conveyance away of the then full chamber pot past the stew cooking in the kitchen. The two events: the enema and the grail are more or less connected explicitly by Powys in this section… Or was that the chamber pot and the grail?

  64. Today’s quoted passage during my re-reading of ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys:

    “‘Is it a Tench?’ he kept muttering quite audibly. What he was always reverting to in his thoughts was the necessity he was under to tell everybody in Glastonbury that he had seen the Grail; and several times he stopped various errand boys and tradesmen’s wives, whom he knew by sight, and began to tell them, or began to gather himself up to tell them, but by some queer psychological law they seemed inevitably to slip away from him before he had forced them to listen to him. He came by degrees to have that queer sensation that we have sometimes in dreams, that everything we touch eludes and slides away. He even got the feeling that the pavements were soft under his feet and that the people he passed were like ghosts who moved WITHOUT MOVING THEIR LEGS.”

  65. “‘I’ve never told this to a living soul,’ said Crummie, ‘but sometimes Father frightens me. Not with his petting and so on, for I don’t care tuppence about that. But once or twice lately he’s talked of death with such an extraordinary look on his face! Almost always he talks of death when he’s been petting me, or has seemed especially fond of me, but not unhappily, mind you! It’s rather as if — it’s so hard to put it, Mr. Sam! — as if there were another me, someone *like* me, only of course much more exciting, down there in Hades. I’ve seen his eyes, Mr. Sam — and you know how dark they are! — shine like funnels of black fire when he’s been talking of death and holding me on his knee.'”

  66. “The man’s straw-coloured beard wagged as he spoke and his pale eyes swam with an unholy amusement. Every word he uttered seemed to carry a double meaning, seemed loaded with hints that his leering eyes completed and confirmed. His weak subhuman intelligence seemed to wriggle into the interstices of Mr. Evans’ wickedest and secretest thoughts and snuggle and nuzzle and nestle there, as if Mr. Evans’ thoughts were the nipples of the many-breasted Diana of the Ephesians.
    This encounter between the two men was indeed the culmination of several furtive meetings, in all of which there had been, below the surface of what audibly passed between them, a wordless conspiracy of understanding, mounting higher and higher; just as if their under-consciousness — the worm-snakes within them — had learned the art of an obscene intertwining.”

  67. “…Miss Crow had experienced the eternal alternations, the great antipodal feelings of human experience, the shudder of death and ‘the pleasure which there is in life itself!’ And she was a woman to miss little, though she kept her own counsel of these experiences!”

    Compare ‘The Glastonbury Romance‘ by John Cowper Powys with ‘The Conspiracy Against The Human Race’ by Thomas Ligotti

    I referred to ‘the state of antipodal angst’ in my 2006 Obituary here: HERE

  68. Today’s reading of ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys entailed a ‘study of High Cones’ and the imbibing of a lethally legendary pub drink called ‘Our Special’ and…

    “He felt in advance the sucked-out, scooped out, blood-rusted hollowness of the gap — the eye-tooth of the world wrenched from its nether-place — that would sink down, that rusty-brown gaping hole that was himself, his very life, down to the deepest abyss.”

  69. “There’s something in us that’s the same, that belongs to us all; and I’ll tell you what it is. It’s the Future being born in us — It’s the Future tearing us, breaking us, bruising us so that it may be born.”
    — from ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys

    Having started re-reading this massive novel in the Summer, I hope to finish it by the end of the future itself on 21/12/12.

  70. “Could you conceive anyone, could you, in fact, for there’s no need to beat about the bush, conceive *me*, committing suicide out of love of life, instead of out of weariness of it or out of hatred for it? […] What I want to ask you is, do you suppose anyone’s ever committed suicide out of an *excess of life*, simply to enjoy the last experience in full consciousness?”

  71. “He was killed instantaneously, the front of his skull being bashed in so completely, that bits of bone covered with bloody hair surrounded the deep dent which the iron made. His consciousness, the ‘I am I’ of Tom Barter, shot up into the ether above them like a released fountain-jet and quivering there pulsed forth a spasm of feeling, in which outrage, ecstasy, indignation, recognition, pride, touched a dimension of Being more quick with cosmic life than Tom had ever reached before in his thirty-seven years of conscious existence. This heightened — nay! this quadrupled — awareness dissolved in a few seconds, after its escape from the broken cranium, but whether it passed, with its personal identity intact, into that invisible envelope of rarefied matter which surrounds our astronomic sphere or whether it perished irrecoverably, the present chronicler knows not.”

  72. After all these months of reading ‘The Glastonbury Romance’ (1933) by John Cowper Powys, we have come now to the final chapter: THE FLOOD. Appropriate for our apocalyptic thoughts today? Probably the final quoted passage, too, from me:

    “One especial thing that struck his pragmatic and literal mind was the extraordinary difference between this murderous-looking flood-water and all other bodies of water he had ever seen or known. The brownish-grey expanse before him was not like the sea; nor was it like a lake. It was a thing different from every other natural phenomenon. A breath of abominable and shivering chilliness rose up from this moving plain of waters, a chilliness that was more than material, a chilliness that carried with it a wafture of mental horror. It was as if some ultimate cosmogonic catastrophe implying the final extinction of all planetary life had commenced. A wind of death rose from that mounting flood that carried a feeling of water-soaked disfigured corpses!”

  73. Aptly, I have just this minute finished ‘Glastonbury Romance’ (its last sentence being: “Never or Always.”) — while Frederick Delius’ THE WALK TO THE PARADISE GARDEN (cf the whelk! HERE) is playing serendipitously at this very moment on BBC Radio 3 as the orchestral interlude in a broadcast performance of his A VILLAGE ROMEO AND JULIET (cf my Last Balcony!)……….

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s