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Graves's sources for The White Goddess
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David_Hannaford
gleeman


Joined: 25 Oct 2003
Posts: 8
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2004 11:37 pm    Post subject: Lifestyle makeover Reply with quote

My comments about Laura were deliberately brief, because I dont like to be seen to be judgemental about the sex which is nearer the divine. I do have occasional lapses, however, and in other writings have described Laura as an adventuress and a witch.
By "showed RG how to live" I meant that she caused him to abandon (or be ejected from) a boring, grey, rain-soaked, ordered, middle-class life and made for him, or made him make, a glorious place in the sun. There can be little doubt that the location; interior design, decoration, plantings and their social relations, all the elements of their lifestyle were determined by Laura, and that in this setting Graves produced his best work. Perhaps someone from Vogue or House and Garden could better appreciate Laura's achievements than us... or maybe Aldous Huxley's bisexual wife Maria, who would have understood because she did a similar lifestyle makeover on her writer.

As for Laura's poetry; her theoretical writings, her cabbalism, her character, her treatment of RG's family, and eventually of Robert himself, I will remain silent, but on Graves' choice of her I offer:

Come from Satan, come from God - who cares,
Angel or siren, rhythm, fragrance, light,
Provided you transform - O my one queen!
This hideous universe, this heavy hour?


Baudelaire Hymn to Beauty in translation
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notarius
bard


Joined: 25 May 2002
Posts: 63
Location: Bristol, England

PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2004 6:03 pm    Post subject: Lifestyle makeover Reply with quote

".....a boring, grey, rain-soaked, ordered, middle-class life"

Really? Robert Graves left school in 1914 to serve in the First World War until 1918, including long periods in which he led troops in the trenches from 1915-1917. He was almost killed in the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme and left for dead, but lived to read his own obituary in The Times on his 21st birthday. He was born the son of a leading Irish poet and academic and a tremendously strong lady, Amy von Ranke Graves, who was related to a leading German historian, Lepold von Ranke, and had once received a proposal of marriage from the Prime Minister of Bavaria.

In the First World War Graves was fighting not only the enemy but some of his own cousins and uncles, a fact that haunted him in later life. Before the time he met Laura Riding he had already met Sassoon, Owen, David Thomas and many of the other leading poets of the war and the day. He had been climbing in Wales with, and taught English at Charterhouse by, George Mallory, who, with Sandy Irvine, was probably the first man to conquer Everest, in 1924. Graves was studying at Oxford, where he had met and become a firm friend of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) and many other of the leading people of the day. He and Nancy had had four children, unsuccessfully tried to set up a shop at Boar's Hill near Oxford, and had spent almost a year in Egypt where Graves was Professor of Poetry. Not to mention that Graves had also published by that time a fair amount of poetry and other work, much of which had been illustrated by Nancy or other members of her Nicholson family. Incidentaly, Robert and Nancy's daughter Catherine also claims that, before Laura came along, Nancy had also acted as a strong literary critic of Robert's work.

Boring? Ordered? What would it have been like by the age of 31 if it had been exciting and chaotic? What a shame that no-one led me to it too by that age! Yes, it was probably rain-soaked and grey, unless the weather at Oxford was better at that time. I've never really understood what class means in England, but in Graves's case and at that time I'd go for Upper or Upper-Middle, I think.

I think the full story of why Graves and Riding left for Mallorca in 1929 is yet to be revealed, but most of the presently-accepted versions seem to include the facts that the first idea was to find somewhere where the cost of living was cheaper and to go to France, but when they called on Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tolkas in Paris, Gertrude Stein told them that "Mallorca is paradise, if you can stand that". Whether it was Laura's idea or Robert's to move to Europe I've yet to establish, but I'd always thought that it was Robert's, spurred on by the success of 'Good-bye to All That'; Riding was barely well at the time, and in danger of being prosecuted by the British authorities for attempted suicide.

Certainly I would give Riding the credit for many of the ideals Graves and Riding shared when they moved to Mallorca and settled in Deya, including the design and interior decoration of Cannelun, the home they commissioned there. The interior design would today probably be called 'minimalst' and must have preceeded Habitat, Conran and others by many years. I understand that Beryl both acknowledged and was happy to continue with Laura's style for the interiors of Cannelun. I have just found a copy of the Architectural Digest's 1981 account of the house and it captures the beauty of the minimalist design of the Cannelun interiors.

But it was Robert Graves who designed the lifestyle, making jams, tending compost heaps, involving visitors in domestic tasks, living on the minimum income, using both sides of a piece of paper; he was doing that both before and after meeting Laura Riding; I maintain that she did not rescue him from a grey past and "show him how to live". He had his own firm and pragmatic ideas and adapted these to Laura's literary dictatorship.

Patrick
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David_Hannaford
gleeman


Joined: 25 Oct 2003
Posts: 8
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2004 11:36 pm    Post subject: Laura's dictatorship Reply with quote

All true, Patrick, and I applaud your scholarship. I would not have visited this site if I did not think that Graves was one of the great minds of the 20th Century. Graves' greatest achievement (I feel) was to do more than any person before him to make public what had been unrecognised or secret, that our civilisation and culture is directly decended from one which held that god is a woman.
By Graves' methods (and others), it is possible to re-imagine the social structure of the goddess temple. Simply put, the principal person within the temple is the High Priestess. The majority present are female (priestesses). A male may be admitted, but only by passing rigorous tests set by the High Priestess...tests of poetic skill, tests of language skill, tests of mathematical skill or tests of musical skill.

If you consider the possibility that Laura Riding imagined herself the High Priestess, and Graves her servant High Poet, many things are explained.




Central level: Inside the temple: l to r, Poet (Homer) admitted to the temple, priestesses (hugging), naos: large female figure is the goddess (statue) with the high priestess (Sappho), who stands at the border between the natural and supernatural worlds, beyond which stands Hermes, her conduit to the goddess.

This carving (circa 200BC) may be seen at the British Museum and is entitled The Apotheosis of Homer "apotheosis" means "the process of becoming a god"
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notarius
bard


Joined: 25 May 2002
Posts: 63
Location: Bristol, England

PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2004 8:00 pm    Post subject: Goddess temple Reply with quote

David: Yes, I think that the goddess temple analogy (and illustration!) sums up exactly my understanding of how Graves regarded Laura Riding and, to a lesser extent, his other muses. It's not something that I'd seen before and it puts a great deal into place for me, as you suggest.

I think that Beryl understood this very well, as illustrated by her tolerance of (almost all of) the other muses. It also explains why (as some of Robert's biographers describe) Beryl seemed to become quite uncharacteristically dictatorial and sharp with Robert for a period after she "took over" from Laura and set up home with him in Devon in the early 1940s. Perhaps she felt that for the sake of his work she needed to take the role of the female 'High Priestess'. At least one writer, by the way, has suggested that Graves's most productive period was with Beryl in Devon rather than earlier with Laura in Deya (William Oxley: Robert Graves in Devon: [his most productive period?] Acumen, 35, September 1999, pp. 14-25. Brixham, Devon: The Ember Press, ISSN: 0964-0304.) William Oxley gave me a copy of this article when a 'Blue Plaque' was unveiled at Robert and Beryl's home in Galmpton, Devon last year; with his prior permssion I'd be happy to copy the article to anyone who would like to see it.

I'd maintain, however, that Robert Graves was at heart essentially a very practical and pragmatic person, and 'his own man', who would accept the tyranny of a Muse for his work but at the same time knew that the bills had to be paid and was quite capable of cooking the daily meal, making jam, tending to the compost heap, writing 'pot-boilers' (as Riding described them), going on US lecture tours, selling his manuscripts to US, Canadian and New Zealand universities (very few of whom have ever done anything useful with them), producing journalism for Playboy, and so on, in order to pay for the daily bread and the school fees.

He could also command troops in battle and gain their respect and there's an interesting story that when he, Laura and Karl Gay boarded the British destroyer that evacuated them from Mallorca after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, it was Graves who immediately took command of his group, including Laura, and the party of British evacuees in general, despite having been willingly subject to Laura's every command for the most of the previous 6 or 7 years.

Patrick
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Mark Carter
poet


Joined: 01 Jun 2002
Posts: 28
Location: Bloomington, IL, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 5:56 pm    Post subject: translation sources Reply with quote

Hello again everyone;

After being away for a few months I find myself driven back to the message board in search of yet more answers. I hope nobody minds if I shift the subject back to my favorite area, Graves's sources. Iím still pursuing the roebuck Graves has hidden within White Goddess and have run up against another odd question. Hopefully, Iím not asking the impossible and someone can direct me to an answer.

In chapter six of White Goddess Graves quotes the poem Preiddeu AnnwmThe Spoils of AnnwmĒ) in its entirety. Knowing that Graves had ďno command even of modern WelshĒ I wonder where he found his translation. Notice that he doesnít cite his source. In earlier chapters he offers English translations of Cad Goddeu and Hanes Talieisn from both Nash and Lady Guest and in each instance he cites their names. Yet, for The Spoils he does not. Iím not an expert on Welsh literature but Iíve done some searching and discovered that Gravesís translation does not match that of William Nash or Edward Davies; two of Gravesís major sources for White Goddess. Nor does his translation match that of William Skene or Thomas Stephens; two other popular translators who Graves fails to mention, although he certainly encountered their works second hand via Nash, Davies, and Guest. Lady Guest fails to quote The Spoils at all.

So, where did Graves find his translation? Iím inclined towards two possibilities. First, someone translated this poem directly from the original Welsh Myvyrian Archaiology for Graves. Second, Graves may have compiled his translation of The Spoils by combining lines from the four known translations mentioned above. Iím no expert in textual criticism but Iíd say that the translation of The Spoils in White Goddess follows very closely upon the Nash, Skene and Stephens versions. Therefore, either someone compiled it from these or created a fresh translation from the Welsh and consulted these earlier translations in doing so.

Which (sort of) leads to my next question: what translation of the Welsh Triads did Graves use? Again, Iím not an expert, but if I recall correctly there was no complete translation of the Triads before White Goddess. Was he using some incomplete version or was someone translating from the Myvyrian Archaiology for Graves? If he had help did this person translate all the Triads or just a few?
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ian
bard


Joined: 25 May 2002
Posts: 72
Location: Oxford, England

PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm going to be posting a new feature to the site shortly which is a catalogue of the contents of Robert's library from his home in Deya.

While it won't answer all questions about Graves' sources, it will provide answers to some of them. The books which were in his study in his final years were not necessarly the ones which were there while he was writing The White Goddess; however, some will have been.

I must also point out that Grevel Lindop's essay in Graves and the Goddess http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1575910551/robertgravesso08 does a terrific job of examining Graves' sources and how he used them. For those looking for an approach to the subject from a Celticist's point of view, I recommend Mary-Ann Constantine's essay in the same volume.
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rbourke
rhymer


Joined: 18 Sep 2004
Posts: 2
Location: Western Australia

PostPosted: Sat Sep 18, 2004 10:37 am    Post subject: Re: Article: The Moonís my constant mistress Reply with quote

Mark Carter wrote:
Here's another article I turned up on Robert Graves and The White Goddess. Has anyone else seen this? The article is © 1999 by Roger James Bourke. It seems Bourke is sole proprietor of Quarto Publishing Services and attended St John's College, Cambridge. I'm surprised that I only recently found the article and that Bourke isn't a member of the forum here. Or maybe he's lurking and I simply don't know it? Smile

You can read his article here:

http://www.quarto.iinet.net.au/QUARTO-MISTRESS.pdf


Enjoy!
Mark


I only found out about the existence of this forum recently, and feel I probably should reply to Mark's message (rather than be accused of 'lurking'). The pdf file he lists from my website is the text of my MA Prelim. dissertation at the University of Western Australia. A revised and expanded version of the chapter on Graves and the Elizabethan poets was accepted for publication by Gravesiana in December 2003 (although I don't think the volume itself has appeared yet) as '"The Moon's my constant mistress": Graves and the Elizabethans'. In this article, I examine Graves's ideas about the anonymous English ballad 'Tom o' Bedlam's Song' (c. 1600), which he also refers to in TWG as the 'Loving Mad Tom poem'. I point out that, while it's very hard to accept Graves's reading of 'Tom o' Bedlam's Song' as a Goddess poem, in his comments on English poetry in TWG he ignores a whole sub-genre of Elizabethan 'moon-goddess' poetry that you might have expected he would have used to support his argument about the Goddess as Muse.
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