The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 13, 2013

October 13, 1844

Ernest Myers (October 13, 1844 to November 25, 1921) Victorian poet, and classical scholar, is part of our discussion today, on a theme we call miasma, memory, and monuments. Our theme is how all these share an unsubstantial aspect. The figure of General Gordon was a part of the Victorian imagination. His death at the hands of insurgent African tribes in Khartoum is memorialized in a poem Myers wrote and from which we quote:

General Gordon

On through the Libyan sand 
Rolls ever, mile on mile, 
League on long league, cleaving the rainless land, 
Fed by no friendly wave, the immemorial Nile. 
Beneath the stars, beside the unpausing flood, 
Earth trembles at the wandering lion's roar; 
Trembles again, when in blind thirst of blood 
Sweep the wild tribes along the startled shore.

They sweep and surge and struggle, and are

The mournful desert silence reigns again, 
The immemorial River rolleth on, 
The ordered stars gaze blank upon the plain. 

O awful Presence of the lonely Nile, 
O awful Presence of the starry sky, 
Lo, in this little while 
Unto the mind's true-seeing inward eye 

There hath arisen there
Another haunting Presence as sublime,
As great, as sternly fair;
Yea, rather fairer far

Than stream, or sky, or star,
To live while star shall burn or river roll,
Unmarred by marring Time,
The crown of Being, a heroic soul.
[A soul]
Richer than empires, royaler than kings.
So from our thought, when his enthroned estate 
We inly contemplate, 

All wrangling phantoms fade, and leave us face to face.

Dwell in us, sacred spirit, as in thee 
Dwelt the eternal Love, the eternal Life, 
Nor dwelt in only thee; not thee alone 
We honour reverently, 

Nay, but not only there
Broods thy great Presence, o'er the Libyan plain.
It haunts a kindlier clime, a dearer air,
The liberal air of England, thy loved home.
These lines were included in The Judgment of Prometheus: And Other Poems (1886)

The sentiments Myers expresses are not notable but they are comprehensible. Even now, talk of a "spirit" which "inspires", is commonplace. But I wonder if Myer's arguments are not a way of expressing an apprehension of some extra human reality in terms which are socially comprehensible to modern men.  Poorly thought out sentiments do not usually make good poetry. 

Myers's kin represent bolder attempts to examine a less material bond. His wife was some kind of cousin to Oliver Lodge, (June 12, 1851 to  August 22,  1940) who defended the idea of an ether throughout the universe, which medium Lodge thought might explain mental telepathy. Lodge had been president of the Society for Psychical Research. at one point.

Ernest Meyers had a brother -- F. W. H Meyers -- who was a co- founder of the Society for Psychical Research (1883) and some say, he discovered the collective unconscious. He called it a "subliminal substance." 

People have forgotten all these folks. The questions these people tried to answer are also forgotten. Their answers are in fact not very memorable. But the questions are still there, the questions are quite real.

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