"In the Composition the Father had the same Way as in his Writings, viz : he suspended his considering Faculty, and putting his Spirit on the Pen, followed its Dictates strictly, also were all the Melodies flown from the Mystery of Singing, that was opened within him, therefore have they that Simplicity, which was required, to raise Edification." Peter Miller, Intro to Conrad Beissel's Ninety Nine Mystical Sentences.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Prophecy of a Norwegian Dower Chest, 1889

A  hand made painted and rosemaled decorated Norwegian immigrant dower chest inscribed with the name Magdeli Jahns dr [dotter] Laupsa 1889.

To display this chest the last day of the old year ending, the new year beginning, both chest and year represent a way of life that you may think no longer exists, but it does, and is chronicled here, close on the heels of present virtuality. An app where speech itself is superseded and thought is made into text. However, since you don't know what you think until you speak, the mind is essentially inchoate in communicating with its physical vessel without the medium of speech, and must make simple its multifarious instructions to communicate with the physical--that is the purpose to illustrate how this happens in the speech and writing and writing of this chest. Some pains are taken to explain this in  Language In Voices Out and The Alien Voice.

It seems this chest was made for the young woman Magdeli to come to America, if only because that is where it ended up, in Prescott, Arizona, at an auction with the effects of an old family. It had another box on top as it rested on the auction floor. We removed this and stood guard to prevent any further scratches. It is painted a blue swirl
on the inside top and till, and down two thirds toward the bottom. Two folio sized pages of writing were folded up inside the till. The writing was in ink, in a flowing assured hand on a sturdy ruled tablet paper. I scanned it at the time and it seemed a meditation upon a wedding, hence, a dower chest, but it celebrates a dower for the Wedding of Christ and the church. The writing references King Solomon, but with such poetic speaking as if it were written by Donne with the assurance of Blake. The writing of the decorated outside is Norwegian, but this written proclamation is in British, as is clear from its spellings. No results yet for the author, but a number of efforts were tried. 

For anybody who loves Pennsylvania chests, this chest and its decoration offer contrasts and similarities of several kinds. It feels as if it was hand made by her father from thick barn wood. The bottoms boards have shrunk. It is held by irregularly spaced dovetails and black  iron hasps, hinges and lock. The front is rosemaled, the background and the whole painted brown, and looks as if the front were varnished. It is painted black below and above the center hasp in front and up the sides to mimic the ironwork.

Both floral designs of the front panel are hand painted with slight differences. Leaves form orange swirls downward to meet black swirls coming up from the pedestal base or foot of the design. Each panel is enclosed in squares of orange.

Flower petals go up the black strips on the ends painted to look like metal, also in the center under the lock, which is in the shape of a heart, further evidence of dower.

The whole is painted brown with an overlay of varnish. The sides are irregularly dovetailed, showing they were hand done. Metal straps hinged in the back extend over and down the top from the back to the lip.

 The content suggests Donne. The British spelling of centre in the third paragraph suggests that generic origin. The fourth paragraph, "before us today" suggests a public address, a sermon. The many references to her attire are bolded to show the fine linen in every such chest. 
  ***

This writing  found in the till of a hand made painted decorated immigrant (Norwegian) trunk, that is, a dower chest, inscribed with the name Magdeli Jahns dr[dotter] Laupsa 1889 purchased at auction January 2007 is a prophecy of what is to come.
 Here is the text:
Eph 5- 15-21  Matt 22. 1-14 “Come behold King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, in the day of the rejoicing of his heart.”

It was written for Him, who was greater than Solomon. Mother earth of whose substance his body is composed—thrust a crown of thorns upon his head, in the day of His suffering and death. He would not take the crown before His resurrection, because in His death, all nature died: in His resurrection the new creation first appeared. 

The resurrection of Jesus was His true divine birth as man into that condition in which God had determined that man should be. Jesus is the only true man, the only one, on whom the eye of God can rest with satisfaction, the only one who fulfills God’s purpose when He said “Let us make man in our image.” 

Around Him all the cycles of time revolve, all the purposes of God from the beginning (when there was no man) centre in Him. All the mighty acts of God in heaven and earth and under earth have in Him their chief doer. Is there treasure hid in the field? He it is who searches for it. Is there a goodly pearl? He is the merchant, who sells all that He has, that He may buy that pearl. Is there a sheep lost from the fold of God? He it is who leaves the ninety and nine who never strayed and seeks the lost one till he finds it and bringeth it home on his shoulders rejoicing. A world restored! Not one of them is lost.
And so we have before us today the climax, the crowning act in the salvation of our race, the marriage of the King’s son, and His Coronation.
He would not take the crown when offered it upon earth! He would not take the crown when He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high! He would not take the crown without His bride. 
The prophetic scriptures give us two views of the woman the church; the one sits a queen before the time without Her Lord, without them who wait their resurrection. Of the other it is said  “Unto her it was granted that she should clothed in fine linen, clean and white for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. It is the wedding garment provided by the King. The King’s servants clothe the guests therewith freely.
 It is not a splendid vesture covering filthy rags, the defilement remaining beneath such a condition would be horrible even upon the earth, how much more so in the presence of the King? It is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, imparted to us, in wrought in us. The righteousness of Christ indeed! Made effectual by the Holy Ghost in purging out the old nature, and assimilating our character with His so that we also become righteous.
It is a gradual painful self sacrificing work but necessary for we know that “without holiness, no man will see the Lord” and into those pure gates “Entereth nothing that defileth or maketh a lie.” 
The King’s daughter is all glorious within; his clothing is of wrought gold.” She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle work with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought, they shall enter into the King’s palace. Instead of thy fathers shall by thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth – when the First fruits are caught away—there is heard a loud voice in Heaven saying “Now is come salvation and strength, and the Kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ wherefore rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.
When Babylon is destroyed – “the four and twenty elders, and the four living creatures, fall down and worship God that sat upon the throne saying Amen, hallelujah and a voice came out of the throne saying Praise our God all ye his servants small & great, and I heard the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of great waters, and as the voice of might thunderings saying Allelujah For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him For the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready- Then shall the Heavens rejoice and the earth be glad. Then shall the sea roar and the fullness thereof.” 
            Then shall creation which once grew for Him a crown of thorns yield Him such honour, that it shall be said to all the intelligent beings around the throne of God “Come see King Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned Him, in the day of His espousals, in the day of the rejoicing of His heart.
When we meditate on these things we think, who is sufficient for them? Let us who are strengthened by the Cup of Salvation, and the bread of everlasting life answer joyfully By the grace of God we are.
And unto the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost only as be ascribed in the Church all honour & glory, might, majesty, dominion and blessing now henceforth and forever. Amen.
 Let this be the call for the new year. We no more have such chest but shall get them.

After bidding for the chest we found the  marriage troth handwritten in the till:
 “Come behold King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned
 him in the day of his espousals, in the day of the rejoicing of his heart.”

 Chests of old wood, fraktur, rosemaling, folk arts are as extinct to us as electricity soon enough. The new chair of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, worries that the lack of redundancy in the internet puts all our social-technical systems at risk. Redundancy means here also that books, chests, linens, crafts, even writing itself, all things done by hand, set aside by the virtual machine invention will incapacitate society in their loss, for there is an app where typing is superseded and speech is automatically translated to text. This results in much loss of mental clarity and depth, for syntactic relations make new pathways in the brain that establish cognitive grasp.

 Comparisons to follow in the manufacture of brain pathways Faulkner's sentences produce great mental strength in those who read them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Way Into The Flowering Heart

This is the same double day lily that grew in Anna's garden in Media but which Elizabeth revealed came originally from Uncle George's farm in Worcester, home of the Schwenkfelder emphasis on inner spirituality over outward form. They brought saffron to America and declined amalgamation with the United Church that swallowed most of the other pietistic groups. Their pastors were chosen by lot from the congregation like Mennonites. Several of Uncle George Reiff's daughters, Katie, Lena and Susie, were members.

Raising Hands with the Mind

A lily is the centerpiece of this imagination that transfers Christ and His redemption to nature. Perhaps the likeness is more than symbolic. Among architectures of furnished rooms and philosophies of hymns, gardens and kitchens, this sacrament is the inner garment of earth.

The inward care of earth, the great poem of earth that remains to be written, Wallace Stevens says in The Necessary Angel), finds its unspoken search of the  devotional attitude flowering in Johann Arndt's Paradies Gartlein, the book that would not burn (Sachse, German Sectarians, I, 245, and in Gerhard Tersteegen's Spiritual Flower Garden of the Inner Soul (Geistliches Blumen-Gärtlein inniger Seelen, 1729, Germantown 1747), which was also sung. So if it is said that “Pennsylvania German folk art is basically spiritual in concept and its motifs and designs are non-representational expressions of traditional Christian imagery” (Stoudt, vii),  there is some likeness here with theologian Cornelius van Til calling it a Christian earth along with a Christian moon and sun. Citing Stoudt in defense of the lily is a little like taking Wallace Stevens as he is, a Pennsylvania Dutchman, for we delight to equivocate Dutch men. Stoudt says that when the underlying faith of this people was lost, so was its art. Wallace Stevens also changed from a Berks County farmer to a poetry sophisticate.

If you're of this folk you will be feeling better when you understand that before its elaboration in the writing of Boehme and in Pennsylvania's Ephrata Cloister the lily in the hymns and gardens is an image from the Song of Songs . This inner garden of the larger medieval setting of the terrestrial paradise, of  the German Minnesong and baroque German religious poets (Stoudt, 56), Bernard of Clairvaux and even more obscure Dionysian Neoplatonists, contemplated the lily much as did the English metaphysical poets. Hymnists and poets “escaped to illuminated writings, to the decorated chest, and to pottery” (Stoudt, 92). So a four fold progression accounts the Bible, Boehme, hymns and folk art.

Blossoming the Lily
Fraktur
 As its primary philosopher, Jacob Boehme, was vexed with the soil of this flowering, for the lily was of the earth. "A fair flower grows out of the rough earth which is [also] not like the earth, but declares by its beauty the power of the earth, and how it is mixed of good and evil; so also is every man, who, out of the animal, wild, earthly nature and quality, is born again so as to become the right image of God." 

This flower was to the soil what the human was to the animal, except that man was also a plant. For Boehme the image of God in man in the earth emerged as if from a plant: "For those who are a growth of such a kind, and are shooting forth into the fair lily in the kingdom of God and are in process of birth, have we written this book” (Jacob Boehme, Six Theosophic Points, 4). So "he will blossom like a lily" (Hosea 14.5) making a paradise where none was before. This imaging of the man as a plant overcame the notion that nature was tainted with the human. As all creation groans and travails for its redemption,  the man is both its fall and its rise.

A flowering heart would connote a flowering mind much as the mystical heart diagrams of Paul Kaym, Helleleuchtender Hertzens-Spiegel (1680) give as a series of heart-head images engraved by Nicolaus Häublin, who illustrated the works of Boehme. The lily as an image of nature's redemption, is not however drawn strictly as a botanical lily. This Lily is unknown, a stylized “use of natural events and objects to describe spiritual conditions." Stoudt said that such collective images underlay the life of the Pennsylvania Dutch in hymns, flowers, pottery and linens and “produced an American decorative art which, with few minor exceptions, is the only indigenous art of its kind in our land” (3).

The last thing Pennsylvania Germans  would want to seem is spiritual, which partly explains the discredit Stoudt suffered even if the spiritual intellectuals, Conrad Beissel (1691-1768), baker, founder of Ephrata and Boehme, a shoemaker, were peasants. Boehme influenced Milton, Newton and Emerson, they say, and was early translated to English (1647-1661). At the other end of the centuries Wallace Stevens, baptized at his death, reaffirmed his early life in this tradition of luminous indicia of imagination in his The Necessary Angel, a reflowering from his mother's Bible. The hymnals sang of die unfgehende lilie, the opening lily, the lilen-Zweig, the lily twig and wohlriechenden lilen, the fragrant ones (Stoudt, 85, 89, 95). This inescapable Dutch “tulip,” as Stoudt has it, was an “inarticulate belief in [all] the artist’s heart.” (Pennsylvania German Folk Art, 15).

Detail, silver napkin ring Berks County c. 1880
Pennsylvania German art embodies a spirit of  Inwendigkeit, interior, innerness that decides everything material and immaterial by the mind. Marriage is an imagination, dress an imagination, praising God is an imagination, raising hands with the mind and with the arms. All things are first and last imagined, whether household effects such as chests, linen, plates, or  fraktur art, all celebrate an “uncontaminated good within natural reality” (Stoudt, Pennsylvania German Folk Art, 101). Is it too much to say all human life is this way?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Leaf Meditation Good Friday Rising Early Traveling the Inself Border

The Speech of Corn

Twine a poem about a branch, it will not leaf. Tendrils do not speak. The Inself  gives speech to the plant. What is the speech of corn? What says aloe? Every thing has breath. Plants breathe light. THOSE WHO LOOK TO HIM ARE RADIANT.  I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, a cloud of dew in the midst of harvest.

 At Altamira many millennia of horses and bulls had no words, but spoke rhythm and color. They had no language, nothing written the stones cry.  Breuil says art was an extension of hunt, the worship of life, a celebration.

 These matter when the content is greater than itself, the words' show something more than mundane. Why else make the effort?  Charles Williams designs the figure of a woman and stretches it over the kingdom of Logres, over all of Europe (see the endpapers of Taliessin Through Logres, Oxford, 1938), like the Cave at Altamira and its bison, except Williams' Europe is Logres, Arthur's kingdom, and did not exist as the bison in the real, or it did and now only remains expressed on the cave wall, as the bison, Williams' Taliesin.

Inself sounds much like Inscape. A true statement about Hopkins is that "seen from one point of view Hopkins' work is some dozen nearly perfect lyrics. Seen from another perspective it is a heterogeneous collection of documents...but within this seemingly chaotic mass we can detect a certain persistent structure." J. Hillis Miller. This describes life on the borders. 

Take the border between image and word.
The verbal is the interior leaf,  
images the internal sense,
the leaf inself of the seen,
the leaf inseen of the self.
We must know the leaf inself  alive. The botanist who presses a leaf  must know the leaf alive, but image and word are incompatible.We cannot deny the inself image in three dimensions even if it lives in four. The truest representation is sculpted. A scientist claims to the artist, "you made the leaf, but I discovered it," but the sculptor replies, "you made it too, described it, plucked it, preserved it in glue. It is a construct of your mind and mine." Of course neither one them did, so neither travel to that country.

Can  word be both text and the image,  graffiti over-top? The image cries out to the Branch to be spoken. Word longs to be seen. Fraktur text and image twine. Concrete poems, vispo pretend  paper and type. Blake illustrates. 

 The Cover

So the Inself concedes the out as leaf, or in human terms, a mask, a covering for what exists but cannot be seen. It can't be seen because it is, thought which does not exist in language, but in image. QED? 
Walking one side of this border, up against it, cross immediately the other side. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paradise Narrations

You long for paradise and its art, yearn for it but are told it doesn't exist, that its ideas are counterfeit, and its art, your deepest longing, you can't believe. Talk like this is a trick.  Do believe. When it was in the interest of nineteenth and twentieth century scholars they said they believed, which does not mean they personally thought paradise existed or the extant art of its form. Were paradise the free speech of what pleases, earth's captives of pleasure gardens in all night TV, three harvests and hot tubs, could have their paradises with all the comforts and views. But the art of paradise is not about us. It's about the creatures wild or domesticated that live in a green Thought in a green Shade. Paradise kept with hands brings the natural to the human. Get over disbelief. The child believes, my Wordsworth says, but the adolescent diminishes, imitates the adult. In the private paradise of their minds they go to pillage the garden. Ask and get a perplexed look. One believes in profit. One believes in success. But if you would look for paradise believe as though it were lost. Find a piece. Evening conversations begin, "did you find any paradise today?" Everyone is  looking.

Paradise Narrations, the Restoration of Paradise

A desire to restore earth was forming in the minds of artists concomitant with the industrial revolution, Blake's chimney sweep. Before the present crisis, paralysis- immobilized  agencies were unable to effect  remediation. There was more likely to be a hundred billion subsidy of the car industry than to get a 100 mile a gallon engine. We would have a a 200 mph one. Reinvention paralysis is also metaphorical. Do not sleep past dawn but rise in the night. Thoughts start before four. Creation travails with its problem sons. You could wish they were out of the way, but not if worse were in store. We may go on with daily life, but then wonder why the lights go out. Right up to the end shibboleths of the past argue as if they meant something. Doctrines of the false imagination finish the day and sleep yet another night in evasion and denial.

Empathy for the world is empathy for ourselves, our own healing lies in friendship with the burrow. Whatever the creature is, it is ourselves we endanger, call it salmon, coral reef, shark, prairie dog. What isn't endangered is the exotic importation, the rampant catfish of the Mississippi, non native fish in all streams. When we think to preserve the pristine, we think native with profiling, but our own safeguards and boundaries, whatever they were, surrender to the exotic. The boundaries! This is progress right up until there is no division or all division between us and the natural world. The boundaries, the way we treat nature we treat ourselves, the techniques we use to save it we must use on ourselves, for surely we know that the continuity of folk patterns, which sounds less offensive than to say continuity of nations, that these folk patterns are all that hold us on the ground. Surrendered, the root and stalk of families, will just float away. Kafka's narrators keep talking, for always in the background of their inquiries they seek to find themselves in the other, as though they passed themselves on the street and failed to recognize, which sounds like Borges. It's like they lived in a world surrounded by themselves that they could see but did not know, shadows, simulacrums, puppets, dolls, which look back at them and have the same thoughts they do but neither one knows it. That is what the loss of the wild did to the man, cut him off from himself, so he stumbles in his mind narcotic paralysis but does not see himself as himself, just as those Wonk Yaps seem not to recognize themselves, and even the fiction must be published as if it were an essay.

Kafka's last stories are examples of empathy, always an understanding of a thinking being in Eden in the thoughts of one not an enemy of the world, "Report to an Academy," "Investigations of a Dog," "The Burrow," "Josephine the Singer." The Burrow is after all a disquieted householder maintaining his home. In the silence of narration, "my forehead-that unique instrument," perfectly illustrates our day. The ape in "Report" gives its life for ourselves, just as the hunger artist does, different states of self imprisonment Kafka is prescient about. The ape become a man is now considered by the European Court of Human Rights for treatment  the same  as people. Cases are pending in Spain and Austria, to keep them "from being tortured" (Michele Stumpe, Great Ape Project International). Kafka's animals understand themselves in the natural but the citizens are confused. "The Village Schoolmaster,"obsesses like a rabbi about the the existence of the being that is not, the giant mole which he suspects is a picture of ourselves. To borrow  identity from the natural means to reckon pit pony who went blind in British coal mines an image of ourselves imprisoned by forces we can only feel elsewhere.

Of what does paradise consist, the mountain, dramatic sunsets or the mouse, wee and huge? Two views of it, the outward, where the thing is surface, and the inward, vested with  understanding, a corn field resurrection, a pine tree transformed as Van Gogh makes field and sky alternate, so that if enough people see them they  come to pass.  Dylan Thomas built a synagogue in an ear of corn (A Refusal to Mourn) a church the size of a snail / With its horns through mist and the castle / Brown as owls, and the heron priested shore (Poem in October). Blake in Songs, Roethke, The Far Field, though demented, Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers (1923), T. H. White, The Book of Merlyn, Ted Hughes, Barry Lopez, Aesop patches of these inhabitants the Wolverine, Field Notes, empathy for the biological,  and for the dead in Apologia. T. H. White's instructs of the animals to Arthur in The Book  of Merlyn sprung from his translated 12th century bestiary, The Book of Beasts.

These amount to a naming of the animals, for to name a thing you must understand its nature, dream of it, meditate it like St. Francis, but not like a government biologist thinning wild horse herds or elk to protect cattle. It is the level of care than makes these things possible, for if you don't care you lose it, masquerading human good as a care of the wild. How Adam took care of the garden, meaning the lives within it, might need some examination, so preconditions of paradise exist, the main one is health; you must think free of hindrance, fatigue, prejudice, greed.
 Paradise goes further. Free of the separation which we reckon occurred with the serpent. If we say America is a paradise, as in myth before its discovery, but that America is besieged by enemies who call it a colonial fantasy of sexism and racism, it is what you call it. Thinking makes it so. Enemies of paradise destroy forests, prairies and animals, dystopia over utopia, symbols of destruction over innocence that fantasies of paradise invite. It's hard to imagine paradise in an age of experience that denies even while it longs for memories of wholeness it forgot. Was there peace? Rational discourse takes paradise as a waste. Nobody wants the inferno, but there is no succor in the disconnect.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fraktur and the Secret Furniture of Jerusalem's Chamber. Pennsylvania Dutch Paradise.


Thomas Merton illumines fraktur against "the blindness of 'single vision' which sees only the outward material surface of reality, not its inner spiritual form and the still more spiritual 'force' from which the form proceeds" (74). Shaker "work of the craftsman's hands had to be an embodiment of 'form.' The form had to be an expression of spiritual force. The force sprang directly from the mystery of God through Christ in the Believing artist" (79). The believing artist, given these forms in hand and mind by a spiritual force, God in Christ, would not find illumination outside these beliefs. Merton says Shaker art has "something to do with what Blake called 'the secret furniture of Jerusalem's chamber'" (74), that "a work-a-day bench, cupboard, or table might also and at the same time be furniture in and for heaven" (74). For Merton it is also obvious that "Shaker inspiration was communal...due not to the individual craftsman but to the community spirit and consciousness of the Believers" (76).

Anabaptists like the Shakers practice the communal production of their forms. Merton says Shaker forms were "a better, clearer, more comprehensible expression of their faith than their written theology" (76), which is what Stoudt says of Pennsylvania art, whose theology was a mythology seeing the outer surface through the inner form, the "spiritual force from which the form proceeds" (Merton, 74).

Merton, Shakers, Blake and fraktur celebrate images of the natural fruition of paradise, a renewal of plant and animal that finds human life amid these images as a means of the flowering heart. Frakturs covered with lilies in the shape of a tulip, images of a tulip blooming from a heart, roosters, flower-stars or any field or haystack transformed by the renewing mind, a spider, a fly, a rooster, child, cow, farmer, sky, grass endowed with plain dress by unplain people ornate in their inner lives, "their only advertisement was the work itself" (Merton, 79) in the field, orchard and plant. Spiritual conditions made out of the natural set Pennsylvanians apart. This celebration of life was much opposed to the surrounding English culture whose domination of peoples and empires had commercial motives.

Believing and Doing

Recapturing this Lily Age might be like trying to live out the prophecies of Blake, meditating mental archetypes, giant forms. But the Lily has as much to do with the artifact as the Elohim have to do with the hex.  Both are round. You can't get the Lily by running counterfeit. The Lily Age is not about nostalgia for a thing that once existed, stone pullers, horseback riders. You have to live it. Paradise is not an external state. It is interior, matching something unseen, mirrored in the seen, connected to an organic field, an image of the Kingdom of God, the ground out of which the Lily grows. Artifacts may be said to leave a trail of crumbs to show the external where it belongs.

To this comparison of  fraktur and Shaker add  Blake's relation of art and text. Blake's images, his decoration, languished in much the same way as fraktur text, divorced, when his work was neither reproduced nor understood. Even though Weiser says "Fraktur existed for the sake of the texts," and "a few selected images to convey the message," nobody read those texts, much less took them seriously. Weiser says it was because of a "preoccupation with death and religious themes" (xxvii), but such themes abound everywhere in English poetry, so why should it diminish the German? Separated from the text, fraktur decorations resemble Blake's art divorced from his writing. The visual image was accepted before the written.

If we could prove it was something esoteric it would get a following, but how can there be a vision in fraktur when it had multiple authors? The vision is communal but not as esoteric among its practitioners as Blake among the scholars who spin a theory of imagination out of his evangel Jerusalem. Until Erdman or Frye, critics were affronted at the idea of a coherent system in Blake. Their cousins among Pennsylvania critics are equally affronted at a hidden meaning of fraktur texts. Stoudt started to find it out, but his pietist peasants and Catholic saints got little support for a hidden world in hymns. It affronted scholars also when he claimed a personal transcendentalism for thousands of Pennsylvanians a century before New England. Pennsylvania could have been credited had it come after, but coming before was not allowed. What is a personal transcendentalist? You have the idea and live it instead of talk about it. It sounds like the Hopi elders.

 Seeing life from inside out takes getting used to. It always seems impossible from the outside, which asks how it is possible even to be immersed in a name, let alone to remain there. It is rather like that series of embeddings that take place in many of the Psalms.
 [Coming someday, a consideration of German Literary Influences in the American Transcendentalists.]
Stoudt's Pennsylvania mystics ally with the Shakers. Thomas Merton's Seeking Paradise: The Spirit of the Shakers (2003) has a view of The Inner Experience.  Merton's phrase "images of Paradise" translates this art of making. It is about believing and doing, "the peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit on it" (Shakers, 85).

Such believing is a stumbling block to visions among the critical classes, the prescient Milton taking dictation of the Holy Spirit each night to compose Paradise Lost, the Shakers, who "believed their furniture was designed by angels--and Blake believed his ideas for poems and engraving came from heavenly spirits" (85). It is a great irony that Blake says his poem entitled Milton was dictated to him (Ruthven, 63). A little of this frustrates a lot of rationalist.

 The relation of Pennsylvanians to decoration of tulips, hearts, stars and crowns, Mennonites turning flowers into bookmarks to bring paradise indoors, linens, furniture and pottery of communal tulips that grow from paper to linen and wood, letters that whirl, signatures in spirals and stipples, a plain board, cap or or cup  of inner spiritual form from which the outer proceeds, greater decoration the less.

K. K. Ruthven. Critical Assumptions.
 Frederick S. Weiser and Howell J. Heaney. The Pennsylvania German Fraktur. Breingigsville: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1976.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mythic Flowers

Mythic Flowers and the Flower of the Golden Age


How distinguish larkspur, narcissus, amaranth and apple from vitex, aconite and fennel as fine herbs? Larkspur with death of Ajax, narcissus by the lesson of that name, amaranth the heavenly flower of Milton, and apple blossoms at all weddings. So appealing, but not just Ajax, Taliesin, Aneirin and Siegfried shed their blood their blood on flowers. Long the days and long the nights I held  / this image in my mind of red on gold, blood on flowers. The blood of the wounds of the world / Thus the red flower shed, / “I lay on the bloody field, / I it was who bled.” And not just weddings in the celestial either gather in the heaven violets and the rose of Sharon and lay them beneath the shining blossoms that fall.  Who would think it so preoccupied, the apple blossom and generic blood?  But more amaranth Lies Bleeding, stretches all bejeweled, /  I watch the fields that purple with their blood, / incarnate flowers quicker turn to red. How compare the thyrsus fennel of Promethus, the aconite spit of Cerberus or the Chaste tree vitex of Hera's chastity with these and more? Some myths come real  that stand for the flower of the mind or heart, temporal, eternal,

 Added on to the Greek virtue of this was fine living in Scottsdale. That's what they call the Dale of Arcady and Tempe now.  New world discoverers have also added golf to it, which compares nicely to the English and Spanish who found the gold lying on the ground the size of a walnut, with its head as big as a child. The horror and defamation of the child, the encephalitic head, the greed of the prospector, the implicit decapitation from the natural all sum up what the golden age in America became while it was pretended that Virgil read Isaiah right into his Fourth Eclogue, “The Golden Age Return.”  

Spiritual pleading turned physical with a Midas touch. In The Golden Age Return the ram changes the color into a rainbow fleece,  grapes are rubies and corn gold, which  of course is the world that later turned to  tin. The new dirt of the garden that grew these counterfeits was politics spread thick. Not manure, gold and politics don’t fertilize anything, they petrify, useful for preserving the status ego. Golden age decoration like the competition for praise of the lady among Elizabethans, where beauty's opposites ended in the black wires that grew on Shakespeare's  lady’s head (Sonnet 130) oppose the Revelation of St. John.
Virgil and his upstarts took home  the flower of the golden age of gain and entertainment, facetiousness and mockery,  made over with selling points like the love place, a locus amoenus, good weather, benign nature, but these did not put on virtue. The grape was ruby and the green gold a thousand years later, further gilded up, got developers like Sannazaro to dress up lords and ladies dress as shepherds and shepherdesses and pretend the rustic age.Like the people of Scottsdale sitting on the boards of charities.

History has contracted a fever from this romance. Earlier and later science did too. Pliny’s Natural History said a gorse bush could bear gold.  He prefabed a gold mine from the root of the plant so its leaf ash could be sieved for gold. Metabolic gold was no more superstitious than recent science saying there is an arsenic based bacteria. The NASA trade of arsenic for phosphate in DNA strands is very like Pliny saying the plant transpired gold. It is not far from Pliny to Peter Martyr who said  in 1515 that he could pick up pieces of gold from the ground that compared with a nut or a fruit, as big as a walnut, and the biggest as big as an orange. Of course neither was it far for scientists to speculate they had found a model of alien life at Mono Lake, especially since all along the whole scientific establishment had been seeking to contact extra terrestrials.

Not to detract from legitimate extremophiles, the gorse bush does not discredit the garden club, but its coarse fantasy that reality is a matter of belief has science endlessly congratulating itself over both its mistakes and their corrections which denigrating philosophy as mere belief lacking empirical logic. Percival Lowell found canals on Mars and mathematical perturbations in the orbit of Neptune leading to the discovery of Pluto from a Shinto trance in Japan! (See Occult Japan).  Pluto was made and unmade a planet by democratic vote, and may be headed back to planetary status with the New Horizons photo of a whale on Pluto, while scientists make the same self congratulatory noises with their mouths and seek grants just the way Raleigh sought his El Dorado gold:

"There came an old man bringing with him two pebble stones of gold weighing an ounce…who when he saw our men marvel at the bigness thereof, he made signs that they were but small and of no value in respect of some that he had seen. And taking in his hand four stones the least whereof was as big as a walnut, and the biggest as big as an orange, he said that there was found pieces so big in his country…Beside this old man, there came also divers other, bringing with them pebble stones, gold weighing x. or xii. Drams: And feared not to confess that in the place where they gathered that gold, there were found sometime ) Stones of gold as big as the head of a child .”  (Peter Martyr, The Third Book of the First Decade of the Ocean, tr. By Richard Eden, ed. by Edward Arber, 1885, 74).]

If  nuggets are like walnuts and oranges that implies a tree, a gold tree that might be found in earth, in addition to the gold plant Pliny found. But this is not the gold tree found in a man, subject for another time. The fact is that  “beautiful colors instead of flowers, round stones of golden earth instead of fruits and thin plates instead of leaves” are not so important as the botanical metaphor that encourages the vegetable gold.

"They lay that the roote of the golden tree extendeth to the center of the earth and there taketh norifhement of increafe. For the deaper that they dygge, they fynd the trunkes therof to be fo muche the greater as farre as they maye folowe it for abundaunce of water fpringing in the montaines. Of the braunches of this tree, they fynde fumme as fmaule as a threde, and other as bygge as a mannes fynger accordynge to the largeneffe or flraightneffe of the ryftes and clyftes. They haue fumetimes chaunced vpon hole caues fufteyned and borne vp as it were with golden pyllars: And this in the wayes by the whiche the branches afcende: The whiche beynge fylled with the fubflaunce of the truncke creapynge from beneath, the branche maketh it felfe waye by whiche it maye paffe owte. It is oftentymes diuided by encounterynge with fum kynde of harde ftone. Yet is it in other clyftes nooriffhed by the exhalations and vertue of the roote. But now perhappes yowe will afke me what plentie of golde is brought from thenfe. The Third Decade,. Martyr, 173



They haue founde by experience, that the vayne of golde is a lyuinge tree: And that the fame by all wayes that it fpreadeth and fpringeth from the roote by the fofte pores and paffages of the yearth, putteth foorth branches euen vnto the vppermoft part of the earth, and ceafeth not vntyl it difcouer it felfe vnto the open ayer: At whiche time, it fheweth foorth certaine bewtifull colours in the fteede of floures, rounde ftones of golden earth in the fteede of frutes, and thynne plates in fteede of leaues…
[They have found by experience, that the vein of gold is a living tree and that the same by all ways that spreads and springs from the root by the soft pores and passages of the earth, puts forth branches even into the uppermost part of the earth, and ceases not until it discover it self into the open air. At which time it shows forth certain beautiful colors instead of flowers, round stones of golden earth instead of fruits and thin plates instead of leaves.]


This idea abstracted from the gold, the age and the plant common to the fairy tale discovers romance. Romance became history just as space travel became geography and so on. They believed their science as much as we do ours. Look at the gold spread in shining bits over the grass! And look in the parking lots!


Renaissance Vegetable Klondike

 Was it the pastoral or the gold they found?  Eternity for the Greek is long. What to do? If we could just get in one of those gardens and pluck we’d never have to work again. You feel excitement at the scheme. The Roman court and garden naturalized its heavenly gold to begin the third millennium of its restoration. Biringuccio (1540) said “in some places of Hungry…pure gold springs out of the earth in the likeness of small herbs.”

That is, that in fum places of Hungarie at certeyne tymes of the yeare, pure golde fpryngeth owte of the earthe in the lykenefle of fmaule herbes, wrethed and twyned lyke fmaule ftalkes of hoppes, about the byggenefle of a pack threade, and foure fyngers in length or fume a handfulL As concernynge which thynge, Plinie alfo in the. xxxiii. [thirty-third] boke of his naturall hyflorie, wryteth the lyke to haue chaunced in Dalmatia in his tyme. The which (if it bee trewe) fuerly the hufbande men of thefe fieldes mall reape heauenly and not earthly frutes, fent them of god from heauen, and browght furth of nature withowt theyr trauayle or arte. A grace doubtleffe moft efpecial, fyth that in fo great a quantitie of earth graunted to the poflefllon of men, in maner onely this is thought woorthy fo hygh a priuileage. But what mall I fay of that wherof Albertus Magnus wryteth in his booke of minerals, affirmynge that he hath feene golde engendered in a deade mans heade : And that the fame beinge founde by chaunce in dyggynge, and perceaued by the weyght and coloure to conteyne fum rainerall fubflaunce, was proued by experience to holde a portion of fine golde mixte with fmaule fande. And in deede his woordes feeme to found to none other fence but only that this precious inetall was engender[e]d there by the great difpofition of the place and ftronge influence of heauen : The which fuerlie is a thynge hardely to be beleued. Yet confyderynge th[e]autoritie of fo greate a clerke, with the force of the fuperiour caufes and the maruelous poure of nature, I had rather gyue fayth hereto then raflhely to contemne the iudgement of fo greate a clarke. 364

[Translated: In some places of Hungary at certain times of the year, pure gold springs out of the earth in the likeness of small herbs, wreathed and twined like small stalks of hops, about the bigness of a pack thread, and four fingers in length or some a handful.. As concerning which thing Pliny also in the xxxiii book of his natural history, writes the like to have chanced in Dalmatia in his time. The which (if it be true) surely the husband mn of these fields mall reap heavenly and not earthly fruits, sent them of god from heaven, and brought forth of nature without their travail or art.” Biringuccio (1540)] There is a modern edition (1990) by Smith Gnudi.

Attributed to Pliny, this myth held that “these fields shall reap heavenly and earthly fruits mixed up  mortal and immortal together. It made a vegetable Klondike of the golden age. They loved repeating each other, whether small herbs, gold trees or gorse.

To Biringuccio, "Wherfor, the diligent fearchers of mines, willing by a certeyne fimilitude declare howe the mynes are placed in the mountaynes, haue figured a greate tree full of branches planted in the myddefle of the bafe of a mountayne, frome the whyche are diriued dyuers and many bouwes and branches, fum greate and fum fmaule, muche like vnto verye trees that are in owlde woddes."  (356 Pyrotechnia)


He could mean for all intents and purposes The Hobbit's Misty Mountains. All legendary places and golden states pick gold from such trees even if they are mines. The nuggets “as big as a walnut…as big as an orange” reported by Arbor in 1515 in England, and added to Virgil, Homer and Hesiod, were as easily discovered in the new world as dot.com bubbles in latter day pyramid America and airbrush mortgages. 

To justify his own tale Raleigh tells another heard of the Inca to compare with  the perfect metal garden he would find in Guiana. Just as Biringuccio quotes Pliny about the gold likeness of small herbs, Raleigh cites Lopez to prove El Dorado, as if it were a simple matter of belief, “but read the report of Francisco Lopez and others, it will seem more than credible.” What credible? Lopez says “they say, the Incas had a garden of pleasure in an island near Puna, where they went to recreate themselves, when they would take the air of the sea, which had all kinds of garden-herbs, flowers, and trees of gold and silver.” They knew Virgil too.

 This was nothing to what the emperor of Guiana had: "All the vessels of his house, table, and kitchen, were of gold and silver, and the meanest of silver and copper for strength and hardness of metal. He had in his wardrobe hollow statues of gold which seemed giants, and the figures in proportion and bigness of all the beasts, birds, trees, and herbs, that the earth bringeth forth; and of all the fishes that the sea or waters of his kingdom breedeth. He had also ropes, budgets, chests, and troughs of gold and silver, heaps of billets of gold, that seemed wood marked out to burn. Finally, there was nothing in his country whereof he had not the counterfeit in gold.

  When an age begins with the discovery of Utopia (1516) poetic travel is a major  occupation. Even if gold is denigrated in Utopia, used in chamber pots and to bind criminals, that was only a mock contempt. By the time of Eastward Hoe (1605) the adventurer bound for Virginia takes the gold chamber pots and chains and adds to them rubies and diamonds from the shore. It’s enough to confuse Raleigh on his way to the gallows, that Pilgrimage

 towards the land of heaven;
Over the silver mountains,
Where spring the nectar fountains…

Then the blessed paths we`ll travel,
Strowed with rubies thick as gravel;
Ceilings of diamonds, sapphire floors,
High walls of coral and pearly bowers.

Poetry, discovery, earth, Virginia, Guiana, the golden age or heaven, “pearly bowers,” trees turn pearl?  Joined in the pastoral to make the temporal eternal, as real as Roman empire, the virtue of the golden age would “buy of them the pearles of earth, and sell to them the pearles of heaven (A True Declaration of Virginia (1610). By the end of the day Abraham Cowley was echoing the sentiments of Sir Thomas More, “call in more Spaniards to remove the rest.” (“America: Phoebus Speaks.” (De Plantis, V) because the lust for gold made itself felt so strongly, whether in Guiana or Virginia, that John Smith said “there was no talk, no hope, no work but dig gold, wash gold, refine gold, load gold” (General History of Virginia, 1624).

 But the golden age was forfeit long before. Spenser saw it transfer virtue to counterfeit grapes: in his Bower of Bliss (1590):  “as the Rubine, laughing sweetly red, / some like fair emeralds, not yet well ripened…and them amongst, some were of burnish’t gold, / So made by art, to beautify the rest” (FQ, II, xii, 54-5).

The green gold ivy there is double ivy disguised as gold and gold as ivy: “that wight, who did not well advised it view, / Would surely deem it to be ivy true" (61).  Spenser does to Virgil what Shakespeare did to the Petrarch, give a lie to the lie. Virgil and Plutarch seem in danger of believing the naivete of their poems. Spenser’s garden is an artistry of Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue where waving corn-crops shall to golden grow. In this trap for sense, mock nature the living, who have no business there, enter the golden garden, but see only the fake grape, the pleasure of the world. This is so because this world cannot see into the next which the golden age prefigures. Spenser gives these counterfeiters their due, finishes them off, which we have waited a thousand years for. They are turned to hogs, “now turned into figures hideous, / According to their minds like monstrous” (85). So travelers and got their comeuppance.

 The walnuts on the ground, the leaves are deception. Spenser makes the fruit of gold poison.Tantalus invoked, reaches up his hand from the stream, but even if he got the fruit the joke is it’s gold and worthless. Here among all the floral gold the fruit resides as a damsel of the fountain, paradise, golden age and every association in one. She looses her hair “which flowing long and thick, her cloth’d around, / and the ivory in golden mantle gowned” (FQ II, xii, 67). Virgil reversed, but not a pear you can eat.

 Decorative effects of nature thrived. Poets were more nuts than explorers. The “silver-sanded shore,” myrrh-breathing Zephyr,” (Drayton), “nothing that bears a life but brings a treasure” (Fletcher). Cowley translates Pindar, “jewels for their fruit they bear.” The “enameled meadows” express the eternal to the temporal. Virgil brought the golden age to Rome and Waller took it to Bermuda, “the Hesperian garden.”

Of course the lamp was light, all along the sense of the gold, but as light was misunderstood for color and color for gold, virtue continued its fall. Only briefly is the vegetable restored in Marvell’s Bermudas:

He hangs in shades the Orange bright,
Like golden Lamps in a green Night.
And does in the Pomegranates close,
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.

This did not defeat the plenteous explorations, but the course correction gets high finish in Milton, who sums the entire tradition in his vegetable gold: “the tree of life, /High eminent, blooming Ambrosial Fruit / of vegetable Gold” (PL IV, 218-9), the pliant form and vitality taken back from the metal hardness and greed. Milton calls the artifice that characterized Roman and renaissance pleasure gold a “nice art.” The pretense that art improves nature is gone. Nice art is a human exacting, restraining, ordering of nature into unflattering “curious knots.” opposes  “nature boon.” Earlier the phrase “if Art could tell” shows the impossibility of ordering a description of the garden in the first place. That is, Milton takes art out of the natural setting and puts it back in the poet, or rather, Milton puts the flower of the golden age back in the ground. Once again beyond imitation, breezes are not perfumed with incense, ambergris or myrrh, but with “odorous Gums and Balm.” The vegetable gold and “Golden Rind” are simply natural, unlike the gold apples, walnuts or ivy. 



So the Golden Age and pleasure, the pastoral and fine weather, gold, blessed, fortunate, immortals are  frozen in space and time. The dead yellow hedge. Even these extremes of the garden begged to be outdone, as might be said of Huysmans’ poison flowers and cannibal plants, (in Against the Grain) that they form a reverse golden age that gets you first. Nobody in literature seems to have noticed until recently that the natural world was being systemically killed off.  Weren’t we all prospering?


If this synthesis of botany and geology, vegetable plant and mineral gold, could make art better than nature, more beautiful, you didn’t need actually need nature any more, so the notion that art imitates life was reversed, instead nature, improved by art, exactly the premise of biologists manipulating the genome, was supplied with those deficiencies obvious to human greed. Cloning of geology and botany into the imaginative landscape of the golden age made a nature as deficient in the natural as the human was of virtue, the prerequisite of the golden age in the first place.  It was a precursor of the modern artificial heart. They’d at least get rich in the fantasy. This joke is the same as late night  TV on politics, but with a bite, for in the corruption of nature it takes a human.


Nobody could be blamed for looking for a silver lining in all this. What it was really about? As a metaphor of alchemy, the suppleness of green joined with the incorruptibility of the gold was an inherent paradox, but sunlight stood behind the metaphor  of the gold, to which all the attributes of gold attached. Light was the pristine sense of gold, the incorruptibility of the sun. So the alchemic green gold of poets was really sun on a leaf.

Green and gold  had developed together in Rome, but beyond the celebration of gold as a toy of the rich lay a yearning for immortality. Poetry again corrupted philosophy and cross fertilized with texts of a pristine Eden where the relation of plant and light stood for the relation human and divine. This older metaphor of gold as light transcends the younger literal gold flower, but they joined where the outward sense transformed by its mineral met the inward sense of the human made eternal by gold. That was photosynthesis, transformed by light beyond expectation or precedent.

As an idea of immortality The golden age unexplained by the Greeks was trivialized  by the Romans with little notion of this.  The quest for immortality sometimes caused grief, especially when some powerful person’s plan in the history of religion was crossed, So what was the picture of the outer gold nature of the Romans compared to the inner aspects in the biblical prophets of mineral transformation and the human photosynthesis?
Whether the gold lay behind them in the golden age or ahead in future millennia, there was never a sense in classical writers as in biblical prophets that it existed in the present.

According to Hesiod To get to the Golden Age you had to either die at the end of the first Golden race of men or in the Trojan War. Pindar allowed you could get there by living the three mythical Pythagorean lives. Greek Menelaus’ virtue as the son in law of Zeus, was a whimsical Orphic exemption allowing him immortality because he married Helen,  but virtuous lives in Pythagoras involved chastity and self control maybe too great a price to pay.  

Gold nature abstracted, divided from its source, sucked the essence of nature and transferred it elsewhere, opposing the process of incarnation in photosynthesis where energy stored in the thing did not divide from that source.



Works Cited


Arber, Edward (ed.). The First Three English Books on America. Birmingham, 1885.

There came a owld man bringynge with him two pybble flones of goulde weighinge an vnce, defyrynge them to gyue him a bell for the fame who when he fawe oure men maruell at the byggenes therof, he made fignes that they were but fmaule and of no value in refpecte of fume that he had feene. And takynge in his hande foure ftones the leaft wherof was as bygge as a walnut, and the byggefl as bygge as an orange, …Befyde this owld man, there came alfo dyuers other, brynginge with them pypple ftones of gold weighing, x. or. xii. drammes : And feared not to confefle, that in the place where they gathered that golde, there were found fumtyme ftones of gold as bygge as the heade of a child.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New England vs. Pennsylvania

It is no joke that racism and biological extinction lay down like wolves at the door of the Puritan and the English in general. Question more deeply the house and those within if you dare, but for their own reasons the Pennsylvania Dutch were not so afraid. Many had faced their adversary in the old world tortures. Here, in the milder circumstance of Pennsylvania they domesticated nature, invited it indoors, befriended it in their own natures, and while they spoke little of this faith, painted it, embroidered it, sculpted it and threw it on the forge. Thus domesticated, Pennsylvania didn’t produce a Scarlet Letter or spooky stories, but decorated chests and barns.

Concepts of nature thus underlie the two competing American philosophies of the Puritan and Pennsylvania Dutch. What they thought of themselves they thought of nature equivocated as human nature, not the natural world. "World" was a place of temptation, not the eco-sphere. Both philosophies projected an image of themselves outward.

New England puritans, conditioned by their fear, took the view that "the world," meaning nature, would contaminate them. Many such ideas were misapplied by the mind of the believer. The baggage of puritan beliefs was more toxic in the austere climate and soil of New England. Garrisoned against the natural they would have welcomed the Pennsylvania genius inviting nature indoors (as they did a century later in the guise of transcendentalism), had they not feared the unknown that lurked at the clearing's edge. By 1850 transcendentalism made them long for the pond, but two centuries earlier New England believed that the savage Indians, wild men and their own sins were only kept at bay by fear of the soil and cutting back its growth, which helps explain natural demolitions such as clear cutting the forest three and four centuries later. Prevent sin and make a profit. The idea of sin in nature perverted creation in their souls. Against the evil they found in themselves, projected outwardly, they erected a theology of dominion and racial superiority. In a new puritan age today, "this spiritual imagination is impotent, sterile, or dead, is necessarily going to be an era of violence, chaos, destruction, madness, and slaughter" (Merton, Seeking Paradise, 85).

One cannot say the puritan hid his malaise. He legalized it, celebrated it with intellectualism. Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather drew sharp lines. If you disagreed with the governmental/pastoral views you had better be quiet about it. These things are thrown into sharper contrast compared with the milder governmental/pastoral conditions of Pennsylvania, where the English were and still are the majority party. Making literature into sociology tempts an effect of depravity upon nature from Hawthorne, whose "virgin soil as a cemetery" (Scarlet Letter, ), "the pine trees, aged, black, and solemn, and flinging groans and other melancholy utterances on the breeze, needed little transformation to figure as Puritan elders; the ugliest weeds of the garden were their children."

There are any number of such statements to the effect that "to the Puritan, nature was not benign. The wilderness was a place of terror"“ (Broyles), or as William Bradford put it (1620) "a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men." Michael Broyles makes the telling observation that "much of the story [of Pilgrim's Progress] is set in America...it was the metaphorical terrain the believer had to traverse...," which he says to differentiate the kinder nature of Puritan composer William Billings who was opposed to his fellows (The New England Psalm Singer, 1770) also see Mavericks and Other Traditions in American Music, 25). A great deal more than this has been said of the Puritan fear of those first two centuries.

Divide and conquer is the oldest rule of opposition, Quakers aside, who had more in common with the pacifist PA sects than with those who came to rule in Pennsylvania before the Revolution. These English exploited difference among the Pennsylvania German peace lovers, which admittedly the colony had been founded to pursue. Relations with the "world" were a sticking point for immigrants of the Lily. Some held differing taxonomies of Church and Sect, celebrated to this day as insoluble, that is of the churched vs. the plain. Should they be in love, half in love or not at all? The divided separate but equal existence of Germans alongside the English in American civilization came to an end after the Civil War, for then, though the Dutch were still divided, they were assimilated. Some people think the Amish are the last bastion of the "separated" and that these differences existed even in 1950, that is, speaking German, farming, going barefoot, everything the matriarch, Anna Mack, despised. The Amish may continue to exist in 2050, but assimilation got all the rest.

Compromise
For a long time Pennsylvania Germans sought to show that even if they were German they really did belong. Millard Gladfelter in his Foreword to Pennsylvania German Fraktur demonstrates this view when he refers to the persistent contests among Pennsylvania cultures for retention of custom and language" (ix). His "contests" feature a cultural cold war between the English "on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers" and the Germans of "outlying countrysides." In the same volume Weiser is at pains to make the Dutch into Americans. He broadens the mandate of Penn's colony into "the much-celebrated openness of the United States...to receive into its midst persons and cultures of widely disparate origin" (xiii). But it was not the United States that welcomed them, but Penn's Quaker Pennsylvania. American is a misnomer here for the English and Puritan, but it has to be, for the English never welcomed the disparate, the range given by Gladfelter from "Negro Spirituals to Pennsylvania German Fraktur" (1x). Quite otherwise, they exploited them. So in order to fit in, assimilate even in the bi-centennial world of 1976 that these volumes commemorate, Weiser constructs a rhetoric that celebrates the whole for its part, the United States for Pennsylvania, but it was only Pennsylvania that welcomed the diverse. Weiser's Introduction of Fraktur is worth attending because he expresses transparently the attitudes and prejudices in the background of paradise art.

There is a perennial defensiveness in Pennsylvania German writing about the survival of its folk culture. "We are richer for it,' says Weiser. Instead of celebrating the dishes and language for themselves, it has to be for "the tolerance of American polity" (xiii), almost apologizing for being. Welcoming the diverse may be what America says of itself today on the Statue of Liberty, but to the extent it is true, the only practical example was among the Pennsylvania Germans in Philadelphia. Then the American rhetoric hatched that all men are created equal. It is a Pennsylvania dream of equality that Weiser celebrates "in styles at variance with the majority" (xiii), not an American one, even if it becomes so, and it was not "the majority," they were at variance with, it was the English! Reading all these continual apologies for their Dutch defensiveness, it isn't that they are false to the fact so much that they apologize for being what they are. Keyser, commenting on the texts of fraktur in his Preface to Hershey's book, doesn't have to add, but does that "none of this little-studied body of folk poetry is fine literature" (8), he could easily have said, "these texts are an invaluable window into the mind of their art."

Borrowings From Betters

Even friends of fraktur feel they must not seem partisan. Weiser says that "with some exceptions, the motifs of Fraktur are simply embellishment and have no esoteric meaning or function beyond the beautification of the piece" (xxvii). Hershey defends fraktur as cultivating the beautiful, "a process that stretches the imagination and pushes the artist toward an appreciation and even a love for things beautiful"(52). Even! Why are such things said? Answer with a question, "Why else would this large body of folk art...have been preserved and so obviously treasured?" It is only the PA Dutch who can doubt their beauty while everyone else celebrates it. After examining a thousand piece of fraktur Hershey says that in some cases the design illustrates the text, but mostly they are "lovely compositions," pretty pictures if you will that "convey religious meaning equally as well as they communicate the value of beauty in everyday life" (56). One feels like drowning in the tepid.

The abstraction of image from text proliferated from fraktur through the other folk art genres of linens, chests, pots, ironwork and barns. This encouraged the divorce of meaning from text, Stoudt's point, that the images derive meaning from the hymns, etc., but that their later abstraction does not sever their prior connection to this origin. Weiser wants the images to be an imitation of the nobility by the middle class, a folk art, of "cultural sinking from the tastes of upper levels of society" (xxviii), not a rising from the unconscious or from the hymns as we know all art truly is. He uses this failing social/political analysis in his Preface to the Pennsylvania German Decorated Chest. It is the omnipresent Dutch apology that they were brutish peasant boors who could do nothing creative but imitate in bastardy their betters.

Keyser says "none of this little-studied body of folk poetry is fine literature" (This Teaching, 8). Who does not quarrel with such a plebian notion of fine? It is an odd determination if this little-studied art is compared with Mozart, but not with Kafka or Borges, who though entirely irrelevant, also apply for "fineness" in vain. Has such a claim of fine been made of other folk art? "Their copies of upper class, from furnishings to portraits, to attire, are frequently grouped together under the name of folk art" (Chest, 13). Weiser's "constant cultural sinking from the tastes of upper levels of society" so that "fine engravings and prints owned by the elite found their country counterpart in the drawings of schoolmasters and itinerants" (Fraktur, xxviii) are an old discredited assumption. He cites the lion and unicorn from British arms and the eagle from American, as borrowings from betters. Everything has context, but it is patently post hoc to say that because they preceded them they caused them. Images have to be allowed their own world outside social milieus. The Dutch eagles are a supreme delight in their interpretations, hardly copies. Do you say Navajo weavers imitated their betters when they wove chief blankets or railroad trains at the behest of traders?

Rationalizing art is a hard road, divorcing text and context the same, which was argued of Blake, whose illuminations were not even "mere embellishment." It would be better for critics to admit they cannot see any connection and consider getting glasses.

Spiritual Transfer

Technology, philosophy and religion promoted assimilation. Early twentieth century transfers of decorative images from chest to barn were a "last flowering" (Yoder, Hex Signs, 3) of this art, but the compromise of Dutch ways is tracked in every activity, from song to speech. "Did any of the now common English choruses originate among the Pennsylvania Dutch and spread, through translation from German to English...? Yoder answers his own question, "the type of spiritual transfer that took place--one might almost call it spiritual osmosis--was from the greater to the lesser body. Anglo-American religious patterns were adopted by the Pennsylvania Dutch, rather than vice versa (Pennsylvania Spirituals, 348). But it wasn't just the permeable membrane of song, it was the stenciling of patterns instead of free-hand painting (Fabian,63), "machine made ware from England [Gaudy Dutch china] resulted in driving out local potteries" (Frederick, 257). "English ideas about furniture finishes, printed birth certificates, and Victorian popular designs, the Pennsylvania Dutch lost interest in the artifacts of earlier generations. In time, the chests, pottery, and pie safes were relegated to the attic or barn" (Hex Signs, 37).

Substitution of English ideas in the Americanization of the Pennsylvania Dutch touched the flower-star and the images on barns transferred from household decorations. These images had a contentious history, but they came from everyday relations with nature, sun, animals, plants. For all the debate of the origin of the hex sign, the twelve pointed star, the image comes from gardens, it is the image of a double tiger day lily, a duplicate of its shape. This is easy or difficult to find in the borders and plots of day lilies. The deeper legacy must involve a use of earth, design of internal landscapes, a spirit of acceptance that permeates mind and spirit, a spiritual force symbolized by the natural.

That these images are taken from nature, from the wilderness as it were, indicates a prejudice against the natural, a fear of it, common in the New England mind, the repression of the natural, the wilderness, although Jung was Swiss.

Spiritual Demise

Stoudt says the images are mandalas, after Jung, but gets no credit for it from Yoder. The images painted on furniture, embroidered on linen, drawn on paper are "a full range of celestial and earthly subjects. Stars and birds, both identifiable and unrecognizable, are seen along with the plump heart..." (Fabian, 58). With the toasting couple, the unicorn, equestrian figures and mermaid Fabian describes techniques, "the unicorn painters of Berks County, for example-also had templates for the major elements of their designs" (62), but "after the second decade of the nineteenth century, however, stenciling is frequently used in lieu of freehand painting. It is obviously used as a time-saving device and as such is one of the heralds of the decline of the traditional arts of rural Pennsylvania" (63)

But the most usual popular treatment rouses superstition before dashing it to the ground. Pennsylvania Dutch Country, (Irwin Richman) invokes amulets and symbols, "askew crosses," scratched into lintels, "almost invisible except to the knowing eye," "symbolism and magic" (53) before taking Yoder's Hex Signs as proof against this voodoo. Having his cake and eating too, the author dances with popular modern hex signs, but allows little if any "iconic meaning to the decorations found on fraktur," the quintessential Pennsylvania German Artifact," with every one of those barn symbols and then some, "flowers, vines, animals and birds...hearts, crowns, angels and compass stars" (56).

Exfoliations of the lily in this spiritual flower garden, "died when the point of view which created them—the faith of Pennsylvania’s radical religious sects—was killed by the advent of religious liberalism” (Stoudt, 24), the introduction of English in schools and the death of home-crafts by the industrial revolution (Stoudt, xviii). Stoudt already rules out a huge segment of the population when he says "sects." But Yoder also allows that the decline of fraktur "can be found in the nineteenth-century disintegration of the folk culture of the Pennsylvania Germans, particularly (1) the disappearance of institutional elements such as the parochial school, which had produced the Vorschrift, (2) the shift to the English language, which brought with it an inevitable loss of German devotional literature as the wellspring of fraktur symbolism, and (3) the decline in the very meaning of baptism, which had produced the Taufschein." The decline of baptism "can be partially attributed to the impact of the revivalist movement, which invaded the Pennsylvania German churches and sects from the world of Anglo-America." It was a complete conquest: "Fraktur was part of the old-style colonial culture, which, especially in the field of religion, was being challenged and reshaped through acculturation with Anglo-American forms" (280). Reshaped through acculturation here means denatured. So the decorative art of the lily, its expression of an inner state, abstracted completely out of its origin, became the so called “prayer acts” of Wentz (24) and the lily was exhausted.

How much a meliorist one wants to be about this is a choice to celebrate the past from the majority point of view of the English or lament the passing of the Dutch? Going from the island to the continent of the majority gives so many rewards but foreordains the peasant inferior to the Ph.D., begs the question of what the rural folk benefits were, if impossible to recapture, when everyone suddenly wishes the garden were back again that has been sacrificed to progress.

What is the meaning of the flowering heart, its iconography and philosophy in itself? Who are the suspects in its demise? Were, as Stoudt argues, whole classes of these people [German-American] transcendentalists one hundred years before Emerson? Where are the studies of that text from the many sources that remain untranslated of the 3151 books and almanacs printed in the German language in America between 1728 and 1830? What devastations wreaked upon these people in the interests of social control need correction?

Afterword - Did You Find Paradise Today?

Told it doesn't exist you long for paradise. When it was in the interest of scholars they believed, not that they personally thought it existed or its art in the mountain sunset or the mouse. Were paradise free speech or whatever pleases, the three harvests and hot tubs of the captives of pleasure could have private paradises too. But the art of paradise is not about us, it's about the creatures that inhabit it, wild or domesticated in a green Shade. Paradise kept with hands brings the natural to the human.

Free of the separation which we reckon occurred when the serpent came to America, myth before discovery, besieged by enemies in a colonial fantasy of sexism and racism so called, thinking makes it so. Serpents destroy forests, prairies and animals, take dystopia over utopia, symbols of destruction over innocence. It's hard to imagine paradise in an age that denies it but longs for memories of wholeness it forgot. Was there peace? Nobody wants Inferno, but nothing succors in the deconstruct.
We get over disbelief. The child believes, but the adolescent diminishes, imitates the adult. In their private paradise they go to pillage the garden. Ask if one believes and get a look. One believes in profit. One believes in success. But look for paradise if you believe it's lost. Find a piece of paradise. Evening conversations would begin, "did you find paradise today?" Everyone would be looking.

This fictive assumption presumes a restoration of earth was forming in the minds of artists with the industrial revolution, the chimney sweep of Blake, that paralysis immobilized agencies able to effect remediation. In reinvention, but the paralysis is also metaphorical, we rise in the night, thoughts start before four AM. So would creation travail with the problem sons. You could wish they were out of the way, but not if worse were in store. We may go on with daily life, right to the end, shibboleths of the past argue, as though they meant something. Doctrines of false imagination finish the day, sleep another night in evasion and deny.


Works Cited

The Adams-Jefferson Letters. Edited by Lester J. Cappon. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
Jacob Boehme. Six Theosophic Points. Translated by John Rolleston Earle. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1958.
F. George Frederick. Pennsylvania Dutch Cookery.
Mary Jane Lederach Hershey. This Teaching I Present: Fraktur from the Skippack and Salford Mennonite Meetinghouse Schools, 1747-1836. Intercourse, PA: Good Books 2003.
Monroe H. Fabian. The Pennsylvania-German Decorated Chest. Pennsylvania German Society, 2004.
John Joseph Stoudt. Pennsylvania German Folk Art. Allentown, PA: Pennsylvania German Folklore Society. 1966
John Joseph Stoudt. Jacob Boehme's The Way to Christ, In A New Translation. New York, London: Harper, 1947.
Frederick S. Weiser and Howell J. Heaney. The Pennsylvania German Fraktur. Breingigsville: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1976.
Richard E. Wentz. Editor, Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Spirituality. Sources of American Spirituality Series. New York: Paulist Press, 1993]
Don Yoder. Discovering American Folklife. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books. 2001
Hex Signs (with Thomas E. Graves) Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2000.
Pennsylvania Spirituals
. Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania Folklife Society, 1961