[ilds] RG Justine 1.7 -- why should we hurt one another?

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Fri Apr 20 14:07:37 PDT 2007

> Well, I'm still puzzled by the "joyous compromise through art." Does 
> "compromise" here mean "coming to terms with"? Some how the artists 
> come to terms with what has wounded or defeated them in ordinary life? 
> And by this compromise they fulfill their potential destiny in and 
> through the imagination, while ordinary people do not. I suppose that 
> British "should" can be read as the American "would." Some how artists 
> will wound through their realization of their imaginative destiny? 
> It's not that they "want to." It's a concomitant of the compromise?????

I have been thinking over LD's notion of "compromise" in terms of his 
poetry.   Although we should differentiate early and late, LD's tendency 
to work within a certain limited set of concerns helps.  For instance, I 
find in "The Prayer Wheel" (1948/1940):

        49        What is known is never written.
        50        By the equal distribution
        51        He and She and It are genders,
        52        Sparks of carbon on the circle
        53        Meeting in the porch of sex.
        54        Faces mix and numbers mingle
        55        Many aspects of the One
        56        Teach *the human compromise*.
        57        Speech will never stain the blue,
        58        Nor the lover's occult kisses
        59        Hold the curves of Paradise.

"Compromise" appears three times in the poem.  The aching and the 
inevitable shortfall of one poor bare forked animal attempting to 
communicate--for "cloth of gold," read "the blue" and "the curves of 
Paradise"--that sounds like our narrator in /Justine/.

The narrator is LD's neophyte, fond of talking of "compromise" while 
only just beginning the process of reckoning. Pursewarden is pushing 
past his last illusions, squirting drink upon and canceling his 
self-reflection in the mirror of his illusions, as an ironist would.  
Both are necessary. 

Sometimes readers willfully over-identify the narrator with LD, and even 
otherwise careful writers will rip out the narrator's words and quote 
them carelessly, saying things like "Durrell writes that 'it is the city 
which should be judged though we its children, must pay the price."  
Both of those misreadings are options, I think, if you make the 
additional innovation of observing that in /Justine /we have LD speaking 
in the voice of a writer who is writing off a former, younger voice in 
pursuit of a new self, a grave jester and ironist.

But again--"why should we hurt one another?"


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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