[ilds] Tree of Idleness

Charles Sligh slighcl at wfu.edu
Sat Jul 21 07:29:52 PDT 2007

Quoting Michael Haag <michaelhaag at btinternet.com>:

> Moist clay of a woman's wanting may refer to conception: so before the
> heart starts beating and after it stops beating, is there a haunting
> (spirit   existence)?

Yes.  I definitely find the clay imagery recalling Creation.

> Kisses without signature: anonymous, nameless women?  Women of no
> account?  Prostitutes?

Autograph signature?
Musical signature?
Printer's signature marking the "gathering"? (spot in time or epoch in
Signature as in identifying mark?
Signature as stamp or impression?
Signature as birth-mark?
Signature as a sign of medicinal virtue or the prescription itself? (very old
that one)


>From the OED:

9. Special Comb.: signature tune, a piece of music that always precedes or
follows a particular programme or a performance by a particular entertainer or
band; also transf. and fig.

1938 O. SITWELL Those were Days IV. iii. 462 Diminutive moonstones and giant
chrysanthemums were her signature-tune, her speciality almost, you might say,
what she lived for.

Hence signatureless a., having no signature, unsigned; without signatures.

1892 Athenæum 18 June 790/2 In the volume called ‘Love's Looking Glass’ the
poems are ranged signatureless.


> The lack of someone (Eve? or any permanent relationship) spreading like
> a stain.  (See Auden, The Wanderer, where 'spreading like a stain' is
> the ruin that comes to the house in the absence of the wanderer and is
> to be preserved against.)

Yes.  I have read Eve as the missing signature.  Thus the bruising--in several
senses--psychic, physical (physical blows were a kind of communication for
those two, right?).  I like the Auden.  Durrell would have marked that one.

> I also have the feeling that Sappho is in this poem.  That perhaps it
> is she who put the rock rose in the jam jar.  And perhaps it is her
> brown fingers tapping out a poem on her father's lips in the dark
> before the dawn.

To tie our books together, I think so.  The little acts that you inventory are
"heroic" in the sense of the child's language at the start of Justine.  The
house is a sad house.  The father is a sad father.  The child does what she can
to make it all better.  Heroic little woman.  Which for LD brings memory, hope,
desire, and anxiety about womanhood and madness to come.  And it did come.  So

The tracing of a hand in a notebook.  A signature against time.  "Dear child /
Be happy / Larry."  So sad.

I have been re-reading Ian's biography (390+).

Again, one of the very best of LD's poems.

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