Paradise unspeakable

Before photoshopping











and after,

this is a photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edmund Wilson at Millay’s Greenwich Village home in 1923 or 1924. In the background, of course, is Millay’s husband, Eugen Boissevain, and standing closer to the poet than either of her men is a Dada scarecrow. “Pick no flowers,” says one of the signs on the ground, and “Keep off the grass” says the other. In the restoration it’s easier to read the words and see that there are no flowers and no grass. A year or two after The Waste Land, the poet’s cozy little backyard looks like the punchline of a cozy little joke. This stony little Eden . . .

And Photoshop has brought the signs’ Edenic commandments back to unambiguous legibility. There on their plot of earth they still stand, saying as clearly as ever what it turns out they have never not said: No, and again No. Their command is still in force, too, because the poems that share the image with their fiat have been obliterated. Hanged in sunny silence within range of the prohibitions, the poems are forbidden fruit. If lusciousness can be realized through the shady business of language, it has no part in Paradise.

Source: Library of Congress,

Guest post, “Portrait of a poet with a book”

Photoshopped by me, a 1920 photograph of William Butler Yeats holding a copy of his edition of Blake is now up at Hell’s Printing Press: The Blog of the Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly, with some information about the history of the image. Click



A grammar of myopia

Taking the shortest possible historical view, David Brooks writes:

The Bob Corkers of the [Republican] party are leaving while the Roy Moores are ascending. Trump himself is unhindered while everyone else is frozen and scared. As a result, the Republican Party is becoming a party permanently associated with bigotry.

(“A Philosophical Assault on Trumpism,” New York Times print edition 3 October 2017, p. A27)

Mr. Brooks’s verb phrase “is becoming” is in the present progressive tense. But wouldn’t an accurate grammar of the past require the historical record to include, at the least, Richard Nixon, Strom Thurmond, Rush Limbaugh, and Lee Atwater and his Gadarene pigpen of Republican operatives? Shouldn’t Mr. Brook’s sentence therefore be in the present perfect: “The Republican Party has become a party permanently associated with bigotry”?

Or even with an intensifier — “The Republican Party has long since become a party permanently associated with bigotry”?