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Re: Keats' Letters: Greatest of any poet?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 1:32 pm
by Heaven/Hell
Saturn wrote:Oh no, you do love those conspiracy theories don't you?

Honestly I've heard all the Shakespeare conspiracies, read a dozen theories and the so-called evidence but I really don't think it cuts the mustard at all.

Some people it seems just refuse to accept Shakespeare wasn't an aristo. The idea of the greatest poet in the English language being a lower middle-class country boy is too much for some in the literary establishment to fathom so they try and discredit him.


Don't get me wrong; no one could claim more admiration over the Sonnets than me. So I would be the first to negate doubts over his genuinity.
But the discredition is more concise than the rest, although the book isn't dedicated to the refutation of Shakespeare's authorship. Bucke claims that several points 'prove' the Baconian authorship:

1. As mentioned already, no letters/manuscripts exist of "Shakespeare" - despite him being so prolific in his literary career - one would expect a personal insight into the man.
2. The thoughts and points of Bacon's philosophical essays (Novum Organum et al) so precisely correlate to Shakespeare's that it is improbable that they were written by two different men (though this WS could have read Bacon's essays).
3. The plays are dotted with Latin phrases - phrases Bacon is known to have used.
4. Aside from his main office as a philosopher, scientist and "man of court affairs", Bacon is known to have literary aspirations; Bucke asserts that whilst in the grip of 'Cosmic Consciousness' (unfettered creativity divinely inspired and dictated by a 'Muse') he wrote them, and called this "inspired other Bacon" Shakespeare. He then states "Shakespeare" was tenably derived from a euphemism for a playwright - a spear being a quill.
5. Bucke also tells us that Bacon invented a cipher which transcribes his signature at the foot of all the plays, revealing him to be the true author.
There is more points, but I think this should suffice for now, for I don't have the book on me.

Bucke wasn't one, like you said, to have vested reasons to suppress the "genuine" Shakespearean authorship as Shakespeare wasn't born into aristocracy, neither have his resources. He was merely a psychologist who was intrigued by man's creative instinct, and how there were a "new breed of human minds" dedicated to arts and noble, non-material pursuits who were thus markedly different from the rest of the breed. This new breed is a manifestation of the evolution in the human mind beyond mere self-consciousness (he calls the new evolutionary leap 'Cosmic Consciousness', hence the book title) which also brings with it new levels of intellectual, moral and emotional excellence. In his biased mind, to go along with this thinking of creative man (which brings us nicely on topic with Keats' thinking :D) he saw Shakespeare as a different personality of Bacon's, his "cosmic personality".

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 4:14 pm
by AsphodelElysium
I'd like to offer up another theory, which I'm sure is going to be unpopular all around, but makes sense in a way. What if Shakespeare's first and foremost interest wasn't to make himself famous or really even to create something for posterity? All theories about him seem to run on those two basic assumptions. Maybe he just wanted to make some money. There really isn't any evidence that he intended to have his plays published (i.e. save them for all time and in any case the publisher would have gotten credit) but there is ample evidence he was a successful businessman. Does it really matter who he was? I know that is anthema for all us because who the poet is is so much a part of their work, but I don't really think that applies to Shakespeare in the same way it does to someone like Keats. It also is helpful to bear in mind that Keats wanted to famous and put forth the effort to achieve that, Shakespeare didn't. "Oh, but the sonnets" you might say. Sonnets were a dime a dozen at the time. I feel like they were more of a literary exercise than anything else. Not saying he didn't pull from personal feelings or that his sonnets aren't fabulous, but they were the most popular form at the time and the themes are basically the same. It just seems like the work itself is the most important thing. I really think its a miracle we have what we do of his works. Anyway, its just a thought.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2007 9:34 pm
by Saturn
AsphodelElysium wrote: It just seems like the work itself is the most important thing. I really think its a miracle we have what we do of his works. Anyway, its just a thought.


I agree, we put too much emphasis on the idea of the poet as the sole creator of a body of work [ this cult of the poet comes almost certainly from the Romantic era].

Going further back no one can say for certain who wrote, or composed the great Homeric epics, or even the greatest of the Greek and Roman poets' work.

We have no letters of Homer, or Virgil, or Euripides, or from most of the great poets of antiquity but in the end no-one questions their authorship as much as we do now, the work itself is prized beyond all else because it is a miracle that they survived at all through the centuries.

I think its well established that much of Shakespeare's work was written in collaboration, particularly some of the later plays and no-one seems tot mind that much.

You have to look at the very nature of the Elizabethan theatre as different from modern theatre where the author is all, but more like perhaps modern Television writing where often programmes are written by a team of people, under an executive producer's guiding hand.

That is not to say that Shakespeare himself did not write much of his work, but that he was helped, advised and at times by other members of his company, and other writers.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 11:45 am
by Heaven/Hell
That's an interesting theory as well. The 'Homer' plays are now known to be authored by several different Greek poets, each and every one calling himself Homer. Richard Maurice Bucke would have called Homer the "cosmic personality", the one writing the plays to differentiate from the authors as their "normal, self-conscious" selves. Keats, Shelley, Milton, Wordsworth, Blake, Dante...all speak of having their poems and works dictated to them by a heavenly Muse, which seems to be an entirely different side of their day-to-day minds, as all true poets have experienced.

The same principle applies to Plato's dialogues with "Socrates"... Socrates wasn't an actual person, just Plato's own 'creative mind'. He was in effect in converse with the 'Plato within'. And again with the author of the Corpus Hermeticum...'Hermes Trismegistus' was different people, taking on a creative, inspired persona. Again with the Bible, and the Scriptures, and all holy/sacred texts - different people, same 'author'.

But you two are right as always, I've missed the forest for the trees. What we should be revering and admiring is the poetry and the plays, not engage in spurious discussion over the genuine author. It is very much likely they were normal people like us, but found themselves caught up in the grip of creativity and they just let it flow. They didn't dispute the origin, they just immortalised it and undoubtedly revered it like we do, cherishing the gift of the Gods.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 4:48 pm
by Malia
Heaven/Hell wrote: Keats, Shelley, Milton, Wordsworth, Blake, Dante...all speak of having their poems and works dictated to them by a heavenly Muse, which seems to be an entirely different side of their day-to-day minds, as all true poets have experienced.

It is very much likely they were normal people like us, but found themselves caught up in the grip of creativity and they just let it flow. They didn't dispute the origin, they just immortalised it and undoubtedly revered it like we do, cherishing the gift of the Gods.


I'd like to add that at least in Keats's case, writing poetry--while his ideas might have come from some spiritual plane--was HARD WORK. I mean he reaally labored over much of his work. . .at least the poems he considered to be his most important (Hyperion being a perfect example--that poem was highly crafted and very slow going). True that some of his most excellent works came rather easily to him, such as the Odes, which I believe he wrote just as exercises "for fun" without any thought to their potential greatness. Hmm. . .makes me wonder if it is true that the more we relax, the less pressure we put on ourselves to create something great, the more easily our creative energy flows and the greater our works become. I guess that's the writer's paradox for you. :)

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:31 pm
by Saturn
Heaven/Hell wrote:That's an interesting theory as well. The 'Homer' plays are now known to be authored by several different Greek poets, each and every one calling himself Homer.


That is not correct at all. Firstly there are no Homer 'plays' as you call them and there is absolutely no firm agreement whatsoever as to either joint, or single authorship of the Homeric epics.


Heaven/Hell wrote:The same principle applies to Plato's dialogues with "Socrates"... Socrates wasn't an actual person, just Plato's own 'creative mind'. He was in effect in converse with the 'Plato within'.


That is also incorrect.

Socrates was a real person.

What aren't real, or what have been re-imagined are Plato's dialogues.

They are not representations of actual conversations with Socrates but Plato's dissemination of the Socratic method, and Socrates' beliefs through the dialogue form.

Socrates never wrote anything, so the only way Plato, as his pupil in the Academy, could preserve and perpetuate the memory of his master was through these dialogues which may say more about Plato's beliefs himself than Socrates own however.
Scholars have no way of judging which ideas in the dialogues are Plato's own, and which are Socrates'.

Socrates and the other prominent Athenians appear as characters in the dialoges much the same as historical figures of today might appear in a work of fiction - they are one man's representation of
another man.

That is not to say that all that we read in the dialogues is fiction, far from it, merely that the utterances of Socrates are a combination of Plato's memory of Socrates personality and a desire to propound Socratic theory.

PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 11:37 am
by Heaven/Hell
I'd heard differently about Socrates, in fact I thought it was well-established he was a figment of Plato's imagination. Plato was the only person to have been passed his philosophy, and if he was Plato's master, why didn't he write his own dialogues? Surely Plato was his patsy? No, I hold that as a participant in the legendary Mysteries, where one who travelled to a spiritual realm by means of a mystery narcotic was given the secrets of life, Plato was himself aware of the "Socratic" philosophy.

And whatever you choose to call the Homer works (the Odyssey...the Iliad...you seem to imply I'm ignorant of them by pointing out I erroneously called them plays - I was caught up in creative force and still had the Shakespeare conspiracy on my mind), the crux of the matter and this whole conversation is that they were not written by one man called Homer, but the persona was called Homer.

Finally there seems to be an undue amount of vitriol in this post...are you upset I proved Shakespeare was fictitious? I feel like I've commited sacrilege.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:17 am
by AsphodelElysium
I think there is just healthy disagreement. We might as well smile, agree to disagree, and move on. You didn't actually prove Shakespeare was fictitious, no one has, but the theory is interesting and worth sharing. It at least keeps discussion going on him and his works outside the academic halls. :D

PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2007 1:03 pm
by Heaven/Hell
To be honest, I was most concerned by the fact that my main point was missed; and Saturn chose to dwell over trivial inconsistencies instead of absorb it.

My main point, to go along with the topic of this thread, is that human beings are mainly unaware of a new state of awareness or consciousness. Whereupon they disregard materialism and superficialism and embrace spirituality.

I'd like to get bang on topic and quote from a Keats letter. He writes "I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart's affections, and the truth of the Imagination (note the capitalization). What the Imagination sees as Beauty must be Truth... The Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream - he awoke and found it truth."

My personal interpretation is thus: Adam is the classic biblical archetypal representation of Mankind. Keats calls the new state of awareness "Imagination", the spiritual he now sees "Beauty" and its existence "Truth". When he writes of Adam's "awakening", he is referring to his passing into the new state of awareness or consciousness, and knows that Mankind is capable of the passage too. Adam's dream is the pinnacle moment of illumination, whereupon he is divinely inspired and awakened into the new state; before he was merely asleep and unaware of the Beauty of things.

In another letter, Keats states that "man's life is a continual Allegory...very few eyes can see the Mystery of his life..." Here, he intimates that on the point of transcendence into the new state, the awakened will live his life by and according to the new state, and those few that see the Mystery are those who have passed unto it.

All poets write about and dedicate their poems to the new state of awareness, because without it they wouldn't be poets. Shelley's entire Defence of Poetry is about the state, how it relates to poetry and how poetry can show those unawakened into the light. For example, "Poetry removes the veil from the Beauty of the World." The aware see all things as spiritual, rather than the material of the old; the material veil is removed, they pass into the new state and see the spiritual Beauty for the first time.