Notes for a potential reading of John Cowper Powys's PORIUS in 2011.

DiskuteraLe Salon Littéraire du Peuple pour le Peuple

Bara medlemmar i LibraryThing kan skriva.

Notes for a potential reading of John Cowper Powys's PORIUS in 2011.

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

Redigerat: aug 23, 2010, 12:43 pm

aug 23, 2010, 1:15 pm

What do you mean, John Cowper Por-Man, by "potential reading"? The book is ordered; it's on its way, we (in the least, you and me) will be reading it.

aug 23, 2010, 2:48 pm

Count me in dyyyyudddd

aug 23, 2010, 3:03 pm

Me too, dyyudds, he solemnly swore.

aug 23, 2010, 11:13 pm

Wow, I had never heard of this book before, and it sounds awesome.

aug 23, 2010, 11:22 pm

Glad to have y'all aboard. Feel free to contribute notes if you are that way inclined.

Redigerat: aug 24, 2010, 2:07 pm

Is it possible for a writer of genius to be overlooked in our day, when so much critical attention is paid to literature in all his forms?

Indeed it is, and in evidence I bring forward the case of John Cowper Powys. We have had plenty of time to take notice of him; he will be 90 next October; his most recent book was published in 1959. During the past forty years occasional articles praising him generously have appeared in influential publications. But what may be called 'official criticism' - that which sets the fashion - he has been almost entirely neglected. The most recent important history of English Literature, by David Daiches (1961), does not mention him; the last volume of the Pelican Guide to English Literature, called This Modern Age, ignores him. Yet this is a man of whom an American critic has written, in the Times Literaty Supplement: 'The failure of all but a handful of English readers and critics to perceive that JCP stands beside Hardy and D.H. Lawrence among the masters is a scandal.'

How do we define a writer of genius? Shall we call him a man of extraordinary intellectual and imaginative power, whose work is strongly marked with individuality? Powys meets this definition as truly as Lawrence and Hardy. He is akin to them, without in any sense copying them. Like Hardy, he writes of the countryside rhapsodically, with a detailed knowledge a naturalist might envy. Like Lawrence, he writes of the uncontrollable torrents of passion that work below the surface of the human spirit. He is not so pessimistic as Hardy; he never scolds or grows weak and shrill as Lawrence does. He has his own faults; sometimes his prose is so knotted that the reader must struggle with it; he has no spark of humor. But he is worth a struggle, for to read one of his books seriously is to undergo a deeply moving experience. He must be numbered among those rare authors who add to our range of understanding.

My own favorite among his novels is OWEN GLENDOWER, which appeared in 1941, but I can see that its concentration on Welsh history makes hard going for many readers. (Powys , in spite of his name, is not a Welshman; his family has been resident in England for 400 years.) The most popular of his novels is A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (1933); its theme is a Passion Play, presented at Glastonbury in Somersetshire, by a strangely assorted group of local actors; the drama brings to a climax passions which are more Pagan than Christian. Recently praise has been heaped on a novel with a similar theme by the Greek writer Kazantzakis; good though it was, Powys' novel seems to me to be greatly superior.

A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE asks for a serious reader. It sets out with a paragraph which makes clear that what follows will be tough chewing. There are long passages in which the reader can only abandon himself to the author's heaving prose, hoping that in a page or two he will come to a safe harbor, or at least get his bearings. But what thus puts the reader at sea is not padding, or incoherent 'poetical' writing; it is the immense vitality and scope of the author's feeling. After a few chapters the reader finds his bearings, and unless he is of a rock-like nature, he will begin to experience and understand the story in the same mode of heightened feeling as JCP.

One of this writer's finest books is called IN DEFENSE OF SENSUALITY (1930); it is an appeal for the fuller use of all our senses, in order that we may become aware of the beauty around us; the color of a stone, the light that falls on the surface of a puddle, the sounds that are to be heard when we seem to be in the midst of silence, the smells which are never absent - Powys calls for recognition of these in order that we may live in a state of real awareness. Inevitably, if we school ourselves to seek beauty everywhere, we shall also find sights and sounds that are ugly, smells and tastes that disgust - but the new treasure of beauty must be bought at this price.

Similarly, as we read his books, we are asked to become imaginatively aware of things we have not considered; at first we may laugh, or feel distaste, or perhaps merely be puzzled. But a great writer makes great demands. If we fail to give what he asks, it is we who are left the poorer.

JCP is a writer of our time who has asked extraordinary things of his readers. He is like nobody else, and he has had no imitators. He is snubbed by those critics who love 'schools' and 'trends' and 'influences.' He is obstinately great, deeply loved by those readers who know him - and out of fashion.

Toronto Daily Star, 27 January 1962, Robertson Davies

Redigerat: aug 24, 2010, 9:05 pm

I'm def in.

That's a great article by Robertson Davies!

Here is Margaret Drabble writing about JCP in the Guardian in 2006

And here is my review of a late JCP novel, for those who missed it the first time:

The Rider:

On the horses of desire
over the tossing trees
I have hunted the Pillar of Fire
To his inmost fastnesses.

On the eagles of despair
Where the thunders meet,
I have hunted the Power of the Air
To their last retreat.

Over chasm and over crag
On the horned moon riding,
I have hunted the night-hag
to her furthest hiding.

On the lions of exultation
I ride to my doom!
No tears of human desolation
Shall find my tomb.


aug 25, 2010, 2:23 am

Me six!

aug 25, 2010, 2:44 am

Well all-right.

aug 30, 2010, 11:48 pm

From the foreword to Porius by Morine Krissdóttir:

"Self-deprecation was another artless art that John Cowper had perfected, for he knew very well that the snake devouring its own tale (sic?) -- the uroborus -- was a symbol of the original perfection.

"Powys intended Porius to be his uroborus."

I've a friend who's really in to the uroborus concept; thought it was an interesting quote.

aug 31, 2010, 12:27 am

does it really say 'tale'. christ allbloodymighty, editors........(or the lack of them perhaps)

URoborus. never heard of this before. can you say more?

Redigerat: aug 31, 2010, 1:26 am

God, I know that I'm a pedant. But Uroborus is the Myth of the Eternal Return. See Mircea Eliade's book of the same name. In every end there is a new beginning, see Finnegans Wake, or for that matter the structure of all Joyces' work. The constantly rejuvenated Snake. In my end is my beginning.
In Alchemy, studied closely by Powys, the Uroborus symbolizes a closed cyclical process in which the heating, evaporating, cooling, and condensation of a liquid helps to refine or purify substance. In this Uroborus the single snake is often kicked off the stage by two creatures, each biting the TAIL of the other, the upper one a winged dragon (a symbol of volatility).
See also Jung: Psychology and Alchemy, among other incomprehensible studies.

aug 31, 2010, 1:30 am

Thanks Slick. A Northern example:örmungandr

sep 1, 2010, 4:21 pm

P. - I was reading of Eternal Return only last night, in The Arcades Project.

Nietzsche and Blanqui both loomed large here.

"One must concede that each particular combination of materials and people 'is bound to be repeated thousands of times in order to satisfy the demands of infinity.'"


Benjamin notes:

"Counterpaqrt to Blanqui's view of the world: the universe is a site of lingering catastrophes."

I have posted this quote from Nietzsche elsewhere, but enjoy it sufficiently to post again:

"The world...lives on itself: its excrements are its nourishment."

Perhaps straying somewhat here....

sep 1, 2010, 5:32 pm

Not at all. Read Norman O. Brown. Carl Gustave Jung. What does the snake get when it bites its own tail? Joyce and his garden party (godinpotty). I skimmed through two of Jung's last books this morning. The Alchemists were most interested in the Black matter. Powys was dogged by wholly borborygms. 'Poldy' was not a little interested all things bowels. I won't even mention Rablais of Swift.

sep 1, 2010, 7:02 pm

I am not sure. Many years ago I read Powys' Wolf Solent. I almost died from the boredom of it all. And we're considering A Glastonbury Romance. I need ten good reasons why I should risk having another near death experience before I sign up for JCP.

sep 1, 2010, 7:44 pm

There are no set plans for the reading of GR or anything else. We are considering. You've already
considered. If you need 10 MORE reasons then maybe you should go elsewhere.

sep 1, 2010, 8:16 pm

1. I bought Porius.
2. Porius likes Porius
3. I like Porius.
4. Porius likes Robertson Davies
5. Robertson Davies likes John Cowper Powys
6. I like Robertson Davies
7. Porius will give us an eternal return
8. Porius was Powys' uroborus.
9. I like circular fiction.
10. Near death experiences are life affirming.

sep 1, 2010, 8:32 pm

Very well said. I didn't mean any unpleasantness in my reply. If you are bored stiff by Powys, and God knows he can be boring for long stretches, if you feel the need to relieve yourself on any one of his efforts, then there is hardly any reason to wonder whether or not you would subject yourself to the longueurs of another adventure of the Powys variety. Is it me?!

sep 1, 2010, 11:22 pm

Oh come on Porius,

I know you can give an innocent lass ten good reasons why she should read Powys. Having taught literature for twenty-three years, I always have at least forty-five good reasons why my students should read that which I have decided they will read :-)

And for your pleasure a quotation from a freshman composition paper: "Literature isn't something you read; it's something they make you interpret. ;-)

Redigerat: sep 1, 2010, 11:24 pm


>22 absurdeist:

Unbeloved Dictator with whom I am currently miffed,

Near death experiences are not what they are cracked up to be.

Redigerat: sep 1, 2010, 11:30 pm


Porius, my first message was meant in the spirit of play. I merely wanted to see Les Salonistas engage in the witty verbal acrobatics for which they are so famous. But we have become so grimly determined. I blame Powys. He makes us all so serious ;-)

urania wanders off disconsolately

sep 1, 2010, 11:55 pm

To Urania Cottage doubtless.

sep 1, 2010, 11:58 pm

urania has always lived in a dacha.

sep 2, 2010, 3:02 am


In my opinion, The Crying of Lot 49 sucks. Gravity's Rainbow is great. Thus, it is possible for someone to hate (and I'm talking *hate*) one book by a given author and greatly enjoy another. This is obviously not a reason why you "should" subject yourself to more Powys, but it's at least evidence that your hesitance may not be rationally motivated. It's possible for an author (and his/her writing) to mature after all, isn't it?

sep 2, 2010, 9:24 am

Ah Sutpen,

The logical answer always wins. Damned logic. And to think, I adore The Crying of Lot 49 (Pynchon is so much better when he practices concision), but I am not fond of Gravity's Rainbow.

mar 18, 2011, 4:30 pm

I haven't any reasons why someone should read PORIUS or any other book. If I don't like a book I pitch it out of the window and think little more of it. The thought of the book doesn't spoil my afternoon, etc.
I will be looking into JCP's Magnum Opus this coming April. Any and all are welcome to come along for the ride, but I won't consider numbers as an indication of success. I know as well as anyone that Powys is not for everyone. His books are hard slogging, indeed, that's why I enjoy them so much. They are like a hike in the forest deep. There's always that chance of getting lost, isn't there?

mar 18, 2011, 5:21 pm

Well, to quote Daniel Boone, “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” So, I am looking forward to being bewildered for a bit, cause I kinda like that feeling.

Redigerat: mar 18, 2011, 6:45 pm

"One doesn't read Powys so much as enlist in him."

Good reading Porius! Nice touch when the scavenger with the Kurtz-like fence remarks upon Powys' oddities.

mar 18, 2011, 8:56 pm

i loved wolf solent and hated crying of lot 49. i left galstonbury romance stored in the u.s. somewhere, unread.

henry miller did his best to make powys known.

Redigerat: mar 18, 2011, 9:26 pm

Yes he did. Loved WS, glad to hear it R.

A.N. Wilson
Wilson wrote biographies of
Walter Scott
John Milton
Hillare Belloc
Leo Tolstoy
C.S. Lewis
Iris Murdoch
John Betjeman
and others

mar 18, 2011, 9:48 pm

Thanks, Por-Man, for all that good info on Porius. I'm excited looking forward to this read. It seems so less intimidating to me knowing that you'll be guiding us and that we can take our own sweet time navigating it.

mar 18, 2011, 10:25 pm

Slow cooking E.

mar 29, 2011, 10:48 am

My Porius has arrived!

mar 29, 2011, 11:30 am

It's tough sledding A_, don't lose your nerve. I plan to move glacially. There's so much to consider.

Lock up the good silverware, as another Sam once said.

maj 10, 2011, 12:44 pm

Way-el Ladies & Gents as 'Dutch' Reagan would say it's just about steamrolling time. PORIUS. Something almost completely different. An immense tangle. A Dostoyevskian Nature Boy on steroids. Hugolian fecundity. Dreisserian detail. Burton, Browne, and Rabelais, it's like a run through the jungle. Kiliing 'Binnie' in's p-jays like childe play by comparison. A firefight: 'Binnies' wives were tossing cigarette lighters at the Seals. He flung the clicker at them. A DVD in 'Odd Jobb' fashion. But back to P.

I will kick off festivities soon. 21 May? Will it be a bhang or a whim-per? In any event I will proceed chapter by chapter at slow-motion pace. A role call would be nice, but I will not be as exacting as my drill sargent father. And if any of you lose your nerve or decide it's too much of a muchness I won't take it personally.

Remember to take it slow. As slow as the second coming of Apollonius of Tyana.

maj 10, 2011, 1:16 pm

I'm here and so is the book.

maj 10, 2011, 1:24 pm


maj 10, 2011, 2:13 pm

Ready, aye, ready.

maj 10, 2011, 2:36 pm

I have the book - it looks er.... dense. I'll be ready.

maj 10, 2011, 2:42 pm

I have til the 21st? Great, that means I should be able to read the biography first--maybe a little of Bakhtin. By the end of the month I should my bhung confused with a hole in the ground.

maj 10, 2011, 2:44 pm

Dense it is bw. About Sirius B dense.

Redigerat: maj 10, 2011, 3:57 pm

It took Powys 7 years to complete his masterpiece. In 1951 MacDonald published a cut version. It was not until a few years ago that the whole of it was published.
Porius and water, lots of water came screaming into this wereld in 1949. I first stumbled across Powys as a callow college student. GLASTONBURY ROMANCE it was and has been all this while. I've read a great deal of Powys, shelves of him and about him including Wilson Knight's fine study, a worthwhile study by H.P.Collins, and the recent biography by Morine Krissdottir who spends entirely too much time on the borborygm front, or rear as the case may be. Powys awaits his Ellmann or some such champion.

Here's from LUCIFER pp. 14-15 to whet our whistle:

It un-earths and re-embodies all those strange symbolic legends of figures, forms, culminations and catastrophes of the remote past that are so monstrous, so mysterious, so gigantic, that we shrink from them with a sort of pre-natal terror . . . . These are the everlasting fairy-tales of all the most ancient tribes of men, and by bringing these forward poetry stirs up, rouses, and revives within us, however ignorant we may be of any particular legend or fairy-tale, the whole weird, grotesque, monstrous, miraculous STORY for all its stages are within us, of the long drawn out groping, desperate, tragical-comical avatar-of-earth-life at which our pathetic race has now arrived.

Here's something for those of you with lots of time on your hands. The author is learned on the subjects of Celtic Mythology, Taoism, and Alchemy, things dear to the heart of our author.
Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz

maj 10, 2011, 4:00 pm

maj 10, 2011, 4:03 pm

Peter - what did Powys think of Jung, if anything? They seem to have similar interests.

I'm in.

maj 10, 2011, 4:32 pm

I worked for JCPenney for twelve years and my wife worked there for thirty six. We met there. Everyone refers to it as JCP. I have to actively think no, this is not about Penney's, its about John Cooper Powys.

Carry On, Porius!

Redigerat: maj 10, 2011, 4:57 pm

Z, Powys was a student of the alchemical sciences, and we know that CGJ was involved at various levels of the very same science. I don't know for certain what he thought of the Swiss Tweedle Dee personally, I know Joyce met him once or twice, I'll look into it. It's certain that Powys was more than familiar with the works of the great Docktor.

JCP. J.C. Penney. Not much in common there G. Though I remember the JCP from my childhood. I think all the stores have closed. I remember my mother wanting me to buy shirts, etc. from Penneys, but I always wanted to pay the extra at Hudsons or Hughes Hatcher for Gant shirts, etc. I wore a shirt and tie for 12 years of Catholick School. I was quite the Baltimore Catechism dandy by the time I was in the 12th grade.

maj 10, 2011, 5:31 pm

> 48 Cy Rios Beedents, played ball with him. could hit the ball a mile but was too fat to run out the doubles, much less the homers. Once he had a sure roundtripper, but he was too damn nice--the other team's outfielders were searching for the ball in the tall grass that marked the end of the playing field and as he came locomoting into third, he looked over his shoulder, saw three guys bent down yards apart from each other searching, and he headed out to help. He was tagged just shy of the weeds.

maj 10, 2011, 5:40 pm

What about Sirius C?

Redigerat: maj 10, 2011, 6:49 pm

More prep for PORIUS. I'll try to keep it manageable. Bite-size bits mostly.

From Colin Wilson's OCCULT"

Until he was in his mid 50's, Powys spent much of his life lecturing in America . . .
Then in his 60's there appeared a series of immense novels - in bulk and in conception - beg. with WOLF SOLENT and GLASTONBURY ROMANCE. The most remarkable thing about these novels is their 'nature mysticism' and their incredible vitality; it is clear that he has tapped some subconscious spring, and the result is a creative outpouring that has something of the majesty of Niagra Falls. A GLASTONBURY ROMANCE (1933) is probably unique in being the only novel written from a 'God's-eye point of view. The first paragraph:

At the striking of noon on a certain fifth of March there occurred within a casual radius of Brandon railway-station and yet beyond the deepest pools of emptiness between the uttermost stellar systems one of those infinitesimal ripples in the creative silence of the First Cause which always occur when an exceptional stir of heightened consciousness agitates any living organism in the astronomical universe. Something passed at that moment, a wave, a motion, a vibration, too tenuous to be called magnetic, too subliminal to be called spiritual, between the soul of a particular human being who was emerging from a third-class carriage of the twelve-nineteen train from London and the divine-diabolic soul of the First-Cause of all life.

The abstractness of the language here gives a false impression of a book that is anything but abstract; but it also reveals Powys's desire to see his characters and events from some 'universal' point of view in which the algae in a stagnant pond and the grubs in a rotten tree are as important as the human characters.

One should note the presupposition of this first paragraph, which is present in all Powys's work: that there is a kind of 'psychic ether' that carries mental vibrations as the 'luminous ether' is supposed to carry light.

What is so interesting about P. is that he deliberately set out to cultivate 'multi-mindedness,' to pass out of his own identity into that of people or even objects. 'I could feel myself in to the lonely identity of a pier-post, of a tree stump, of a monolith in a stone-circle; and when I did this, I LOOKED like this post, this stump, this stone.' AUTOBIOGRAPHY p. 528.

It was an attempt to soothe his mind into a state of quiescent identity with the 'psychic ether', with the vast objective world that surrounds us. Everyone has had the experience of feeling sick, and then THINKING ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE and feeling the sickness vanish. 'Objectivity' causes power to flow into the soul, a surge of strength, and contact with the vast, strange forces that surround us. In a famous passage from the PRELUDE, Wordsworth describes a midnight boating excursion when a huge peak made a deep impression on his mind, and how for days afterwards:

. . .my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colors of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams. (Book One)

Wordsworth, like Powys, had acquired the ability to pass beyond his own personality and achieve direct contact with the 'psychic ether.' But as he grew older, he lost this ability (not unlike lightning calculators) to transcend his personality and the poetry loses its greatness. Powys never lost his power of summoning a strange ecstasy. In the AUTOBIOGRAPHY he describes how, lecturing on Strindberg in an almost empty theatre in SF, there stirred within him:

. . . that formidable daimon which, as I have hinted to you before, CAN be reached somewhere in my nature, and which when it IS reached has the Devil's own force . . . I became aware, more vividly aware than I had ever been, that the secret of life consists in sharing the madness of God. By sharing the madness of God I mean the power of rousing a peculiar exultation in yourself as you confront the Inanimate, an exultation which is really a cosmic eroticism . . . ( p. 531)

Again, in the Roman amphitheatre in Verona:

Alone in that Roman circle, under those clouds from which no drop of rain fell, the thaumaturgic element in my nature rose to such a pitch that I felt, as I have only done once or twice since, that I really was endowed with some sort of supernatural power . . . I felt it again, only 5 years ago, when I visited Stonehenge . . . The feeling that comes over meat such times is one of most formidable power . . . (p. 403)

THE OCCULT was published by Vintage Books in 1971, it was dedicated to Robert Graves.

maj 10, 2011, 6:42 pm

I'm going to attempt it, though I haven't been so scared in my life since passing through the Martello Towers.

maj 10, 2011, 6:45 pm

Very interesting, but I wasn't aware that Psilocybin grew in Wales.

Redigerat: maj 10, 2011, 9:08 pm

If it's too much EF throw the pfucking book out of the window. I said above that I won't take it personally if you can't machete your way through the thing. It's NOT for everyone. Read slowly if read you must. It's not some sort of contest. I doubt very much many will see this thing through to its completion. A lifetime of study and 7 years went into the writing, I doubt that a little journey with Peter/Porius is going to make that much of a difference. Most everyone here is attempting or attempting to attempt the thing for the first time. If it doesn't run out of gas or go crashing into some wall or another I expect the thread to last through the year. Some of you may do little more than read the latest contribution. This is OK. Oklahoma is OK. Of course I will help out as often as I can.

Mushrooms, hmmmmm. The loamy nature of our study will not be insalubrious to the growth of our fungal friends.

maj 10, 2011, 8:49 pm

I'm searching out a copy now. Hopefully the Labyrinth has one, seems like they would. Might be a little later starting.

maj 10, 2011, 9:07 pm

Good to see you all. Take our time. No rush, any of you.

maj 10, 2011, 10:36 pm

What a great resource this thread is already! I'm in, of course. I will be starting later when I get the book in Wales, but I will catch up. I'm going to be reading Wolf Solent now, and I will intersperse some of JCP's poetry and extracts from his essays, if that's ok, Por.

maj 10, 2011, 10:56 pm

I might just pull out Wolf Solent and read some until the 21st myself.

maj 10, 2011, 10:57 pm

The subject alone makes it worth the attempt for me. Still waiting for Porius to arrive (I am assuming the 2007 edition?), but I picked up JCP's "A Philosophy of Solitude" from the library. Has anyone read this? Solitude must have been essential to the author in order to compose something on this scale.

maj 10, 2011, 11:30 pm

I've read the Philosophy of In Spite, but not of Solitude.

Redigerat: maj 11, 2011, 1:03 pm

Of course it's OK TC as you are our 'Shining Brow' here.
I've read most of the PHILOSOPHY OFs.
THE OBSTINATE CYMRIC is my favorite, if it is proper to have such a thing as a favorite, anything.

maj 11, 2011, 12:52 pm

'Powys's desire to see his characters and events from some 'universal' point of view in which the algae in a stagnant pond and the grubs in a rotten tree are as important as the human characters.'

This is well said, and is what gives Powys, in part, his vibrancy. I galloped delightedly through Wolf Solent, and am amused at the degree to which our man Porius is concerned that this will be a difficult or daunting read. I think it was Urania earlier who said she didn't like Wolf Solent. I can imagine, especially as a matter of mood--I get caught up by Powys easily, and so expect an easy read. But I can also imagine that if there is too much distance from the author too early it would be a slog. As for me, I am too much a brother of Powys to expect anything but the most spectacular romp.

Redigerat: maj 11, 2011, 1:14 pm

maj 11, 2011, 8:42 pm

>57 Porius:
just had time now to read this post.

the secret of life consists in sharing the madness of God.

brilliant. Reminds me of Artaud.

Redigerat: maj 11, 2011, 9:56 pm

Por-Man, is it okay if I read Atlantis instead of Porius?

maj 12, 2011, 12:42 am

Of course it is.

maj 12, 2011, 5:03 pm

As usual, bringing up the rear, but planning to join with y'all, that is, providing Apollonius doesn't show up and foul up my schedule.

maj 12, 2011, 5:17 pm

I find it curious that EF one of the more intrepid word hurlers around these parts is frightened as a little lamb in the face of JCP's PORIUS. All 6'5'' of him. My advice is it is not that daunting a task. The reader has to get used to the slow motion. Heads don't roll. The rumbling is at a minimum. Porius is in love but beast with two backs is behind the arras. A lifetime of study was poured into the novel. Powys was a man of wide reading; his reading in the area of Celtic Studies was vast. The more of this the reader can bring to the effort the better it is. As I said earlier it is simply not for everyone. Urania1, a very astute and voracious reader considers Powys wormwood. In the end it's a matter of taste, etc.

For those who take the plunge it is most important, nay, crucial to proceed slowly, probably no more than a chapter at a sitting. Though doubtless you all know what's the best way to operate, etc. etc.

Redigerat: maj 12, 2011, 5:31 pm

I read Porius three or so years ago, have since read Weymouth Sands and A Glastonbury Romance (this spring, here is our thread: A Glastonbury Romance So obviously I'm smitten. I won't read the book again, it's too soon, but I will lurk and participate.

The SO just read and loved it too -- whenever one of us falls silent and distracted now the other one can say, "Are you cavoseniargizing or just ignoring me?" (or however you spell it).

maj 12, 2011, 7:30 pm

Happy to have you around in any capacity.

maj 12, 2011, 7:53 pm

Listen, just because I'm afraid, doesn't mean I'm frightened.

maj 12, 2011, 8:58 pm

maj 12, 2011, 9:04 pm

brilliant links Por, as always.

In a Hotel Writing-Room

We artists have strange nerves!
That man in front of me,
I had been hating him
Just for the lines and curves
Of his unconscious face,
Lines that brought no disgrace
Upon humanity.
But when that same man spoke,
And with a grunt and wheeze
Asked me how many cs
Had the word "Necessity,"
The cord of my hatred broke.
"For how's a beggar to tell"
He said; -- and I loved him for it --
"With a word as long as hell,
If no wise blighter tells us?"
-- "You are right, my friend. We may score it
Over and over with c;
But at last it is not we
Who spell 'Necessity,'
But Necessity who spells us!"
He smiled. I smiled. And between
Your artist and your drummer
Swept, on a breeze of summer,
A wave of sympathy;
And we even came to wonder
Where -- in the name of thunder --
We had met before this scene.

JCP 1916

maj 13, 2011, 3:45 am

'Rique! Say it ain't so! I have a Welsh pronunciation guide if you are interested. It really helps.

See who can translate the following; written with the Welsh alphabet:

Gwd lwc. Ai hop ddat yw can ryd ddys and ddat yt meiks sens tw yw. Iff yw can ryd ddys, dden yw ar dwing ffaen and wil haf no problems at ol yn lyrnyng awr ffaen Welsh alffabet.

maj 13, 2011, 4:42 am

My name isn't 'Rique, but I'm interested in a Welsh pronunciation guide! ;-)

maj 13, 2011, 6:10 am

hahahH tani thats hilarious!

maj 13, 2011, 1:11 pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

maj 13, 2011, 2:13 pm

PORIUS is set in 5th C. Wales. There's not much info. available for this time. From this Nothing Powys created the maelstrom that is Edeyrnion. N. Wales A.D. 499. He studied relentlessly all of the religious squabbles of the age. The fights raged on by the devotees of Christianity, Mithraism, Pelagianism, Pythagoreanism, Judaism, and Druidism. The people who make up W. at this period are: Celtic Brythons, who are partly Romanized; the anarchical and peaceful Forest People, descended from the Iberians of North Africa (THE OBSTINATE CYMRIC is helpful here); the mysterious Ffichtiaid (Picts) - Goodrich is good on the Picts - the Gwyddylaid (dd's sound like th); and the invading barbarian Saxons. And members of the Giant Race (Cewri) thrown in for as it were good measure.

The action takes place in single week, 18 October -25 Oct. The scene is a Roman fort in NW. Porius is the principal actor, Prince of Edeyrnion, descendant of Cunedda. Edeyrnion is one of the many principalities the Romans gave over providing the locals would be made to toe the line. The House of Cunedda has kept watch over the aboriginals but they are less than pleased about the situation. Word has come to P. that the dreaded Saxons are on the march, and Arthur, Dux Bellorum has set out to head them off. The Forest People, ruled by the 3 Aunties, callled Modrybedd (plus Druid), every bit as vicious as Saki's, or Plum's aunties, have thrown their lot in with the Saxons in a vain attempt to save their once all-powerful Matriarchate. Arthur has sent Myrddin Wyllt (Merlin), Nineue, and Medrawed to help Porius.

Arthur's horsemen and the Forest People have at it, Saxons arrive and are routed for the nonce. In the meantime P. marries his cousin Morfydd, he mates with a giantess, has a talk with a Magickal childe, and rolls away the stone and allows M. to escape from Nineue's clutches.

The story seems to be about the battle of the powers of 'order' v. the powers of 'disorder.' Edeyrnion is a little light surrounded by greater darkness. The Patriarchy surrounded by the Worshippers of the Great Mother, worshippers of the dark Rebirth.

Neither Order has much to be proud of as the story begins. The peaceful Modrybedd have turned into the Terrible Mothers seeking to destroy the sons who are asserting their independence. The Romanized Celts have gotten above themselves, fanatical in their Christianity. Everything is at sixes and sevens, Porius' father, Einion, has joined the Forest People, he has reverted to Goddess worshipping, when the Saxons threaten to invade, it is his Roman wife who springs to defend the House. Einion's brother, Brochvael remains a cultured patriarch, but fails also to respond when called upon to defend the House.

maj 13, 2011, 3:03 pm

The thing that was known from before the beginning,
And will be still known when the end is forgotten,
Known to star-fish and sun-fish and sea-worms and earth-worms
Known to sky-gods and earth-men and all living creatures!

I know it from pond-slime and frog-spawn and grub-spit,
From bracken's green coral, white lichen, yellow mosses,
Newts sinking with their arms out to reedy pools' bottoms,
Swords rusting in their oak-stumps, wrapped in the long rains,
Eggs rotting in their lost nests, enjoying the wild mists,
I know it from all these, and to men I proclaim it:
The ending forever of the Guilt-sense and God-sense,
The ending forever of the Sin-sense and Shame-sense,
The ending forever of the Love-sense and Loss-sense,
The beginning forever of the Peace paradisic,
The 'I feel' without question, the 'I am' without purpose,
The 'It is' that leads nowhere, the life with no climax,
The 'Enough' that leads forward to no consummation,
The answer to all things, that yet answers nothing,
The center of all things, yet all on the surface,
The secret of Nature, yet Nature goes blabbing it,
With all her voices from earth, fire, air, water!
Whence comes it: Whither goes it: It is nameless; it is shameless;
It is time free at last from its Ghostly Accuser,
Time haunted no more by a Phantom Eternal;
It is Godless; but its gods are as sea-sands in number;
It's the Square with four sides that encloses all circles;
Four horizons hath this Tetrad that swallows all Triads;
It includes every creature that Nature can summon.
It excludes from Annwfyn nor man, beast, nor woman! (pp. 417-418)

maj 13, 2011, 4:45 pm

After a little more searching I found the website with the guide I used years ago for another Arthurian novel.

maj 13, 2011, 5:02 pm

Very good, Tani.

maj 13, 2011, 5:23 pm

Thanks much!

maj 13, 2011, 6:32 pm

A Guide for the Perplexed? I don't know if any of you are perplexed, how could I know? At any rate I'll keep jotting down notes in no order. Some are building monuments while others are jotting down notes. I hope at a more enlightening level than Mr Dick, Phillip Quarles or the older geezer in that Virginia Woolf novel. Who knows?

The weird, monstrous miraculous story that is Porius. Powys has written about our pathetic race of men. The Everlasting Fairy Tale. The legend of consciousness. The legend of the origin of Consciousness that arises out of unconscious World Stuff. The Pfall into Duality. The desperate struggle of mankind to release itself from the other domination of the Great Mother and escape into the airy region of the Heavenly Father. The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light. To heal the breach between Heaven and Earth.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Into the breach steps Porius, Prince of Edeyrnion, son of Einion. The creation of a New Order? He possesses the blood of all the Races, Roman, Celt, Aboriginal, the Cewri (Giants). His cousin Morfydd, a new woman, trained in the Ffichtiad ways. Their marriage, like The Winter Queen and Fredrick of Bohemia's marriage was to ring in a New Golden Age.

On top of all of this PORIUS is an Alchemical Novel. Powys was familiar with the works of Boehme, Plotinus, HERMES TRISMEGISTUS, and many more.


There in our apple-loft . . . I would play at being an alchemist . . . . All this while I lacked the faintest rudiments of scientific curiosity. It was only that I liked the sensation of playing with these strange constituents of our planet's flesh and blood. It was the sensation of magic that I was after, not scientific knowledge . . . (pp. 136-7)

Alchemy, as Paracelsus, the 16th C alchemist, is

For alchemy means: to carry to its end something that has not yet been completed . . . Alchemy is nothing but the art which makes the impure into the pure through fire . . . (Alchemy, the Art of Transformation)

When the Tao, the meaning of the world and eternal life, are attained, the Chinese say, Long life flowers with the essence of the Stone & the brightness of Gold.

Porius, of all Powys's heroes, comes closest to developing or uncovering his 'Ichthyosaurus-ego', that would lead to the Golden Age Within:

What the Ichthyosaurus-Ego is an adept in, is nothing less than the shortcut to the Essence of Being, which used to be symbolized under the mythical image of The Philosopher's Stone.

maj 13, 2011, 8:24 pm

Oh golly, I started Wolf Solent last night. Is it ever good! I'll post some salient bits later, but I have to dash out to work now.

Great stuff, all of these posts, Por.

I cannot think of any other writer in English who is so good at describing nature. The English countryside is just THERE!

Redigerat: maj 13, 2011, 8:48 pm

I agree with Murr that reading Powys immerses you in nature. I'll be curious to know, Murr, if any of your salient bits are from this lengthy excerpt below, that just, I don't know, somehow touches something metaphysical if not divine for me.

Por-Man, was Powys at all a pantheist to your knowledge? Btw, I'm playing up being a scaredy-cat. Just trying to add to the drama.

from Wolf Solent, early pages:

"Where he asked himself, as for the twentieth time he took out and put back Mr. Urquhart's letter -- where, in such a vivisected frog-belly's of a world, would there be a better place left for a person to think any single thought that was leisurely and easy? And, as he asked himself this, and mentally formed a visual image of what he considered 'thought' took the form of slowly stirring, vegetable leaves, big as elephants' feet, hanging from succulent and cold stalks on the edges of woodland swamps. ...

"In fact, the thrill of malicious exultation that passed through his nerves as he thought of these things had a curious resemblance to the strange ecstasy he used to derive from certain godlike mythological legends. He would never have confessed to any living person the intoxicating enlargement of personality that used to come to him from imagining himself a sort of demiurgic force, drawing its power from the heart of Nature herself.

"And it was just that sort of enlargement he experienced now, when he felt the mysterious depths of his soul stirred and excited by his defiance of those modern inventions. It was not as though he fell back on any traditional archaic obstinacy. What he fell back upon was a crafty, elusive cunning of his own, a cunning both slippery and serpentine, a cunning that could flow like air, sink like rain-water, rise like green sap, root itself like invisible spores of moss, float like filmy pond-scum, yield and retreat, retreat and yield, yet remain unconquered and inviolable!

"As he stared through the open window and watched each span of telegraph-wires sink slowly down till the next telegraph-post pulled them upward with a jerk, he indulged himself in a sensation which always gave him a peculiar pleasure, the sensation of imagining himself to be a prehistoric giant who, with an effortless ease, ran along by the side of the train, leaping over hedges, ditches, lanes, and ponds, and easily rivalled, in natural-born silent speed, the noisy mechanism of all those piston and cog-wheels!

"He felt himself watching this other self, this leaping giant, with the positive satisfaction of a hooded snake, thrusting out a flickering forked tongue from coils that shimmered in the sun. And yet as the train rushed forward, it seemed to him as if his real self were neither giant nor snake; but rather that black-budded ash tree, still in the rearward of its leafy companions, whose hushed grey branches threw so contorted a shadow upon the railway bank.

"Soon the train that carried him ran rapidly past the queer-looking tower of Basingstoke Church, and his thoughts took yet another turn. There was a tethered cow eating grass in the churchyard; and as for the space of a quarter of a minute he watched this cow, it gathered to itself such an inviolable placidity that its feet seemed planted in a green pool of quietness that was older than life itself.

"But the Basingstoke Church tower substituted itself for the image of the cow; and it seemed to Solent as though all the religions in the world were nothing but so many creaking and splashing barges, whereon the souls of men ferried themselves over those lakes of primal silence, disturbing the swaying water-plants that grew there and driving away the shy water-fowl! ...

"He pulled in his legs and clasped his hands over his knees, leaning forward, frowning and intent. 'I don't care whether I make money. I don't care whether I get fame. I don't care whether I leave any work behind me when I die. All I want is certain sensations!' And with all the power of his wits he set himself to try and analyse what these sensations were that he wanted beyond everything.

"The first thing he did was to attempt to analyse a mental device he was in the habit of resorting to -- a device that supplied him with the secret substratum of his whole life. This was a certain trick he had of doing what he called 'sinking into his soul'. ..."

maj 13, 2011, 8:52 pm

I know EF. I was having some pfun, most unlike me. A Pantheist, no doubt, but in the end he believed very little. It was Up & Out for old JCP. No Golden Age, no Nothing.

maj 13, 2011, 9:57 pm

Thanks for all this labor of love you've been compiling, Por! I've a thing for bibliographies and indexes and compendiums.l There's no such thing as too much information, especially not when it's regarding a writer you love and so identify with.

and thanks for that guide too Tani!

maj 13, 2011, 11:02 pm

>94 absurdeist: ya beat me too it Freeeky.

Redigerat: maj 13, 2011, 11:42 pm

Don't mention it. I'm a shameless proselytizer. Few things bring me more pleasure than beating the drum for old Powys, et al. I encourage both of you to contribute as much as your busy lives allow you to.

maj 13, 2011, 11:41 pm

Didn't mean to steal your thunder, Murr, that's a passage I've had copied elsewhere for quick reference and have a quoted a few times elsewhere.

My first impression reading that section, I remember, was how much it reminded me of Proust's introspection. Curious if you had a similar first impression.

maj 14, 2011, 4:14 am

My very great pleasure. ;-)

Redigerat: maj 14, 2011, 7:01 pm


JCP in Sussex, etc. etc.

maj 15, 2011, 4:38 am

Spurious, I am driving with great force and a whiff of oblivion through the bio of Powys.

And: in the intro to Wolf Solent, my copy, the guy says he still hasn't managed to get through Porius. Thank god the biographer did.

Often mentioned in regard to Jesus Christ Powys: his massive books! Too big for readers! Bad Johnny.

maj 19, 2011, 8:21 pm

Is you ready to rock come Saturday, and open the book Porius to page one and commence reading of it, under the tireless tutelage of Por-Mawwwwnnn. Well is you?

maj 19, 2011, 8:27 pm

Yeh I'm ready. getting rid of the house guests tomorrow and so more time for reading.

maj 19, 2011, 8:29 pm


maj 19, 2011, 10:39 pm

Red eye.

maj 19, 2011, 11:47 pm

Just received my copy today, so I'm ready as well.

maj 20, 2011, 12:06 am

I'll catch up as soon as I get my copy

maj 20, 2011, 3:04 am

'...the liberating obscurity of this immense catafalque of mist, as it went on unloading that ivory-coloured essence og ghostly corn as if it were the life sap of a dying goddess...'

maj 20, 2011, 3:14 am

I'm gonna need a dictionary... ;p

maj 20, 2011, 9:10 am

you're gonna need a valprotini.

maj 20, 2011, 12:07 pm

The brilliant Newt Gingrich will be the first guest lecturer.

maj 20, 2011, 12:18 pm

> 111 I checked 'og' and it isn't in the unabridged Webster's.

Redigerat: maj 20, 2011, 1:04 pm

As JCP was assembling PORIUS he was poor as a church-mouse and suffering from every sort of bowel malady and having a bit of trouble with one of his eyes. 'TT' his live-in partner was tending to sick female relatives while she wasn't helping out with the nuts and bolts of JCP's gastro-intestinal woes. Krissdottir (the most recent biographer) spends entirely too much time wallowing in the Swiftian details therein. It goes without saying that Powys was a strange bird, he was clumsy and not an adept at household chores. He lived in a cloud of his own making; cloud-coo-coo land some might say. He was over seventy with many miles on the odometer. Like Bernard Shaw he would write well into his 90's. As PORIUS was going to press Shaw tripped while pruning a tree and died shortly thereafter.

Powys sailed off into the unknown expecting a blank, while Shaw died doubtlessly dreaming of that elusive loophole.

Powys and Shaw were two spellbinders who pondered long on the littleness of human existence, though they were on the positive side of the ledger.

maj 20, 2011, 1:19 pm

Collecting my copy from the library tomorrow. I have it on loan for 3 weeks with the option to extend another 2 weeks.

P. - I'm going to need all of that time aren't I?

Redigerat: maj 20, 2011, 1:22 pm

Did I hear Valprotini? Bottoms up!

maj 20, 2011, 1:26 pm

Yes. But following along might make it a little easier I hope.

maj 20, 2011, 1:28 pm

I doubt five weeks is enough. A book like that ought to have a special dispensation as it is not worth checking out anything less than 12 weeks at a time. If you are drinking valprotinis you will never finish it. Spanish coffee is probably the ticket.

Redigerat: maj 20, 2011, 2:21 pm

'Words, the magic of words, is a deep and occult part of the mystery of life. Gibberish - the inventing of nonsense - is an irresponsible tendency of mine, and to me it is never comic or facetious or amusing.

Slick is on the money as ever.

The bloodiest battle being fought today is that in which the imagination of man is being slowly murdered by knowledge. Mr Powys from his own recluded corner in the mountains knows this, and from time to time strikes great blows in defense of it: The greatest obstacle to any real and mellow wisdom' JCP wrote in OBSTINATE CYMRIC 'Is the superstition of modernity.'
James Hanley

BRUT DINESTOW is the Welsh basis of, what Powys called a 'great buggerly book' of 33 chapters. He had brushed aside coherent structure and mere daylight reality altogether. He had few delusions about his subjectiveness, writing frankly:

in PORIUS I masquerade sometimes as P.; but much more naturally in pre-puberty boyness of 9 or 10 or 11, to which in PORIUS and henceforth in all my future tales, till I die, I shall naturally revert - as 'Myrddin Wyllt' or Merlin the Wild; Shape-Shifter, as he was also called.

A letter to Louis Wilkinson, 9 Jan. 1952

Redigerat: maj 20, 2011, 1:43 pm

Great quotes. I intend to read Porius later, when I can really submerge into it. However, I am already feeling really envious.

Redigerat: maj 20, 2011, 3:09 pm

Abandon Swope all ye who enter. I caution the takers to go slow. Don't read too many pages at once. Too many pages at once, very similar to the experience of reading Finnegans Wake, is not the way to go. I can only liken the experience to being in the thick of the Amazon with Tristan Jones or the Survivor Man (Les Stroud). At least in reading one can take a break, sit down somewhere without fear of the Blue Meanies or one of Saki's aunties crawling into one's pajamas. A stiff drink or maybe a cup of tea? It will become clear as we go that Alchemy will play a major role, but let that be for the nonce. Here's a passage that is representative of the work:


maj 21, 2011, 4:03 am

What's the punishment for reading two chapters in one day?

maj 21, 2011, 10:21 am

porius the third: I am avoiding links to try to confront the prose with as little taint as possible, to retain surprise. I did rush through the biography, so I have some guidance and expectation. But now, after reading the first chapter, I wonder if you have a pronunciation guide. dd is th, i think you said, but...

maj 21, 2011, 10:49 am

in Welsh you pronounce all the vowels individually
LL is like thluh
See the bottom line of message 81 above for a fun example of the rest.

maj 21, 2011, 11:33 am

so c is hard

but i don't get LL is like thluh

maj 21, 2011, 11:44 am

yep -- just let the air kind of hiss out with your tongue in the 'the' position, then vocalize the L sound It isn't a vocalized 'th' as we would say 'the'. Let your cheeks puff out a little. Then vocalize the L. Does that help? It's one reason the sometime LLoyd is spelled Cloyd? A feeble attempt to reproduce this odd sound.

Redigerat: maj 21, 2011, 12:38 pm
Not recommended for the music, but it does feature the LL sound repeatedly. Someone has posted lyrics in the comments at the bottom of the page so you can follow along.

maj 21, 2011, 12:39 pm

Try not to get too hung up on the pronunciation. If it becomes too tedious just drop out. I don't expect there will be too many standing when the dust settles. I'll check in later.

maj 21, 2011, 12:54 pm

Good point: I'd pick a simplified pronunciation that works for you and enjoy the substance.

maj 21, 2011, 1:52 pm

A bad day for me to get started. I'm stuck doing things around the hose that Powys didn't do any too well. On the pronunciation front, give it a good attempt and move on. You will improve as you go. None of us is going to hear it as one at the Bard contest. You tubing may help. Give it a go and if it becomes too much, give it up.

maj 21, 2011, 1:54 pm

I'm just making up words as I go along. My brain is assuming I'm correct and is handing me the words when needed. It's working so far.

maj 21, 2011, 2:53 pm

Give up? Drop out? Whence the fortitude of yesteryear?

maj 21, 2011, 3:16 pm

Attaboy Rick.

maj 21, 2011, 6:04 pm

Rick, I posted a pronunciation guide in message 88. I have a copy printed out and in my book. I agree with Slick, find a comfortable pronunciation and stick with it. Otherwise, it will drive you crazy.

maj 21, 2011, 6:14 pm

I fear not the Mrddiffichtianmordrovianmandrill.

maj 21, 2011, 6:19 pm

Thanks again for that reminder, Tani. I just printed the Welsh guide out myself and will also use it as a bookmark. This is an adventure!

maj 21, 2011, 7:08 pm

Not too much at one sitting peoples. Slowly. Slowly. Like gazing at a Brueghal or a Bosch. Just be content with the mudd the bludd and the beer as Johnny Cash would put it.

Redigerat: maj 22, 2011, 5:00 am

Por – did I tell you I collect books that mention Boethius? There he is on p. 18! Why wasn't I told?

maj 22, 2011, 5:18 am

> 140 Boethius should have told you.

Last night, having exhausted myself if not my son, I took to the bed with Porius, whereupon Arjun asked me if I could read it to him. I wondered what the odd contents meant to him, for cleary a mood was conveyed and words such as magical and so on indicated something of a fairy tale, but after a full page he finally spoke, simply to ask what folly meant. Rather than take the easy way out and tell him my life would be a good example, I did my best to explain using synonyms.

maj 22, 2011, 5:39 am

hah! great story! JCP would have loved it!

I'm finding from my reading of Wolf Solent, that Cowper describes children wonderfully well. The character of Olwen- a little girl of about 9, I think- is very well done.

Can't wait to catch up with you guys.

Redigerat: maj 22, 2011, 6:00 am

Read the first chapter this morning in bed.

I think I have got into a rhythym of the book (assuming the rest is of the same nature). Its density seems to be a combination of the mimicry of the interiority of the mind, repeating thoughts and impressions, returning in differing forms, and the close but impressionistic description of nature, with the added complexity of necessary opening chapter description of people, place and events.

Certainly like no thing I have read before.

maj 22, 2011, 6:05 am

My plan is to do produce 2 pieces of paper to place on the wall (not sure if I will get away with that latter part, but worth a try).

One mapping out the characters - most of which will be in a central family tree. The other mapping out the 'peoples' adding in descriptions from the novel (and maybe from outside historical sources where they exist).

I think this visualisation will help me to comprehend the fullness of scope of this immensity.

Redigerat: maj 22, 2011, 2:26 pm

Zeno, you are indeed going to the max.

The thing with powys, to me, is that he is under no restraint. having read his biography i take away little that matters to me as a reader, weirdo that he was. Most importantly he was, in terms of the exterior world and his writing engaging it, a FREEE man.

Today I held my snake, Porius, for a few seconds. He is healthy and happy, as far as I can make out. The kind of snake he is is said to respond well to humans while in captivity, which, I admit, is where he is. But only because of the suburbs that made me.

maj 22, 2011, 11:50 am

Great work Z. Of course the more you put into something the more you get out of it. The rhythm is most important.

maj 22, 2011, 12:15 pm


I'm wondering aloud if it might be beneficial for those inclined to begin their own PORIUS reading threads, jotting down words and connections and questions and observations they'd like later to reference and/or dig deeper upon. I've read the first three pages and have jotted down much already. Sounds like Z has a treasure trove of stuff himself to put down, as do others, I suspect. I'd like to, of course, start my own Porius Reader's Thread, but will bow to your dictates regarding such an important decision either way; to you, Por-Mon, to you who have power over the Gwyddl-Ffichti; to you, whom I suspect, belong to the mysterious race of Coranians; to you, perhaps the lone survivor of Lost Atlantis and its cult of the Great Serpent. Upon reading which, I hear Manly P. Hall calling me from his Secret Teachings of All Ages.

What say you, Master Porius?

Redigerat: maj 22, 2011, 1:25 pm

A Capital Idea EF. At least for those who wish to follow, or lead such a path. We could have several or however many threads going simultaneously. You haven't lost your leadership bona-fides.
Z. puts it quite well: 'it's like nothing I've ever read' - a paraphrase of course. Powys has his lovers & haters with precious few in between.

Porius on the other hand is caught between the Mother-riters & the Father-riters; he was caught in that strange brew of Heretics & Madmen that made up Roman Britain of 499 A.D. JCP was a lifetime strong reader who poured all of his exoteric and esoteric scholarship into the job. Very few of his contemporaries turned as many pages as our man; he gave lectures in just about every state, he knew the USA as intimately as any of its native sons, as he was a walker of the calibre of old Dickens, or Leslie Stephen and was as bird-wise, etc. as the redoubtable Louis Halle.

My advice to all is to be as good a soldier as you can and don't worry overmuch about pronunciation, etc. etc. etc. Only scholars of Celtic Britain can follow Powys down the primrose paths. And anyone who has turned more than a few pages therein can tell you that consensus doesn't exist. Was Arthur a Mythological figure or did he actually live? Who were the Druids, et al? I possess 100's of books on the subject, though I have nothing more reliable to say than our own Rick Harsch. I am also reading a biography of Arnold Bennett, a writer who couldn't be more temperamentally different from JCP. Written by Margaret Drabble whose own experience was not that different from the Potteries wherein Bennett was born and raised. They lived the same time frame, roughly, Bennett (1867-1931), Powys (1872-1963). Bennett, as Virginia Woolf said in her famous essay, shallowly I think, was after surfaces, and Powys was after essences. Bennett ended up a man of the world, after a difficult beginning; Powys started life as a reclusive figure, though he gave 100's and 100's of lectures, and finished life as same. Bennett had a lifelong stuttering problem which precluded any public speaking, etc. Both were hypochondriacs, and neither were as lunatic as H.G. Wells about matters of the heart, so to speak. You could even say they were more than a little Swiftian in their being all-too-aware that Celia does indeed, shit.

maj 22, 2011, 6:44 pm

I like to take a wild ride with books like PORIUS, etc. etc. Take the leap and let the Devil take the hindmost.

maj 23, 2011, 3:19 am

Moody Blues! How very apropos, Por! Between you and Sandydog1, I am getting nostalgic, too. ;-)

Redigerat: maj 23, 2011, 9:53 am

Started Porius today and read the first chapter. There was much furtling around checking up on the moderately helpful list of characters at the front of the book as I tried to get the who's who of the extended family straight in my head. Perhaps zeno has the right idea with his family tree pinned to the wall. Impossible for me however as it would cover up my "Highlights of the Jazz story in the USA" poster.

All this talk of blood and blood relations reminded me of D H Lawrence's later style and so I am sure I am going to enjoy Porius. The wonderful descriptions of the natural world are good enough to keep me going. I realised that the setting of the novel was North Wales but was surprised to find that JCP uses actual locations ie: the town of Corwen and the mountain Cader Idris. Incidentally there is an excellent picture of this mountain with the forest in front of it at

Just one puzzle in my 2007 version of the text on page 29 the fifth paragraph starts as follows: Chapter IV bent now over the rampart of his watchtower... Who or what is this Chapter IV am I missing something or is this poor copyediting.

I hope to read a chapter a day. Thank you Porius for all the information you have provided; I am slowly working my way through all the links etc.

maj 23, 2011, 12:22 pm

Idris Elba as Stringer Bell. No doubt named for the mountain in Wales.

Redigerat: maj 23, 2011, 1:16 pm

He felt as if he stood on an earth-crust that covered a cosmogonic cavern wherein the bones and ashes and the mouldering dust of the gods and men and beasts and birds and fishes and reptiles had been gathered into a multitudinous congregated compost, out of which by the creative energy of Time new life could be eternally spawned . . .

Powys's own fundamental ambivalence toward freedom and containment heas never been more magnificently captured than in this novel. In 1945, at the time he was exploring the forest primeval/forestry commission, he found a cave. He explained to a friend, 'I went through a wood above the road rail & river by a forester's 'drove' ending in a sort of mossy rocky precipice with a cave I wanted to experiment with (I mean in!) in view of my Romance of Corwen in 499 A.D. into which I am now plunged . . . and in which I now float & swim & rest on its coral reef and its isles in perilous seas.'

PORIUS a story about a man freeing himself from the maternal womb, becoming an independent entity, or a story of an endless desire to return to that sea 'out of which all life originally sprang.'

These long, slow, tranquilly-rolling ripples of sex-satisfaction resembled those other drowsily curving time-waves . . . rocking so gently upon the brimming sea of contentment, such as every child born into the world may be imagined feeling, in its first independent falling asleep after its navel-string is cut.' This is the 'narrow chink between sleep and wake,' the Golden October week of felicity, when his mother released him from her bed and Powys became an 'Independent Entity.' Then 'the November cold winds' began.

PORIUS is the culmination of a lifetime of learning and hurting. Into its long gestation P. poured his manias, his memories, . . .

The indomitable Mrs Meech turned the 2,811 pages of longhand into 1,589 pages of typescript by the middle of June 1949 after which P. began corrections.

You can imagine what the publishers made of all of this. Thomas Wolfe and his wooden crates, forklifts to move the paper-stuffed crates around. It wasn't pretty for either party. They of course demanded drastic cuts, and Powys was just as adamant about chopping up his creation:

Nothing wd . . make me leave out the Cewri, or make them a dream, or tamper with them as they are here in any way. Nothing also wd induce me, persuade me, or make me, leave out or turn into anybody's dream, the Miracle of the Owl-Girl Blodeuwedd . . . I won't launch into a metaphysical or mystical or even a poetic-imaginative defense of this element of the marvellous in this book. I'll only say that in these things I really am a 'Medium' and that my Autumn of the year 499 is my vision of what Reality really was then to the people of that Age. To leave out Marvels & Wonders wd be to make the whole thing false, to make it ring untrue & unreal, to make it a tiresome & tedious transferring of our present pseudo-scientific & narrowly exact scientific attitude to life & the Cosmos into the brains of the people of that time . . . I treat them as real NOT as dreams & who can dogmatically be sure they're NOT real or never happened? Well!! anyway in the world I have always lived in & shall always live in till I am dead.

from letter to Norman Denny, 7 December 1949, Syracuse

Most of the above from Krisdottir's biography of JCP

maj 23, 2011, 4:58 pm

I take it that chapter three's long hug in which Mrwyddn transforms in that strangely described manner is an early alchemical reference.

Redigerat: maj 23, 2011, 10:38 pm

Fabulous information Por and everybody. I'm going to wait on starting another thread for the moment. Once more of the book is under my belt, maybe that'll change.

I love the Atlantis connection, Powys mentioning that the Druidic worship of the forest people originated with Atlantis survivors. I may look that up in my Manly Hall tome. Por-Man, have you read Powys' Atlantis? Your thoughts on it if you have?

The richness of the language, mmmmm. It's spellbinding indeed.

It'll be a very slow read for me, five pages max at a time (and they're packed pages: roughly 750 words/page in this '07 ed., which is triple the amount of your average book, and I didn't even mention the density of the prose). Quite good, enjoyable, nothing to be a scaredy-cat about, so far ...

maj 23, 2011, 11:02 pm

I agree with you Freeque. It will be a slow read for me, too, but not a tough one, at least not yet. I love how much information and mood Powys provides in the beginning, whilst our protagonist does nothing more than look out over the countryside. Terrific!

maj 24, 2011, 5:52 am

The indomitable Mrs Meech!

maj 24, 2011, 10:49 am

2nd chapter and the mind of Porius is a wonderful thing to behold. It would appear that JCP is getting into his stride now with his stream of conscious technique. Some beautiful writing here and the following paragraph is typical:

The river still carried a metallic gleam upon its surface, and the effect of this gleam upon the two men's senses was to accentuate the inner excitement they were both feeling. The whiteness of the river seemed to Porius at that moment in its livid forlornness to be the acme and the epitome of desolation. It suggests lost battles and the blood frozen corpses of innumerable dead men. It suggests that just beyond the horizon lay the walls of deserted cities and the chilly wharves of ruined harbours, where great ships lay waterlogged and dismasted upon mud banks that were phosphorescent with the whiteness of death.

JCP has told us that the river was worshipped by the elders as a river of life. All through this chapter the river reflects what is going on in the minds of Porius and Rhun. masterful writing.

Looking forward to tomorrows chapter.

Redigerat: maj 24, 2011, 1:27 pm

Bas, the descriptions of the river in the beginning of this chapter are so vivid--and the river so alive and loud to me--that I can barely hear what the characters are saying as they stand near it.

maj 24, 2011, 12:11 pm

In baswood it looks as though the book has found a sympathetic reader. I'm sure old Powys is smiling in his grave.

The indomitable Meech indeed, where would some of our writers be without these long suffering amanuensises? Example, Powys's American friend Theodore Dreisser.

maj 24, 2011, 12:18 pm

If I read Sister Carrie would that be almost like reading Porius?

maj 24, 2011, 12:22 pm


Redigerat: maj 24, 2011, 1:43 pm

Rhun's Phrygian cap:

maj 24, 2011, 5:38 pm

Powys' nature worship - as manifested in Porius:

What he counsels directly and indirectly in both his fiction and
his teaching is what he sometimes calls “elementalism”. He urges us to
cultivate the Wordsworthian power of feeling into the inanimate; to enjoy
all nature, and especially its less obviously living manifestations, such as
earth, stone, wind and sea, not haphazardly but by an act of will.

G Wilson Knight

I think this is interesting given the varying religions and cult beliefs swirling about amongst the tribes and individuals in the novel. Was Powys some kind of animist at heart?

maj 24, 2011, 6:43 pm

I think Powys gave up the ghost as a blank to meet the Great Blank that awaited him. As he prowled the hills and dales of Up-State, NY, or N. Wales he was the leader of his very own Nature religion immersing himself in all of Natures forms, animate and inanimate.

Some religious background.:

Pelagius (A.D. 354 - 420/40) , - called 'Brito' by St. Augustine, 'Bretto' by the Venerable Bede, St Jerome thought he was a Scot (with Monty Python's attitude towards the Scots, no doubt), -taught that human will, as created with its abilities by God, was sufficient to live a sinless life, although he believed God's grace assisted every good work. Pelagius did not believe that all humanity was guilty in Adam's sin, but said that Adam had condemned humankind through bad example, and that Christ's good example offered humanity a path to salvation, through sacrifice and through instruction of the WILL (my caps). Jerome emerged as one of the chief critics of Pelagianism, because according to him, sin was part of human nature and we could not help but sin.

Powys's father was a man of the cloth. Although he did not actively practice, he had the personality of a fanatic and was susceptible to any number of whacky ideas - as is a hypochondriacs wont. I think he held on to the idea of man's perfectibility most of his life but went to the grave believing, pfunny word, that it was a just a fairy story. I really don't mean to make it all sound so simple, or do I?

maj 24, 2011, 10:01 pm

151> that "Chapter Four" has to be a typo. Left me scratching my head too.

Powys would've been a joy to go hiking with.

maj 25, 2011, 2:21 am

Powys hiking: Three hours silence. Suddenly, 'I haven't shit in seven years.'

Redigerat: maj 25, 2011, 1:56 pm

This article is much better than wiki!

Holy cow! I could read entries from that Catholic Encyclopedia all day long. Good stuff.

maj 25, 2011, 2:37 pm

Excellent article Slick. All this must be known to fully appreciate our novel. As I mentioned above: a lifetime of hard study went into the writing, etc. of PORIUS. It's not surprising that if a clever ten year old looks into its mirror, that a philosopher hoary with age, etc. isn't there in the reflection.

maj 25, 2011, 5:20 pm

So much of interest in all this.

maj 25, 2011, 5:21 pm

It's in the mail, somewhere. Hopefully I will receive in a few days.

maj 25, 2011, 5:22 pm

And the interiosity of JCP reminds me, in reading Poruis, so often of Proust. So many touch points of similarity. Although, I have no doubt, they were very different in their tangible charateristics.

maj 25, 2011, 5:23 pm

I just printed out the Reader's Companion to Porius which Por provided the link to in #2 above. Got sick of running to the computer to look something up. And having never quite gotten to the last page before, what did I discover there but "A Porius Family Tree" all laid out. Probably too late for those of you who have already rewallpapered your rooms with your own creations of same, but at least you can look here to check your work. Aside from and in addition to that, the Reader's Companion is an incredibly useful timesaving resource.

maj 25, 2011, 5:26 pm

Thanks Suzanne. I probably could have wallpapered my room today of all days, but hadn't quite got there yet. The family tree will be better than my initial attempt - I'll use it from here on.

Redigerat: maj 25, 2011, 5:26 pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

maj 25, 2011, 5:46 pm

Read chapter 3 and now I can understand Rick's reference to the long hug. Quite extraordinary an excursion through time and space. (must stop thinking of Doctor Who when anyone mentions time and space)
Thanks guys for all the information on Mithraism, which is very useful for understanding what is happening in chapters 2 and 3. Further immersion in the world of Porius tomorrow and I am hoping he won't lose his Roman water bottle.

Redigerat: maj 26, 2011, 1:17 pm

Very perceptive Z, Powys was a great champion of Proust, as he was for all of French literature. He traveled up and down this great whacky country of ours giving lectures on Proust, Rabelais, Flaubert, and many more French writers known and unknown to the hungry voters. He was known as the Dorset Proust. A woodland Proust, by your leave. JCP was also one of the first champions of James Joyce. There's a perceptive essay on FW in THE OBSTINATE CYMRIC. He helped his friend Theodore Dreiser get Charles Fort into print. Powys was a man of vast erudition, anyone familiar with his literary essays can't help but notice this.

maj 26, 2011, 12:54 pm

OK after reading this thread I went and put Porius on hold at the library. Will be limping after the rest of you through the greenwoods of Britain.

maj 26, 2011, 1:04 pm

I have been tempted as well! May need to make another trip to the City o' Books!

maj 26, 2011, 1:19 pm

I hope you two come along for the ride. It's LOW Pressure, we're moving glacially. There's no exam at the end.

maj 26, 2011, 1:31 pm

If there had been an exam at the end of Ulysses I would have been dropped as a member way back when. :)

maj 26, 2011, 2:06 pm

>175 Poquette: Poquette, thanks for the reminder about the reader's companion and Por, thanks for the link. Very helpful.

maj 27, 2011, 7:33 am

Yes the readers companion is very useful.

I have been inside that tent for the last couple of days - chapters 4 and 5. More great stuff. A touch of eroticism a touch soporific and I could almost feel my eyes closing along with Porius; away with the lotus eaters. A new word enters the consciousness "cavoseniargizing". A skill I am envious of. JCP also tells us about the art of storytelling.

Whilst reading I am trying to ascertain whether JCP is wholly successful in his depiction of the medieval mindset. I am not questioning his knowledge of medieval literature as his references to this are scattered throughout the text in a knowledgeable way. We are very much in the head of a medieval man; Porius and as his thoughts are expressed, especially those about women I am wondering if these would be the thoughts of a medieval man.

I have noticed that Project Gutenberg has the following works of JCP available:
one hundred best books
Complex vision
Suspended judgements
Visions and revisions

They are free of course and can be accessed on Kindle. Anybody got any thoughts on the above?

maj 27, 2011, 12:15 pm

Shrewd point about whether or not Porius's thoughts about women were that of a 'medieval man. I don't know what this says about the integrity of the character but they thoughts resemble Powys's own thoughts, not unlike the thoughts he has in the AUTOBIOGRAPHY, etc. I don't think he cared overmuch about consistency on this or any other matter.
I have read those listed above, some more than once. They are not the run-of-the-mill literary criticism, etc. Powys was a lot of things but he was not a dilettante, what he has to say about books is always valuable, I think. His life philosophies are also unique. Though maybe someone else can offer a less partial opinion.

maj 28, 2011, 1:30 am

"cavoseniargizing" - all hail to the Reader's Companion for the explanation. Absolutely sounds like an out-of-body experience.

maj 28, 2011, 11:44 am

Sounds like a fatal, wasting disease associated with spelunking.

maj 28, 2011, 5:05 pm

Barcelona won and Gene made me laugh, all on the same night.

Redigerat: maj 28, 2011, 5:12 pm

Only too happy to amuse you Rick. The last few comments let me know that things are slowing down, as I knew they would. I will plug away at what I do but I will move even slower than planned. This thread will be, mostly, a notebook for me. It saves paper and ink, God, it's too bad I got such a late start on the computer. I might have been spared all the cardboard boxes filled with notebooks, etc.

maj 28, 2011, 5:21 pm

It's not too late to scan your notebooks into the computer — and then you can share them with everyone, or start a blog — heck, you won't even have to write it. Scanning is the way to go.

maj 28, 2011, 7:54 pm

Rick you need to carry on reading - there is soo much more hugging going on. page 109 Myrddin Wyllt is in danger of being hugged to death by Porius:
he might easily have been hugged to death out of pure intensity of startled attention

maj 28, 2011, 8:26 pm


Did you know that Porius already has a blog: Porius: A Reader's Diary.

I consider it an honour and a privilege that he allows me to post his vast erudition and academia among what Por-Man has kindly coined my "pizzazz" and otherwise amateurish doodles. If you click on his Reader's Diary link again come Monday there will be several more of his entries posted. Eventually, his notes from Porius will also find their way over there.

Hits to my blog originally jumped by 70% in volume when Por-Man joined, and the traffic volume has remained significantly higher ever since. The thought of Por-Man beginning his own blog terrifies me! Please don't leave me, Por-Man!

maj 28, 2011, 8:59 pm

Yikes! EF, no way would I want to mess that up. Will check it out.

maj 28, 2011, 9:27 pm

I meant pizzazz in the best possible way.

maj 29, 2011, 10:47 am

Pizzazz. Is that like a sleeping pizza? Can't get much more slowerest than that.

maj 29, 2011, 2:38 pm

I will and am carrying on, but at the rate of two to five pages a day because of various obligations. But I already know Powys and find it easy to go along with him. Soon I will put in a hundred page day...

maj 29, 2011, 4:39 pm

I'm finding it a little like wading through porridge, tough going. But rewarding in a number of ways, allowing me to find interesting sidepaths of thoughts and ideas to develop further in my mind.

Midway through chapter 8.

maj 29, 2011, 5:56 pm

Tough going indeed. Hang in there zenomax.

maj 29, 2011, 8:20 pm

Chapter VII and I'm still in that tent. The horse crapping on the rugs - great stuff. Porius is as usual standing around thinking perhaps he ought to do something (This reader is thinking - go on Porius do something) then we get this;

Porius noted with malicious pleasure that in spite of it being the cold heart of the night and in spite of the tent's civilized luxury. a small greenish yellow fly had quietly settled in peace and comfort upon one of the capacious rondures of horse dung that had been so inopportunely dropped by Mari Llwyd

Now it chanced that the flickering of the nearest torch as it fell on this unseasonable scavenger brought it about that the insects wings took on the identical tint of the imperial livery worn by Mistress Nineu ........

I have not come across anyone else that writes quite like this. It makes me laugh sometimes.

maj 30, 2011, 2:22 am

Just finished Chapter VI and hope to finish Chapter VII tonight.

But while it's on my mind . . . reading Myrddin Wyllt's riff about time and the future and stunningly equating Lucifer with Chronos, it dawned on me that time in this book is moving in slow motion — taking longer to tell/read about events than the actual passage of events in real time. That slow motion is almost palpable.

Redigerat: maj 30, 2011, 4:55 am

200 - the passage you quote, Bas is an example of why I think there are plenty of rewards in this book for the reflective reader.

201 - Suzanne, I think you have pinpointed why it feels tough going, the slowness of time causes a kind of disjuncture. I'm sure P. has said several times to take it slow, but it is hard to make the gear change from everyday life to the pace as reflected in Porius' mind.

maj 30, 2011, 4:56 am

Suzanne - could you expand on the Lucifer/Chronos comparison?

Redigerat: maj 30, 2011, 6:12 am

Zeno, in Chapter 6, about four pages in (p. 109 in my copy if that helps, towards the bottom) Myrddin Wyllt says: "Through my voice the Son of the Morning speaks, the god at whose word the heavens shiver and shake and all the angels hide their heads."

"Son of the Morning" got my attention because it is a well-known epithet of Satan/Lucifer. So I turned to page 43 of the handy-dandy "Reader's Companion" (link in #2 above) where, under "Son of the Morning" it says: "The echo of Isaiah 14:12 here deliberately links Cronos with the Hebrew Lucifer." The bit about the angels hiding their heads made me think immediately of Paradise Lost, although I haven't taken the time to look up a specific passage there. Maybe someone else will confirm or deny that connection.

At the risk of repeating myself, I am finding the "Reader's Companion" to be indispensible. It is contributing to the slow progress, but since Peter has given us permission over and over again to go slow, I am taking advantage. Said "Reader's Companion" also provides page citations for the first mention of terms, and that is proving helpful while I'm getting in the swim of the Welsh names. Having forgotten while reading Chapter 7 of Porius' visit to the Mound of y Bychan (p. 118, I didn't recall that it had already been mentioned on p. 79, and once again the RC helped me out. By the time I finish this book, I fear I will have read most of it twice what with all the back-and-forth. But I feel it is paying off.

Now that I've tuned into the sense of watching a slow-motion performance, I'm feeling more and more the rhythm of the thing.

Redigerat: maj 30, 2011, 6:30 am

Perhaps this is what I was thinking of (Satan addressing the Sun):

O thou that with surpassing Glory crownd,
Look'st from thy sole Dominion like the God
Of this new World; at whose sight all the Starrs
Hide thir diminisht heads;

Paradise Lost, Book 4, lines 32-35.

maj 30, 2011, 6:49 am

Suzanne, zeno, Time and space is a recurring theme. top of p131 we have:

Time and space in complete fraternity for once, had begun like entwined serpents their dual and diurnal suction at the breast, of life, but the moment had not yet come for those breasts to respond.......

Then further down the page where Porius is hugging the tree we have the beetle who is impelled by nature to explore the "tepid matter covering the left cheekbone of a Brythonic prince" and:

To the beetle this process may have seemed lengthy, but to human computation the time it took was briefer than the stabbing of Ceasar, and the result of its investigation was startling.

It feels to me as though JCP is bending and distorting time. (time and space perhaps). I love the whole of that first paragraph at the top of page 131.

Another thought - I feel at times as though I am reading a play (Shakespeare perhaps) where all the action is or has taken place off stage somewhere and the characters are surrounded by some sort of menace. Chapter VIII is very claustrophobic.

Redigerat: maj 30, 2011, 12:14 pm

The last few comments have been great. The SLOW-Motion nature of the story, which is not really a story. Powys is a one-of-a-kind story-teller. He is never in a hurry to bring the moment to a crisis. There's loads of day-dreaming:

Never had Porius seen such perfectly formed breasts as those which were outlined by that blue vest, while below the vest, which descended half way to her knees, the soft lamb's -wool drawers she wore only covered the upper part of her thighs and left her knees and legs completely bare, emphasizing the beauty of her golden sandals. p.83

Who but Powys would write this? But if the reader is familiar with the AUTOBIOGRAPHY he knows that P. could wax mystical about a trim ankle, etc.

It was however towards the other young woman that the more lascivious portion of Porius's attention was drawn, for though he certainly didn't miss the unusual perfection of Gwendydd's breasts, he had been taught by his mother to have such a poetic reverence for this portion of a girl's body that to allow himself to concentrate upon simple amorous desire in connection with it would have shocked one of his deepest instincts. p. 83

Porius is forever attracted and repulsed by the Feminine. His story is largely about the movement towards independence, ie. from his mother, etc. Pfunny as he was drawn as Goethe was to The Eternal Feminine. The Great Mothers. Well it's a complicated story.

As to our old friend Lucifer, any time he shows up it is important, though we shouldn't fixate on any one-to-one ratios. As in Finnegans Wake every character does more than double duty. Chronos & Lucifer are both great eaters and are not satisfied too easily. Lucifer, the 'Shining One', be careful, don't lean on what you perceive to be his meaning too hard, you may end up up ended.

I've been swamped with what middle-class voters call Spring Cleaning. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so pretty soon there will be more time for this sort of thing.

maj 30, 2011, 1:24 pm

I had put the book down just prior to the start of this holiday weekend (holiday here in the States I should state), a whopping 37 pages in, but man, after listening to bas, zeno & Poquette & Por this morning, I'm sincerely inspired (eager!) to pick this beautiful beast back up.

And thanks for the redundancy, Poquette, it finally compelled me to check out the reader's guide.

Keep inspiring us, Guys, it really helps!

maj 30, 2011, 4:22 pm

Just been reviewing this thread to see if there's something I missed or that didn't register the first time around.

Barry – somehow I missed your link to the picture of Cadair Idris up in #151. Scrolling down to the large photo — it is mighty impressive and gives a good visual sense of the geography.

Also, re #206, once I focused on "time" as a recurring theme, I started noticing it everywhere. For no particular reason I was just looking at the table of contents, and guess what the title of the final chapter is: Cronos. So there we are. I think you nailed it.

Peter – do you see echos of Paradise Lost in Powys? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

EF – glad to be of service!

Redigerat: maj 30, 2011, 7:05 pm

A few things come to mind, S, on the PL connection, not least is troubled times of Porius, et al. and the troubled times of John Milton. 1608-1674. As you may already know there's no wrong tree in Powys. In his ENJOYMENT OF LITERATURE, Simon and Shuster, 1938, he has a long essay on Milton pp. 238 to 376. I have a lovely edition that was discarded by one our local libraries, with very nice illustrations. Here's the contents:

The Bible as Literature: Old and New T's
Greek Tragedy
Wordsworth (Milton was a God to WW and Powys held WW in high esteem)
Dostoievsky (JCP wrote a full lengther of FD)
Melville and Poe
Arnold (Matthew)
Hardy (he knew Hardy personally)

Milton lived through the Cromwell dust up and all but 14 yers of the Restoration. For the last 14 yrs. of his life, retired from the Restoration Society, 'the sons of Belial, flown with insolence and wine', at Bunhill Fields, London, more famous abroad than at home, but seldom friendless he took up PL which he began in 1656 and finished in 1664, It dealt with the Creation story, but it is also set in a wide cosmic setting involving metaphysics and contemporary cosmology.

While I'm at it there's a great book by Robert Graves, WIFE TO MR. MILTON The Story of Marie Powell.

More later as this is an interesting subject, to say the least.

maj 30, 2011, 9:38 pm

They looking back, all the Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happy seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes:
Some natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon;
The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and SLOW.
Through Eden took their solitarie way.

maj 30, 2011, 11:02 pm

SLOW is apropos.

maj 31, 2011, 2:01 pm

The 6th C. British churchman had nothing good to say about the 'Picts': Loathsome hordes, dark swarms of worms that emerge from the narrow crevices of their holes when the sun is high, preferring to cover their villainous faces with hair rather than their private parts and surrounding areas with clothes. The Monty Pythoners were veritable cheerleaders by comparison. To Gildas the Scotland-based 'Picts' were little more than barbarian butchers. The Romans scooted out of the area in A.D. 410. This picture of the 'Picts' has held to present times. Illiterate, scantily clothed, and randy heathens, they were wormwood to the pernickety Gildas. Historians have Gildas as somewhat biased, but this feeling about the 'Picts' has died hard.
Recent scholarship depicts the 'Picts' as more sophisticated than previously thought. The "Picts' had a deep knowledge of the Bible and familiarity with Classical Roman literature. George and Isabel Henderson's THE ART OF THE PICTS showcase some of the sophisticated 'Pict' sculpture, etc.

maj 31, 2011, 2:09 pm

Rome never looks where she treads.
Always her heavy hooves fall,
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on—that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.
We are the Little Folk—we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the State!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot at the root!
We are the taint in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe killing an oak—
Rats gnawing cables in two—
Moths making holes in a cloak—
How they must love what they do!
Yes—and we Little Folk too,
We are busy as they—
Working our works out of view—
Watch, and you’ll see it some day!

No indeed! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we’ll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same?
Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you—you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves!

We are the Little Folk—we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the State!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot at the root!
We are the taint in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Pict Song, Rudyard Kipling

maj 31, 2011, 2:20 pm

Just so, Z. Norma Lorre Goodrich's GUINEVERE champions the 'Picts', she has Guinevere a 'Pict' princess, not the careless adultress of Tennyson, et al.

maj 31, 2011, 5:21 pm

Chapter IX
Do we meet the future king/emperor of England? Is he already the Emperor?

Porius says Pelagius is right. Man's imagination and not God's will is what creates whooaa - careful fella's you will get yourselves ex-communicated

Redigerat: jun 1, 2011, 4:26 pm

How's it with all readers of P? It's almost like a Freemasonick ordeal, no? Not that I know what that is. It is a curious experience though, isn't it? Like an initiation, almost. Like sinking back into 'this world of green-black dissolution, where the silence itself seemed rotting and drifting earthward in wind-tossed fragments of moss-scented decay.' (p. 219) Like being side by side with Porius and Rhun, running and running through the darkness, becoming more and more tired until our minds and bodies are heavy as lead and full of dull pain. (p.525) The sense of darkness, the sense of running for ever and hardly knowing why - that is the overwhelming impression created by the surface of PORIUS.

We are always in error,
Lost in the wood
Standing in chaos
The original mess
A brand new world

* * * * * * *

Things never are what they seem. There is too much going on, impinging, underlying, ever to allow one man's standards or absolutes the final say. Between what seems and what is, lies either the sane, middle path, open to a few, or the bitter road of futility and delusion, taken by most. And yet - perhaps both ways are finally the same; perhaps the road to sense is also the same as the path to non-sense. Perhaps the only answer or standard or guide to life is that there is no answer, guide, or standard.

A.B. Giametti, the former commish of MLB

jun 1, 2011, 5:10 pm

I am eager for Porius to get to the fount.

jun 1, 2011, 6:05 pm

I won't spoil it for you Rick.

Chapter X and suddenly we are in the head of Brochvael. This is just as well I think as after 153 pages JCP must have decided to move things on a little and he is never going to do this with Porius. We are in the world of politics and can anyone imagine that Porius would cope with that.

However I kind of miss the big fella.

#147 How very true and this captures the atmosphere of Porius' world brilliantly. I for one am still mesmerised.

jun 1, 2011, 8:07 pm

Glacial pace for me, about 2-3 pages/day. I'm finding the repeated references to "The Path of Dead" quite intriguing.

jun 1, 2011, 8:56 pm

I'm on page 109 and haven't had a chance to read the past couple of days (it's gardening season here). Still involved and intrigued, though. Poquette, your comment in #201 is right on the money, I think.

jun 1, 2011, 10:37 pm

jun 1, 2011, 11:57 pm

Yes, good stuff it is.

jun 2, 2011, 2:13 am

Thanks for the plug, EF!

Just finishing up Chapter X, Brochvael.

jun 3, 2011, 4:01 pm

Half way through Chapter 10, having just read Gwrgi's thoughts on the Brythons and Romans:

He was aware of the Brythons like blurred images of domination, ruling and building and making laws; and then - gone like smoke! He was aware of the Romans conquering the Brythonss ruling and building and making laws; and then - gone like smoke!

Does this Arthur really think he can play at emperor with a pack of proud boys on long-tailed Cernyw horses? The yellow heathen from Germania will pluck out their bowels, proud horses and proud boys alike, until some other race conquers them in their turn.

And Gwrgi's relationship with Blackie, his ox - seen both obtusely via G's soliloquy on the differences between his people and the Romans and Brythons; and more directly by Brochvael's observation of the two of them (G & his ox) in the distance: At this moment the plough, the ox, and Gwrgi himself made one blurred image in the misty sunshine...

I am enjoying the move from Porius' sole perspective too. Adds much greater depth to the story I feel.

jun 4, 2011, 2:24 pm

Finished chapter 12 and we are really into plot and character development territory now. Brilliant portraits of Brochvael, Morfydd and Porius Manlius. The writing has become a little less dense. I thought the portrait of Morfydd was particularly well done. Sibylla tomorrow.

jun 4, 2011, 7:20 pm

Am keeping up with Barry so far. But I'm thinking I would love to go back to the beginning and start all over, now that I feel some familiarity with names, places and events. Looks like things are moving slowly enough that I'll have time to do it.

As you pointed out, Barry, the characters are beginning to take on signs of real life.

Redigerat: jun 4, 2011, 9:24 pm

Please go back and forth as you will. When we get more of the substance under our belt there will be more to discuss, possibly. It's like few other reading experiences that I can think of. There's hardly a plot or a story to track. You simply keep plugging away if the journey is pleasing. If not. Well . . . Krissdottir, Powys' biographer calls it an Alchemical Ordeal, and all that that implies. From the rejected material the temple arises. I hope to take a more forceful role but since all readers are at this for the first time I want to let them get their sea legs, hand ride them, to mix metaphors, etc.

It might make things easier for me if all who are galloping or limping along might weigh in so we, I, will know how to proceed. It's a tough mile and a half over a sloppy track so have plenty of goggles and keep the faith.

Redigerat: jun 4, 2011, 9:37 pm

Moving slowly is right. I've just begun chap. 2, having just finished the part where Porius encourages Mabsant ap Kaw who'd lost control of his steed. Porius would've made a fine shrink, I believe. Were I to happen upon a lad "waving and jerking of his arms and legs" on a horse he couldn't control, and yet heard not a peep out of the lad, I'd of thought, 'must be deaf.' But rather, Porius nails the psychology of the lad's predicament to a tee:

"He doesn't call for help," Porius thought, "because he doesn't want to be seen in this position."

Exactly. A self-conscious teenager wanting to prove he's capable of being a messenger, would not want it getting back to his clan that he wasn't ready (wasn't man enough) to yet command his horse, and thereby face such humiliation, and so his silence was an attempt to not be seen. I love how Powys handled this scene. Porius' sensitivity toward the boy and his advice to him regarding how he could bend the truth a bit and save face.

Does anyone know if Tolkien was familiar with Porius in particular or Powys in general? I keep having the vaguest déjà vu that I've already been through some semblance of these Welsh forests and heard these hard-to-pronounce names before.

Redigerat: jun 4, 2011, 9:50 pm

Don't know much about Tolkien EF, I'll look into the matter.

I don't remember if I posted this and am too lazy rite now to check

Redigerat: jun 4, 2011, 10:10 pm

jun 4, 2011, 10:27 pm

Oh goody! A four-digit list! Goodbye.

jun 5, 2011, 3:53 pm

Interestingly, you cannot view the Table of Contents on Google. But if you click on Amazon down at the left, the "look inside" feature is in full flower where you can view not only the contents but the index, etc.

jun 5, 2011, 4:09 pm

near the end of chapter 10 and expecting more time

jun 5, 2011, 5:19 pm

Chapter XIII finished and I'm thinking a map might be useful.

page 217 Few things are more irritating to the human mind than to be jerked without warning from a mood of philosophic contemplation into some agitating social crisis

Is this one from the heart, from JCP. I bet he was a bugger when called from his study to unblock the toilet.

jun 5, 2011, 7:54 pm

I am about at the same point as EF in 229 because I jsut started the book this week. It is slow, I am a speed reader and I have to keep making myself re-read something because I cannot use this my usual style of reading or I will not get it. It is the same with the other book I am reading concurrently which is Civil Disobedience and other Essays. I am on the last one of those but it took me so long to read such a thin looking book. And here I am the same person that can read a mystery novel in an evening. Anyhow I am enjoying savoring this. I hope no one asks for it from the library in the near future so I can renew it several times!

jun 5, 2011, 8:01 pm

No I don't believe speed reading will help here. Though it did bring a smile to my face as I imagined you attempting the feat. Go at your own pace as long as it pleases you to do so. We will keep on taking tentative steps, a few forward, many in the other direction, as we wrastle with this difficult beast.

Redigerat: jun 5, 2011, 9:20 pm

jun 7, 2011, 12:38 pm

Read to end of chapter 11.

I think chapter 10 is my favourite so far. Perhaps a coincidence, but it is also the one chapter that doesn't feel claustrophobic - few if any tents, caves, blowing winds, intricate thoughts about thoughts... and with the added benefit of Gwrgi and Blackie to provide perspective and space (my two favourite characters so far).

I still need to get my head around the tribes - I need to work more on my tribal map - unless Suzanne can magic one up as she did with the family tree....

Redigerat: jun 7, 2011, 1:21 pm

This blistering blasting dog-day-like heat does nothing much for PORIUS study or any studies for that matter. It's 95 already and not quite 1pm.

I hope that those who are still with us have their good rubber boots on. Powys delights in dragging us through the mud, the blood, and the beer, as old Johnny Cash would sing. No place for pernickety Flaubertians. Powys' meaning oozes every where and when. He has no interest in medicine cabinets, I suspect he wrote to get away from them.

The word is still slow.

'It's only a swamp devil' cried Sybilla, and spitting in its direction she pulled him on.

'Devil, eh!' thought Brochvael, as they advanced along the Walk of Pelagius. 'That's how everyone thinks nowadays! But it's all wrong. God or the devil, Mithras or the other one, Jesus or Judas, to love or to hate - it's all wrong. Why should I love or hate anything or anyone? I am myself; they are themselves; an unfathomable multitude of creatures in an unfathomable multitude of worlds! Plato was wrong when he dragged in that Supreme Being with his Super Paradigm of Perfection. Drag in God and you'll soon get the devil! Love or hate? By the Mother of all the Gods! I won't do either. 'Give's a good bitch. But Take's a vicious cur and a guide to death!' Daughter of God! you can be a good honest creature after your kind without all this loving and hating!'

As with Joyce, there's no prize at the end of a chapter, etc. etc. It really has to do with how much the reader can bring to the table. Te material is as dense as Sirius B, if you will. Powys was one of the great Irishman's early champions, that is important to bear in mind.

The density of their writings makes it almost impossible to skim through Dirda-like. The more the reader knows what Powys or JAAJ knows, the better. Take Alchemy. It played a huge part in Powys' work, as it did in Joyce's FW. The Mounds, the moss-scented stuff, the mud, the blood and the beer tips us off to the Spagyric Arts. It's important to remember that P. was not really spinning a yarn like Tolkien or someone such as him. It's more the journal of a Mystic. A working out of some knotty problem that only searchers like Powys, or someone like Thomas Mann would take on. Mann was too a student of Alchemy.

Think of the Great Mounds of Dust in Dicken's last completed novel? The Golden Dustman?

The truly great books are repositories for nothing short of Everything.

When I hear voters denigrating FINNEGANS WAKE or some work that they don't begin to understand, I always think of the monkey, the mirror, and the absent philosopher.

And finally, I don't pretend that I am the ideal reader of PORIUS or any work of complexity, etc. I simply keep my clever comments to myself in the face of something challenges my intelligence beyond my comfort zone.

jun 7, 2011, 1:39 pm

Unfortunately I am not reading with you guys, but this thread and Mr. Porius comments are delicious. Keep the good work coming. I love to read the comments.

One day, i will be ready, to tackle that tome too !

jun 7, 2011, 2:03 pm

Be great to have you along Mac. I'm happy that you are finding the commentary, etc. interesting.

jun 7, 2011, 2:04 pm

Ah Porius, don't you think you can enjoy a book on many levels. This is my first read of JCP and I am thoroughly enjoying the writing and the density and the slow pace, but am aware that there are things I maybe missing. You gotta start somewhere and there is always the chance to go back again. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting down with a book that you have once enjoyed and knowing that you will enjoy it again and probably see things a little different.

If zenomax felt claustrophobic in the tent then I don't know what he is going to feel like when he reads chapter XIV The Derwydd. zeno have some oxygen nearby. I loved Chapter XIV, but needed to re-read bits of it - no hardship. Gogfrans a wonderful character.

The Trinity looms large and everything seems to be revolving around the number three. BUT Myrddin Wyltt's number is four and the druid goes on to say:

"Think, my lord, what a privilege it is for us to have lived long enough to see the great struggle long enough to see the great struggle reach it's conclusion between three and four!"

I am wondering if this is a reference to the struggle between pagan's and Christians and if so what the significance is of the number four.

Redigerat: jun 7, 2011, 2:14 pm

3 + 4 = 7 that unserious number.
Hans Castorp in Mann's Magic Mountain sleeps in room 3 & 4

and yes, he sleeps for seven years...

Redigerat: jun 7, 2011, 2:22 pm

You are right as rain BW. I didn't mean to suggest that Alchemy was the sine qua non of PORIUS. just an important element. Great comments so far. I am pleased that you are enjoying the trip. I doubt that many will persevere all the way to the end.

Since you like poetry so much, what think you of a new poetry thread wherein poems, and anything about poems are welcome?

jun 7, 2011, 4:57 pm

Poetry threads are always welcome, especially if people can be encouraged to say just a little bit about the poems.

Us readers from club read 2011 are a stubborn lot

jun 8, 2011, 4:17 am

I picked up Porius late last night, read for a couple hours, thinking in the back of my mind about our Porius and his determination that readers will drop like dung flies in a rain leaking hut in a Powys novel. Not so, for the book is NOT so hard to read, not at all. The plot is difficult to follow because Powys so enjoys writing, ideas, history, muck, and the bluck, and the bier that we have to wait a long time to find out the next plot move. But once in the 100s the only reason to stop is that there is six hundred pages to go, and that is no reason at all. I look forward to next year when Porius leads the Finnegan's Wake read.

Redigerat: jun 8, 2011, 10:05 am

I don't believe JCP drew Gwrgi & Blackie without reason. Are they not the counterpart to the intellectualising and philosophising of many others in the story? I am only going on one chapter but Gwrgi seems to meld with Jung's 'archaic man' who uses the outer, natural world to make sense of the inner world.

He has humour, fatalism, warmth. At heart an optiimst who sees the actions of his betters knowingly. 'It is all as one', he might say to himself.

Redigerat: jun 8, 2011, 11:56 pm

This is a very interesting thread. I am reading through it slowly. Still waiting for my copy of Porius, but I have completed Wolf Solent, which I am writing about now. I am also reading the poetry of JCP, and The Mabinogion, which exercised a huge influence on JCP. I"ll comment more on the connections once I start Porius.

meanwhile, to contribute at least something to the thread, here are some pictures of Wales. The welsh countryside was hugely important to JCP, and he wrote about it in stunningly vivid prose. When I was there last week, I kept thinking, wow, this is so John Cowper Powys, and the area of Wales I was in was called 'Powys'. SO I took these pictures in the hope that it might add some visual element to our reading.

jun 9, 2011, 12:45 am

Very sound thinking Z. Powys was in tune with the Swiss Tweedledee certainly. Balance. A little clue even in the word.

Lovely pics TC. Looking forward to your participation. Which trans. of Mabionogi Tales are you reading? Don't rush to catch up as my intentions are to drag this out for some time as I enjoy playing with Rick, though that's not the sole purpose of this adventure, of course. As much as I plead otherwise, I feel a certain responsibility for this adventure. The last thing I want is that anybody wastes their time, etc. So take your time and enjoy the trip.

jun 9, 2011, 3:12 am

Tomcat, are you sure this is Wales. I don't see the rain, or the mist, or the fog, no hailstones either.

jun 9, 2011, 6:55 am

I photoshopped the sky........

Redigerat: jun 10, 2011, 1:47 am

Some helpful pronunciations:
Cigfa = kigva
Rhos = hros
Rhiannon = hreeANnon
Ssni =esnee
Lludd = hleethe
Branwen = brANwen
Bran = Brahn
Llefelys = hlEVELis
Iddawg = EEthowg
Pumlumon = pimLIMon
Clud = kleed
Glyn Cuch = glin keech
Pryderi = prudDERee (short as in pun)
Yspaddaden = uspaTHAden
Llyr = hleer
Cei = ky
Blodeuwedd = bloDYweth
Caer Llion = kyr HLEEon
Grawl = growl
Lleu Llaw Gyffes = hly hlow guffes
Gwent Is-Coed = gwent-ees-koyd
Rhyd-y-Groes = hreed-uh-groys

Twrch Trwyth = toorch TROOith
Matholwch = maTHOLooch
Cadw = KAdoo
Pwyll = POOihl
Culhwch = KILhooch
Gwenhwyfar = gwenHOOEEvar

a wy ending can be wee or ooee, Rhonabwy, Mathonwy -

Redigerat: jun 9, 2011, 12:02 pm

Just gorgeous shots, Murr, photoshopped (ha!) or not.

Early in chapter two (speaking of the pace that continental plates move across the planet) there's a paragraph describing the Dee River I found particularly stunning:

"There was still enough light in the sky to cause the surface of the river between the darkening banks to assume that strange metallic glint of a phantasmal whiteness which is the final response, whether caught upon pool or puddle or lake or pond or ditch or fen or moat or marsh, of the most receptive and evasive of all the elements of the most aggressive and emphatic of all -- the farewell of water fading out of the fire of day."

That's one example of Powys' descriptive language that transcends the physical domain it describes and approaches, if not visits, something numinous or alchemical.

jun 9, 2011, 12:10 pm

255: He keeps coming back to that color throughout the next two chapters, it is so evocative and interesting. I love the style. I am on chapter 4 now and it is really fun to read in a mesmerizing kind of way. Reading this book reminds me of sitting by a mountain lake watching the water bugs in the late afternoon.

jun 9, 2011, 12:43 pm

Yes, you both have caught the 'spirit' of the thing amazingly well.

Redigerat: jun 9, 2011, 4:28 pm

NOTHING wd . . . make me leave out the CEWRI, or make them a Dream, or tamper with them as they are here in any way. Nothing also wd. induce me, persuade me, or make me, leave out or turn into anybody's dream, the Miracle of the Owl-Girl Blodeuwedd (bloDYweth) . . . I won't launch into a metaphysical or even a poetic-imaginative defense of this element of the MARVELLOUS in tis book. I'll only say that in these things I am really a 'Medium' and that MY AUTUMN of the yr. 499 is my vision of what REALITY REALLY was then to people of that age. To leave out MARVELS & WONDERS wd be to make the whole thing false, to make it ring untrue & unreal, to make it a tiresome & tedious transferring of our present pseudo-scientific & narrowly exact scientific attitude to life & the cosmos into the brains of the people of that time . . . I treat them as real NOT as dreams & who can dogmatically be sure they're NOT real OR never happened? Well!! anyway in the world I have always lived in & shall always live in till I am dead.

(Powys underlined all words except or in second from last line. Again not caps but underlined.

'It is a little TOO real because I have a Dark Ages mentality.' For P., boundary skipping between worlds was natural and normal, and both worlds are real in the NIWL, in the Magick Mist of Wales. Dorothy Richardson wrote him a letter in 1944 asking him. 'Isn't it time , wouldn't you like, to get back to England? Or do you feel at home in an undiluted Celtic Twilight?' Here was P's answer:

No you see
I've got a
a curious mania for
antiquity in
continuity in one
spot of the
earth's surface
if I can claim with
ALMOST ABSOLUTELY (underlined not capped)
a share
this particular
it goes
Total Obscurity
slowly to be
caught at any
point for certain
reality & unreality and
between history
This ever receding
(reality & unreality!)
I can pursue
as nowhere else

PORIUS, with its fusion of history and legend, landscape and mirage, reality and unreality, the quotidian with the fantastic, was, sadly, before its time.

Or was it? There's no time for such a book, there are only readers. And they are not to be found just anywhere, are they?

from Krissdottir's biography, except the last sentence.

jun 9, 2011, 3:04 pm

You are all crazy motherfuckers and I am elated that I found you

jun 9, 2011, 4:29 pm

Welcome aboard Rick.

Redigerat: jun 9, 2011, 5:17 pm

Am enjoying my daily dip into the year 499. This is an especially meaningful time for me due to my passion for Boethius.

Murr – fabulous pics. Many thanks.


Nature is a temple whose living pillars
Sometimes give forth a babel of words;
Man wends his way through forests of symbols
Which look at him with their familiar glances.

As long-resounding echoes from afar
Are mingling in a deep, dark unity,
Vast as the night or as the orb of day.
Perfumes, colors, and sounds commingle.

—Baudelaire, "Correspondences"

jun 9, 2011, 5:21 pm

Appreciate the pronunciations. Just, irrelevantly, how do you pronounce


or the short version


jun 9, 2011, 6:07 pm


jun 10, 2011, 12:51 am

>254 Porius: useful resource, Porius, thanks. I notice many names from the Mabinogion.

jun 11, 2011, 12:13 pm

Just got back to reading Porius today. Half way through XIV, at the piece mentioned by Bas in 244, the eternal battle between 3 and 4.

Bas - you asked if it referred to the Pagans versus Christians.

In the Porius companion Krissdottir is qouted as referring to D. H. Lawrence’s words:

“Three is the number of things divine,
and four is the number of creation”.

It appears that JCP was unsure as to which side he came down on in the war of these sacred/profane numbers.

Like Bas I find Gogfran an appealing character. His brother Llew I cannot even begin to conceive of - I cannot even get e visual picture of him in my head....

jun 11, 2011, 1:06 pm

For some hints look at MATH SON OF MATHONWY in the MABINOGION. He was a dead aim and for this he got the name, part and parcel of an onomastic tale, Llue (fair), Llaw (hand), Gyffes (deft). He was Aranfhod's son raised by Gwydion.
(more later)

jun 11, 2011, 7:57 pm

Hi zeno,
Interesting reference to D H L.

You will soon be on Chapter XV - Myrddin Wyllt which has some excellent moments. One of which is the conversation between Neb ap Digon and Myrddin Wyllt. Neb says to Myrddin:

Because you were God before the Three-in- One conquered heaven, and you made people happy before cruelty love and lies ruled the earth

the conversation goes on and it would seem that it is Myrddin Wyllt who is the God who will come again as Cronos/Saturn and end the tyranny of the three in one. Great phrase that "the tyranny of the three -in- one. Heady stuff!

Chapter XV also has Myrddin Wyllt trance like vision which could almost be a dream vision - super writing and much to ponder over as we are with the thoughts of Myrddin Wyllt as he ponders over the nature of existence.

jun 12, 2011, 6:15 am

Dilemma: it looks like I will be going to India for July. What then with Porius? Read til I leave, catch up in August?

jun 12, 2011, 6:16 am

don't go to india?

jun 12, 2011, 10:04 am

Carry it with you, of course! It ain't so bad.

jun 12, 2011, 11:17 am

Tear out a good chunk.

jun 12, 2011, 11:31 am

It's lighter than Infinite Jest.

jun 12, 2011, 11:59 am

Not to worry Rick we won't progress all that much in July. Take a copy of the Mabinogion, somewhat slimmer, or some related thing, just to keep your toe in the water.

jun 12, 2011, 2:20 pm

Some words and images occurring with frequency in chap. 2:

white (foam)

and more often than not the above images are connected with "father"

Below is the instance when I first noticed this, p. 54, 55:

"And in his mind, as his eye followed a particular white patch of drifting foam, there rose up the mocking words of his evasive father jeering and jibing and flouting, as was his wont, the whole consistory of gods, great and little, and along with them all the equivocal hosts of the air, all the Elementals, Tenebrions, and Numina, all the mediators between heaven and earth!"

I don't know if sharing this is necessarily of much narrative or symbolic importance, but it kept striking me -- the poetry of the repeated imagery -- so I thought I'd share it.

jun 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

Excellent resources P.

jun 12, 2011, 2:51 pm

don't go to india? murrtherous thought.
i can't keep a toe in the water while in india--atmosphere too overwhelming. i will simply deep my page marked and plunge back in in august.

jun 12, 2011, 4:50 pm

Hope you'll have some internet access in July, Rick.

Excellent resources indeed, Z.

Sacred Texts is worth repeating.

jun 12, 2011, 11:31 pm

I'm posting the link to my review of Wolf Solent here as well, to add to our JCP resources.

Redigerat: jun 13, 2011, 11:34 am

Nice teaser at the end of the LT version of the review!
And, really insightful comments at the Lectern.

jun 13, 2011, 11:41 am

Redigerat: jun 13, 2011, 3:03 pm

Ck. out articles by P.J. Kavanaugh & Tim Blanchard

Redigerat: jun 13, 2011, 3:55 pm

Det här meddelandet har tagits bort av dess författare.

Redigerat: jun 13, 2011, 4:22 pm

Powys' Rodmoor discussed in The Dial. It looks like many issues of The Dial are available free on Google.

Link to an ad in The Dial for the apparently indispensable Powys volume listing the 100 best books. "The 1916 Necessity of Every Public or Private Library"

J.C.'s sister-in-law was an editor at The Dial. - devotes more chapters to Powys than Huxley, Orwell or Wilde.

jun 13, 2011, 5:02 pm

Great stuff Slick. Any time you come across this sort of thing, please, please, please, post it. And anyone else.

jun 13, 2011, 5:03 pm

Slick - that last link looks really interesting.

jun 14, 2011, 6:16 pm

Action! Battle scenes! Excitement! King Arthur

Am I reading the same book. Am I still reading Porius. Well yes I am - it all cracks off in chapter XVII.

jun 14, 2011, 6:29 pm

Poor Porius is still stuck in that enchanted tent as far as I am concerned, though I read several chapters this weekend! :) I am really loving the pace though, and the way that Porius thinks. I have never read a historical novel that rang so "true to its time" before. Powys was simply amazing.

jun 14, 2011, 6:44 pm

287: Indeed. Steep admission price though. What do you think the various ISBNS denominated "Cased" and "Limp" signify?

jun 14, 2011, 8:00 pm

Odds & ends:

The Theme, briefly, is the antique story, which falls into 13 chapters and an epilogue, of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern the God's losing battle with the God of the waning Year for love of the capricious and all-powerful 3-Fold Goddess, their mother, bride, and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird. All true poetry - true by Housman's practical test - celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient story, and the 3 main characters are so much a part of our racial inheritance that they not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions. The weird, or rival, often appears in nightmare as the tall, lean, dark-faced bed-side spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless other malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms.

The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startingly blue eyes and long fair hair; she will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag. Her names and titles are innumerable. In ghost stories she often figures as the 'White Lady', and in ancient religions, from the British Isles to the Caucasus, as the 'White Goddess'. I cannot think of any true poet from Homer onwards who has not independently recorded his experience of her. The test of a poet's vision, one might say, is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess and of the island over which she rules. The reason why the hairs stand on end, the eyes water, the throat is constricted, the skin crawls and a shiver runs down the spine when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation of the White Goddess, or Muse, the Mother of All Living, the ancient power of fright and lust - the female spider or the Queen Bee whose embrace is death. Housman offered a secondary test of true poetry: whether it matches a phrase of Keat's, 'everything that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear'. This is equally pertinent to the Theme. Keats was writing under the shadow of death about his Muse, Fanny Brawne; and the 'spear that roars for blood' is the traditional weapon of the dark executioner and supplanter.

from THE WHITE GODDESS by Robert Graves

jun 14, 2011, 11:52 pm

"The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startingly blue eyes and long fair hair; she will suddenly transform herself into sow, mare, bitch, vixen, she-ass, weasel, serpent, owl, she-wolf, tigress, mermaid or loathsome hag".

Now this is what I call an exciting woman ! Remember cat-people, where the big bad pussy is under the bed ?

jun 15, 2011, 12:32 am

jun 15, 2011, 4:00 am

I forgot to answer your question earlier, P. I am reading the new translation of the Mabinogion, by Sioned Davies, published by OUP. The introduction and notes are indispensible and the translation has tried to keep the oral character of the texts. It's rather lovely.

I've been digging around and found this useful resource:

The Triads of the Island of Britain:

The Book of Taliesin

Still waiting for 'Porius' to arrive.

jun 15, 2011, 12:10 pm

Great stuff TC.

Redigerat: jun 15, 2011, 3:50 pm

The aging Pre-Rafaelite model for GwenHOOEEvar.

The Morrises with Jane (Burden) Morris and two daughters Jenny and May. May got mixed up in one of Shaw's threesomes. Poor May never could get the relationship thing under control. She married a Sparling in defiance of the MYSTICAL BETROTHAL between herself and B.S. Divorced after a few years of unhappiness and never married again. She gathered what emotional succor she required from her father, the great Wm. Morris, and was hard at her design work till she laid down her needles and joined the Choir Invisible, 17 Oct 1938.

Read something of their story in Shaw's CANDIDA.

A little related information today as I'm having some difficulties gathering my Powys thoughts. My time is my own this time of year and I am at the moment biting off somewhat more than I can chew. And my 62 year old brain is not what it once was. I used to be able to juggle these balls with the sprezzatura of William Claude, but lately I find that I am bending over at the waist to retrieve the muffed balls more often than not.

jun 15, 2011, 4:37 pm

>289 anna_in_pdx: I have never read a historical novel that rang so "true to its time" before. Powys was simply amazing.

Not only that, he captures the magical realism to a tee. I love this:

Cadawg was indeed desperately forcing himself to feel nothing, see nothing, think of nothing, save the liquid super-gold of so many Edeyrnion dawns floating over the jet-black river. "Fire on water—fire on water—fire on water—fire on water!" This was the image, this was the invocation, this was the secret, these were the magic words to keep events in their place and the soul of a living man in its place.

—Chapter XVII (p. 309)

jun 15, 2011, 6:16 pm

Here I sit all dewy-eyed over the naming of Valkyrie. Can't believe what a girl I am. Reminds me of my childhood when I devoured books about horses. Such a wave of nostalgia. That whole scene around Cadawg and Tonwen's meeting with Arthur . . . just great!

jun 15, 2011, 7:42 pm

Very good as the point here is to find new readers for P.

Here's an interesting bit on our author.

Augustus John's fingers were not reliable in old age so he had to adjust his methods as he was still interested in working. He liked to do drawings of famous old men to get out of the studio and chew the fat whenever he could.

Of the original talent nothing remains: yet a certain ingenuity has developed, the skill of using a very limited vocabulary. The trembling contours, the blurred and fading lines convey very poignantly the frailty of old age. Some, who guarded their public image scrupulously and would have given much for a John portrait before the war, now refused his requests: among them J.B. Priestly and A.L. Rowse. But one who welcomed him enthusiastically was JCP. 'Here IS Augustus John Himself with his daughter Vivian as his driver,' he wrote to Phyllis Playter (26 Nov. 1955). 'Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! - He himself is a splendid picture.' In an hour and a quarter John polished off two drawings, retired for the night to the Pengwern Hotel, then 'like Merlin' returned next morning for another session. When he rose to depart, Powys told Louis Wilkinson, 'I leapt at him exactly as a Devoted Dog of considerable size leaps up at a person he likes, and kissed his Jovian forehead which is certainly the most noble forehead I have ever seen. I kissed it again and again as if it had been marble, holding the godlike gent so violently in my arms that he couldn't move till the monumental and marmoreal granite of that forehead cooled my feverish devotion. His final drawing was simply of my very soul _ I can only say it just AWED me.'

Redigerat: jun 16, 2011, 10:32 am

Very good as the point here is to find new readers for P.

Here's an interesting bit on our author.

Augustus John's fingers were not reliable in old age so he had to adjust his methods as he was still interested in working. He liked to do drawings of famous old men, to get out of the studio and chew the fat whenever he could.

Of the original talent nothing remains: yet a certain ingenuity has developed, the skill of using a very limited vocabulary. The trembling contours, the blurred and fading lines convey very poignantly the frailty of old age. Some, who guarded their public image scrupulously and would have given much for a John portrait before the war, now refused his requests: among them J.B. Priestly and A.L. Rowse. But one who welcomed him enthusiastically was JCP. 'Here IS Augustus John Himself with his daughter Vivian as his driver,' he wrote to Phyllis Playter (26 Nov. 1955). 'Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! - He himself is a splendid picture.' In an hour and a quarter John polished off two drawings, retired for the night to the Pengwern Hotel, then 'like Merlin' returned next morning for another session. When he rose to depart, Powys told Louis Wilkinson, 'I leapt at him exactly as a Devoted Dog of considerable size leaps up at a person he likes, and kissed his Jovian forehead which is certainly the most noble forehead I have ever seen. I kissed it again and again as if it had been marble, holding the godlike gent so violently in my arms that he couldn't move till the monumental and marmoreal granite of that forehead cooled my feverish devotion. His final drawing was simply of my very soul _ I can only say it just AWED me.'

from Michael Holroyd's AUGUSTUS JOHN

A.J. wrote two memoirs. Both are first rate as his talents were not limited to paint brushes and charcoal, etc.
CHIAROSCURO: Fragments of Autobiography: First Series. Jonathan Cape: London 1952.
FINISHING TOUCHES; ed. & introduced by Daniel George. Jonathan Cape: London 1964

Redigerat: jun 16, 2011, 8:53 am

>296 Porius: Por, Your muffed balls are worth a hundred times anyone else's crystal ones, if I can say that without sounding totally obscene.

As Poquette said elsewhere, the correspondences are endless.

jun 16, 2011, 11:28 am

Not obcsene at all. You may have exaggerated my worth by 98 or so but I appreciate it nevertheless.

To linger somewhat longer with the Morrises, here is Colin Wilson from his fine biography, BERNARD SHAW: A Reassessment, Papermac M, 1981 (first pub in 1969)

'When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?

The picture needs to be completed by some further information, which Shaw failed to provide. May Morris was not beautiful; she was a mannish young woman who might have posed for Britannia. Hesketh Pearson was told that MM, at 40, was 'tall and masculine, with a mustache', and Shaw, when prompted, agreed about the mustache, only protesting that 'it made a pair of lines so decorative that they would have enchanted the finest Maori tattoo-artist.' In later life she became a lesbian and lived with a Miss Lobb, whom Shaw describes as 'obviously strong enough to take me by the scruff of the neck and pitch me neck and crop out of the curtilage'. The 'comrade' on the other hand, was Henry Halliday Sparling, who appears in a photo with MM & BS as being a great deal shorter than either, with a receding hair line and a mild and bookish appearance. The Mystic Betrothal could never have been consummated, no matter how many obstacles to it were removed. Shaw was romantic enough to admire a Pre-Raphaelite young lady in a pretty dress, but in practice he was a realist who knew exactly what he wanted.
* * * * *

It appears that poor May was for ever fated to come in second. Her father favored the prettier sister, Jane Alice (Jenny), Sparling hadn't much backbone, he flew the coop (the opposite of CANDIDA, wherein the poet flees in the end), and Shaw, Mystical Betrothal, notwithstanding, never really took her seriously.

While it is true that she did not possess the exotic beauty of her mother Jane (Burden) Morris, the 'mannish' description seems a little unfair. It is more likely that her looks were spoiled somewhat by the bovine features she inherited from that bringer of News from Nowhere, who in middle age resembled Peter Ustinov. To not quite pass muster in that gallimaufry of Beauty must have been difficult for the sensitive young woman.

Redigerat: jun 16, 2011, 2:12 pm

Splendid postings P.

Suzanne - I've also just finished ch. XVII. The youngest princess and Cadawg together are marvellous. Tonwen reminds me very much of the grandmother in Swanns Way, the same shy, almost timid exterior hiding a stubborn inner core.

jun 16, 2011, 4:12 pm

Chapter XVII is definitely my favorite so far. Did it seem somewhat climactic to you? It did to me.

jun 16, 2011, 6:19 pm

Agreed chapter XVII does feel a bit climactic. JCP brings together some of the plot threads in this chapter and it seems more happens here than in the previous 300 odd pages, yet still the writing is sublime.

Bit of a coincidence as I have met King Arthur twice this week, once in Porius of course and then again in Book 1 Canto VII of The Faerie Queene. Spenser spends eight stanzas in describing him. Arthur is Magnanimity and he is pretty fearsome as well:

Stanza 33
His warlike shield all closely couer'd was,
Ne might of mortall eye be euer seene;
Not made of steele, nor of enduring bras,
Such earthly mettals soone consumed bene:
But all of Diamond perfect pure and cleene
It framed was, one massie entire mould,
Hewen out of Adamant rocke with engines keene,
That point of speare it never percen could,
Ne dint of direfull sword diuide the suibstance would

And that's just his shield.

On to chapter XVIII tomorrow.

jun 16, 2011, 6:56 pm

bas, I am reading a Bernard Cornwall Arthur book with my partner while reading Porius at the same time. It is very weird - it kind of reminds me of the different universes in the Dark Materials trilogy that are eerily the same yet different. Yesterday the Cornwall book mentioned Cunedda and I went, "whoah!"

jun 17, 2011, 2:21 am

>301 tomcatMurr: – Murr, who was it who said – more gracefully than I am about to – that everything is connected to everything else?

jun 17, 2011, 3:10 am


jun 17, 2011, 11:12 am

>307 Poquette:
oh gosh, lots of people have said it. It's a bit of a truism, from chaos theory to The Great Chain of Being in Buddhism, no? Do you have someone in mind?

Porius arrived today (along with A Glastonbury Romance).
I'm so excited I think I'm going to wet myself.

jun 17, 2011, 11:14 am

The litter box is over there! Run run!

I have a library book, and have renewed it twice already - I think I will just have to break down and buy this. It's so great, I know I will want to re-read...

jun 17, 2011, 11:26 am

I didn't make it.


jun 17, 2011, 2:15 pm

I haven't been reading along, I can't find a reasonably priced copy of the work, I'm still keeping my eyes open, but I'm following along with this thread. Someone in a post above pointed out that the time period for this was just after the collapse of Rome. I wonder if we are not in the same situation Porius was in at the start of his life, a citizen of a far-flung empire that had lost control, crumbling into dust while all about was drifting into what we so blithely used to term the Dark Ages. If the economy of the West were to completely collapse, which is more and more likely, the stupider people become about fixing the economic problems, it would take down the economy of the entire world. After all, China and India are basically, at this point, parasites on the economy of the West, if we go, so do they, their market just vanishes. Could we be headed for not just an economic collapse but a civilizational collapse? I hear more and more magical explanations for things, in fact, there are various learned movements afoot to re-establish a sense of wonder and magic in the world. Before long we'll have laws against witchcraft and so forth. Learning will collapse in a jungle ruled by the lex talonis. Life for humans will once again become universally short and bloody. We will have to re-invent civilization all over again. Something you and I will never see. Ain't it fun?

jun 17, 2011, 3:08 pm

>309 tomcatMurr: I only have a vague notion that it might have been someone like Jung – you know, synchronicity and all that – or one of his acolytes. Joseph Campbell? And I may be completely barking up the wrong tree. Six degrees of separation – or less?

Feel free to chime in, anyone, if you think you might know what I'm talking about, since I certainly don't!

jun 18, 2011, 9:27 am

Suzanne, I'm not all together clear why there is a picture of a stinkhorn on this thread? No doubt I have missed something.

geneg - collapse of Rome mirrored by a collapse of America/Big Capital, I hope I manage to finish Porius before the collapse.

jun 18, 2011, 9:50 am

Chapter XVIII: The Doctor.

The Jewish doctor who has a son Gog and is awaiting the birth of another son Magog, just what is JCP getting at here. Gog and Magog who are going to be responsible for the nations who will act as the agents of the Anti-Christ, according to that well known bundle of fun Augustine.

At last! page 348 and we are back inside of the head of Porius who used to be indecisive but now he is not so sure.

A quick peak at the next chapter: Taliesan Pen Beirdd and I notice the poem: I am wondering if JCP is going to get all Lawrencian on us.

I am still enthralled and getting close to the halfway mark. I would also recommend an adjacent reading of The Faerie Queene as there are some links between the two.

Redigerat: jun 18, 2011, 11:49 am

I try not to get too hung up on things in PORIUS. I've read much exegesis and have not learned al that much. To me it's a great welter, a sort of endurance test, as is the FQ. And not always pretty. Flaubertians I'm sure find it a great swamp. You know the sort that likes Nature with a gin and tonic and a remote. Porius is one of the great baggy monsters with not much in the way of plot. The whole thing is like playing softball in Austin Texas in the middle of August. Lose your balance and you'll be picking out of all the uncovered skin all sorts of nettles, and stickers, and prickers, long into the evening.

As to what Powys is up to here there and everywhere, you know I'm just an average sort of fellow who more often than not thinks a cigar is just a cigar. Let's see a Jewish Dr. with a son Gog and another on the way to be called Magog. What could he be thinking? I doubt that the two elements will fight according to the Queensbury rules. In number they are like nitwits at an American or English football game.

jun 18, 2011, 3:08 pm

Barry, I may have gotten a little ahead in my reading. But not knowing what a stinkhorn looked like, I looked it up and found it so preposterous I wanted to share it. By the time you read this you will have passed it by in Chapter XX. I've gotten a bit ahead of the curve. Just finished XXII last night. This book has reached the point of being unputdownable.

Por, you keep saying that the book has not much of a plot. It doesn't seem to me that plot was part of the program. An account of a five-day period would not require a plot per se. If anything, we have a sweeping arc representing the passage of time registering the action in this very important five-day stretch.

People are favored over plot in this book. I am quite taken by the way Powys has used individual characters to drive the action by making one individual the focal point of each chapter. More important than plot, it is beginning to be clear that this is a book about rites of passage, not merely for the young, but for almost everyone. Each character seems to experience either inner growth, an epiphany, an acceptance, or some other sort of transformation, which for me is what is making this book so powerful.

There is a correspondence between the passage through time and the passage through transformative processes, whether personal, occult, communal, etc.

Redigerat: jun 18, 2011, 4:04 pm

I've been organizing some notes on Porius and somehow the notes began waxing amateur-poetically! I'm sure I'll be greatly embarrassed later for posting this, but I hope it conveys my deep pleasure in the book and how intellectually stimulating it's been listening to and reflecting upon all of your incisive comments above so far.

Reading Porius

Hungering for the nourishing replenishment of Holy Writ
Sola Scriptura, Sacred Literature

we comb, collectively, our instincts, intuitions
& ideas w/ intellectual rigor

in pursuit of inspiration, divinity, transcendence
sensing the sublime, the elemental, eminence

the dreams not witnessed beyond sleep's precipice
engaged as we are among dear friends

salonistas, in the deep streams of Porius.

Our knowledge mined remains alive but inanimate
transient as the mottled gold reflected on the Dee

at twilight in the torchlit Welsh Wilderness
where we've gathered among the ancients

in caves or camped creekside
sharing Mysteries, invoking Mithras

page upon page upon page upon page
entranced always by these ephemeral eternities

of John Cowper Powys'
awed by the creative power

of Language.

jun 18, 2011, 9:18 pm

Not at all EF. It's what you feel. In the end it's a feeling book. If any of us a good fit for the book it's doubtless you. As you outfeel us up & down backwards & forwards. Carry on brother man. I try to come to the thing fresh each time.

jun 18, 2011, 11:53 pm

nice one Henri.

I am halfway through chapter 2. Yikes! I will never catch up with you guys.

This caught my eye:

The whiteness of the river seemed to Porius at that moment in its livid forlornness to be the acme and epitome of desolation. It suggested lost battles and the blood -frozen corpses of innumerable dead men. It suggested that just beyond the horizon lay the walls of deserted cities and the chilly wharves of ruined harbours, where great ships lay waterlogged and dismasted upon mud banks that were phosphorescent with the whiteness of death.

I've read this sentence again and again. It's so powerful and evocative. Amazing stuff.

It seems to me that Powys's project in this book is to describe nothing less than the birth of the consciousness soul.

jun 19, 2011, 2:00 am

Great minds......... #158

jun 19, 2011, 2:55 am

bas, I thought I had seen it somewhere before. :)

btw, can you expand a bit on your observation of the correspondences between P and FQu?

Can we start a new thread for the second half of the book, or something? it's getting unmanageable to find stuff.

jun 19, 2011, 10:41 am

PORIUS 2 coming right up

jun 27, 2011, 6:59 pm

10> I realize I'm coming to this incredibly late, but this poem is fantastic.

jun 27, 2011, 9:54 pm

324, then you should try to get Mandragora, which is full of this kind of stuff. touchstone is not working: it's a volume of verse by JCP.