Monday, November 14, 2005

Curmudgeonliness, British and Cynic

Bob Archambeau remembers Donald Davie. I too remember DD, from an hour spent in his office at Vanderbilt University (they were trying to lure me there for graduate school), where he footered constantly with his pipe (unable it seems to keep it alight for more than three minutes), grumbled in a curmudgeonly fashion, told me to read Bunting, NOW, and scoffed at my enthusiasm for Robert Duncan’s “eclecticism” of influences: “indeed – an eclectic fudge.” A year or so later he mailed me a copy of the syllabus for his swansong graduate seminar at VU, on the Objectivists; the seminar came to appreciate Rakosi and Niedecker very much, he noted, but decided that Oppen’s obliquities were often not worth the effort (!). (Zukofsky, I observed, was entirely omitted from the syllabus, as untangling him – according to Davie – would have dominated the semester – hmmm.)

My favorite of Davie’s critical forays? A Gathered Church: The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest 1700-1930 (RKP, 1978).
Diogenes of Sinope (404 – 323 or 314 BCE):
Of what use is a philosopher who doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings?

A. I am Alexander the Great.
B. I am Diogenes, the dog.
A. The dog?
B. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite louts.
A. What can I do for you?
B. Stand out of my light.

In the rich man’s house there is no place to spit but in his face.

I’ve seen Plato’s cups and table, but not his cupness and tableness.

I pissed on the man who called me a dog. Why was he so surprised?

Beggars get handouts before philosophers because people have some idea of what it’s like to be blind and lame.

I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough.

(trans. Guy Davenport)

1 comment:

Josh Hanson said...

Thanks. Diogones has made my day.