Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dutchman's Breeches

Dicentra cucullaria (Dutchman's breeches) is a perennial herbaceous plant, native to rich woods of eastern North America, with a disjunct population in the Columbia River Basin.

The common name Dutchman's breeches derives from their white flowers that look like white breeches.

Lowry refers to the plant in his novel Ultramarine; "Andy, the Dutchman's breeches, ha ha!" (Pg. 40). This reference is to the Native Americans and early white practitioners use of the plant for treating syphilis. Andy the cook on board the Oedipus Tyrannus is suffering from venereal disease.

John Owen An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews

Lowry refers to the "manifold security" in his novel Ultramarine;  "it seemed to Hilliot now that Oedipus Tyrannus had a manifold security:" (Pg. 43). The phrase is used alongside other biblical allusions. One possible source is John Owen's An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews first published in the 17th century; "The Lord Jesus being thus entered into heaven as our forerunner, gives us manifold security for entering in thither also at the appointed season."

Lamp of Sanctuary

A sanctuary lamp, altar lamp, everlasting light, or eternal flame is a light that shines before the altar of sanctuaries in many denominations of (Jewish) and (Christian) places of worship. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry refers to the lamp in Ultramarine; "The light burning in the forecastle was the lamp of sanctuary." (Pg. 43)

Man, Know Thyself!

The Ancient Greek aphorism Man, Know Thyself was painted on the signboard above the Liverpool Museum of Anatomy which was visited by Lowry circa 1927. Lowry refers to the sign in a letter to Conrad Aiken dated 14th September 1952 (Collected Letters Vol 2 Pg. 597).

The Ancient Greek aphorism "Know thyself" (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν, transliterated: gnōthi seauton; also ... σαυτόν ... sauton with the ε contracted), is one of the Delphic maxims and was inscribed in the pronaos (forecourt) of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi according to the Greek periegetic (travelogue) writer Pausanias (10.24.1).

The maxim, or aphorism, "know thyself" has had a variety of meanings attributed to it in literature. The Suda, a 10th-century encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, says: "the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are,"and that "know thyself" is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude Wikipedia

The use of the sign at the Anatomy Museum may relate to the use of the aphorism in relation to anatomical fugitive sheets which were illustrations of the human body specially created to display internal organs and structures. The museum contained a variety of exhibits to show the internal organs of the body.

From 1539 onwards the phrase nosce te ipsum and its Latin variants were often used in the anonymous texts written for anatomical fugitive sheets printed in Venice as well as for later anatomical atlases printed throughout Europe. The 1530s fugitive sheets are the first instances in which the phrase was applied to knowledge of the human body attained through dissection.

However, a further clue to the use of the phrase by the Museum are the use of lines in their catalogue from Alexander Pope:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;

These lines are taken from Pope's poem 'Epistle II: Of the Nature and State of Man, With Respect to Himself as an Individual' (1734) which opens with an argument; "The business of Man not to pry into God, but to study himself. His middle nature; his powers and frailties. The limits of his capacity" and also contains the lines:

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of mankind is Man.

We must assume that Joseph Woodhead, the founder of the Museum, was familiar with Pope's poem.

The phrase was also used by Conrad Aiken in his novel Blue Voyage; "Know thyself!" he reflects, 'was the best joke ever perpetrated'. And what was he? A hurricane of maggots which answered to the name of Demerest." (Pg. 16). Lowry would have been struck by the coincidence of the sign with Aiken's use of the phrase.

Bonn, Germany

Lowry spent six weeks in Germany learning German in September/October 1928 at a Weber's  English College. ( Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 79-80). Lowry met Paul Fitte at the college who he later shared a room with at Cambridge University.

Many of the German references in Lowry's work stem from this visit. Lowry told Clemens ten Holder in a letter dated  23/4/1951; ".....that was the only class I took with Herr Schmidhus, who mostly dealt with advanced students, but then that was almost the only thing I learned at all in Bonn, outside the bar of the Hotel Rheinischer Hof." (Collected Letters Vol 2 Pg. 373). In the same letter to ten Holder, Lowry says that he saw the Murnau film Sonnenaufgang (Sunrise) in Bonn.

Dana asks the German sailor Popplereuter says in Ultramarine; "You were in Bonn? (Pg. 87) and later Popplereuter says "Vor dem Krieg. I go to Bonn Universität as a student. I belong to a good corps, too" (Pg. 88).

Lowry refers to the city in the poem 'In the Oxaca Train' 1937; " From wooled thoughts of Bonn or of Bootle." (Collected Poetry Pg. 104).

Lowry mentions the "Bonn-Doumerghue business" in his unpublished book La Mordida which perhaps refers to some business with regard to meeting Paul Fitte in Bonn (Malcolm Lowry's "La Mordida" Pg. 340)