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  #1  
Unread 10-07-2021, 05:58 AM
A. Baez's Avatar
A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Default The Gargoyles

Alternate version/revision #2


Gargoyles



Wandering past a broad cathedral wall,
Its surface bridging life outside and and in,
Like skin respiring softly to engage
The city’s sweetness, yet still braced for sin,
I scan the strange admixture, cast in thrall
To arches, saints—and gargoyles. Shrined in age,

These sculpted spirits, strained with tug and thrust,
Popping eyes and clawing in assault;
Restive stills of anger, woe, or lust,
Their stone heads worrying the wider vault,
Sprang up like chilblains from these spires of grace
To meet the outer darkness with their dark—
Like caveats to consecrated space,
Like thugs to match the demons, bark for bark.


Alternate version/revision #1


Gargoyles



Sculpted spirits strained with gyre and thrust,
Popping eyes and clawing in assault;
Restive stills of anger, woe, or lust,
Their stone heads worrying the wider vault,

They sprang like chilblains from these spires of grace
To meet the outer darkness with their dark—
Like caveats to consecrated space,
Like thugs to match the demons, bark for bark.


Briefly tried "Viewed upon Walking Outside the National Cathedral" as a title


Original


The Gargoyles



Wandering past an old cathedral wall
Where gargoyles with their gothic faces glared
At me, or earth, or nothing real at all;
Where griffins glowered with their grey teeth bared
And imps contorted in a frozen masque
As ogres thrust their wild tongues to the sky,
I paused beneath one hellion jowl to ask,
Do they sin, these sentinels on high?

Sculpted spirits strained with gyre and thrust,
Popping eyes and clawing in assault;
Restive stills of anger, woe, or lust,
Their stone heads worrying the airy vault,
They sprang like chilblains from these spires of grace
To meet the outer darkness with their dark—
Like caveats to consecrated space,
Like thugs to match the demons, bark for bark.



Revision: S2 L4 was "Their stone heads plunged toward...", then "Their stone heads plunging toward..."

Last edited by A. Baez; Yesterday at 07:26 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 10-07-2021, 12:10 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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A. Baez, I mainly can follow this, but I think it could be clearer in spots. In S2L5, I have never seen a chilblain, only read about them, so it is hard to picture. Maybe something like a blister that I can picture more easily? In S2L4 I pronounce "toward" as one syllable, so unless this is aimed at a British audience, you might want to go with something like "Their stone heads plunging toward the airy vault." For S2L7, your meaning escaped me at first. You might try "Like caveats for consecrated space," or even "Like caveats protecting sacred space." For the last line, something like "Like thugs to ward off demons, bark for bark" might make it clearer why they are matching the demons, which otherwise might imply equally evil.

Susan
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  #3  
Unread 10-07-2021, 12:54 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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I'm still reading and thinking, but I do feel that chilblains are more à propos than blisters. A blister is created by friction and contact, chilblains are the direct result of exposure to the elements.

The first read shows me grey, mediaeval stonework with grotesque carvings that serve a practical purpose quite other than the one well-imagined here and I was reminded of Hardy's gargoyle that spews water over the grave of Fanny Robin. I am intrigued by the idea of their appearing as a subsequent growth rather than a contemporary decoration. Their appearance is evil but their provenance was often mischief.

I shall read more.
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Unread 10-08-2021, 03:53 PM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Susan, thanks for your reactions. I had been holding back from responding in order to see what others might spontaneously say about the things you brought up, but I'll go ahead and reply now before any more time passes.

I've never seen a chilblain either! But Ann touched on a physical version of my rationale for using this term, which I chose more for metaphorical reasons. My thought was that any cathedral that guards itself so militantly against evil spirits must harbor some degree of psychological chilliness itself. So I began entertaining the fantasy of gargoyles cropping up out of the cathedral almost as a sort of psychosomatic symptom of that cathedral's psychic iciness. Aside from that, I also liked the rather gothic sound of the word "chilblains," which "blisters" doesn't have.

As for "toward,"--ha, now I'm facing the same sort of issue as your "rattling" in "Wind Dance"! I had realized that "toward" could be pronounced with either one or two syllables and, like you (but arguably with less reason, since I hadn't found a dictionary on my side), I had gone with how I pronounced it. But I wouldn't mind your alternate suggestion at all, and considering that the one-syllable pronunciation is listed first in the two dictionaries that I've consulted so far, that would make sense--although, as is human nature, I have a hard time believing that most of the English-speaking world pronounces this word differently than I! Anyway, I'll adopt your change right now. Done...I actually like the way it makes the line sound more active!

I realize that "like caveats to consecrated space" is a rather weird, abstract construct. Just to make sure we're on the same page, I meant that paradoxically, the gargoyles, because of their essentially evil nature (their origin being evil spirits themselves, according to popular fable), qualify the sacredness of the space they've been enlisted to guard. Because of gargoyles' unsettling presence, cathedrals have always seemed to hold their holiness uneasily for me. So, I'm not sure if either of your suggested variations convey this meaning. Syntactically, can anything be a "caveat for" something else? And would "like caveats protecting sacred space" make clear what the gargoyles are caveats to?

Similarly, in "like thugs to match the demons, bark for bark," I actually did mean to suggest the disarming possibility that the gargoyles might be just about as evil as the demons they've been co-opted to ward off!


Ann, thanks for your rationale for favoring "chilblains," which, while it would seem obvious enough, was not central to my thoughts. (See my above comments to Susan.) I do love that it also works in the way you point out! I really need to catch up on my classic fiction and read about Hardy's gargoyle. Incidentally, I was surprised that when I Googled "gargoyle poems," nothing emerged--I'd assumed that there would be a whole corpus of poems on this theme. It's true that gargoyles' natures, insofar as I've read about them, seem to range a gamut from source to source.

Last edited by A. Baez; 10-08-2021 at 04:23 PM.
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Unread 10-08-2021, 04:15 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Quote:
I actually did mean to suggest the disarming possibility that the gargoyles might be just about as evil as the demons they've been co-opted to ward off!
Wow, does that statement ever have metaphorical/allegorical possibilities this week....

Probably not the poem you want to write. But I couldn't help making the connection.

Quote:
Their stone heads plunging toward the airy vault,
Ah. You probably don't mean gargoyles, then, which have water gargling through them (hence the name) and out their mouths (usually). You probably mean chimeras or grotesques. It doesn't matter unless you're trying to publish this in a journal for architects, though.

[Edited to add: In my experience, the most horrifying demons are not the ones that look identifiably evil, but the ones that seem pure and good and charismatic. Your mileage may vary.]

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 10-08-2021 at 04:29 PM.
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Unread 10-08-2021, 04:41 PM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Julie, ha, yes, I tend to think that my statement has metaphorical and allegorical possibilities on an ongoing basis!

I'm aware of the difference between gargoyles and grotesques (I hadn't before heard the term "chimera" used to mean something similar), and that difference does matter to me. I do see your point that gargoyles tend to face down at least slightly since they must direct the water away and out of the building, and for this reason, they are not typically pointed toward the highest point in the sky. However, I have seen some photos in which gargoyles jut straight out from an edifice, and I was thinking of the entire sky as being the "vault." A good observation, in any case, and one that has occurred to me.

I agree with your added comment. I'd say that the second most horrifying demons may be the ones that look identifiably evil but have been placed in positions representing goodness.

Last edited by A. Baez; 10-08-2021 at 04:46 PM.
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Unread 10-09-2021, 02:40 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi Alexandra!

Great to see your work again and hope for still more. I'm out of time just now, so I will circle back with the detail this deserves after a bit. For now let me say that I swear there's something like Hopkins in your work, the sonics are so rich throughout.

Maybe it's just me. It's also almost an Anglo-Saxon blend. Anybody else notice stuff like...

[W]andering past an [W]old cathedral [W]all
Where [G]argoyles with their [G]othic faces [G]lared
At me, or earth, or nothing real at all;
Where [G]riffins [G]lowered with their [G]rey teeth bared

Anyway, more later. A fine tooth thing if I can manage the time!
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Unread 10-09-2021, 06:16 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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There’s a duomo in Verona that features over its main door a relief of a demon swallowing a man whose head and neck are well into the demon’s throat. (Saints are lower down are just above pedestrian head height.). This duomo has a fascinating display of illuminated Roman column bases and floor mosaics from an earlier duomo built in the middle to late empire. Thanks, Julie. I don’t recall grotesques inside any churches I’ve visited. (Maybe the outside ones were “meant” to be apotropaic — after all, if one were a converted demon that was created ugly, what else could that demon do but hang tough outside?) The man-swallower is another matter. I have the same questions and praise that the others do. The alliteration is good. Do more?
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Unread 10-11-2021, 08:43 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen Tice View Post
I don’t recall grotesques inside any churches I’ve visited.
Not literally. I was referring to the monstrous egos and twisted priorities of sexual predators and their protectors. The child-swallowers, if you will.
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Unread 10-11-2021, 09:44 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hello A. Maybe it's only because I've been dipping into Les Fleurs du Mal again recently, but this reminded me of Baudelaire in some ways (or maybe only one). I could even be persuaded that "flowers of evil" might be an acceptable image for the gargoyles (or grotesques) that sprout on the fronts of cathedrals. (Or accretions of evil? Not so poetical.)

Which is one way - perhaps not a very satisfactory one - of saying that this is very striking - and, quite rightly, deeply detailed. (Maybe a bit too much?)

Their stone heads plunging toward the airy vault
- this seems to combine plunging with an upward movement, which I wonder about, although I note what you say about said airy vault.

I like the chilblains.

Cheers

David
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