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    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      I suppose this is more Wordsworth than Coleridge, but I was struck by the similarity of the imagery in the wise woman’s second song with Wordsworth’s ‘A Complaint’. Wordsworth was complaining about Coleridge and the change that he felt happened in their relationship after Coleridge’s addiction to laudanum and trips abroad.  The wise woman sings in the last two stanzas:

      To live in the love that floweth forth,

      than the love that cometh in.

      Be thy heart a well of love, my child,

      Flowing, and free, and sure;

      For a cistern of love, though undefiled,

      keeps not the spirit pure.

      Compare this to Wordsworth’s image of the shift of Coleridge’s love from being a flowing fountain to a sleeping, silent well:

      There is a change—and I am poor;

      Your love hath been, nor long ago,

      A fountain at my fond heart’s door,

      Whose only business was to flow;

      And flow it did; not taking heed

      Of its own bounty, or my need.

       

      What happy moments did I count!

      Blest was I then all bliss above!

      Now, for that consecrated fount

      Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,

      What have I? shall I dare to tell?

      A comfortless and hidden well.

       

      A well of love—it may be deep—

      I trust it is,—and never dry:

      What matter? if the waters sleep

      In silence and obscurity.

      —Such change, and at the very door

      Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.

      It might not be conscious or unconscious borrowing on MacDonald’s part as I expect it is a fairly common figure (love as flowing fountain or still cistern), but I happened to read both this week.


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      To my mind, the story of Sir Percival is one of the most important. When Anodos reads the book containing ‘wondrous tales of Fairy Land, and olden times, and the Knights of King Arthur’s table’ the only story that is quoted is the meeting of Sir Galahad and Sir Percival, which seems to be an allusion to (though not a direct citation of) Sir Percival’s chronicle in Malory’s ‘Quest of the Holy Grail’. As we discussed last week, stories and reading are vital in Phantastes, so I think this is more than just a bit of window dressing. A lot of readers have seen it as foreshadowing the repentant knight who is sometimes seen as the Percival figure in the book, but after their initial meeting the knight is almost entirely like Galahad rather than Percival. In Malory’s version, Galahad is perfect, holy and essentially invincible in battle, whereas Percival pretty much looses every battle he fights. This is why I think Anodos is the character connected to Percival (and the repentant knight is much closer to Galahad). Percival gets tricked by enchantresses, gets defeated by a Black knight, sits around weeping in the forest at night, and ultimately sheds his armour and decides his only hope of seeing the grail is to find and serve Galahad (sound like anyone else?).

      In terms of Spenser, I think, despite the epigraph from Fletcher’s Purple Island, that the title is really an allusion to The Faerie Queene because Fletcher steals the idea of Phantastes (a counsellor of the mind with Judgment and Memory) from Spenser (and MacDonald would have known this). In Spenser, Phantastes is in the tower of Alma, which symbolises something like temperance or reflection, and at the end of this canto (Book 2 Canto 9) Sir Guyon and Arthur sit in the library and read a book called the ‘Antiquity of Faerie Lond’–not far from the title of the book that Anodos reads in the cottage…


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      To my mind, the story of Sir Percival is one of the most important. When Anodos reads the book containing ‘wondrous tales of Fairy Land, and olden times, and the Knights of King Arthur’s table’ the only story that is quoted is the meeting of Sir Galahad and Sir Percival, which seems to be an allusion to (though not a direct citation of) Sir Percival’s chronicle in Malory’s ‘Quest of the Holy Grail’. As we discussed last week, stories and reading are vital in Phantastes, so I think this is more than just a bit of window dressing. A lot of readers have seen it as foreshadowing the repentant knight who is sometimes seen as the Percival figure in the book, but after their initial meeting the knight is almost entirely like Galahad rather than Percival. In Malory’s version, Galahad is perfect, holy and essentially invincible in battle, whereas Percival pretty much looses every battle he fights. This is why I think Anodos is the character connected to Percival (and the repentant knight is much closer to Galahad). Percival gets tricked by enchantresses, gets defeated by a Black knight, sits around weeping in the forest at night, and ultimately sheds his armour and decides his only hope of seeing the grail is to find and serve Galahad (sound like anyone else?).

      In terms of Spenser, I think, despite the epigraph from Fletcher’s Purple Island, that the title is really an allusion to The Faerie Queene because Fletcher steals the idea of Phantastes (a counsellor of the mind with Judgment and Memory) from Spenser (and MacDonald would have known this). In Spenser, Phantastes is in the tower of Alma, which symbolises something like temperance or reflection, and at the end of this canto (Book 2 Canto 9) Sir Guyon and Arthur sit in the library and read a book called the ‘Antiquity of Faerie Lond’–not far from the title of the book that Anodos reads in the cottage…


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      I love the epigraph on the title page: ‘In good sooth, my masters, this is no door. Yet it is a little window, that looketh upon a great world.’  It is a very strange and provocative line, and I always pause to think about it before I start rereading the book. Why would MacDonald claim that his book was not a door and just call it a ‘little window’? We are used to the metaphor of books being portals to other worlds, but MacDonald makes a smaller (and, I think, more accurate) claim. I also like the image of myself as pressed up against this little window–perhaps in some small medieval tower, since he seems to be speaking in a medieval voice and calling me ‘master’ as if I am the ruler of the place.

      I also like to think about what the ‘great world’ is that it looks upon. If the book is the ‘window’, then it can’t look upon itself, presumably? So is it looking upon past works of literature, in the way Kirstin pointed out that MacDonald was a great teacher of what was then forgotten literature? Or is it looking upon a spiritual world? Or perhaps is it a way of looking into ourselves, since our past reading and life experiences always shape our understandings of books?


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      Greetings! I fall into Kirstin’s ‘rabid re-reader category’, though I did get bogged down and give up the first time I tried to read Phantastes. My second attempt, though, was one of the most memorable reading experiences of my life.

      I am also the ‘Academic Rep’ for the George MacDonald Society, and we are in the early phases of starting something (perhaps a listserv) for those studying MacDonald academically (at any level–undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, etc). If you would like to be included, please message or email me (dannygabelman@gmail.com).

      Looking forward to the conversations!


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      Thanks for that passage, Malcolm. It is a beautiful translation! I like the idea of the rivers in the Earthly Paradise running through Fairyland. MacDonald almost definitely uses these rivers elsewhere in his work (particularly in At the Back of the North Wind. There is a good article about this by John Pazdziora and Josh Richards https://www.jstor.org/stable/48599491?seq=1) so it wouldn’t surprise me if something similar is happening here. I also think that the whole book is something like a Purgatorial journey. Like Dante, he passes through regions of various types of sin and has to have these purged, like Dante having the seven Ps removed from his forehead.

      In general, I think Purgatory was the Dantean realm that most inspired MacDonald.


    • Danny Gabelman
      Participant
      @dannygabelman

      Thanks Kirstin. I agree that Anodos’s problem seems to be with his expectations as to the purpose or function or telos of his art. I think he has the typical artistic reaction, that what he finds and brings to life is his possession, something for him to own and control rather than something with a life of its own. I wonder if this relates to the general belief that an artist/writer is the owner of their work and therefore the final arbiter of its meaning and interpretation. Perhaps this relates to MacDonald’s stepping back from the role of the author as final authority and his encouraging his readers to engage with the text on its terms rather than his?

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