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SIDNEY-SPENSER  June 2007

SIDNEY-SPENSER June 2007

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Subject:

plurality of parents

From:

"James C. Nohrnberg" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Sidney-Spenser Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 24 Jun 2007 04:41:37 -0400

Content-Type:

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Some notes.  Triple paternity is an amplification or re-layering of dual 
parentage, but perhaps not essentially different from that, except that all 
human parentage is dual.  There are two or three subjects here:  one is the 
myth of the birth of the hero, and another is the "obscurity" of the hero's 
origins, the origins of heroism being themselves mysterious.  The hero's 
emergence is distinguished from his birth, the latter being a sleep and a 
forgetting, and the former an annunciation, epiphany, and the retrojected 
beginning or historically landmarked inauguration of an epoch.  A third 
subject, then, is a corresponding distinction -- but often reversed -- 
between genetic parentage and adoptive or "legalized" parentage (one humble, 
and one not, in a reversible ratio).  Adoptive parentage is what is meant by 
calling a school our Alma Mater, because nurture is being distinguished from 
nature/nativity.  Arthur's tutors are critical, in a substitutive way, 
because they can remember the future for Britomart in Arthur's place.  (All 
parents can remember their children's future -- e.g., as President of the 
United States, etc.)  In the Bible our subject appears as dual parentage or 
patronage, and thus barren wives do not become pregnant or mothers without 
divine visitation.  Such divine patronage is extended, in what almost seems 
the original instance, to Ishmael.  This kind of dual parentage also obtains 
for a hero like Hercules, or the twice-born Dionysus  -- or Samson.  And it 
can produce twins:  note the story of Romulus and Remus -- or Superman and 
Clark Kent.  (And note that it is Thomas the Twin who must identify the 
resurrected Jesus.)  The possibility of multiple fathers (rather than 
multiple children) is the dominant gene here, so to speak, multiple mothers 
being rather more recessive.  (See Danny Lin...).   Moses' has a "father" -- 
genealogically speaking -- in the Levite Amram (1), but also a House in the 
Pharaoh (the name means house) and his relatives who adopt him and call him 
Jr. (that's roughly what his name means in Egyptian) (2), and in the God who 
says out of Egypt I have called my Son (3) -- not to mention the sanctuary 
he finds with the priest of Midian, whom Scripture gives three or more 
different names (4).  In Book 36 of Justinus' Epitome of Pompeius Trogas' 
History Moses' father is said to be Joseph, to whom the Bible and its 
Egyptians (in Gen.) give the title Father of Pharaoh (a way of honoring 
Joseph as a kind of Henry Kissinger).   But Moses also has multiple mothers 
or maternal patrons: (1)  Jochabed, the natural mother, but also the woman 
hired to nurse him through the intervention of his sister, who is only named 
at the obstetrical drawing forth of the sons of Israel out of the body of 
Egypt at the nation's birthpangs at the Reed Sea (note the repeat of Moses' 
birth-canal imagery from the Moses in the bullrushers story -- so called in 
the first chapter of Huckleberry Finn for sound typological reasons), (2) 
the daughter of Pharoah who says "Take this child" to the nurse, using the 
an adoption-formula when actually "re-patriating" the child to its mother, 
(3) Zipporah, who vicariously circumcises Moses, and whose intervention (or 
that of her sisters) has provided sanctuary, and (4) the midwives or 
God-fearers who act as patrons of the lives of the Hebrew babies.  Jesus is 
rightly cited, because an alternative text for the Baptism in Luke, at "This 
is my beloved Son" is "Thou art my son, this day I have begotten thee" (Ps. 
2:7)  Further, the hero who is a foundling is typically also an expose-ling. 
 In one Ctesias' account of the story of Cyrus, reported in Frag. 66 from 
Nicolas of Damascus, Cyrus (whom Herodotus has as the son of the daughter of 
Astyges), Cyrus is hunted down by Astyages' henchmen (because Astyages has 
been informed of Cyrus' future greatness), Cyrus kills the main attacker, 
marries his wife, and then honors Astyages as his father (Cyrus, in this 
story, is the child of poor folk, but has distiguished himself at court, and 
his parents were honored there, before his mother's dream of her son's 
greatness got circulated).  It seems to me that this story verges on giving 
Cyrus three fathers.  Multiple or hybrid parentage seems to go two ways -- 
it either enhances identity, or dilutes it.  A person who doesn't know who 
is parent is is more or less fatally weakened without this knowledge, 
lacking authority in lacking authorship.  This is Arthur's case in The 
Faerie Queene.  The Caesar who got the victory in the chronicles of 
Eumnestes seems to reappear at the end of the chronicle, that at Uther 
Pendragon "abruptly ... did end, / Without full point or other Cesure right, 
/ As if ... th' Author selfe could not at least attend / To finish it"  -- 
the breach offends Child Arthur, and yet he seems to guess that there's 
something there for him, because he embraces the identity of those who are 
pleased to think themselves the "foster Childe" of their country's whole 
royal or dynastic history.  A "hero" like Hamlet has a nagging ghost for a 
father (in the play proper), and his multplication in father-figures like 
Uncle Claudius and the genuinely avuncular (& late) Yorick (not to mention 
the elder Fortinbras, Old Norway, and potential father-in-law Polonius) 
suggest the hero's own uncertainty about his authority or command over his 
purposes, which turn out to be in the hands of Special Providence.  See, 
perhaps, John Curran's latest book, on Hamlet, with the Foreword by...
( -- Jim N.)

On Sat, 23 Jun 2007 20:45:06 -0700
  John Geraghty <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I'm not sure how relevant to the triple inheritance, but when I think of
> Arthur, Merlin, Wales, foundlings, and Tudor mythology I do think of
> Taliesin. The foundling thrown into the sea.  I don't know of a direct 
>link
> to Spenser, but I did find an article online that has some interesting
> things to say:
> 
> "The history never written: bards, druids, and the problem of 
>antiquarianism
> in 'Poly Olbion." 
> Curran, John E., Jr. Renaissance Quarterly v51. no2. 498-526. 22.06.1998.
> 
> It's at: http://members.tripod.com/mvilliers/curran.htm
> 
> 
> The triple is not triple paternal inheritance, but part of the essay 
>speaks
> to this "Thrice Great" composite Merlin.
> 
> Interesting in the reference that this trinal composite of surrogate
> fathers, I believe, had no fathers themselves (at least in the traditional
> sense of paternity) and yet they provide the surrogate "paternal
> inheritance" for Arthur.
> 
> Curran writes:
> 
> Two important factors in Drayton's pondering of this question were 
>Taliesin
> and Merlin; Drayton shows himself quite interested in the two - or, more
> properly, three - bards. Taliesin and the two Merlins were developed as a
> result of Geoffrey of Monmouth's other, lesser known work, the Vita 
>Merlini.
> Here Geoffrey had, if modern scholarship is correct, rethought the Merlin 
>of
> his Historia Regum Britanniae after he had read more on Merlin and 
>Taliesin
> in Welsh sources, and had consequently produced a new Merlin story which
> featured Merlin as a wildman and as a student of Taliesin. The poem has 
>this
> new Merlin discuss with Taliesin such matters as natural history and
> prophecy. Geoffrey had intended his new Merlin to be merely a revised
> version of his old one,(16) but his two Merlins were so different that it
> was thought, thereafter, that two prophet/poets, both named Merlin, had
> actually lived at different times. Giraldus Cambrensis made the 
>distinction
> explicit: there were two Merlins, one, born of an incubus, called Merlin
> Ambrosius, who prophesied in the time of Vortigern (Merlin of the 
>Historia),
> and another, born in Scotland, called Merlin Caledonius or Sylvester, who
> prophesied during the reign of Arthur (Merlin of the Vita).(17) -
> 
> 
> Another character closer to your inquiry is the Irish Fionn mac Cumhaill
> (yes the Fenian Brotherhood named themselves in reference to this mythic
> hero).  Not the best scholarly ref, but see Wikipedia: 
> 
> Muirne left the boy in the care of Bodhmall and a warrior woman, Liath
> Luachra, who brought him up in secret in the forest of Sliabh Bladma,
> teaching him the arts of war and hunting. As he grew older he entered the
> service, incognito, of a number of local kings, but when they recognised 
>him
> as Cumhal's son they told him to leave, fearing they would be unable to
> protect him from his enemies.
> 
> The young Fionn met the leprechaun-like druid and poet Finn Eces, or
>Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finneces had spent
> seven years trying to catch the salmon of knowledge, which lived in a pool
> on the Boyne: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the
> world. Eventually he caught it, and told the boy to cook it for him. While
> cooking it Fionn burned his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his
> mouth, swallowing a piece of the salmon's skin. This imbued him with the
> salmon's wisdom. He then knew how to gain revenge against Goll, and in
> subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by
> sucking his thumb.
> - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fionn_mac_Cumhaill
> 
> 
> This might be an interesting thing to contrast to the "paternal 
>inheritance"
> model as it is, in the great Celtic tradition, a woman who is teaching him
> warfare and hunting.  I won't touch the thumb-sucking because sometimes a
> thumb is just a thumb...
> 
> -John
> 
> B ut we are gifted, even in November
> R awest of seasons, with so huge a sense
> O f her nakedly worn magnificence
> W e forget cruelty and past betrayal,
> 
> 
> GRAVES TELLS HIS MOTHER ABOUT THE WHITE GODDESS 
> http://www.johngeraghty.com/Literature/Texts/Graves/Letter_Graves_4_15_1944_
> Recto.jpg
> http://www.johngeraghty.com/Literature/Texts/Graves/Letter_Garves_4_15_1944_
> Verso.jpg
> 
> 
> 
> GRAVES (ROBERT, 1895-1985, writer and poet) IMPORTANT AUTOGRAPH LETTER
> SIGNED, TO HIS MOTHER, ABOUT HIS WORK ON THE WHITE GODDESS, WRITTEN ON THE
> VERSO OF A TYPED PAGE OF A DRAFT OF PART OF THE WHITE GODDESS: Graves
> explains to his mother how he has discovered the bardic secrets in the 
>poems
> of Taliesin, the second vital step in his extrapolation of the Goddess,
> which was to be printed separately, as he states in this letter, in
> [Keidrych Rhys's] magazine Wales ('...I deduced, first of all, that one of
> his poems was an acrostic by noting a deliberate mistake he had made in a
> Scriptural text. Then I solved the acrostic, and the answers led me on to
> the heretical mediaeval secret, which was that Christianity was a logical
> development of the Greek Orphic mysteries -- not a new revelation but a
> fulfilment of prophecies and anticipations...'); he also sends news of his
> friend Ronald 'Crab' Searle 'a big shot now' who assures him that there 
>was
> nothing to fear when the invasion starts, gives details of his tangled
> private life, and sends news of various members of the family, 2 pages,
> folio, small tear at head, some creasing, address impressed in blind The
> Vale House, Galmpton, near Brixham [South Devon], 15 April 1944 
> 
> An important letter about The White Goddess, Graves's classic mythic work 
>on
> what it is to be a romantic or 'muse-inspired' poet, written to his 
>mother,
> then eighty-two years of age, of whom, in relation to the White Goddess,
> Richard Percival Graves has written: 'Elsewhere, in the background of his
> thought, unseen, but with her own spiritual and psychological legacy, 
>loomed
> the powerful influence of his mother Amalie [Amy] von Ranke Graves.' 
>(Robert
> Graves and the White Goddess, 1995, p.72 -- see also Chapter 5 for further
> details of Graves's discovery of the hidden meaning in the poems of
> Taliesin). 
> 
> The page from a typed draft of part of The White Goddess on the verso of
> which this letter is written is headed 'Hyginus and the Ogham Croabh' -- 
>for
> the final version see The White Goddess pp. 204-205.
> 
> -----Original Message-----
>From: Sidney-Spenser Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> On Behalf Of [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Saturday, June 23, 2007 6:27 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: A friend's question about Arthur
> 
> List ---
> 
> The responses to this have been delightful.  I'm not up on my Arthurian 
>lore
> and I'm not in a position to pursue the question of precedents for triple
> inheritance very far.  Does the back-story of Redcrosse / St. George 
>present
> any parallels?  Spenser worked into the George legend some features of the
> Perceval / Parsifal romances, but I don't know in what form(s) that story
> came down to him.  Was Perceval, the clownish young man, typically a
> foundling?  By nurture he is a holy innocent, and by nature he aspires to
> glorious knightly deeds.  As I recall (vaguely), in Chretien's and 
>Wolfram's
> accounts, P's preparation for a hero's career comes from several reclusive
> figures; in Spenser's adaptation, Una's ewigweiblichkeit surpasses 
>whatever
> mentoring Redcrosse received before coming to Gloriana's court.
> 
> Cheers, Jon Quitslund
> 
> -------------- Original message ----------------------
>From: anne prescott <[log in to unmask]>
>>
>> Dear list: I have a friend, Manny Schonhorn, an 18th c. scholar, who  
>> asked me what I thought of Spenser's Arthur's birth/parentage, about  
>> which he has been thinking. Right after being removed from his  
>> biological father, writes Manny to me in an e-mail, he is delivered  
>> to Old Timon in the Wales valley, and then receives his moral  
>> education from Merlin. That's an intriguing melange of Briton and  
>> faerie right there, which of course turns up elsewhere. "My hunch is  
>> in the triple paternal inheritance. It's unusual. Oedipus and Moses,  
>> easily coming to mind, have single mentors after their abandoment.  
>> The only figure that I am reminded of is Theseus--see Dryden-Duke's  
>> *Plutarch's Lives*, my 1703 text, I, 3-6. The triplet is strangely  
>> significant, for it structures the plot and design of much of the  
>> English narratives that follow. I find it in Crusoe's Friday,  
>> Fielding's Andrews and JHones, Sterne's Tristam. And, not too  
>> surprisingly, but perhaps not for many convincingly, I can argue for  
>> it in Clarissa and Burney's heroines too. (Dorothy's three fellow  
>> travelers on their way to Oz are NOT part of my problem!!) Spenser's  
>> Arthur's triple inheritance is not in folk literature as far as I can  
>> tell. It does not appear in Thompson's *Motif-index of Folk  
>> Literature*. Heroes of folk and myth are usually bastards or  
>> abandoned, and of course have foster-fathers, adopted fathers. But  
>> three? Odd. Spenser's creation? Does anyone know?
>>        Any thoughts for me to pass along? Anne P.

[log in to unmask]
James Nohrnberg
Dept. of English, Bryan Hall 219
Univ. of Virginia
P.O Box 400121
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4121

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