Daily Archives: November 23, 2010

James Pollock: “Northrop Frye at Bowles Lunch”

The Preface to Blake’s Milton

James Pollock’s new poem about the young Norrie in the latest issue of Agni here.

Northrop Frye at Bowles Lunch

“I have had sudden visions.”
Bloor Street, Toronto, 1934

3 a.m. in the all-night diner, dizzy
with Benzedrine and lack of sleep, old books

and papers scattered across the table.
With his pen, his Dickensian spectacles,

his pounding, driving Bourgeois intellect,
he charges into a poem by William Blake

with two facts and a thesis, cuts Milton
open on the table like a murdered corpse

and spins it like a teetotum until
he’s put each sentence through its purgatory

and made the poet bless him with a sign:
thus (though perhaps one can picture this

only from a point outside of time)
he sees the shattered universe around him

explode in reverse, and make the flying
shards of its blue Rose window whole again.



The opening of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound (ca. 455 BCE), performed in the original Greek

On this date in 534 BCE Thespis of Acaria became the first actor to portray a character onstage.

Frye in “The Language of Poetry” refers James Frazer’s The Golden Bough to the primitive and popular element of ritual in drama:

The work of the Classical scholars who have followed Frazer’s lead has produced a general theory of the spectacular or ritual content of Greek drama.  But if the ritual pattern is in the plays, the critic need not take sides in the quite separate historical controversy over the ritual origin of Greek drama.  It is on the other hand a matter of simple observation that the action of Iphigenia in Tauris, for example, is concerned with human sacrifice.  Ritual, as the content of action, and more particularly of dramatic action, is something continuously latent in the order of words, and is quite independent of direct influence.  Rituals of human sacrifice were not common in Victorian England, but the instant Victorian drama becomes primitive and popular, as it does in The Mikado, back comes all Frazer’s apparatus, the king’s son, the mock sacrifice, the analogy with the Sacea, and the rest of it.  It comes back because it is still the primitive and popular way of holding an audience’s attention, and the experienced dramatist knows it. (CW 21, 220)