What is this thing You call I Ching? And what's this talk Of yarrow stalk? And trigram K'un? Are you a loon? It's quite complex. More so than sex, And not as fun. So let's not shun That two-backed beast. Beats Taoist priest. I think that I Would rather try Not Buddhist Mind But Tantra kind.
O Northrop Frye, you prophesy, And sometimes even mystify. You quantify, and qualify, Analogize, identify, Your categories multiply, Your charts and schemes transmogrify. Descending low and soaring high, Your quest you always amplify. You seek those myths that underlie The Word, and then you try to pry The metaphoric reason why. The language you revivify With babble (ear) and doodle (eye). Your universe? At least four-ply. Your rally call? Just unify. Your books a world exemplify: The green and golden world of Frye. For that we all to you say "aye"! Signed: Denham, sometimes Called instead By pseudonym: Trebor Mahned. Which you will see If backwards read Will spell the name Of Norrie's ed.
ON READING TERRY EAGLETON’S REVIEW
OF FRYE’S LATE NOTEBOOKS
O Terry, you parry With just a simple scoff. But Terry, be wary Of killing Norrie off. O Terry, be chary: The dead will rise again, And Norrie, by gory, Will mount above the din.
FRYIAN, FRYGEAN, OR FRYEAN?
[This in response to an email query from Glen Gill, subsequently issued to a number of Frygians about the proper adjectival form for “Frye.” Methought we should spend our time on genuine issues.]
So what's the adjective for "Frye"? Do you pronounce your "g" as hard? Do you, like Gill, just wonder why The "g" is sometimes soft as lard? At other times it disappears, With triplet vowels aligned in row. The folks must surely have tin ears Who say the "g" has gotta go. For precedent consider "Styx," Whose adjective requires a "g." For even Appalachian hicks "Norwegian" works phonetically. But why restrict phonetic rule To followers of Norrie Frye? Does not the pedant, simple fool, Induce, then universify? Thus, "Frygean" applies to texts, To arguments and archetypes, To all the Spirit/Word contexts. The lightest and the darkest types. But I will quiz the linguist Kris (My daughter): she may know the rule To cure our ignorance of bliss And send us back to suffix school. Meanwhile, methinks that Glen R. Gill Should forego adjectives for Jung And Freud and Frye, and just fulfill What Norrie craved—a simple tongue.
FAST, FASTER. FASTEST
The letters will get done at last (If not encased in plaster cast), When you dispose of Jay's "Four Ages" And cut one-hundred-forty pages, And then dispatch the Aretino: You'll faster move than andantino.
[In response to Margaret Burgess’s e-mail about her edition of The Selected Letters of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp: “Unfortunately, the letters aren’t moving at the moment. I had 140 pages still to cut and was playing with the scanning of images with my new OmniPage Pro 12 before Christmas (a definite improvement over the Pro 10), but got tied up with other things over the holidays and am now working on Jay Macpherson’s Four Ages at the Centre and a manuscript on Aretino for the press, so have been fairly distracted.”]
THE ST. HILDA’S GIRLS REVEL
IN PRINCIPAL KIRKWOOD’S COUNSEL*
“[N]ow for something that will penetrate the St. Hilda’s girls who want intercourse with me” (Northrop Frye, 1949 Diary, par. 302).
O brazen night and saucy day— We are advised by Mossie May To ask the gentlemen perforce To Hilda's for some intercourse. Benignly she for us condones The life of mossless rolling stones. Our love's as great as Queen Matilda's: We ache to give ourselves at Hilda's.
*[Frye had been asked to get a talk at St. Hilda’s College, University of Toronto. The source of his joke is that Mossie May Kirkwood [that was her real name], the principal of St. Hilda’s, was fond of the word “intercourse” for social relations. She once asked the Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson, e.g., how many years it had been since he had had intercourse with the girls at St. Hilda’s.]
UPON LEARNING FROM FRYE’S MANUSCRIPTS
THAT THE NICKNAMES FOR VIOLA PRATT
(MRS. E.J. PRATT) AND VIOLA LOVE
(MRS. CHRISTOPHER LOVE) WERE, RESPECTIVELY,
VI AND VO
When Mrs. Pratt greets Mrs. Love, They do not say "Hi Ho." They rather greet each other with, "Hi, Vi," and then, "Hi, Vo."
FOR MY CO-EDITOR, MICHAEL DOLZANI,
DECEMBER 31, 2002
O Michael D, It's plain to see That you have overdosed. You've had a high From too much Frye: That's what I've diagnosed. The cure for this Is one big kiss To plant on maiden fair. So you should go And that bestow On Stacey in her lair. Remember too— The two of you— What Norrie Frye declared: That Eros leads To Eden's meads When Beulah's mat is shared. And one could note What Norrie wrote That "screw's" a profound word,* But I can't say Just that today: I might be overheard. Still, in the gyre Of hot desire, In maelstrom and in vortex, You'll gratify With moaning cry, "Just give me more and more sex." Don't get me wrong, This little song Is not advice for now. You must delay Just one more day To pluck the golden bough. That can't occur (Keep hands off her) Until this day has passed And you've rung in New Year again. Your joy? Well, unsurpassed.
THE GREAT DOODLE
On Norrie's Great Doodle He's really quite brainy, Exposing a cycle That often seems zany, Where Hermes is sunlit And Eros quite rainy. Now who is this fellow? Why, Michael Dolzani.
THE AXIS MUNDI
Extract from your noodle That Frygian Doodle, Or else you'll get caught in a cycle. Instead, climb a tree— An axis mundi— Uncover up there the real Michael.
THE GREEN AND GOLDEN WORLD
[“No grass grows under the Denham feet.” —Ron Schoeffel, editor-in-chief, Frye’s Collected Works.]
They say the grass is always green Where sheep and goats don't eat, And also on the other side, Where things are surely meet. It's Norrie's green and golden world— Where Denham hopes his feet Will carry him when Norrie's works Are certified "complete."
FRYE’S HOLOGRAPH HIEROGLYPHICS
There once was a fellow named Frye His writing would transmogrify When he took up his pen. So again and again His editors squint and then cry.
ON FRYE’S MUSINGS ABOUT THEOSOPHY
IN THE GROUP OF SEVEN
In abstract art, for Norrie are A theosophic hell and heaven— In Thomson, Harris, even Carr And others of the Group of Seven.
ON THE SCHEDULE FOR EDITING FRYE’S NOTEBOOKS
A notebook here, a notebook there. No schedule should be doctrinaire. Let's just approach it laissez-faire. And when we both have grown grey hair, Why, there'll be notebooks everywhere. The double Ds will get you there (The Denham and Dolzani pair). Then brave new world, beware, beware, You'll then be fully Norrie's heir.
ON JEAN O’GRADY’S COUNSEL TO
THE COLLECTED WORKS EDITORS
TO STOP WASTING PAPER BY WRITING
SILLY E-MAILS, ALL OF WHICH HAVE
TO BE FILED, FOR GOD’S SAKE
O'Grady stewed About the waste of paper That issued from E-mail sitcom: Our little verbal caper. The problem lies With Northrop Frye's Commitment to the word. His drunken ape We can't escape No matter how absurd. But 'twas not we Decreed that she Preserve our little notes. So what might seem To her a beam Are only tiny motes. Their fate should be Just this, you see: To melt without a trace And disappear, Into the mere— Blake's Sea of Time and Space. If she could learn Just what to spurn, To sort the big and little, Then she'd not file, As if high style, Our every jot and tittle. Still, in the end We all commend The ecologic aim, The trees she'll save Will help to stave Apocalyptic flame. And nice to know That we can go, If we oblige, to God, Her guarantee To knaves, you see: Perfection. Oh, how odd. That's really swell. Who wants a hell? Who wants the river Stygian? To save makes sense: God's recompense, An idea downright Frygian. And of course the limerick: In Tranna there lives an O'Grady, Reputed to be a bit shady. Recycling, she saves, Unlike the Frye knaves. Could be that this woman's a lady.
FRYE’S PRIMARY CONCERNS
First, food, then sex and property And movement unencumbered. The sum of Frye's concerns is four, If you must have them numbered. So you should dine, provide yourself With shelter overhead, And travel up and down the land, Then take your love to bed. These are the vital, primal things. No ideology. They form the basic metaphors And shape mythology. The second one may eyebrows raise— 'Tis common, the reflex Of pious folks who claim that they Are not too keen on sex. But you may get the puritans To crack a smile or giggle. Just show them Norrie's earthy form: "Eat, fuck, and own and wiggle."*
BASTILLE DAY: AT THE WIDDICOMES’
HOUSE, NOBLETON, ONTARIO
There once was a critic named Frye, Who was born the fourteenth of July. A toast to our Norrie In all of his glory: His memory with Scotch sanctify. For Norrie there's no termini. To that we can all testify. So now we all raise Our glasses in praise Of the memory of H. Northrop Frye.
THE BUDAPEST CONFERENCE
Let's you and I to Budapest To see if Norrie is possessed, And whether Eros he's repressed In favor of a love expressed With anagogic zeal and zest. In your reply will you suggest That maybe Norrie has transgressed? Perhaps we'll find in Budapest, When we have Norrie all undressed, The Superego's not the best, Nor yet the Ego, but Id est.
The recent exhaustive researches Of Denham, Dolzani, and Lee Reveal in the Frygian notebooks That the subjects of "bugger" are three. They are people and gods and conceptions. The first includes one of the Popes. Jehovah's forever belittled With countless buggering tropes. There are hundreds of other things buggered. But how will we now populate? It's tough to produce our own likeness If we only this way copulate.
IN REPLY TO THE QUESTION OF WHETHER
WE EDITORS SHOULD DO “ALL OF THIS
When passages are referenced with A cross to link them up, It means that "butter" must be joined With instances of "cup," And that in turn will couple with Our little Norrie Frye, Which means that every footnote forms A network that can tie Each metaphor and image to All others on the chart Where everything is equal to And nothing is apart, And everything will penetrate With every other thing. So what's the point, you ask yourself With this cross-referencing? If everything is everywhere, As Whitehead once declared. The best approach? Assume the pose Of one who's laissez-faired.
[Frye’s schoolmates called him “Buttercup”]
QUESTIONING FRYE’S READING
OF INFERNO 34
Did Dante climb down Satan's thigh, Or was he rather shat? Did Satan's arse transmogrify The poet into scat?
ON JEFFERY DONALDSON’S QUERY: HOW DOES FRYE
SPELL THE WORD FOR THOSE LITTLE WINGED CREATURES?
In Frye's dictionary The spellings do vary. Sometimes we get "faery." At others it's "fairy." A form tertiary Appears as the "faerie." If all this seems hairy, No need to be wary. It's all arbitrary, Thus discretionary For ed Jeff-arie.
NUMEROLOGY: ON BEING QUERIED BY
MICHAEL DOLZANI ABOUT MY NUMBERING
SCHEME FOR FRYE’S NOTEBOOKS AN OTHER
I think the letter should be "b," But if it's not, then make it "c." And what you've numbered now "11," Will surely have to change to "7." And 30-o must split in half— No more the single monograph. And where the asterisk to place? With entry? Or at page's base? And woe to them who have mistook The typescripts for the written book. Should it be colon or a dash? Let's pause this matter to rehash. It's all alchemical design. By changing numbers we refine The dross from the Collected Works— So no impurity now lurks Within this mammoth enterprise, At least that we can recognize. Is it eschatologic wit? Or simply scatologic shit? It pains me some to use that noun But still by those of some renown, Including one named Northrop Frye, The word's been used to signify What Dante in the frozen lake Describes when it is time to break Away from Satan's hairy loin And then pass up from out his groin. St. Peter at the gate will ask If notebook numbering's a task That's worse than writing doggerel And then will send me off to hell. 'Twas I thought up this crazy scheme. But was I drunk or in a dream? Just send me off to a zenana. Don't ever let me come to Tranna. A Yahoo is this madman Denham. Who ever thought to call him Houyhnhnm?
TO NORRIE: FROM DENHAM AND DOLZANI,
O Norrie, If only you to us could talk You'd clear up mysteries like "schalk," And what that "chess-in-bardo" means, And why the book that's sideways leans, Away from all the upright tomes, And why those mirrored palindromes With symmetry that's fearful, aye, Continue us to mystify, And why the book you numbered "three" Remained your still-born progeny, And why the paper on King Lear Cannot be summoned to appear. To us, your editors, it seems That some of your eccentric schemes, Like HEAP and ogdoad and such, Are overcomplicated much, But would be clear as crystal light To us, as well as neophyte, Could we with you communicate Or somehow interpenetrate. 'Twould save us quite a bit of time, Foreclosing any need for rhyme And other time-consuming chores That make us both pedantic bores. If only we could briefly meet, And clear up visions—St. Clair Street, Seattle, Edmonton, et al.— Epiphanies you could recall, And make their cryptic essence clear, Their secrecy just disappear. But we, alas, cannot commune. The simple fact: you died too soon.
Dear friends, we've come to launch a book. They've gathered us by hook and crook, A motley crew of gentlefolk From Nobleton to Roanoke, To hurl these letters on their way On this St. Valentinus' Day. A launch, they've dubbed this festive rite, To fire these letters into flight. We crack the covers to unveil The early Helen-Norrie tale, And then we launch them into space, And hope they find their astral place. As into space the letters climb, We also launch them into time. Now Vic a catapult provides. The Press, a ship to smite the tides, By launching into time herewith Will lovers' tale become a myth? And into space with speed of light Become apocalyptic rite? Through space and time these letters fly, The clock and gravity defy, And Peter Gzowski's "Morningside" Now speeds them 'cross the countryside. From Maritimes to western shore, The letters sail, the letters soar. It's true that launchings often are For sending rocket ships afar. But books can also soar and sail And sweep aloft beyond the pale, Approach the island of the moon, With gods and goddesses commune, And make their way into the heart Of Golgonooza's house of art. This book at sea: an Argonaut— O what an archetypal thought— Or launched above, an aeronaut. Such travel teases out of thought, Like Grecian urns and nightingales And paradisal holy grails. But once they've reached their apogee The wish and hope of U T P, The editor, and Alvin Lee, Roseann and Jane and 3 T 3 Is that these spatial denizens— The infant green and golden twins— Will tumble from their starry height And find Old Vic, their launching site, Then make their way to readers' hands Across the breadth of both our lands. We can't of course the flight erase. As Norrie said, things fall in place When metaphoric meaning's seen As what the literal has been. So phoenix Norrie, now above, And dearest Helen, turtle-dove, Please know our purpose is benign: This launching is your Valentine.
Valentine’s Day, 1996 [Victoria College, Book Launch for The Correspondence of Northrop Frye and Helen Kemp]
ON LEARNING OF THE MENU FOR THE FRYE
BOOK-LAUNCH DINNER PARTY
Cocoa lasagna and ostrich to eat— Strange combination of pasta and meat. But as Norrie says, for concerns that are prime Strange combinations can turn out sublime.
ON MY DECISION NOT TO INCLUDE,
AGAINST THE WISHES OF MARGARET BURGESS,
CERTAIN OF FRYE’S DIAGRAMS IN ONE OF
THE VOLUMES OF THE COLLECTED WORKS OF FRYE
He's standing firm, That's what she said. (In sotto voce: Dunderhead.) He didn't give the go-ahead. The matter: let it Rest, she said. What better place To rest than bed? The subject-object Chart is dead, And I-A-B— Well, it has fled Like other charts From A to Zed. The diagrams— They're put to bed. All smaller fryes Must go instead To Reader A Who will have spread His charts all out Upon his bed. To Margaret too— The one who pled For charts behind And charts ahead— Her diagrams: Asleep, unread. So notebooks now Their charts have shed. The diagrams All put to bed.