Kenneth Patchen – The Journal of Albion Moonlight,1941 (So It Is the Duty of the Artist)

Kenneth Patchen Poems For All

So it is the duty of the artist to discourage all traces of shame
To extend all boundaries
To fog them in right over the plate
To kill only what is ridiculous
To establish problems
To ignore solutions
To listen to on one
To omit nothing
To contradict everything
To generate the free brain
To bear no cross
To take part in no crucifixion
To tinkle a warning when mankind strays
To explode upon all parties
To wound deeper than the soldier
To heal this poor obstinate monkey once and for all
To have kids with pretty angels
To display his dancing seed
To sail only in polar seas
To laugh at every situation
To besiege all their cities
To exhaust the primitive
To follow every false track
To verify the irrational
To exaggerate all things
To inhabit everyone
To lubricate each proportion
To experience only experience
To deviate at every point
To offer no examples
To dismiss all support
To make one monster at least
To go underground immediately
To smell the shark’s ass
To multiply all opinions
To work only in the distance
To extend all shapes
To acquire a sublime reputation
To consort forever with the runaway
To sport the glacial eye
To direct all smouldering ambitions
To frequent only the exterminating planets
To kidnap the phantom’s first-born
To forego no succulent filth
To masquerade as the author of every platitude
To overwhelm the mariner with improper charts
To expose himself to every ridicule
To ambush their blow-nose Providence
To set a flame in the high air
To exclaim at the commonplace alone
To cause the unseen eyes to open
To advance with the majesty of the praying serpent
To contrive always to be caught with his pants down
To sprinkle mule-milk on the lifted brows of virgins
To attach no importance whatever to his activity
To admire only the absurd
To be concerned with every profession save his own
To raise a fortuitous stink on the boulevards of truth and beauty
To desire an electrifiable intercourse with a female alligator
To lift the flesh above the suffering
To forgive the beautiful its disconsolate deceit
To send the world away to crawl under his discarded pedestals
To have the cunning of the imperilled wave
To hide his lamentations in the shredded lungs of the tempest
To recommend stone eyelashes for all candid lookers
To attribute every magnificence to himself
To maintain that the earth is neither round nor flat but a scomaphoid
To flash his vengeful badge at every abyss
To be revolted by only the sacred cow which piddles at the toes of the swamp
To kneel with the blind and drunk brigands and learn their songs
To happen

To embrace the intemperate hermaphrodite of memory
It is the artist’s duty to be alive
To drag people into glittering occupations
To return always to the renewing stranger
To observe only the funereal spectator
To assume the ecstasy in all conceivable attitudes
To follow the plundering whirlpool to its source
To cry out nervously with every knock
To stock his shelves with plaintive confessions and pernicious diaries
To outflow the volcano in semen and phlegm
To be treacherous when nothing is to be gained
To enrich himself at the expense of everyone
To reel in an exquisite sobriety
To blush perpetually in gaping innocence
To drift happily through the ruined race-intelligence
To burrow beneath the subconscious
To defend the unreal at the cost of his reason
To obey each outrageous impulse
To commit his company to all enchantments
To rage against the sacrificing shepherds
To return to a place remote from his native land
To pursue the languid executioner to his hall bedroom
To torment the spirit-lice
To cover the mud with distinguished vegetation
To regain the emperor’s chair
To pass from one world to another in carefree devotion
To withdraw only when all have been profaned
To contract every battering disease
To peel off all substances from the face of horror
To glue himself to every lascivious breast
To hurl his vigorous cone into every trough
To unroll the hide from that repugnant rhinoceros Time
To refrain from no ownership
To crowd the squat-rumped centuries into his own special residence
To plunge beyond their smoking armpits

. . . . .

Kenneth Patchen,1911-1971. The Journal of Albion Moonlight,1941.        So It Is the Duty of the Artist

Aldous Huxley – Eupompus Gave Splendour to Art by Numbers,1916

Timanthus. The Sacrifice of Iphigenia 1-4BC“What was the story of Eupompus?” I asked. “I am all curiosity to know.”

Emberlin heaved a sigh and went on.

“Zuylerius’ narrative,” he said, “is very bald, but on the whole lucid; and I think it gives one of the main points of the story. I will give it to you in my own words; that is preferable to reading his Dutch Latin. Eupompus, then, was one of the most fashionable portrait-painters of Alexandria. His clientele was large, his business immensely profitable. For a half-length in oils the great courtesans would pay him a month’s earnings. He would paint likenesses of the merchant princes in exchange for the the costliest of their outlandish treasures. Coal-black potentates would come a thousand miles out of Ethiopia to have a miniature limned on some specially choice panel of ivory; and for payment there would be camel-loads of gold and spices. Fame, riches, and honour came to while he was yet young; an unparalled career seemed to lie before him. And then, quite suddenly, he gave it all up—refused to paint another portrait. The doors of his studio were closed. It was in vain that clients, however rich, however distinguished, demanded admission; the slaves had their order; Eupompus would see no one but his own intimates.”

“He was, of course,” said Emberlin, “occupied in giving splendour to Art by Numbers. And this, as far as I can gather from Zuylerius, is how it all happened. He just suddenly fell in love with numbers–head over ears, amorous of pure counting. Number seemed to him to be the sole reality, the only thing about which the mind of man could be certain. To count was the one thing worth doing, because it was the one thing you could be sure of doing right. Thus, art, that it may have any value at all, must ally itself with reality–must, that is, possess a numerical foundation. He carried the idea into practice by painting the first picture in his new style. It was a gigantic canvas, covering several hundred square feet–I have no doubt that Eupompus could have told you the exact area to an inch–and upon it was represented an illimitable ocean covered, as far as the eye could reach in every direction, with a multitude of black swans. There were thirty-three thousand of these black swans, each, even though it might be but a speck on the horizon, distinctly limned. In the middle of the ocean was an island, upon which stood a more or less human figure having three eyes, three arms and legs, three breasts and three navels. In the leaden sky three suns were dimly expiring. There was nothing more in the picture; Zuylerius describes it exactly. Eupompus spent nine months of hard work in painting it. The privileged few who were allowed to see it pronounced it, finished, a masterpiece. They gathered round Eupompus in a little school, calling themselves the Philarithmics. They would sit for hours in front of his great work, contemplating the swans and counting them; according to the Philarithmics, to count and to contemplate were the same thing.

Eupompus’ next picture, representing an orchard of identical trees set in quincunxes, was regarded with less favour by the connoisseurs. His studies of crowds were, however, more highly esteemed; in these were portrayed masses of people arranged in groups that exactly imitated the number and position of the stars making up various of the more famous constellations. And then there was his famous picture of the amphitheatre, which created a furore among the Philarithmics. Zuylerius again gives us a detailed description. Tier upon tier of seats are seen, all occupied by strange Cyclopean figures. Each tier accommodates more people than the tier below, and the number rises in a complicated but regular progression. All the figures seated in the amphitheatre possess but a single eye, enormous and luminous, planted in the middle of the forehead: and all these thousands of single eyes are fixed, in a terrible and menacing scrutiny, upon a dwarf-like creature cowering pitiably in the arena. . . . He alone of the multitude possesses two eyes.

“I would give anything to see that picture,” Emberlin added, after a pause. “The colouring, you know; Zuylerius gives no hint, but I feel somehow certain that the dominant tone must have been a fierce brick-red–a red granite amphitheatre filled with a red-robed assembly, sharply defined against an implacable blue sky.”

“Their eyes would be green,” I suggested.

Emberlin closed his eyes to visualize the scene and then nodded a slow and rather dubious assent.

“Up to this point,” Emberlin resumed at length, “Zuylerius’ account is very clear. But his descriptions of the later art become extremely obscure; I doubt whether he understood in the least what it was all about. I will give you such meaning as I manage to extract from his chaos. Eupompus seems to have grown tired of painting merely numbers of objects. He wanted now to represent Number itself. And then he conceived the plan of rendering visible the fundamental ideas of life through the medium of those purely numerical terms into which, according to him, they must ultimately resolve themselves. Zuylerius speaks vaguely of a picture of Eros, which seems to have consisted of a series of interlacing planes. Eupompus’ fancy seems next to have been taken by various of the Socratic dialogues upon the nature of general ideas, and he made a series of illustrations for them in the same arithmogeometric style. Finally there is Zuylerius’ wild description of the last picture that Eupompus ever painted. I can make very little of it. The subject of the work, at least, is clearly stated; it was a representation of Pure Number, or God and the Universe, or whatever you like to call that pleasingly inane conception of totality. It was a picture of the cosmos seen, I take it, through a rather Neoplatonic camera obscura–very clear and in small. Zuylerius suggests a design of planes radiating out from a single point of light. I dare say something of the kind came in. Actually, I have no doubt, the work was a very adequate rendering in visible form of the conception of the one and the many, with all the intermediate stages of enlightenment between matter and the Fons Deitatis. However, it’s no use speculating what the picture may have been going to look like. Poor old Eupompus went mad before he had completely finished it and, after he had dispatched two of the admiring Philarithmics with a hammer, he flung himself out of the window and broke his neck. That was the end of him, and that was how he gave splendour, regrettably transient, to Art by Numbers.”

Emberlin stopped. We brooded over our pipes in silence; poor old Eupompus!

Aldous Huxley,1894-1963.   Eupompus Gave Splendour to Art by Numbers,1916. Published in the The Palatine Review, no. 4 (October 1916). Holywell Press, Oxford

Description: Eupompus Gave Splendour to Art by Numbers, is a short story concerning an academic character, Emberlin, who has been studying Eupompus, a 5th century B.C. painter mentioned by Ben Jonson (1573-1637), in Explorata,Timber or Discoveries made upon men and matter, 1641 who based his canvases on numerology and proportion.

Image: The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, a 1st Century AD Roman copy of a 4th Century BC painting by Timanthes, discovered at Pompeii, and now in the Museum at Naples