On Beyond Zarathustra – Z Speaks!

by John Holbo on June 23, 2016

[UPDATE March 21, 2021]: Looking for the latest On Beyond Zarathustra? It’s here. I’m updating old posts with outdated links.

But first, a thought – and a question. I’ve been reading various books about Dr. Seuss lately. This bit is from Philip Nel – the chapter in his book entitled “U.S. Laureate of Nonsense”:

Paradoxically, the anapest – often found in the limerick – may also be why Seuss is rarely studied as a poet. The limerick is the punch line of poetic forms. For example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron advises Harry not to read a mysterious book, suspecting that it may be enchanted: “everyone who reads Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives,” he warns (231). That joke would not work so well if the readers were forced to speak in sonnets or villanelles. Seuss’s metrical kinship with the limerick has led even his sympathetic critics to dismiss his verse as non-literary … Perhaps this explains why – with the notable exception of Donald Hall’s Oxford Book of Children’s Verse in America (1985) – Seuss appears in very few anthologies of children’s poetry, and why he is not (for example) included on the Academy of American Poet’s website, though other twentieth century “children’s poets” such as Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein are listed there.

That’s interesting. And clearly correct. Except for the bit about Harry Potter, which is false. Being forced to speak in villanelles – or sestinas! – would be vastly more hilarious than being forced to speak in limericks. But obviously Ron Weasley has no idea what a villanelle is. It would be out of character for him to know the term. (I have a dream of continuing Squid and Owl in Spenserian verse – with Owl as various knights and Squid as a series witches and fairies. But that’s obviously not going to happen.)

Right! On with Zarathustra’s interruption of the show!

I left you on that cliffhanger note last week! Now, moving right along …

Getting back to Nietzsche and Seuss: some readers doubt Nietzsche drew these pages I’m publishing, despite the fact that the paper looks quite old. Could Nietzsche draw like that? Given how influenced he was by Schopenhauer, I don’t think it’s implausible. From The World As Will and Representation, vol. 1 (originally published as a children’s book – I can Will It Myself, By Me, Myself):

Yet each thing has its own characteristic beauty, not only everything organic that manifests itself in the unity of an individuality, but also everything inorganic and formless, and even every manufactured article. For all these reveal the Ideas through which the will objectifies itself at the lowest grades; they sound, as it were, the deepest, lingering bass-notes of nature. Gravity, rigidity, fluidity, light, and so on, are the Ideas that express themselves in rocks, buildings, and masses of water. Landscape-gardening and architecture can do no more than help them to unfold their qualities distinctly, perfectly, and comprehensively. They give them the opportunity to express themselves clearly, and in this way invite and facilitate aesthetic contemplation. On the other hand, this is achieved in a slight degree, or not at all, by inferior buildings and localities neglected by nature or spoiled by art. Yet these universal basic Ideas of nature do not entirely disappear even from them. Here too they address themselves to the observer who looks for them, and even bad buildings and the like are still capable of being aesthetically contemplated; the Ideas of the most universal properties of their material are still recognizable in them.

We’ll give They Might Be Giants the last word.



John Holbo 06.24.16 at 12:25 am

Whew! Tough crowd!


Bill Benzon 06.24.16 at 12:31 am

I particularly like your first Man, Monkey, Worm panel.


John Holbo 06.24.16 at 12:39 am

Thank you kindly!

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