Friday, June 6, 2008

Cognate Dungeon

Our subject could be expressed by a remark Samuel Johnson quotes from Pliny in one of the Rambler essays (No. 86): "the burthen of government is increased upon princes by the virtues of their immediate predecessors." And Johnson goes on to add: "It is, indeed, always dangerous to be placed in a state of unavoidable comparison with excellence, and the danger is still greater when that excellence is consecrated by death...He that succeeds a celebrated writer (musician?)
has the same difficulties to encounter." that word "dangerous" deserves a moment's reflection. In its original, rather ominous sense, it means, "Having lost one's freedom," having become "dominated" and turned into the position of a household thrall: being placed in jeopardy, subjected to the tyranny of something outside one's own control as a free agent. A cognate is our word "dungeon"

W. Jackson Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet, p. 3

+ + +

Who knew, but it isn't a big leap from Kenneth Patton to W. Jackson Bate.

W. Jackson Bate by way of our friend Harold (remember him?) in his book The Anxiety of Influence.

Bate's book, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet, like The Anxiety of Influence, is a chewy read. A little less chewy than the Bloom, but dense just the same. And, like The Anxiety of Influence, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet speaks to the modern improvising musician's struggle as well; it might as well have been called The Burden of the Past and the Improvising Musician in the early part of the 21st Century.

I think it will be a fun read.