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An IVANHOE session with Rossetti's “Jenny”


Leonardo (Jerome McGann) – 6 moves
ISP Industries (Bethany Nowviskie) – 5 moves
Quiotl (Andrea Laue) – 5 moves

This is the record of an IVANHOE game played in a text-based (weblogging) environment. Moves are presented here in sequence, interspersed with entries from McGann’s and Nowviskie’s private role journals. These journal entries provide an example of the critical thinking about roles and perspectives IVANHOE is meant to encourage.


Nowviskie’s Role Journal:

18 August 2003: New game begins! – ROSSETTI

Text: D.G. Rossetti’s poem, “Jenny” (1881 edn.)

Role: Not sure yet. Have some notion of a sci-fi/VR treatment meant to highlight the Rossettian concept of the “inner standing point” and degree to which all the speaker’s rumination and description comes from his own brain, is completely subjective and is no real reflection of Jenny herself (no better than the scratched-up pier glass).

This sci-fi or VR notion came to me as I was reading a passage in The Game That Must Be Lost – will probably need to insert it into the discourse field, maybe even as my first act, to give others a better sense of what I’m doing. I notice when I play this game I tend to like being mysterious with my first few moves before revealing my drift, but I don’t think that goes over well with other players, whose attention is already taxed with their own and others’ moves. So I’ll try being more obvious – maybe even patently obvious – this time. Here’s the passage, from page 102…

Now, having typed that out, I think it’s important and loaded enough that it should be my first move. It’s full of more stuff than I’m interested in taking on, too – so it might provide good fodder for other players. I can see somebody, for instance, taking up the challenge to do the Marxian analysis.

Some fruitful passages – first, the Nell thing:

           Of the same lump (as it is said)
        For honour and dishonour made,
        Two sister vessels. Here is one.
             It makes a goblin of the sun. (203-206)

And here’s something from the poem for my Jenny-as-bot reading:

  Let the thoughts pass, an empty cloud!
        Suppose I were to think aloud,—
        What if to her all this were said?
        Why, as a volume seldom read
        Being opened halfway shuts again,
160  So might the pages of her brain
        Be parted at such words, and thence
        Close back upon the dusty sense.
        For is there hue or shape defin'd
        In Jenny's desecrated mind,
        Where all contagious currents meet,
        A Lethe of the middle street?
        Nay, it reflects not any face,
        Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,
        But as they coil those eddies clot,
170  And night and day remember not.

I think I’ll call myself Inner Standing Point Industries.

ISP Industries’ MOVE 1:

A Coded Message

Insert into the discourse field the following passage from page 102 of Jerome J. McGann's Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Game That Must Be Lost:

 “Working from Browning’s monologues and Poe’s stories (especially the hoaxes), Rossetti here produces a portrait of the inner fantasy life of a contemporary young man, a bohemian artist. What is so remarkable about this work – so original, as Pater would insist – is the investment its reverie makes in realistic materials. The poem is littered with things of all kinds. It develops an imagination of the world of the imaginary as that world is, necessarily, a scene of desire materially reified and alienated to an extreme of facticity. The easy conversational manner is the work’s principal index of that order of the ordinary. It carries a coded message, just as the poem is headed with a coded title. This is not a poem about “Jenny,” a prostitute, but about a young man whose desire is drawn to her images – to her person, her imaginary self, and to the paraphernalia that constellate around her, like the ornaments that decorate portraitures, not least of all Rossetti’s.

“It is crucial to realize that we are led to see the whole from a Rossettian inner standing point, that is, from within the fantasy-space projected by the young man. It all appears to be a “real” scene, and is taken as real by the young man, as it must be: for these illusions, as a Marxian analysis would show, are precisely real. For the young man, or the poem, to see them more critically would be to break the spell of the images, to break the illusion that constitutes their reality. The man’s sympathetic attitude, including his self-ironies, are not critical moves, they are blocking devices that serve to maintain the illusion of objectivity. And so it happens: unawakened from its dream of life, the poem draws the lineaments of that supreme world of illusion we like to call “the objective world,” the world as will and representation, ‘reality.’”


Quiotl’s MOVE 1:


Replace line 14 (Poor flower left torn since yesterday) with this new line 14:

When the hot arm makes the waist hot

Quiotl’s MOVE 2:


Replace line 127 (Of the old days which seem to be) with a new line 127:

Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,


Leonardo’s MOVE 1:

The Goblin and the Sun

6 June 1882


Shortly before he died, your friend Dante Rossetti was gracious enough to accept a copy of the enclosed book, where I try to make some amends for ill-considered criticisms I once made about his work. You would do me a great favour if you would accept a copy as well. If it comes to another edition, I intend to expand the text that concerns Rossetti, and in this copy I have handwritten what I shall print, should that new edition come about.

I am moved to write partly because a great poet and artist has now passed from us, partly because I have for some time wanted to see if you and I too might now be able to put away an acrimonious past, for which I have been so largely responsible, and partly because I have only just finished reading your Tristram poem, whose majesty has overwhelmed me.

I presume much by this intrusion, especially with the sadness of Rossetti’s death so close upon us, but your reputation for generosity has “moved me to this sin” – a sin far less to be regretted than the injuries that in the past I have done to you and yours.

Robert Buchanan


14 June 1882


I have read your book with great interest – of course with greatest interest in those parts devoted to the work of my friend, who must have been gratified to know that one such as yourself came to such a reconsideration of his great work. He bestrode our narrow world like a colossus and we shall not see his like again. As for yourself, your regret is understandable and your apology no more than the situation requires. The prose addition to your text is quite splendid.

Those personal matters aside, I will also say that not many men would have the intellectual courage to set about such a thorough re-examination of their thoughts and ideas. For this I honour you, as I honour you for the courage and the candour of your letter. Was it not the great Galilean, traduced by the churches who took his name in vain, who told us to rejoice more in the recovery of one lost sheep than in the saved company of the ninety-nine?


C. Swinburne

P.S. I am of course more than a little pleased at your response to Tristram. Perhaps you recognize in it “a better resurrection” of one of my old favorites, “Anactoria”. I wonder what you think now of that work.


18 June 1882

My dear Sir,

Reading your remarkable poem I came to understand why your name is one “of which all Europe talks from side to side”. It is a majestic work, and I quite see what you mean by comparing it to “Anactoria”.

In the meantime I should like to raise with you a related subject having to do with Rossetti. Rereading all of his work, as I have been doing, I am struck by the variety of ways he handles the subject of the prostitute (and its related subject, the fallen woman). “Jenny” is the chef d’oeuvre of this case, with its powerful investigation of the relation between the pure and the impure woman, but Rossetti’s ballads and tales revert to this kind of woman repeatedly: “A Last Confession”, “The Bride’s Prelude”, etc etc.. (My failure to grasp this key matter has been, in part, the chief cause of what is so wrong with my original essay on Rossetti’s “fleshly” work.)

But in reconsidering the whole subject I have come upon a pattern – or perhaps a lack of pattern – in Rossetti’s handling of these matters. The issue began to come clear when Mr. Boyce showed me his Bocca Baciata. It is a great, a stunning, work. We had an interesting conversation about it when I told him the Boccaccio story that Rossetti invokes in the title he gave the picture. The story rather shocked Boyce because he was unaware of the tale, and only knew the picture as a portrait of Rossetti’s beautiful housekeeper. Then more recently a friend of mine who ran with the Rossetti circle when The Germ was created and for some ten or a dozen years afterwards showed me some unpublished poems Rossetti wrote in those years, including the “The Can Can at Valentino’s (written from Paris) and “After the French Liberation of Italy”. These works do seem to me coarse and shocking and have brought a kind of setback in my reassessment of Rossetti’s work. Do you know these works? More generally, what do you think of this whole issue? I would be grateful for any of your thoughts about this matter.

Yours sincerely,

R. W. Buchanan


McGann's Role Journal:

My character is Dan Brown, author of Digital Fortress, Angels and Demons, and The Da Vinci Code. (I thought initially I would be A. S. Byatt, but Brown is better in this case.) His most recent potboiler is a clear IVANHOE type work, with (as well) a clear relation to “Jenny” and the issues I want to take up: because the novel pivots around a retelling of the whole Mary Magdalene story in terms of the Grail legend. The text is a story he is writing titled “The Goblin and the Sun”. The story is a series of letters exchanged by Robert Buchanan and A. C. Swinburne following RB’s initial note accompanying the gift of his book God and the Man, where RB published his recantation from his “Fleshly School” attack on DGR in two installments, the 1881 and the augmented 1883 editions). The exchange will center in “Jenny” as it occasions their different critical thoughts about DGR’s style and the meaning of his work. The story, from Brown’s point of view, is also interesting because it is being written in the context of this round of IVANHOE: ie, Brown (something of a digeratti himself) wants his letter-exchange, and the coherence of his story, to lay itself open to engagement with random (related) materials.


ISP Industries’ MOVE 2:

ISP Industries

Insert this letter into the discourse field and link it to the move entitled A Coded Message.

 Dear Sir,

Thank you for your recent inquiry. Our technicians report that work proceeds on schedule, and that you may expect the experience to be available for download no later than Saturday of next week. We are pleased to have been able to incorporate the images and dimensional scan (Nell.img.zip and Nell.ds) you provided us with no measurable delay to shipment. It was fortunate that they so closely matched our pre-fabricated model – practically two sister vessels! Please don’t hesitate to inform us if you have any further requests or requirements.

Ivy Bannishe-K’weto
Director of Customer Service, ISP Industries

Nowviskie’s Role Journal:

I’ve now sent my first two moves. Am not sure what player quiotl is up to. One of those lines is transposed from another place in the text, but the other is unfamiliar to me and I googled it to no avail. Just saw Jerry’s Swinburne-Buchanan move as I was posting my 2 nd move. Kind of makes me wish I had gone with another idea I had, which was to play as Fanny Cornforth. That would have made interacting with Jerry’s characters/role more straightforward. Since I’ve rocketed myself into the future, though, I’ll need to interact with (probably) everyone more obliquely, thematically. I worry that this game will be too short for those sorts of interactions to emerge.

As for my next move, here’s a thought: Since I suspect quiotl is doing something algorithmic, maybe I should include a snippet of the code that will power the Jenny VR experience. An interesting idea – how to make it relevant/revelatory?


Okay, that’s done – picked out all references to tangible/audible environment in the poem and encoded them in every specified particularity, even including sequence. Was really fun to do, and hopefully will highlight ease of reading “Jenny” as a constructed space. It’s going to be interesting, given my initial thought about emphasizing the speaker’s subjectivity, to do some moves that seem mechanistic, objective.

ISP Industries’ MOVE 3:

Code Fragment

Link this fragment to the last two moves by ISP Industries, and to the lines in the source text where the following sounds and objects appear.

<!—Ivy, here’s the bit you wanted to see. Just my first pass at it, based on the client-interview transcripts you forwarded. I think this covers all his specific environmental demands, but I’m still not happy with the overall effect. My new graphics tech, B. E. Otney, did the lion’s share, and it’s a little Victorian for my taste. I’ve put all the assets in job_1881/VR/enviro/temp/, so you can check it out for yourself. Login=“Jenny” (that’s what I’m calling the babe) password=“hotbed.” Good luck with this guy! He seems fairly self-involved, and you know they’re the hardest to please. Coffee later? — Ivan Whisk —>

                <sound type=“clock” source=“shelf_2” sequence=“ambient” />
                <sound type=“cage-bird”  source=“misc_00798745.241_1” sequence=“post-dawn5” />
                <sound type=“cart” source=“window” sequence=“post-dawn1” />
                <sound type=“sheep” source=“window” sequence=“post-dawn2” />
                <sound type=“dog” source=“window” sequence=“post-dawn3” />
               <sound type=“sparrows” source=“window” sequence=“post-dawn4” />
          <furniture type=“loveseat” spec=“02685.31”>
               <accessories type=“cushions” number=“3” />
         <furniture type=“bed” location=“alcove”>
               <accessories type=“pillows” number=“2” />
              <accessories type=“coverlet” spec=“00321.9” />
         <tableware type=“stemmed_goblet” number=“2” color=“translucent” />
         <timepiece type=“clock” style=“027” location=“shelf_2” audible=“yes” />
         <misc desc=“bird_in_cage” code=“00798745.241_1” />
          <radiant type=“lamp” style=“00397” modification=“doubled_shade” />
          <reflective type=“mirror” style=“00284” modification=“scratched” />
          <liquid type=“wine” color=“red7” flavor=“merlot” quality=“cheap” />

Quiotl’s MOVE 3:


Replace line 8 (Poor flower left torn since yesterday) with:

Blossom of the eternal May

Quiotl’s MOVE 4:


Replace line 119 (Still red as from the broken heart,) with:

And the air swoons around and over thee,

Leonardo’s MOVE 2:

22 June 1882

Dear Mr. Buchanan,

“Bring out number weight and measure in a year of dearth.” Blake’s diabolic aphorism could not be more aptly applied than to the question you raise in your letter. I am not familiar with the first poem you mention (“The Can Can at Valentino’s”), but I do know the second, “On the French Liberation of Italy”. What can you have found in it to call “coarse and shocking”? Surely no language could be too strong that condemned the actions of that unspeakable French beast. I would almost choose to believe in heaven and hell and its Nobodaddy if doing so would let me imagine him burning forever in the foulest circle of punishment devised by the God who sent his own son to death.

As with all poets, Rossetti’s work is an imaginative field whose true range has to be explored by the poet himself. Most men prefer to avoid the territories of their souls that they fear to discover and confront. Rossetti’s imaginative world was great because it was larger, and hence more dangerous, than most. He was a meticulous imaginative adventurer, reworking and revising – revisiting, reconsidering – everything he wrote, repeatedly. “Jenny” itself, as he told me several times, went through numerous redraftings, revisings, even wholesale recastings. I cast my eyes over that magnificent poem even now and I can imagine Rossetti seeing every line laying itself open to other possibilities. I cast my own _sortes virgilianae” over the text and think – well, what if I rewrote the line “Still red as from the broken heart,” as “And the air swoons around and over thee,” or the line “Poor flower left torn since yesterday” as “Blossom of the eternal May”. Whole new ranges of meaning begin to unfold their possibilities.

And that is the way Rossetti thought, and worked.


A.C. Swinburne


23 June 1882

Dear Swinburne (if I may),

What you say is all very well said but you miss my point, which I shall try to clarify by quoting the sonnet you don’t know:

           The first, a mare; the second, 'twixt bow-wow
              And pussy-cat, a cross; the third, a beast
              To baffle Buffon; the fourth, not the least
            In hideousness, nor last; the fifth, a cow;
            The sixth, Chimera; the seventh, Sphinx;...Come now!
                  One woman, France, ere this frog-hop have ceased,
              And it shall be enough.  A toothsome feast
            Of blackguardism and whoresflesh and bald row,
            No doubt, for such as love those same.  For me,
            I confess, William, and avow to thee,
              (Soft, in thine ear!) that such sweet female whims
              As nasty backsides out and wriggled limbs
            Are not a passion of mine naturally;
            Nor bitch-squeaks, nor the smell of heated quims.

Now surely this revolting sonnet stands oddly beside a poem like “Jenny”. The one is intelligent and delicate throughout, and all the more impressively so given the difficulty of its subject. Here the subject itself is hardly worthy of a poet’s notice at all, and perhaps the error lies in that – choosing to write about such a thing. But then to write about it in just this way. Well, “it makes a goblin of the sun” – by which I mean it cheapens the very art that Rossetti dedicated himself to practicing and promoting.


R. W. Buchanan

McGann's Journal Entry: From the first move I intended to incorporate as much of the material developed by the other players as I could imagine my way with. The story-in-letters is the story of two contrasting views of poetry: one that argues poetry is a discourse in which discrete things are made in finished forms (“the goblin”); the other that it is an endlessly dynamic field, forever generative as long as generative power exists (“the sun”).


Nowviskie’s Journal Entry:

20 August 2003 – my thirtieth birthday.

Okay, I think I need to start interacting more explicitly with the other players (only two! too bad) like Jerry did by quoting Andrea’s line replacements. How to do it? Tease?

As a critic, the Poet Buchanan
Thinks Pseudo much safer than Anon.
Into Maitland he shrunk,
But the smell of the skunk
Guides the shuddering nose to Buchanan.

Play on Andrea’s new lines? Problem there is that I don’t have a good sense of what she’s doing. But I could simply start to incorporate imagery, ex. “the hot arm makes the waist hot.” Given all my mechanical/encoded interests, I could certainly use the Blake line Jerry quotes: “Bring out number weight and measure in a year of dearth.”


Did both.

ISP Industries’ MOVE 4:

Bring Out Number Weight and Measure in a Year of Dearth

Link the following to quiotl’s “heat” move (which reads “Replace line 14 with this new line 14: When the hot arm makes the waist hot”), leonardo’s “Second Move” (Dear Mr. Buchanan... Blake’s diabolic aphorism could not be more aptly applied than to the question you raise in your letter...) and to lines 163-170 of the source text:

Let the thoughts pass, an empty cloud!
        Suppose I were to think aloud,—
        What if to her all this were said?
        Why, as a volume seldom read
        Being opened halfway shuts again,
  So might the pages of her brain
        Be parted at such words, and thence
        Close back upon the dusty sense.
        For is there hue or shape defin’d
        In Jenny’s desecrated mind,
        Where all contagious currents meet,
        A Lethe of the middle street?
        Nay, it reflects not any face,
        Nor sound is in its sluggish pace,
        But as they coil those eddies clot,
  And night and day remember not.

From: Noah Kevin Bitwyse <bitwyse@ispindustries.com>

Date: Wednesday Aug 20, 2103 08:47:56 AM US/Eastern

To: B. E. Otney <otney@ispindustries.com>

Cc: Ivy Bannishe-K’weto <ivy@ispindustries.com>, Ivan Whisk <whisk@ispindustries.com>

Subject: Re: heat

Otney, I understand you’re doing graphics for Ivan on this “Jenny” project. We’re running into some trouble down here in Sensorimotor Apps. Maybe you can cast some light.

The issue is that heat transfer (ie. from the user’s body to the vessel) is causing some artifacting. We can’t figure out if the problem is in the vessel’s “body heat” programming or if it’s a graphical glitch, but whenever — for instance — the user’s hot arm makes the vessel’s waist hot, we’re getting a weird cycling of day/night ambient light from the window, and it’s completely throwing the vessel off. She’s basically not sure whether to wake up or drift off. And hey, I don’t need to tell you that the client isn’t paying for her to sleep!

Could you check into this ASAP? What I specifically need are your ambient numbers, some data on how the graphics handle weight (it could possibly be the pressure on the vessel and not heat transfer), and whatever probability measure for artifacting you’re working from. — Noah

Leonardo’s MOVE 3:

24 June 1882

My dear Buchanan,

Rossetti’s sister has a wonderful poem, “In an Artist’s Studio”, which would help you through this confusion you have fallen into. “One face” shines through all his canvasses, the poem argues, one face that “fills his dreams”. In “Jenny” that one face is cousin Nell/Jenny, who are, as the poem explicitly lets us know, mirror images of each other. Now of course everyone knows this, but one wants to see that all of Rossetti’s women are dream women, figures of desire from that landscape of imaginative possibility. Moral strictures will close your access to these figures and the doors of perception they open and represent. The Valentinian sonnet that so troubles you is a licensing device that opens wilderness territories, an imaginative version of what the Americans are doing these days to open their westward lands. That Rossetti treated this sacred subject in such a “coarse” way – your term is quite accurate – marks for us his own terror of the wilderness he, nonetheless, determined to realize in his own way. That he was fearful of where he was going does not diminish his imaginative greatness, it simply defines its special character and quality. There is no single “right” or “correct” way to proceed in these matters. My own work, as you know, takes a very different line. Or consider Whitman. His greatness as a poet is related to all this because his verse has wedded his new metrical forms to the forbidden subjects that are carried in those forms – and that carry us along with them. Here in our tight little island one of Whitman’s foundational subjects would be called, has been called by shrewd ironic (French) spirits, “the English vice”. But in Whitman we realize this “vice” is simply, splendidly, another version of the exuberance and extravagance of love – which is also “one thing”, as Rossetti’s faces are one face. But people always SEE this one thing in different ways. Althea, in Atalanta, says that “love is one thing, an evil thing”. It is “one” in all of its imaginative transformations, evil or good.

We are talking about poetry here, Buchanan, not morality – those “wastes of moral law”, as Blake called them. How could we endure such places – survive them, triumph over them – without poetry and its intrepid clarities?


A. C. Swinburne


26 June 1882

My dear Swinburne,

I don’t see how anyone could POSSIBLY print for public circulation that Valentinian sonnet. Don’t speak to me about “doors of perception” here, that is just beautiful and ineffectual talk. There are lines in that sonnet that would simply have to be elided, if it were to be read at all. You and I can discuss these matters in the privacy of this sympathetic exchange. But if we care for Rossetti’s reputation we would have to censor these aspects of his work.

I should like to leave that subject aside, however, and ask you about something else you wrote in a previous letter. It is quite related, I believe, to this matter as well. You wrote that every line in any of Rossetti’s poems (and presumably in any poet’s work) ought to lay itself open to revision and “reimagining”. But then I ask you, “By ANYONE?” Where does the poet’s authority stand? Your own view of Shakespeare’s texts – the correction of those texts – is well known. Are your emendations to be read as Swinburne’s imaginative flights, as Mr. Furnivall maintains, or are they moves to restore the texts of Shakespeare to their original SHAKESPEAREAN purity?


R. W. Buchanan

McGann's Journal Entry: This exchange obviously means to open up for discussion the whole question of the game being played here, and of the very idea of this game. I am also preparing for a future set of moves that will attempt an imaginative “incorporation” of Beth’s ISP Industries coding game moves. I shall do this by having Swinburne introduce the theory of poetry as a kind of “code of codes” that can be called into play by anyone choosing to undertake the “game” of poetry.

Leonardo’s MOVE 4:

28 June 1882

My dear Buchanan,

I marvel that you, a poet yourself, would THINK anything substantial might be found in the flatulent breathings of that Flunkivall from Brothelsbank, whose fecal – I mean feeble – criticism is mere diarrhea at best, windy and nauseous words at worst.

You will recognize that what I have just written is a spiritization of the gross stuff of Mr. F.

But enough of that foolery – F, like other evil things, including the Supreme Evil, is just too simple for imagination to play games with. Poets need more serious substances, more complex and wonderful things: human forms divine, not human abstracts. Forms like Rossetti, or works like “Jenny”.

Let me address your question in this way. Poets aspire to become initiates of the secret language of the universe. Rossetti spoke of this once as “The Monochord”. Only the greatest poets become masters of its vocabulary and grammar – Sappho, Dante, Shakespeare, Hugo, for instance. When one actually enters and uses this language, then we will say that the poet is “now no more a singer, but a song”. The poet disappears, song alone remains. Or, to revert to my first figuration, the poem that you read dissolves into the unheard melodies that alone make the mortal poem possible to appear.

Dante moved from Latin to his Italian vernacular in order to dramatize this basic poetic requirement: that we speak only, finally, in our mother tongue, the Monochord that keeps all the songs in tune. Blake said that his works were the dictations of Eternity. When we enter that symphonic space, we become the lyres of the universe, as Shelley begged to be in his incomparable west wind ode. At that point the poetry declares and performs itself. And it is entirely possible – indeed, I should it is a demanded necessity – that the reader and even the critic of poetry aspire to that condition of musicality. When such a sympathetic fusion is achieved, one no longer speaks of “emending” texts or correcting errors. The poetry reveals its secret articulations through the dictated judgments of its mortal devotee.


A.C. Swinburne


4 July 1882

My dear Swinburne,

Yours is a mystical theory of poetry and even of criticism that I can scarcely comprehend, much less either agree or disagree with. I know that when I have written something and when I see it through to its published form, I am vexed if someone – some ridiculous printer or presumptuous publisher or officious critic – should alter or denigrate what I have chosen. It is after all MY poem. Or are you telling me that when you submit your poems for publication you don’t CARE how careful the printers treat your work? I can scarcely believe it. And the printers are simply the lowliest of intervening agencies. Or do you embrace your critics’ arguments for altering what you have done? You do not – as I know only too well! I think, perhaps, that your previous letter’s arguments may perhaps have been made in a flyting way.


R. W. Buchanan

McGann's Journal Entry. This exchange is transitional. I mean it to provide a segue to a move that will envelope Beth’s ISP Industries moves into this (pre-historic!) exchange.


Nowviskie’s Journal Entry:

21 August 2003. Struck by Jerry’s phrase “licensing device” given context of my moves. Also full sentence in which it appears likens poetry’s license to the opening of the American west. What can I do with that? Going to give the poem another read-through, because I’d really like all my moves to respond to IT explicitly and not just other players’ moves. So here are some gleanings. This first one makes me think of licensed/purchased imagination:

When she would lie in fields and look
Along the ground through the blown grass,
And wonder where the city was,
Far out of sight, whose broil and bale
They told her then for a child's tale.

Jenny, you know the city now.
A child can tell the tale there, how
Some things which are not yet enroll’d
In market-lists are bought and sold (130-138)

I also just noticed this, which might help me tie the futuristic stuff I’m doing to the original context of “Jenny:”

Yet, Jenny, till the world shall burn
210  It seems that all things take their turn;
        And who shall say but this fair tree
        May need, in changes that may be,
        Your children's children's charity?

And this just reeks of Jerry’s Swinburne’s style: “nor flagrant man-swine whets his tusk”

ISP Industries’ MOVE 5:

Licensing Device

Link the following, printed on a small cardboard box, to this sentence in leonardo’s third move: (“The Valentinian sonnet that so troubles you is a licensing device that opens wilderness territories, an imaginative version of what the Americans are doing these days to open their westward lands.”) Link it to the discussion in this very dissertation (Did you think I wasn’t reading along? Were you?) on “deferred initialization.” Link it also to lines 135-138 in “Jenny:”

Jenny, you know the city now.
A child can tell the tale there, how
Some things which are not yet enroll’d
In market-lists are bought and sold.

Attention: Mr. D. G. Rossetti, Esq. —

Only a few bureaucratic details now stand between you and your desired experience! As you are no doubt aware, Inner Standing-Point Industries must comply with UN regulations concerning the use and disposal of anthropomorphic vessels and their cognitive encoding systems. With your purchase of exp001881-2 (project code-name: Jenny), that responsibility passes formally to you.

The talented team here at ISP has pioneered a new method of transferring and regulating the use of our vessels and their “personalities,” by further exploiting the nanotechnology that is so integral to our success in producing high-quality experiences for valued customers like you. In this package, you will find a small vial of pleasant-tasting liquid labeled “licensing device.” We ask that you ingest the liquid no more than 24 hours before you intend to commence your new experience. Compliance with this procedure will ensure that exp001881-2 is licensed to you (or more properly, to your DNA) as sole owner.


Quiotl’s MOVE 5:

 and again

Replace line 115 (They were not gone too. Jenny, nay,) with:

And thy lips are full, and thy brows are fair,


Nowviskie’s Role Journal:

22 August 2003: With the move I posted last night (“Licensing Device”) I realized that a lot of what I’m doing now is not only playing on the concept of the inner standing point (how it’s both all about subjectivity and yet the construction of it, just like its results in the poem, can seem like the height of objectivity), but I’m also tending to point out perhaps unintentional mechanistic phraseology in Jerry’s moves as well. Cool.

Woo, here’s an idea. I put something in that last move about the “use and disposal” of Jenny, thinking of Jenny only as a woman, a whore, a VR construct – but there’s also the issue of the use and disposal of the text of Jenny – starting with the MS that DGR put in Lizzie’s coffin and then wanted back… – there’s something here I can play on. But is it too far removed from the inner standing point issue?

(still later)

In my opinion, Jerry just made the legendary “golden move” with his #5, demonstrating a full grasp of all matters at play – at least in his & my moves. (I’m still confused about Andrea’s goals – but her “redundant” move caps this session off charmingly. I think the game’s over. Best one I’ve played yet.

Leonardo’s MOVE 5:

[this move is to be linked to Bethany Nowviskie’s “ISP Industries” moves]

14 July 1882

My dear Buchanan,

I have kept your letter for some time because it calls for a clear and well-considered response. I realize of course that your views reflect a widely-held understanding of what we poets do and make. But forgive me if I simply say, it is a mistaken view.

Rossetti used to insist that poetry is and must be written from what he called “an inner-standing point”. You will recall that in his response to your review in 1871 he singled out “Jenny” as illustrative of that key poetic principle. He and I differed in both the kinds of poetry we wrote and in some of our ideas about poetry as such, but in this crucial matter we were in agreement. “Hertha” is perhaps the one poem of mine that most clearly explicates the inner-standing point principle. I mention this work because while Rossetti practiced this principle, he was less interested in, and less naturally constituted to write, philosophical prose OR poetry than I have been – that is to say, was less interested than I in writing works that take up the very IDEA of this principle for a subject. “Hertha”’s argument, you may recall, is that a profound integrated order subsists through what Shelley called “the universe of things”. All of nature, human as well as physical, participates in this order, and the order is (so to speak) “coded” into each element of the universe at all scales and levels of its being. We speak of “the characters of men” because ancient wisdom understands that, if we shift our view in just the right way, we can see that we all – the living and the dead as well as the yet-to-be-born – are “characters” in what Shelley called “the great cyclic poem” that is the life of the human-inspirited earth (hertha, h-earth, our hearth and home). But all of life is based in a living language that unfolds itself in and as the meaningful realities, good as well as evil, that daily unfold time’s cyclic poem. These realities are meaningful because of the “h” constant, the human constant – the constant that GIVES them that crucial “character”, the character of meaning. One day this “h” constant will be widely known.

In this context you can see that the poet is the incarnation of the “h” constant – the character in this cyclic poem that constantly puts the poem’s meaning into presence, the character that constantly lets us know that the poem IS meaningful. We simply cannot make sense of the profound orders of reality without employing the "h" constant. Quotidian chaos daily obscures this profound meaning from us. The office of the poet is to expose it. The poet has thus a godlike mission, but in exercising it he operates immanently, from an inner standing point. The meaning he brings—or that is brought to us THROUGH him – is itself only part of the cyclic poem that will not cease until the universe of things ceases to exist.

Rossetti once said to me that we live in an age “when the characters of men emerge like secret writing exposed to fire”. But we always live in that age, which is ageless. The “mind” of Jenny, like the mind of Faustine and Dolores, is “desecrated” (see line 164) and as such is a more than sacred revelation of everything that everywhere works to “make a goblin of the sun”. But when this kind of dreadful revelation is made in poetry, the clarity of truth told in song “redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man”. Jenny is thus an angel of deliverance because of the poem that has released her from her bondage to the goblin values or getting and spending.

Poetry is like the sun, a measureless measure, a gift, a source of ceaseless expenditure. In a goblin world we merely count costs. Once again I think of Blake, whom Rossetti was obliquely quoting in his great line “It makes a goblin of the sun”. You will of course recall Blake’s remarkable pronouncement in his “A Vision of the Last Judgement” where he speaks of two ways of seeing the sun – as a golden guinea-piece, or as a heavenly host celebrating the song of the universe.

Understanding our vocation in these terms explains what is mistaken in your last letter. Of course I, or any poet, will insist – so long as we are alive TO insist – upon the “authoritative” characters that have been transcribed through our offices. Who else would dare to assume that obligation? And who else but other poetic souls would dare to assume the obligation of preserving the integrity of our poetic inheritance – “redeeming from decay those visitations of human divinity”. Mr Flunkivall, that pedantic turdsmith? Never. Yet I do foresee days when the sacred characters of poems like “Jenny” will have their depthless secrets exposed through inspirational fires – “bodies electric”, as the great Walt Whitman calls them – fired up by poetic spirits we can scarcely imagine. Then shall we find our works translated and transported through new codes and characters: new fields, new types, new entities, new applications.

Ever yours,

A. C. Swinburne

 McGann's Journal Entry. This letter is meant to mark the climactic intellectual moment in Brown’s short story. The reference to quantum mechanics (the “h” constant) is the switch that allows the move make prophetic connections to IVANHOE. The most important specific connection is to the game moves that Beth is constructing in this round of her IVANHOE play (and, pari passu, to make a commentary on the “poetic character” of the interpretive discipline licensed by IVANHOE and practiced by the players of IVANHOE, -- in this case most specifically, Beth). A move that charms even MYSELF by managing both to assimilate her game moves and to flatter her with praise of their poetic character!

Quiotl’s MOVE 5:


Replace line 1 (Jenny) with:


Leonardo’s MOVE 6:

(linking to everything)

19 July 1882

Dear Swinburne,

Adam Smith taught us a century ago that an “invisible hand” keeps in balance the conflicting interests of individuals working together in the world of “getting and spending”. Wordsworth, like Carlyle, may have condescended to such a world and the “dismal science” that investigates its workings, but it is – as Wordsworth ALSO said – “the world of all of us”. And Smith’s invisible hand is simply the manifestation in our lower world of the governing hand of God, whose “economy of grace” is the mechanism that keeps us all (as you might say) “in tune”.

What you describe in your last letter is not a world of order maintained by reliable stabilities and dynamic compensations but a world where a perpetual motion machine is not only possible, it is the center and driving idea of the world. The findings of perhaps our greatest living natural philosopher, Lord Kelvin, have reconfirmed this ancient truth in his famous laws of thermodynamics.

The magnificence of Rossetti’s poem lies in its exposure of a corrupted economy, where the sacred bodies of women are bought to gratify the beastial desires of men. The young man is very much a “hero of our own time” in his bewildered unhappiness. His musings are well-intentioned but finally unbalanced because unchristian, as Rossetti lets us know. Only an economy of grace could right this unbalanced scale: bringing salvation to those who seek it, as with the Magdalene, and punishment to those who pursue their evil courses. Cousin Nell is the same as Jenny in the eyes of God, and at the poem’s end the bewildered young man is left before us as a figure of hope.


R. W. Buchanan


22 July 1882

Dear Buchanan,

Your readings of Lord Kelvin AND of Rossetti’s poem are very amusing. Why do you think that some patriarchal god would alone find those “twin sister vessels” lovable? I believe that particular god has spent some considerable time and trouble letting us know that Cousin Nell is a good girl and will go to heaven, and that Jenny is a very very bad girl and will go to hell unless she becomes like Cousin Nell. But why don’t you find them both lovable just as they are? Shakespeare does, Sappho does, Villon does, Shelley does -- and I do too! All poets do and always have done. “Ah, Jenny, yes, we know your dreams”: this is what the young man tells us. But DOES he? He simply thinks he knows her dreams because he is so fastidious and condescending and can only imagine that a person like Jenny has crass dreams. But he is, as you say, “bewildered”. But bewildered by his absurd residual Christian ideas, which “make a goblin of the sun” for him because he thinks these sister vessels represent some kind of moral contradiction. The contradiction is in himself, not in these ladies. We don’t know much about Cousin Nell but Jenny looks quite splendid to me. And as for Cousin Nell, is she fated to be served up on the marriage market, and is that particular institution any less despicable to you than the profession that Jenny is pursuing?

And then there is Lord Kelvin and his great investigations into the nature of reality. I wrote “Hertha” in part to give expression to precisely those ideas, and to link them to a philosophical tradition more ancient and far more wise than the tradition sponsored by that sadistic book the bible. The laws of thermodynamics? Here is what they MEAN:

You cannot win (that is, you cannot get something for nothing, because matter and energy are conserved).

You cannot break even (you cannot return to the same energy state, because there is always an increase in disorder).

You cannot get out of the game (because absolute zero is unattainable).

Death does not get you out of the game. It merely returns you to “the great sweet mother”.


A. C. Swinburne


25 July 1882


You are disgraceful.

R. W. Buchanan



26 July 1882

Mr. Buchanan,

Are you not then to become “my particular friend”, like the angel on the last plate of Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”? Alas, the redemption of the world seems as far away as ever. I trust in any case that you have profited somehow from your little sojourn in the nether world of imagination. You are welcome any time.

A. C. Swinburne


McGann's Journal Entry. These letters complete the game play for me because they complete the story that Brown has been writing. The story was conceived as a text that would only unfold itself when it came into contact/relation with the other gameplayers and their moves – so as to insist as a procedural writing rule that chance be at play in the play and the writing of the story. The theoretical import of the gameplay seemed to require that kind of insistence (which is, of course, a fundamental theoretical principle of IVANHOE itself). This final move is thus important because it turns the selfreflexiveness of the whole gameplay one more time: in this case, the turn being upon IVANHOE itself, which gets proleptically defined as an illustration not only of quantum laws (see MOVE 5 above) but of the basic laws of thermodynamics.