Spontaneous Poetics – (Edward Carpenter – 3)

The Angel Michael Binding Satan (“He Cast him into the Bottomless Pit and shut him up”)  (c.1805) – William Blake (1757-1827), watercolor, ink and graphite on paper – collection of Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

AG: I’m going to take a little divigation footnote, because Edward Carpenter, aside from the beauties of his display of a side of Whitman, and the beauties of his display of practical observation, did one other thing, which is, he wrote one fantastic relatively unknown mystical poem which has a great flight of ideas in it, though it’s a bit long, five pages. But it’s a real great flight of imagination. It touches something very great, some high transcendental thing, like in some (Walt) Whitman and some (William) Blake. It’s called “The Secret of Time and Satan” and it really has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve been teaching, but it’s just a solid object standing by itself, terrific, all on its own. Did you ever hear this, or read this, or know about this…?

Student: What’s the title?

AG: It’s called “The Secret of Time and Satan”, “The Secret of Time and Satan” (I guess the background must be Theosophical.  This is the same sort of background that Aleister Crowley came out of – Madame Blavatsky – and William Butler Yeats – But it’s also got a Whitmanic base from the very beginning. So…



Is there one in all the world who does not desire to be divinely beautiful?
To have the most perfect body – unerring skill, strength – limpid clearness of mind, as of the sunlight over the hills –
To radiate love wherever he goes – to move in and out accepted?
The secret lies close to you, so close.
You are that person – it lies close to you – so close to you – deep down within –
But in Time it shall come forth and be revealed.
Not by accumulating riches, but by giving away what you have,
Shall you become beautiful.
You must undo the wrappings, not case yourself in fresh ones;
Not by multiplying clothes shall you make your body sound and healthy, but rather by discarding them;
Not by multiplying knowledge shall you beautify your mind;
It has not the food that you have to eat that has to vivify you, but you that have to vivify the food.
Always emergence, and the parting of the veils for the hidden to appear;
The child emerges from its mother’s body, and out of that body in time another child.
When the body which thou now hast falls away, another body shall be already prepared beneath,
And beneath that again another.
Always that which appears last in time is first, and the cause of all – and not that which appears first.


Freedom has to be won afresh every morning.
Every morning thou must put forth thy strength afresh upon the world to create out of chaos the garden in which thou walkest
(Behold – I love thee – I wait for thee in thine own garden, lingering till eventide among the bushes;
I tune the lute for thee; I prepare my body for thee, bathing unseen in the limpid waters.)


Wondrous is Man – the human body; to understand and possess this, to create it every day afresh, is to possess all things.
The tongue and all that proceeds from it; spoken and written words, languages, commands, controls, the electric telegraph girdling the earth;
The eyes ordaining, directing; the feet and all that they indicate – the path they travel for years and years;
The passions of the body, the belly and the cry for food, the heaving breasts of love, the phallus, the fleshy thighs,
The erect proud head and neck, the sturdy back, and knees well-knit or wavering;
All the interminable attitudes and what they indicate;
Every relation of one man to another, every cringing, bullying, lustful, obscene, pure, honorable, chaste, just and merciful;
The fingers differently shaped according as they handle money for gain or for gift;
All the different ramifications and institutions of society which proceed from one such difference in the crook of a finger;
All that proceeds from an arrogant or slavish contour of the neck;
All the evil that goes forth from any part of a man’s body that is not possessed by himself; all the devils let loose – from a twist of the tongue or a leer of the eye, or the unmanly act of any member – and swirling into society; all the good which gathers round a man who is clean and strong – the threads drawing from afar to the tips of his fingers, the interpretation in his eyes, all the love which passes through his limbs into heaven:
What it is to command and be Master of this wondrous body with all is passions and powers, to truly possess it – that it is to command and possess all things, that it is to create.


The art of creation, like every other art, has to be learnt:
Slowly, slowly, through many years, thou buildest up thy body,
And the power that thou now hast (such as it is) to build up this present body, thou hast acquired in the past in other bodies;
So in the future shalt thou use again the power that thou now acquirest.
But the power to build up the body includes all powers.
Do not be dismayed because thou art yet a child of chance, and at the mercy greatly both of Nature and of fate;
Because if thou wert not subject to chance, then wouldst thou be Master of thyself; but since thou art not yet Master of thine own passions and powers, in that degree must thou needs be at the mercy of some other power.
And if thou choosest to call that power “Chance”, well and good.
It is the angel with whom thou has to wrestle.


Beware how thou seekest this for thyself and that for thyself.
I do not say Seek not but Beware how thou seekest.
For a soldier who is going to a campaign does not seek what fresh furniture he can carry on his back, but rather what he can leave behind;
Knowing well that every additional thing which he cannot freely use and handle is an impediment to him.
So if thou seekest fame or ease or pleasure or aught for thyself, the image of that thing which thou seekest will come and cling to thee – and thou wilt have to carry it about;
And the images and powers which thou has thus evoked will gather round and form for thee a new body – clamoring for sustenance and satisfaction;
And if thou art not able to discard this image now, thou wilt not be able to discard that body then; but wilt have to carry it about.
Beware then lest it become thy grave and thy prison – instead of thy winged abode, and palace of joy.
For (over and over again) there is nothing that is evil except because a man has not mastery over it; and there is no good thing that is not evil if it have mastery over a man;
And there is no passion or power, or pleasure or pain, or created thing whatsoever, which is not ultimately for man and for his use – or which he need be afraid of, or ashamed at.
The ascetics and the self-indulgent divide things into good and evil – as it were to throw away the evil;
But things cannot be divided into good and evil; but are all good so soon as they are brought into subjection.
And seest thou not that except for Death thou couldst never overcome Death –
For since by being a slave to things of sense thou hast clothed thyself with a body which thou art not master of, thou wert condemned to a living tomb were that body not to be destroyed.
But now through pain and suffering out of the tomb thou shalt come; and through the experience thou hast acquired shalt build thyself a new and better body;
And so on many times, till thou spreadest wings and hast all powers diabolic and angelic concentred in thy flesh.


And so at last I saw Satan appear before me – magnificent, fully-formed.
Feet first, with shining limbs, he glanced down from above among the,
And stood there erect, dark-skinned, with nostrils dilated with passion; bushes
(In the burning intolerable sunlight he stood and I in the shade of the bushes);
Fierce and scathing the effluence of his eyes , and scornful of dreams and dreamers (he touched a rock hard by and it split with a sound like thunder);
Fierce the magnetic influence of his dusky flesh; his great foot, well-formed, was planted firm in the sand – with spreading toes;
“Come out”, he said with a taunt, “Art thou afraid to meet me?”
And I answered not, but sprang upon him and smote him;
And he smote me a thousand times, and brashed and scorched and slew me as with hands of flame;
And I was glad, for my body lay there dead; and I sprang upon him again with another body;
And he turned upon me, and smote me a thousand times and slew that body;
And I was glad and sprang upon him again with another body –
And with another and another and again another’;
And the bodies that I took on yielded before him and were like cinctures of flame upon me, but I flung them aside;
And the pains that I endured in one body were powers which I wielded in the next; and I grew in strength, till at last I stood before him complete, with a body like his own and equal in might – exultant in pride and joy.
Then he ceased, and said, “I love thee”.
And lo! his form changed, and he leaned backwards and drew me upon him,
And bore me up into the air, and floated me over the topmost trees and the ocean, and round the curve of the earth under the moon –
Till we stood again in Paradise.

AG: He really made it!  It’s a long build-up (with lots of discursive chatter)

Student: Who wrote it?

AG: Edward Carpenter.

Student: What was the date?

AG: 1890?..or 1885, I guess.  So, he’s actually quite a great poet, with power like that and with detail. The large book (which this is from) is called Toward Democracy, divided into different sections, (with) an enormous number of beautiful work(ing) lines in it, a lot of insight – equal to Whitman. I guess he was the nearest thing to Whitman that came out around the time, and it was interesting that he went to see Whitman – But that again gets on to the Suicide.. the Nijinsky Suicide Health Club poetry! – that gets into trying to break through the wall of time and appearance and consciousness. [Nijinsky Suicide Health Club – Editorial note – was Allen’s name for his fantasy dance company. It was used by the dancer David Woodberry, in February 1978, for a one-time solo performance.]

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