Thursday, June 20, 2013

A History of Waldenses? [Ornery Old World] &Tea with Thor.

There is a strange poetics, an historico-political onomastics to see, in the choice of place, and especially its name, in the object of Henry David Thoreau's Walden; or, Life in the Woods. Thoreau himself ventured, or compiled an interpretation:

from Chapter 9, The Ponds

Some have been puzzled to tell how the shore became so regularly paved. My townsmen have all heard the tradition -- the oldest people tell me that they heard it in their youth -- that anciently the Indians were holding a pow-wow upon a hill here, which rose as high into the heavens as the pond now sinks deep into the earth, and they used much profanity, as the story goes, though this vice is one of which the Indians were never guilty, and while they were thus engaged the hill shook and suddenly sank, and only one old squaw, named Walden, escaped, and from her the pond was named. It has been conjectured that when the hill shook these stones rolled down its side and became the present shore. It is very certain, at any rate, that once there was no pond here, and now there is one; and this Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the account of that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, who remembers so well when he first came here with his divining-rod, saw a thin vapor rising from the sward, and the hazel pointed steadily downward, and he concluded to dig a well here. As for the stones, many still think that they are hardly to be accounted for by the action of the waves on these hills; but I observe that the surrounding hills are remarkably full of the same kind of stones, so that they have been obliged to pile them up in walls on both sides of the railroad cut nearest the pond; and, moreover, there are most stones where the shore is most abrupt; so that, unfortunately, it is no longer a mystery to me. I detect the paver. If the name was not derived from that of some English locality -- Saffron Walden, for instance -- one might suppose that it was called originally Walled-in Pond.

Here then, is an old timey example of what today we might call 'disjunctive synthesis'.. And other commentators have lightly interrogated Thoreau's explanation and have produced very reasonable responses: 

"I suggest that Walden Pond's name may have evolved from "Walton", an English place-name traced back to the (1087) Domesday Book's "Waltuna", which in turn is thought to trace back to an earlier name meaning "Walled Farmstead"." -Dick Miller

Mr. Miller even rousts up an image of the 'ancient settler' from Walden Chapter 5:

 I have occasional visits in the long winter evenings, when the snow falls fast and the wind howls in the wood, from an old settler and original proprietor, who is reported to have dug Walden Pond, and stoned it, and fringed it with pine woods; who tells me stories of old time and of new eternity; and between us we manage to pass a cheerful evening with social mirth and pleasant views of things, even without apples or cider — a most wise and humorous friend, whom I love much, who keeps himself more secret than ever did Goffe or Whalley;(10) and though he is thought to be dead, none can show where he is buried. An elderly dame, too, dwells in my neighborhood, invisible to most persons, in whose odorous herb garden I love to stroll sometimes, gathering simples and listening to her fables; for she has a genius of unequalled fertility, and her memory runs back farther than mythology, and she can tell me the original of every fable, and on what fact every one is founded, for the incidents occurred when she was young. A ruddy and lusty old dame, who delights in all weathers and seasons, and is likely to outlive all her children yet.

What is wonderful to notice and consider, is that in these writings of Thoreau, there is an almost wry acknowledgement, or is it dowsing, of the actual scientific name of the phenomenon which we 'now know' created Walden Pond, namely that Walden Pond is an example of a 'kettle', or a 'kettle hole':

It is very certain, at any rate, that once there was no pond here, and now there is one; and this Indian fable does not in any respect conflict with the account of that ancient settler whom I have mentioned, who remembers so well when he first came here with his divining-rod, saw a thin vapor rising from the sward, and the hazel pointed steadily downward, and he concluded to dig a well here.

And here is a more formal approach from Wikipedia:

Kettle holes can form as the result of floods caused by the sudden drainage of an ice-dammed lake. These floods, called jökulhlaups, often rapidly deposit large quantities of sediment onto the sandur surface. The kettle holes are formed by the melting blocks of sediment-rich ice that were transported and consequently buried by the jökulhlaups. It was found in field observations and laboratory simulations done by Maizels in 1992 that ramparts form around the edge of kettle holes generated by jökulhlaups. The development of distinct types of ramparts depends on the concentration of rock fragments contained in the melted ice block and on how deeply the block was buried by sediment.

But it is to the 'thin vapor rising from the sward' that I am responding, but I have not been able to trace specifically the origin or etymology of  'kettle holes', or pot holes, except that it may be a geomorphological folk term or colloquialism, not based on their hollow then collapsing construction, but more on their final round form.

There is also the curious, and uncannily echoing chain of etymology for lake, or loch:
Old High German - loh; Proto-Germanic *lōgą (“site, situation, camp”);
Proto-Indo-European *legʰ- (“to be situated, lie”), and the related Manx, logh.

This has a nice reflexive quality, or gentle elemental irony when considering the poetic lineages of Thoreau vis a vis someone like Charles Olson, the big bear in the campsite being that echo between
lōgą and logos, and then further the irony of a Proto-Indo-European legh, or leg, to be situated, which calls up Isle of Man style Triskelionoid emblems for syntaxis, consciousness a 'site of the wandering site'..

But none of this material is what really caught my eye in beginning this today. What caught my eye was the resonance, and I must stop right here an point out the strange onomastic Attractor of Thoreau's cohort, namely Ralph Waldo Emerson. Notice that Waldo. Where's Waldo?

What really grabbed me, and I have no idea why, is the resonance between the glacial jökulhlaups
and the history of the Waldensians:

Waldensians, Waldenses, Vallenses or Vaudois are names for a Christian movement which started in Lyon, France, in the late 1170s. The movement was started partly in response to the schisms that had consumed the Catholic church in the 12th century and advocated a return to the vows of poverty and preaching of the Gospel as advocated by Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament. Originally a reform movement within the Catholic Church, the movement was declared heretical by 1215 and became persecuted by Church officials. Upon the rise of the Protestant Reformation, church leaders met with Swiss and German Calvinists and agreed to join with the Reformed church, adopting many of the Calvinist tenets and becoming its Italian arm. Although the church was granted some rights and freedoms under French King Henry IV with the Edict of Nantes in 1598, Catholic persecution rose again in the 17th century, with an extermination of the Waldensians attempted by the Duke of Savoy in 1655.

This led to an exodus and dispersion of the Waldensians to other parts of Europe and even to the Western hemisphere. While many Waldensian sects eventually were absorbed into other Protestant Christian denominations, active congregations remain in Europe, South America, and North America under the label of the Waldensian Evangelical Church. Organizations such as the American Waldensian Society exist to maintain the history of this movement. 

Both the contemporary and historic Waldensian spiritual heritage describes itself as proclaiming the Christian Gospel, serving the marginalized, promoting social justice, fostering inter-religious work, and advocating respect for religious diversity and freedom of conscience.

Now what I find fascinating is that the historical Transcendentalism seems really like a direct evolution or child of the Waldensian flowering. Notice its intimacy with the Waldensian lineage by way of Calvinism, and also its religious intertextuality:

Transcendentalism first arose among New England congregationalists, who differed from orthodox Calvinism on two issues. They rejected predestination, and they emphasized the unity instead of the trinity of God. Following the skepticism of David Hume, the transcendentalists took the stance that empirical proofs of religion were not possible. Transcendentalism developed as a reaction against 18th Century rationalism, John Locke's philosophy of Sensualism, and the predestinationism of New England Calvinism. It is fundamentally a variety of diverse sources such as Hindu texts like the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, various religions, and German idealism.

You can see the echos very plainly, Waldensianism purged from Europe or combined into Calvinism finds its renewed expression in a specifically American context (eventually, and by much 'steeping'?) of the pious hermitage, and I say pious in the best possible way, for if only the pieties of Thoreau, were those of us all.. How proper, then, and beautiful, is the name Transcendentalism, for our walled-in wide open lake of logos, our Valley of Poetry, this depression. And though perennially, it does seem 'walled in', or "clause-phor-strophic", or even walled off, the revelation of folks doing what they is want to do, lives on.

Freedom from Determination!
Freedom from the Termination.
Oh Goddamnit!
It is interminable [Catalogue].

Walled gulf? [as Whalley and Goffe]

Wiley guff, as in 'to play the names game', as in the connecting of Thoreau's name as a French version of  the Norwegian 'follower of Thor' (Thorald, or Thor-vald) to jökulhlaups which in
Icelandic (a Nordic derived language) is glacier burst.. The 'jokey laughs' would then be that image of Thor with his hammer striking that submerged potential ice, or remnant, a remaining piece (peace) to build a kettle hole, with Mjölnir.

Mjölnir simply means "crusher", referring to its pulverizing effect. Mjölnir might be related to the Russian word молния (molniya) and the Welsh word mellt (both words being translated as "lightning").

The final pun, a movement, both trans-historical, trans-linguistic, and intertextual, a poetics
caught up in fragments as in a sluice feed..

The kettle pot tamped down by dancing Indians who "curse" out of character.. The  "old settler" who founds a well while dow-sing, and who sees the steam of the submerged kettle pot..

The poet-god who crushes one 3 dimensional bubble of culture to replace that bubble with his own
image or log of lake (loch)..

Tea as T, or Thor's hammer.

An image worthy of any Ming Dynasty poet riddler.