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12 Aug 2022

Douglas
Tawn

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Full Moon

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Aug 27th

Device

Jul 28th

After these lines from

John Webster's The White Devil:


FRANCISCO

And by a vaulting engine.


MONTICELSO

An active plot;

He jump’d into his grave.

               Prophecy is equivocal:

               a rarefied hedging of bets

               that pushes the customer to

               beware of clauses transfixing

               to insubordinate desire.


               This encourages indifference:

               opinion stretched from pole to pole

               contrives to be predictably

               unpredictable—all incensed

               opium swings from mass to mass.


               The vague fate of Britain’s elect

               [CON: 42% (+4)]

               turns on its axis: excess of

               predestinarianism

               spoils the fun but it can’t be helped.

Behind the poem...

Taken from Webster’s The White Devil, the lines from which this poem grew describe the murder of Camillo: assassinated while using a vaulting horse. Punning was closely linked in Webster’s time to political and religious subversion. Today, it’s more often dismissed with the same contempt Samuel Johnson expressed for Shakespeare’s ‘quibbles’. For Webster, however, such double meanings and ambiguities were deadly serious. The phenomenon of equivocation – by which a Catholic agent like Guy Fawkes could lie under oath – caused genuine panic in seventeenth-century England. In Device, I’ve considered contemporary indifference to political equivocation … and thrown in a few lame puns (just for good measure).