The Anathemata

Middle-sea and Lear-sea (continued)

Certain he’s part of the olden timbers: watch out for the run o’ the grain on him—look how his ancient knarsa are salted and the wounds of the bitter sea on him.

He’s drained it again.

and again they brim it.

Is it the Iacchosb

in his duffle jacket

Ischyrosc with his sea-boots on?

There’s those avers he’s wintered with Cronosd

under Arctophylax

out of our mare

into their See.1

Was it dropped to half gale or did he get it bellyful from off-shore

at hurricano strength

cataracted, sulphurous and all

when he stood into

Leir’s river?e

—they say he made Thulê.

Did he hold his course


where, at the wide gusset

it’s thirty-five leagues?

where Môr Iwerddon3 meets

Mare Gallicum

where the seas of the islands war with the ocean,

to white the horse-king’s insulae

David Jones notes

1 Pronounce as in the German die See (zay-) and so rhyming with mare above and Thulê below.

2 Cf. song Spanish Ladies, verse 2.

‘From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.’

3 Môr Iwerddon, Irish Sea, mōrr ee-werr-thon, accent on third syllable.

additional notes

DJ note 2: the full song may be found here.

b Iacchos is an epithet of Dionysus (aka Bacchus), the Greek god of wine and winemaking and general revelry. What has just been drained and refilled is a libation to celebrate the start or end of a sea-voyage.

c Ischyros is Greek for strong. I am almost certain that DJ uses the Greek here not just because of its assonance with Iacchos, but more because of the very old Byzantine prayer the Trisagion (‘thrice holy’): Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος ἰσχυρός, Ἅγιος ἀθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς., romanised as Agios o Theos, Agios ischyros, Agios athanatos, eleison imas (‘Holy God, Holy [and] Mighty, Holy [and] Immortal, have mercy on us’) — thus making a poetic connection with Christ, as with the previous seafarer and Good Friday.

Although not present in the received text, I have some sympathy with Hague’s suggestion of a line of whitespace separating this line from the next one.

d According to one legend, after Cronos had been overthrown by his son Zeus, he was condemned for stay for ever in the cave of Nyx, which was situated somewhere on the limits of the world. DJ has located this cave in the far north, in the realm of the star Arctophylax (Arcturus) because of the latter’s association with the Pole star and therefore its use in navigating north.

e Lear: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout

Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!

You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,

Crack Nature’s moulds, all germains spill at once,

That makes ingrateful man!

King Lear Act 3 Scene 2

Leir’s river is the Thames. The wide gusset is the western approach to the English Channel (‘La Manche’ in French; ‘manche’ = ‘sleeve’, with its wrist at Dover). The Irish Sea and the French Sea war with the Atlantic and so spray the Scillies (the islands of King Mark of Cornwall) with white foam.


Now we meet with another sea-voyager, a gnarled old sea-rover, whose voyage to Britain is described in some detail in the following paragraphs.

semantic structures


a knar: a knot in a piece of timber.