Sporting with Amaryllisby Paul West
Taking as his point of departure the sexual obsessions and initiation of the poet John Milton, Paul West elucidates the psychology of an artist who would come to create the most enduring and compelling work of Western civilization on the subject of Original Sin. But that all comes later. Now, young Milton is a Cambridge student, a virgin, intoxicated by the power of… See more details below
Taking as his point of departure the sexual obsessions and initiation of the poet John Milton, Paul West elucidates the psychology of an artist who would come to create the most enduring and compelling work of Western civilization on the subject of Original Sin. But that all comes later. Now, young Milton is a Cambridge student, a virgin, intoxicated by the power of words and the stories of myth - and especially the myth of Amaryllis, the shepherdess in Virgil. When he meets her on a crowded London street, and is led mutely to her odd dwelling, hung with the dripping animal skins and shared with a philosophizing, castrated expert on plague remedies, he encounters a living myth so powerful as to make his earlier learning - his religion, really - pale by comparison. Is she a prostitute? A witch? A myth sprung to life? All that and more, as she invites Milton to use her as his Muse.
Imagine a sensitive, sexually naive 17-year-old having his first encounter with a streetwalker: a bit of groping frustrated by conscience and inexperience. Next envision that same youth, now obsessed with sex, following prostitutes everywhere but never approaching them, until suddenly taken up by a mysterious black beauty who's the fulfillment of his innermost desire. Picture the grim surroundings where a crude initiation occursthen be prepared for the realization that all is not what it seems. The place is 17th-century London, and the boy is Milton, but his buxom prize, with her companion, a castrated ex-sailor, is no mere tart: A weary time-traveler, part Calliope, part extraterrestrial, she has inspired poets from time immemorial, and the discourse she now has with her latest charge carries both the wisdom of the ages and the terrible knowledge of mortality. She and Milton enter a barge on the Thames, where the novice breathes the language of the dead, then embark on a journey seaward in a gondola, where he learns all of the pleasures of the flesh in a single, unending afternoon, only to be placed ashore, fully awakened but again alone, at the end of the day.
To accept the conceits offered in abundance here is to experience a fanciful, probing, indeed mesmerizing story, but any unwillingness to grant the unfettered possibility of magic in the real world would lessen its effect considerably.
- The Overlook Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.65(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.68(d)
- Age Range:
- 18 Years
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