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Professor Booknoodle on Books : Past and Future - Real and Unreal.

A Brief Appreciation of
Thomas Dekker, Householder.

Just the other day I was perusing a book that does not often pass through my hands, and which to the greater part of the population remains unknown or unremembered. The book is a 1925 facsimile of “Foure Birds of Noahs Arke, viz: The Dove, the Eagle, the Pelican , the Phoenix” by Thomas Dekker, first published in 1609.

Thomas Dekker (1572 - 1632) was an English dramatist and pamphleteer who bridged the Elizabethan age and the Jacobean age. He was colleagues with most of the other dramatists of his day, including Ben Johnson, John Day, William Rowley, John Webster, John Ford, Philip Massenger, etc. Dekker was a man of the streets, and his works reflect both his love for his native London, and his deep understanding of the colorful and often tumultuous life of the lower classes …including merchants, craftsmen, fellow dramatists, prostitutes and prisoners, cutpurses, confidence - men, and innkeepers. In fact, because Dekker suffered a life-long struggle with money he had been imprisoned for debt, and understood the dark worries of the imprisoned. Imprisonment did not deter him from writing his pamphlets, indeed prison likely fired up his determination to publish, which he managed to do from behind bars.

It can be strange wherein a person may find inspiration. Dekker found inspiration for his plays and pamphlets in the everyday life of London, in the lowly poor who teemed in the back streets, alleys and gin holes of the huge city. There was inspiration enough from the often violent current events of his time. Murders, thefts, highwaymen, villainous plots; Dekker’s 1606 pamphlet “The Double PP” was inspired by the Gunpowder Plot, of which diabolical cabal, Guy Fawkes is the most famous, though he swung from the gibbet for his crime. Guy was caught red-handed - or neck-deep in the barrels of gunpowder he secreted under the Parliament building. Guy Fawkes continues to inspire creative people, making appearances in novels, poems, and movies.)

The seventeenth century was no more momentous than our modern time for events and threats. It is hard to imagine that anyone could be inspired by the threat of nuclear annihilation, but Thomas Dekker and millions of others were threatened by the plague, an equally horrid bugabear, which made a reappearance in 1603, and which must have had a similar darkening psychological effect as the bomb … no one could feel themselves removed from threat of an ugly, painful death, especially when people were dropping all about from a disease that nobody yet understood. How can such a thing be inspirational?

But Dekker’s “Foure Birds of Noahs Arke” was just that : a devotional book that was inspired by the plague. It is, by the way the only devotional book that Dekker penned. Murder, political plots, mayhem, imprisonment … none of these were powerful enough to inspire a devotional work; but the plague …. ahh now there was something to make a poor soul take stock … life was for sure a precarious matter.

In his Preface to Dekker’s “Foure Birds …” F. P. Wilson said: ”The Language to his hand was full of colour and rich in synonym. It was the language of the imagination, 'fresh and with the dew upon it'. The sentiments of Dekker, who took a poetic view of the world, find their natural expression in vivid and coloured figures: of the worldling who ties his conscience full of knots to pull up riches, of sins that have a quick pace and are ever at our heels, of the winds bound in the prisons of the earth, of prayer — the anchor at which we lie safe in the storms of death. In 1609 the finest monument and the best model of English prose were still the sixteenth century versions of the Bible. Its language is continually on his lips. 'Foure Birds of Noahs Arke', like 'The Pilgrim's Progress', shows what sweetness and what dignity a man of the people might compass who was nurtured upon the tradition of biblical prose.

"The touchstone of the Bible saved Dekker in this book from the colloquialisms and from the affectations of his day; it helped to clarify the expressions of his thought, and gave to his cadences a more varied and more beautiful music. The prose of this book has a fine keeping. The high-flier of wit and humour, the swashbuckler of words and phrases is for once subdued. The writer keeps decorum. Conceit no longer tumbles after conceit, nor pun jostles pun, nor hyperbole outreaches hyperbole. Conceits indeed are comparatively few, and those that find a place are quaint and homely and instinct with human feelings. The world is God's school, the grave our last inn, Christ is the attorney pleading for mercy in our behalf, and St. Luke a chronicler ... The cockney poet is pleasantly revealed when he speaks of the City of Heaven in terms of the City of London : 'Before wee lived in slaverie, but now we dwell within the liberties of the Holy citie' (p. 232). True he does not altogether shake off the fluency and the 'blown and puffy' rhetoric which so easily beset him. There is a trick of the old rage, for example in the prayers for a mariner. But what has Dekker to do with the sea? He is at his best with what he knows — prentices and merchants, poor people and prisoners, and the art of daily life."

I find it curious that Mr. Wilson neglects William Shakespeare as a source of both style and inspiration; although it may be that Shakespeare had not yet the puissant sway that he now holds over much of the world’s and nearly all of English literature. There in one writer whose brilliance dimmed the daily sun, was enough inspiration for all of the forthcoming generations. Note that Mr. Wilson mentions “sixteenth century versions of the Bible”. These would have been the “Great Bible”, ordered by King Henry VIII in 1535; and the Bishops’ Bible of 1568. Neither of these strike the mark with modern readers, but to Thomas Dekker they would have been strong nutriment. IN 1604 James VI and I commissioned the new translation that is now and forever called The King James Bible. It was published in 1611. THAT translation was inspired ! And its strength and beauty of phrase and content was enough to provide inspiration and nutriments to untold generations of writers, to say nothing of the rest of Protestant Christiandom.

That one book, alone, set the bar - and set it high - for literary style and spiritual inspiration. Thomas Dekker died in 1732, so he must have viewed if not read the KJV … or if neither of those, he surely must have witnessed its impact on the body public. One can look at his later writing, and try to discern a change of style … was he newly inspired by King James’ commissioned work - or did he see it as merely another thing of an elevated class , of nobility of birth?

One thing I know. Amazing and as powerful a text as the King James Bible is, it did not supplant William Shakespeare in the literary pantheon. Shakespeare is as if glued to the firmament - set in stone in the fields of Parnassus. As a literary influence he shares a high place with the
King James Bible for inspiring and nurturing
subsequent generations of writers. Some might
think that - in terms of individual inspiration -
he is even more due the wreath, for his sublime
work is the sweat of one brow rather
than the work - no matter how inspired -
of a committee.

As to Thomas Dekker, one sees he was inspired. One may say he was influenced stylistically by the Bible, and possibly inspired by Shakespeare (no matter how fairly contemporaneous he was), but one thing I think … Thomas Dekker - if there were no plague, no witchcraft trials, no Gunpowder Plot, no changing of Royalty, no war - needed only one thing to inspire him to take up the quill … and that was the immediacy of common humanity.

Here are a few of Thomas Dekker’s works
(Most of Dekker’s work is lost.):
(Only a partial list)
— “The Witch of Edmonton - A known true Story (co-authored with William Rowley, John Ford)
— “The Honest Whore”
— “ If This Be Not a Good Play, the Devil is In It”
— “Keep the Widow Waking”
— “The Shoemaker’s Holiday”
— “Lust’s Dominion”
— “The Virgin Martyr
—“Triplicity of cuckolds”
— “TheMad Man’s Morris”
— “Old Fortunatus”
— “Satiromastix” (a conjured ‘feud’ with Ben Jonson - this the satiric reply to Jonson; they later collaborated)
— “The Roaring Girl” (based on the real-life ‘Moll Cutpurse’)
— “The Sun’s Darling”
— “The Fairy Knight”

— “The Wonderful Year” (in part a plague pamphlet)
— “News From Gravesend” (another plague piece)
— “The Double PP”
— “News From Hell”
— “The Seven Deadly Sins of London” (yet another plague pamphlet)
— “Thieve’s Cant” (one of several ‘cony-catching pamphlets describing various tricks of confidence men)
— “Villainies Discovered by Candlelight” (ditto)
— “English Villainies” (ditto)
— “The Guls Horne - Booke”
— “Work for Armourers” & “Artillery Garden”
— “London Look Back”
— “Wars, Wars, Wars”
— ”Dekker His Dreame” (written from prison)
— “Foure Birds of Noahs Arke”


How American
Literature Happens

by Gabrial Orgrease

In the cemetery the tall guy told us he had written a letter to his governor to suggest that he might want to go for a walk in the cemetery. It being a somewhat old and fine cemetery surrounded by highway, a bubbly crick, poison ivy, a cigar bar, and an old house that won’t let anybody in to see it’s basement. Something went on about how his father walked somewhere with the governor’s father. How he knew the governor’s wife likes to go for walks. How his children like to go for walks.
(go to story)

Dear Editor
by Franklin Crawford

Since I don’t really have anything to tell you, let me mention some things that happened on Sunday, August 20, 2017.  I was dropping off a bag of used clothes at The Thrifty Store where even rich people shop for twenty-five cent shirts. Slumming it is big now and everybody loves a bargain.  The place was closed and management prefers folks to not drop off donations on Sunday but people do anyway. Which makes it a good day for poor folks to get something they can afford, namely, something free. (Go to Story)


Inspiration at the
Traffic Light

by Georgia E. Warren

I have read poetry, novels, books that have inspired me, and listened to music that makes my breathing uneven.I hae seen art so powerful that I had to put my hand on a wall to keep from being dizzy (page #2 of this magazine). There is, however, only one time I felt something that came from inside of me; an idea so fully formed I could not escape it. A vision that would not fade. (go to article)


Reiki: Just The Facts Part XIV:
Bringing Spirit In

by Don Brennan

Inspiration is the process of clearing ourselves and bringing in wisdom, guidance, divine revelation, healing energy, or the sacred breath from Spirit. Call it channeling one’s muse, if you like. It is the process of connecting with the divine, getting our human selves out of the way, and allowing Spirit to move through us. (go to article)



Our Poetry section includes some of our favorite poets, click on ther names to bring yourself to special inspiring poems:

Robert Graves -
To the Muse Goddess (visit)

Dante - ‘’Purgatorio’’,
Canto I, lines 7 to 12 (visit)

Peter Fortunato -
Four Poems (visit)

Mary Gilliland -The Language of Bees (visit)

Nancy Cuto - Madragana Wears Her New Name (visit)


In Service to
the Muse

by Robert Graves

Excerpt from:
The Atlantic, June 1961

The original significance of this word has long been blurred by dishonest or facetious usage. The Muse, or Mountain Mother, whom the preclassical Greeks worshiped on Parnassus and other sacred peaks, seems to have inspired the poet in much the same sense as the loa gods of Haiti now “ride” their devotees. And, although by Homer’s time her invocation had become a mere formality, subservice to the Muse has ever since been avowed by counterfeit poets in the service of politics, learning, or the church. True possession has occurred sporadically down the centuries as a phenomenon that can neither be provoked or foreseen. (go to entire article)


Forward to
The Muses

by David Rollow

The nine Muses are the offspring of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory. Before the invasion of the Olympian gods, the Muses, goddesses or guardian nymphs of springs and groves, tutelary spirits, belonged to a preliterate, oral culture. The original three are the daughters of Mnemosyne, memory, although they were raised by a wetnurse or foster-mother, Eupheme. Even this biographical snippet must be a late revision, since Mnemosyne is said to be the mother of the Muses with Zeus, so is already a literary corruption, the first euphemism. Mnemosyne is a personification: Memory. (go to article)

Journey to
the Second Attention
(Emphasizing the Recall)

by Kris Faso

I closed my eyes and immediately recalled the Elders advice.

“Nothing might temper the spirit of a nation as much as the challenge of dealing with impossible people in positions of power.
If you face the uncertainty with impunity, you will acquire the strength to withstand
even the incomprehensible.

And for this, peace will guide your way - then you shall know how to proceed”.
(go to the beginning of article)

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