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The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2019 11:47AM
Hi,

The other day I read a story “The Children of The Pool“ by Arthur Machen. It is a great tale, one of the best by Machen, at least for me, but I would like to know what he means by “bars and studs of steel“. I have asked native English speakers and been given different opinions. One person said it must be a kind of a steel railing, the other held it had to be a railway track, so still I am confused … Can anybody tell me what it really means?

A couple of summers ago I was staying with old friends in my native county, on the Welsh border. It was in the heat and drought of a hot and dry year, and I came into those green, well-watered valleys with a sense of a great refreshment. Here was relief from the burning of London streets, from the close and airless nights, when all the myriad walls of brick and stone and concrete and the pavements that are endless give out into the heavy darkness the fires that all day long have been drawn from the sun. And from those roadways that have become like railways, with their changing lamps, and their yellow globes, and their bars and studs of steel; from the menace of instant death if your feet stray from the track: from all this what a rest to walk under the green leaf in quiet, and hear the stream trickling from the heart of the hill.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 29 July, 2019 10:32PM
Quote:
And from those roadways that have become like railways, with their changing lamps, and their yellow globes, and their bars and studs of steel; from the menace of instant death if your feet stray from the track: from all this what a rest to walk under the green leaf in quiet, and hear the stream trickling from the heart of the hill.

I believe this is specifically referring to trolley-lines, which were first installed in London in 1931; "The Children of the Pool" was published in 1936.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2019 12:41PM
Thanks a lot for your help.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 30 July, 2019 12:49PM
My comment isn't really to the purpose, but -- It was nice to see someone reading the later Machen, where several of my favorites are. I would give up "The Great God Pan" for "N," etc.

DN

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 10 August, 2019 10:09AM
By the way, there is another elusive passage in the story. Does anybody know what the first sentence could mean? It seems to me it could mean that certain objects in a landscape are capable of creating a special configuration that can affect us by our sensory response to them (if we look at this configuration), but I am not sure ...

The things which we distinguish as qualities or values are inherent in the real environment to make the configuration that they do make with our sensory response to them. There is such a thing as a "sad" landscape, even when we who look at it are feeling jovial; and if we think it is "sad" only because we attribute to it something derived from our own past associations with sadness, Professor Koffka gives us good reason to regard the view as superficial. That is not imputing human attributes to what are described as "demand characters" in the environment, but giving proper recognition to the other end of a nexus, of which only one end is organised in our own mind.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Ancient History (IP Logged)
Date: 11 August, 2019 06:40PM
Quote:
The things which we distinguish as qualities or values are inherent in the real environment to make the configuration that they do make with our sensory response to them.

Keep in mind that this is being read from a review of a book of psychology in the story (and quite possibly a real review; Principles of Gestalt Psychology by Prof. Kurt Koffka is a real book). It is a way of saying that what we perceive with our eyes and ears and other senses are only an interpretation of what is really there - which can in this case either be interpreted as human beings projecting their own feelings on an environment.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2019 11:51AM
Machen's narrator, in the story's penultimate paragraph, says Koffka "insists that the 'sadness' which we attribute to a particular landscape is really and efficiently in the landscape and not merely in ourselves; and consequently that the landscape can affect us and produce results in us... Poe, who knew many secrets, knew this," etc.

I was reminded of "The Fall of the House of Usher." In its long first paragraph, we read, "beyond doubt, there are combinations of very simple natural objects which have the power of...affecting us," although it's beyond us to analyze this power.

It isn't that people project onto things some notions that they bring to the act of perception, but that the objects may project into us some influence that, combining with our memories and imaginations, produce emotional and imaginative effects.

Machen's narrator believes that his old friend Roberts received from the unpleasant-looking pool an "effect" that worked upon his memory of an entanglement, many years ago when Roberts was a naïve young man, with Helen* Watts, a member of the family with whom Roberts had found London lodgings. Roberts was caught, by the younger sister, Justine, behaving with Helen in a way that got him in trouble with Helen's father when Justine told him. I suppose Roberts was kissing and cuddling with Helen and that he had been led on to this by Helen herself ("there were extenuating circumstances in his offence, and excuses for his wrongdoing").** What Roberts suffered at the time was intense embarrassment, and, likely enough, a sense that he knew better all along, etc. Many years later, then, after Roberts saw the unpleasant pool, its configuration of objects, of light and shadow, etc., evoked in him false memories -- i.e., real memories entangled with imagination -- and a terrible sense of guilt over wicked acts that had, in fact, never occurred, but seemed to Roberts really to have happened.

Machen's narrator also associates this experience with de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. In that book, a favorite of Machen's, there are reflections on dreams, distorted memories,*** etc. For example, under the influence of the drug, the "Eater" has dreadful impressions of crowding faces, which are derived from the daily encounter with London's multitudes, but distorted by the agency of the drug. The pool acts on Roberts somewhat as opium acted upon the Eater. And consider the Eater's suffering abysmal guilt: "I fled from the wrath of Brama through all the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, which the ibis and the crocodile trembled at."

By the way, while I don't agree with everything Julia Shaw says in her recent book The Memory Illusion (indeed, I've read only parts of it), there are things in it pertinent for Machen's story of memory here.**** As Machen's story suggests, "recovered memories" are likely to be false.

Machen's story, I suppose, is not a story of the "supernatural" but of the preternatural -- and it can be, for us, a cautionary tale about the use of memories and "memories" in legal contexts. Machen's narrator acts basically as an "attorney" who gathers evidence to defend his client from the prosecution -- only in the story, it's Roberts's "memory," his response to the pool, and his conscience that together become the prosecution!

(c) 2019 Dale Nelson (I'm putting this under copyright because I might revise it for publication elsewhere.)

*It's possible that that the name "Helen" was still associated in Machen's imagination with an attractive, dangerous woman -- cf. "The Great God Pan," written many years earlier.

**I'm reminded of the similar predicament of Johnny Eames, in Trollope's The Small House at Allington. Eames gets entangled with Amelia Roper, who lives in the same lodgings.

***"I have indeed seen the same thing asserted twice in modern books, and accompanied by a remark which I am convinced is true; viz., that the dread book of account which the Scriptures speak of is in fact the mind itself of each individual. Of this at least I feel assured, that there is no such thing as FORGETTING possible to the mind; a thousand accidents may and will interpose a veil between our present consciousness and the secret inscriptions on the mind; accidents of the same sort will also rend away this veil; but alike, whether veiled or unveiled, the inscription remains for ever, just as the stars seem to withdraw before the common light of day, whereas in fact we all know that it is the light which is drawn over them as a veil, and that they are waiting to be revealed when the obscuring daylight shall have withdrawn."

****Shaw is worth reading indeed given our culture's fascination over the past several decades with so-called "recovered memories." If one remembers the "satanic ritual abuse" panic, or the fat book of "recovered memories" of UFO experiences by John Mack called Abduction, etc. -- not to specify some more recent high-profile news stories -- one will find her book intriguing.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2019 12:49PM
Ancient History Wrote:
> I believe this is specifically referring to
> trolley-lines, which were first installed in
> London in 1931; "The Children of the Pool" was
> published in 1936.

I believe the trolley program that began in 1931 involved trolley buses, which did not run on rails. The tram-line system (which I believe were also called "trolleys") was much older, but was gradually phased out by the new trolley buses. I believe the tramlines were phased out by 1952.

Although "The Children of the Pool" was published in 1936, it seems, to the extent it was based on Machen's experience, to reflect a time he lived in London. Machen moved away from London in 1929, according to Wikipedia. Hence, it may refer to the tramlines that were in place before 1929.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12 Aug 19 | 12:52PM by Platypus.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2019 11:33AM
Thanks for you ideas. By the way, the article was really published in 1935 and is available on the net.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 16 August, 2019 02:59PM
Ancient History Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The things which we distinguish as qualities or
> values are inherent in the real environment to
> make the configuration that they do make with our
> sensory response to them.

>
> Keep in mind that this is being read from a review
> of a book of psychology in the story (and quite
> possibly a real review; Principles of Gestalt
> Psychology by Prof. Kurt Koffka is a real book).
> It is a way of saying that what we perceive with
> our eyes and ears and other senses are only an
> interpretation of what is really there - which can
> in this case either be interpreted as human beings
> projecting their own feelings on an environment.

You have somehow managed to reach an interpretation that is diametrically opposed to what is actually being said.

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 17 August, 2019 11:12AM
Out of curiosity, why did Machen use "do make with"? Why did he simply not write "make with"?

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 17 August, 2019 12:46PM
Minicthulhu Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Out of curiosity, why did Machen use "do make
> with"? Why did he simply not write "make with"?


He's quoting, isn't he? But I suppose the "do" is there form emphasis.

Scolding parent: "You do know that you can't play till you finish your chores."

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 17 August, 2019 02:31PM
-- Sorry -- "for emphasis," not "form emphasis."

Re: The Children of The Pool by Arthur Machen
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 17 August, 2019 02:40PM
Never mind. I get it. Thank you.



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