REVIEW: The Journal of Albion Moonlight – by Kenneth Patchen

This weighty book was given in Tunbridge Wells (Royal).

At first it was unwanted, because we always judge books by their approximate mass and size.

But the back cover blurb revealed it was written with the inspiration from the song “Tom of Bedlam”, a pre-Shakespearian English song which we have just learned.

So the book fitted into our plot, and came along.


This journal is a twisting ride through a mind’s madness, its self-aware out-of-placeness, it’s miraculous inability and rigourous intention to not be at ease. Albion Moonlight is a character who refuses to be anything other than his own most difficult self, he finds his zenith and his nadir, and any truth he uncovers he ruthlessly destroys by his curious and meticulous mind.

Reading this book is like a dose of bluebell root. It is mildly narcotic, and manufactures (uncovers?) a space in the brain that does not feel as though it should be there.

This book does not help promote restful sleep, even as part of a balanced intake. No, this is not easy-reading; it is a challenge to the percieved heart of things, a javelin in the mouth of easy rationalizing.
In small snippets, this book is amazing. But to trapise through it, is hard going, a bitter digestion. Its fairest blessing  came with the turning of the last page, when it was all over.

Like the end of a fever, one can look up again, and see that this world and Albion’s are not seamlessly entwined. There is relief.

Read on for quotes:

Here are quotes:

“The question is not: do we believe in God? but rather: does God believe in us? And the answer is: only an unbeliever could have created our image of God, and only a false God could be satisfied with it.”

“Man has been corrupted by his symbols. Language has killed his animal.”

“What are values? Is what happens in a grasshopper’s head a ‘value’?

“We believe in you. There is no danger. It is not getting dark. We love you.”

“My tree is a green tree. My father’s ghost sings in its branches’

“Do not liberate the poor: destroy them – and with them all the jackal-Stlains that feast on their hideous, shrunken bodies. How the Church and the false revolutionaries draw together: love the poor, for they are humble. I say hate the poor for the humility which keeps their faces pressed into the mud. The poor are the product of a false and cruel society; but they are also the corner-stone of that society.”

“The Son of Man – my son, and yours, not God’s; because we made God and we are Gods.”

“I believe that man is God. It is yourself that you must worship.”

“I get up angrily and cross to the dead clerk. “Got a match?” i say. I hald expect that he will give me one. Instead, with a beautiful, slow movement, he opens his eys and says: “I haven’t one. Will this do?” and as he reaches out his hand, a blast of hell-fire shoots out and burns off my eyebrows.”

“Women always watch your pimples when you try and talk as though your animal were as old and wise as theirs.”

“He made the word a knife.”

“In this world where only our organs are sane.”

“May you live to die in love and rest.”

“How kind you are to lie to me”

“None born kows the dark meaning in the fish’s eye.”

“We never admire a man; we admire our admiration for him”

“The ocean asks nothing of the rain”

“illusion is the suitcase in which we carry our proper hearts.”

“In future, men and women will write as though writing were their only dull tool – which is quite true.”

“Our only plight is that we are alive”

“The stupid say, “would that i had lived then”, but they mean: “it would be better to be dead now”

“It is clearly my duty to come just at the right time, saying exactly the right thing.”

“The spirit’s life is profoundly and organcally a part of the world’s. The mind borrows from the affairs of the greatest men, the colour and theme of the spirit derives from him who is most degraded and brutish on the whole earth. The mind can take flight into the world, because it is not purely of the world; the spirit cannot escape, because it is the world – it is, in fact, the only world which the mind can know.”

“We believe in men who have been pictured to us, but never in the men about us – and especially do not believe in ourselves.”

“in our cities we have tolerated noise and dirt that would sicken a half-witted ape.”

“We have pushed the nose of our culture into the shit of our self-interest.”

“Our artists have only one desire: and that is, that their works may not live. There is somehting old-fashioned and uncouth in writing for posterity. How can they send us cheques when we’re dead?”

“swiftly flies the arrow that has a heart to house in”

“young men share themselves; old men their houses”

“many people never live in all of themselves”

“no man who ever stood up to authorit but did so with a sense of guilt. How they have trapped us! That’s the secret of their power, for deep in us all is a sense that they must be right. How else account for the defensive attitude of political martyrs? Why do revolutionists make a case for themselves? through wht propulsion? Surely they know that the State will not recognize the truth in their plea, will not honour the arguments which they advance. Why is it not possible for one man to say to the State: there is no need for me to offer a defence – it is you who are on trial; what have you to say for yourself?”

“Men say we are American. Men say we are English, French, Dutch. That is a lie, There are only human beings. WE are not motor-cars or chunks of soap that we need labels.”

“the poem of her walk…the sprung rhythm of her swaying buttocks…what a pavillion of rapture”

“Great art must possess an absolute flaw at its very core; otherwise it would be an abuse of the imperishable frailty of all things that exist, and we could say with complete truth that the apple is the most beutiful object under the sun. Art must add to the mystery.”

“That which is not daring is nothing.”

“Very good hanging weather”

“Surely four is not two and two: there is no way of slipping the twos into each other so fast that you can get rid of that little ‘and’. But where di d we get the two? One (and) one? we tried that. There can only be one thing in the world. Each is its own part of all.”

“nothing quite happens like ramming a woman happens”

“without the despondancy of the garlic rose for the nun’s cat”

“without the nightmare as the rag is wiped the thighs along”

“without the boast of the cyclone to the butterfly and the wren”

“what gorgeous monkeys we are”

“and that intensity of wakefulness from which there is no recovery”

“the word is the thing the wind says to the dead”

“the word is the white candle at the foot of the throne”

“the word is the way something floats that cannot be seen”

“and a merry go-to-hell goodnight to all of you”

“The slaves have been sold to themselves”

“There is no poison so fatal as breath”

“There is no joy so profound as the just-dead’s”

“there is no desire but for the good. But there is no hatred but for the lie. But there is no spirit which all of us may not be housed in”

“So it is the duty of the artist:to discourage all traces of shame; to extend all boundaries; to establish problems; to ignore solutions; to omit nothing;l to contradict everything; to tinkle a warning when mankind strays; to wound deeper than the soldier; to heal this poor obstinate monkey once and for all; to laugh at every situation; to besiege all their cities; to follow every false track; to verify the irrational; to exaggerate all things; to inhabit everyone; to experience only experience; to deviate at every point; to offer no examples; to dismiss all support; to multiply all opinions; to masquerade as the author of every platitude; to expose himself to every ridicule; to contrive always to be caught with his pants down; to attach no importance whatsoever to his activity; to return always to the renewing stranger; to be treacherous when nothing is to be gained; to reel in an exquisite sobriety; to defend the unreal at the cost of his reason; to obey each outrageous impulse.”

“Night’s hair tickles the bright forehead of the city”

“There is no crisis in the banquet hall of the soul”

“Crush their toes with the jawbones of a sonnet”

“Girls. I thank you God for having made them. The pure fruit of all that is beautiful.”

“The great writer will heal the hurt where God’s hand pressed too hard in His zeal to make us more than animals”

“The hunter always has the face of the thing he tracks”

“The Guilt is God’s”

“The automorphistic cataclysm”

“Strong is the male for his lassie, strong to get and go to sleep”

“There is no darkness anywhere. There are only sick little men who have turned away from the light.”

And those are quotes.

Enjoy, please.

And consider reading the book yourself…

One Response to “REVIEW: The Journal of Albion Moonlight – by Kenneth Patchen”

  1. Nic Dafis says:

    Your experience with this fabulous, infuriating book seems pretty close to mine; I’ve had it in the shelf for the best part of 20 years and have only just managed to get through it.

    But if I hadn’t read it, I might never have found your site, which has been a pleasure to peruse and no little inspiration.

    So, hallelujah anyway.

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