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«Dr. Ross EN 304 – Wk 14 Blood Meridian (1985) 1) John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” (1845) “.our manifest destiny to overspread the continent ...»

Dr. Ross

EN 304 – Wk 14

Blood Meridian (1985)

1) John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” (1845)

“…our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free

development of our yearly multiplying millions.”

2) Horace Greeley, “Our Country, Right or Wrong!” New York Tribune (12 May 1846)

“Who believes that a score of victories over Mexico, the ‘annexation’ of half her provinces,

will give us more Liberty, a purer Morality, a more prosperous Industry, than we now have?

[...] Is not Life miserable enough, comes not Death soon enough, without resort to the hideous enginery of War?”

3) Henry David Thoreau, “Civil Disobedience” (1849) “I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, —‘That government is best which governs least’; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.

4) Captain Mayne Reid, Scalp-Hunters; or, Adventures in Northern Mexico (1853) Unroll the world’s map, and look upon the great northern continent of America. Away toward the wild west, away toward the setting sun, away beyond a far meridian, let your eyes wander. Rest them where golden rivers rise among peaks that carry the eternal snow. Rest them there...Follow me, with the eye of your mind, through scenes of wild beauty, of savage sublimity.

5) Samuel Chamberlain, My Confession (written 1840s-50s?, first pub’d. 1956) “The second in command, now left in charge of [Glanton’s] camp, was a man of gigantic size called ‘Judge’ Holden of Texas. Who or what he was no one knew but a cooler blooded villain never went unhung; he stood six feet six in his moccasins, had a large fleshy frame, a dull tallow colored face destitute of hair and all expression.” (271)

6) Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (1985) My book or some other book said the judge. What is to be deviates no jot from the book wherein it’s writ. How could it? It would be a false book and a false book is no book at all.


7) Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (1985) It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other. (248) Key terms: The American Renaissance; the canon; Manifest Destiny; Civil disobedience;

Mexican-American War; filibustering


-1821 Mexico independence from Spain “Manifest Destiny” • Annexation of Texas, 1836-45 • Mexican-American War (1846-48) • California Gold Rush • Territory of Oregon (1848) • MID-19TH-CENTURY LITERATURE Civil Disobedience, Thoreau (1849) • Moby Dick, Melville (1851) •


Details: documentary details of things (proper names, etc) is perhaps an extension of the Judge’s aims;

Manifest destiny:

The captain leaned back and folded his arms. What we are dealing with, he said, is a • race of degenerates. A mongrel race, little better than niggers. And maybe no better.

There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there’s no God in Mexico. Never will be.

We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people that cannot govern themselves? That’s right.

Others come in to govern for them. (34) No. And I don't think you’re the sort of chap to abandon a land that Americans • fought and died for to a foreign power. And mark my word. Unless Americans act, people like you and me who take their country seriously while those mollycoddles in Washington sit on their hindsides, unless we act, Mexico—and I mean the whole of the country—will one day fly a European flag. Monroe Doctrine or no. (35) They saw patched argonauts from the states driving mules through the streets on • their way south through the mountains to the coast. Goldseekers. Itinerant degenerates bleeding westward like some heliotropic plague. They nodded or spoke to the prisoners and dropped tobacco and coins in the street beside them. (78)

Hermit Sages:

–  –  –

The Mennonite watches the enshadowed dark before them as it is reflected to him in • the mirror over the bar. He turns to them. His eyes are wet, he speaks slowly. The wrath of God lies sleeping. It was hid a million years before men were and only men have power to wake it. Hell aint half full. Hear me. Ye carry war of a madman’s making onto a foreign land. Ye’ll wake more than the dogs. (40, mennonite) He pointed to his chest. When he turned to the Americans his voice softened again.

• You are fine caballeros, he said. You kill the barbarous. They cannot hide from you.

But there is another caballero and I think that no man hides from him. I was a soldier. It is like a dream. When even the bones is gone in the desert the dreams is talk to you, you dont wake up forever. (103)


That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft • blue fire ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the fay would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.

(47) The first of the herd began to swing past them…and the lip jerks and drools. (51-53) • They crossed before the sun…the world below. (109) • It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well • ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other. (248) Is that why war endures?

• No. It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not. (249) Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in • favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test...Decisions of life and death, of what shall be and what shall not, beggar all question of right. In elections of these magnitudes are all lesser ones subsumed, moral, spiritual, natural. (250)

–  –  –

Your heart’s desire is to be told some mystery. The mystery is that there is no • mystery. (252) Grandiloquence The judge smiled. It is not necessary, he said, that the principals here be in • possession of the facts concerning their case, for their acts will ultimately accommodate history with or without their understanding. But it is consistent with notions of right principle that these facts—to the extent that they can be readily made to do so—should find a repository in the witness of some third party. Sergeant Aguilar is just such a party and any slight to his office is but a secondary consideration when compared to divergences in that larger protocol exacted by the formal agenda of an absolute destiny. Words are things. The words he is in possession of he cannot be deprived of. Their authority transcends his ignorance of their meaning. (85) The squatters in their rags nodded among themselves and were soon reckoning him • correct, this man of learning, in all his speculations, and this the judge encouraged until they were right proselytes of the new order whereupon he laughed at them for fools. (116) What is true of one man, said the judge, is true of many…however primitive their • works seem to us. (146) Whatever exists, he said. Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists • without my consent...These anonymous creatures, he said, may seem little or nothing in the world. Yet the smallest crumb can devour us. Any smallest thing beneath yon rock out of men’s knowing. Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will be be properly suzerain of the earth. (198) The judge placed his hands on the ground. He looked at his inquisitor. This is my • claim, he said. And yet everywhere upon it are pockets of autonomous life.

Autonomous. In order for it to be mine nothing must be permitted to occur upon it save by my dispensation. (199) That night Glanton stared long into the embers of the fire. All about him his men • were sleeping but much was changed. So many gone, defected or dead. The Delawares all slain. He watched the fire and if he saw portents there it was much the same to him. He would live to look upon the western sea and he was equal to whatever might follow for he was complete at every hour. Whether his history should run concomitant with men and nations, whether it should cease. He’d long forsworn all weighing of consequence and allowing as he did that men’s destinies are given yet he usurped to contain within him all that he would ever be in the world and all that the world would be to him and be his charter written in the urstone itself he claimed agency and said so and he’d ordered it all ages since, before there were paths anywhere, before there were men or suns to go upon them. (243) There’s a flawed place in the fabric of your heart. Do you think I could not know?

• You alone were mutinous. You alone reserved in your soul some corner of clemency for the heathen. (299) If war is not holy then man is nothing but antic clay. Even the cretin acted in good • faith according to his parts. For it was required of no man to give more than he possessed nor called upon to empty out his heart into the common and one did not.

Can you tell me who that one was?

It was you, whispered the kid. You were the one. (307)


–  –  –

In his delirium he ransacked the lines of his pallet for arms but there were none.

• The judge smiled. The fool was no longer there but another man and this other man he could never see in his entirety but he seemed an artisan and a worker in metal.

The judge enshadowed him where he crouched at his trade but he was a coldforger who worked with hammer and die, perhaps under some indictment and an exile from men’s fires, hammering out like his own conjectural destiny all through the night of his becoming some coinage for a dawn that would not be. It is this false moneyer with his gravers and burins who seeks favor with the judge and he is at contriving from cold slag brute in the crucible a face that will pass, an image that will render this residual specie current in the markets where men barter. Of this is the judge judge and the night does not end. (310) He had a bible that he’d found at the mining camps and he carried this book with • him no word of which could he read. In his dark and frugal clothes some took him for a sort of preacher but he was no witness to them, neither of things at hand nor things to come, he least of any man. (312) I tell you this. As war becomes dishonored and its nobility called into question those • honorable men who recognize the sanctity of blood will become excluded from the dance, which is the warrior’s right, and thereby will the dance become a false dance and the dancers false dancers. And yet there will be one there always who is a true dancer and can you guess who that might be? (331)


All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man. (3) • “The Child is father of the man” (Wordsworth, 1802) • …they entered a place where all was darkness and without definition.” (100) • “Io venni in loco d’ogne luce muto…” (Dante, Inferno V) • And the land was formless and void… (King James Bible) •

–  –  –

If God meant to interfere in the degeneracy of mankind would he not have done so • by now? Wolves cull themselves, man. What other creature could? And is the race of man not more predacious yet? The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night. His spirit is exhausted at the peak of its achievement. His meridian is at once his darkening and the evening of his day. He loves games? Let him play for stakes. This you see here, these ruins wondered at by tribes of savages, do you not think that this will be again? Aye. And again. With other people, with other sons. (146-47) “Who’s to doom, when the judge himself is dragged to the bar?” (Moby Dick, Ch. 32) • All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the • living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me.

Sometimes I think there's naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me?

Truth hath no confines. (Moby Dick, Ch. 36) Argonauts and “argosy” (175) and the Argonautica •

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