Let now abate the terror of your might,
And quench the flame of furious despight
— Spenser, Faerie Queene,
Book 1 Canto V 121-2
I usually skip Anger.
Obviously, I’ve been circulating through the stages of grief for seventeen months like a Maytag washer in a household with quintuplets, but most of the time I just do five variations on Depression with little soupcons of bitterness, bargaining, and pretend-acceptance. The only fury I even toy with is the parody I came up with a while ago after reading Blake — “Flames of Furious Denial.”
Yesterday Anger came. And Anger isn’t even the word for it. Fortunately I’m in the middle of re-reading Book 1 of The Faerie Queene, and there squack in Canto V, Stanza 14, I found what Blake must certainly have read. The false lady Duessa urges her “champion,” the Saracen Sans Joy, to avenge his brother’s death by killing the pesky Redcrosse Knight once and for all. Now Duessa is a lovely beguiling villain, and when Zemeckis gets his hands on the script Ms. Jolie will play her, so it’s momentarily easy to forget that she was the one who goaded the initial battle between Redcrosse Knight and Sans Foy in the first place, and now here she is, convincing bereaved brother that it is his anger (“despight”), his need, that will be doused by the act of “bloudie vengeance.”
Anger is like that. A tickle in the ear, a moment of self-righteousness, railing against the unjust world. Show that scene alone, fool the audience that Duessa is in fact Fidessa, the true lady she pretends to be, think about the wronged brother and the murderous upstart knight who killed Sans Foy when he was minding his own business and had never threatened Redcrosse in the least, add in a little visual cue that Redcrosse is, both explicitly and allegorically, the Alpha and Omega of Anglo-Saxon Protestants and the brothers are (we are reminded repeatedly) Saracens (pop-culture shorthand: Morgan Freeman in Costner’s Robin Hood) and DAMN IT Sans Joy has every right in the WORLD to strike out in furious despight.
So yesterday I had furious despight. Look at it, I screeched, from MY point of view, damn it, and you will see how unjust, unfair, burdensome, infuriating, the whole rest of the world especially social media really is, and NATURALLY I am angry. I used words yesterday that I haven’t used for seventeen months. I dragged in people I haven’t seen in years. And I HATED them, and I said it. I remembered every wrong they ever did — not to me, but to my Knight, my defeated knight. I cursed out total strangers on podcasts because they have happy discussions that remind me of the kinds we used to have and THEY STILL GET TO HAVE THEM and what the hell. I ripped into people who were merely remarking on the news of the day because they couldn’t POSSIBLY understand it at the level that Dan and I would have, and if I had had a sword handy I would have used it (“his thirstie blade/To bath in bloud of faithlesse enemy” — 128-9), which is the best argument I can think of for gun control ever. Words slash, but they can also salve, and if I can get through this post without hyperventilating they just might help me get through the next couple of days.
I was supposed to be writing a response piece to a higher education article. I was supposed to be writing query letters to see if I can’t possibly get some freelance writing work. I was supposed to be building, creating, Learning, and instead I am slashing, burning, in furious despight. I hate everybody. I hate the terrorists and I hate the people that sit on their asses in TV studios and attack them. I hate the cops and the people, and the people who defend the cops and the people who attack the cops and the people who defend the people and the people who attack the people and the people who report on the people who attack or defend the cops OR the people.
Shut Up, all of you. You’re all just lucky I don’t have a sword.
And that I haven’t gotten off the couch in twenty-two hours.
And if one more person posts a (vulgarity deleted) picture of a President of the United States (ANY President of the United States) in a golf cart, as if that MEANT anything beyond your own petty self-satisfied superiority (I can’t find any reason to feel superior, given that a golf cart would be a big step up for me right now as presumably I’d have pants on and wouldn’t be sobbing, although I can’t swear to that) I will get a sword. I will remake the blade that has been broken. I will find Loki’s dwarf. I will receive one from strange women lying in ponds distributing swords. (“Moistened bink” doesn’t seem quite right in this context.)
As this piece clearly demonstrates, Anger is the Stupid cycle in the stages of grief. It is the mean, unthinking, self-centered, impatient, and destructive stage. Despight breaks things that don’t deserve to be broken and that I will probably want later. I hope it passes quickly; I have work to do.
In the meantime (or mean time) I say Fie on all of you.