Feelings for Death: Heaven and Hell and Social Consciousness



I am having SO many technical issues, I think it best just to embed the URL for this particular chart.  Anyway, I compared "heaven" and "hell" in order to see how often the "Little Review" published material relevant to either concept, and to see which concept won out.  In a time of strife and war, it is possible that a society's notion of Heaven or Hell, and their concern with one or the other may reflect their opinions about the war. 


Interestingly, under the September 1914 "Little Review," the Voyant chart shows a peak in usage of both of the terms, and the content reflect this correlation.  While the table of contents does little to explain the form of the graph, upon looking at the contents, one sees material such as Ford Madox Hueffer's "Hell: (A Part of Heaven Overlooked by Ford Madox Hueffer)"



(A Part of Heaven Overlooked by Ford Madox Hueffer.)

Heaven and Hell are together.

As we walk home on a street in Heaven, in the evening,

Those in Hell will stalk past us

(For Hell is a condition, not a place)

And when we return at dawn will we still see them—

Men bearing infants born dead,

Kissing the inert purple cheeks ;

(For the kiss will be the one punishment of Hell) ;

Men and women holding the severed heads of those they once spat on.

Before a king kissing the head of his queen will we stop,

To give him a kind word ;

Or before an anarchist clasping the head of the king;

Or before a woman carrying the head of the anarchist—

Each unaware of the other's presence.

We will see them walking up and down the streets of Heaven

For countless years,

Till the day when the heads will disappear,

And the head-bearers build homes next to our own.


It is hard to decipher precisely the attitude intended by the man who would be Ford Madox Ford, but perhaps that is precisely the point.  The society is ambivalent about WWI, which had just begun two months prior.  But death is certain, even if everyone is not entirely aware.  It seems that, perhaps, Heaven and Hell can coexist because suffering and happiness can coexist in a society. 


Interesting!  My initial reactions to the poem is that it might be interesting to research the word "head" since the word is used repeatedly.  Does it appear in other parts of the magazine?  Also, the line "Men bearing infants born dead" seems to fit with our previous observations (of works like "The Waste land") in which we noted themes of death and fertility...or infertility.

I like your reading of the coexistence of Heaven and Hell in the poem, which seems to comport with their mutual peak in the graph. What you've got here is a good start to a potentially larger essay. Are there any other uses of the terms in the September 1914 issue? How do they compare to the Hueffer poem?