The Manticore – The Deptford Trilogy #2 by Robertson Davies

–You loved Mother, didn’t you?

–I thought I did when I was a boy. But the women we really love are the women who complete us, who have the qualities we can borrow and so become something nearer to whole men. Just as we complete them, of course; it’s not a one-way thing. Leola and I, when romance was stripped away, were too much alike; our strengths and weaknesses were too nearly the same. Together we would have doubled our gains and our losses, but that isn’t what love is.

–Did you sleep with her?

–I know times have changed, Davey, but isn’t that rather a rude question to put to an old friend about your mother?

–Carol used to insist that you were my father.

–Then Carol is a mischief-making bitch. I’ll tell you this, however: your mother once asked me to make love to her, and I refused. In spite of one very great example I had in my life I couldn’t rise to love as an act of charity. The failure was mine, and a bitter one. Now I’m not going to say the conventional thing and tell you I wish you were my son. I have plenty of sons — good men I’ve taught, who will carry something of me into places I would never reach. Listen, Davey, you great clamorous baby-detective, there is something you ought to know at your age: every man who amounts to a damn has several fathers, and the man who begat him in lust or drink or for a bet or even in the sweetness of honest love may not be the most important father. The fathers you choose for yourself are the significant ones. But you didn’t choose Boy, and you never knew him. No; no man knows his father. If Hamlet had known his father he would never have made such an almighty fuss about a man who was fool enough to marry Gertrude. Don’t you be a two-bit Hamlet, clinging to your father’s ghost until you are destroyed. Boy is dead; dead of his own will, if not wholly of his own doing. Take my advice and get on with your own concerns.

–My concerns are my father’s concerns and I can’t escape that. Alpha is waiting for me. And Castor.

–Not your father’s concerns. Your kingdoms. Go and reign, even if he has done a typical Boy trick by leaving you a gavel where he used a golden sceptre.

–I see you won’t talk honestly with me. But I must ask one more question; who was “the inevitable fifth, who was keeper of his conscience and keeper of the stone”?

–I was. And as keeper of his conscience, and as one who has a high regard for you, I will say nothing about it.

–But the stone? The stone that was found in his mouth when they rescued his body from the water? Look, Ramsay, I have it here. Can you look at it and say nothing?

–It was my paperweight for over fifty years. Your father gave it to me, very much in his own way. He threw it at me, wrapped up in a snowball. The rock-in-the-snowball man was part of the father you never knew, or never recognized.

–But why was it in his mouth?

–I suppose he put it there himself. Look at it; a piece of that pink granite we see everywhere in Canada. A geologist who saw it on my desk told me that they now reckon that type of stone to be something like a thousand million years old. Where has it been, before there were any men to throw it, and where will it be when you and I are not even a pinch of dust? Don’t cling to it as if you owned it. I did that. I harboured it for sixty years, and perhaps my hope was for revenge. But at last I lost it, and Boy got it back, and he lost it, and certainly you will lose it. None of us counts for much in the long, voiceless, inert history of the stone. . . Now I am going to claim the privilege of an invalid and ask you to leave me.

–There’s nothing more to be said?

–Oh, volumes more, but what does all this saying amount to? Boy is dead. What lives is a notion, a fantasy, a whim-wham in your head that you call Father, but which never had anything seriously to do with the man you attached it to.

–Before I go: who was Eisengrim’s mother?

–I spent decades trying to answer that. But I never fully knew.

Later: Found out a little more about the super-chess game this eve. Each player plays both black and white. If the player who draws white at the beginning plays white on boards one, three, and five, he must play black on boards two and four. I said to Liesl that this must make the game impossibly complicated, as it is not five games played consecutively, but one game.

–Not half so complicated as the game we all play for seventy or eighty years. Didn’t Jo von Haller show you that you can’t play the white pieces on all the boards? Only people who play on one, flat board can do that, and then they are in agonies trying to figure out what black’s next move will be. Far better to know what you are doing, and play from both sides.

Dec. 23, Tues.: Liesl has the ability to an extraordinary extent to worm things out of me. My temperament and professional training make me a man to whom things are told; somehow she makes me into a teller. I ran into her — better be honest, I sought her out — this morning in her workshop, where she sat with a jeweller’s magnifying glass in her eye and tinkered with a tiny bit of mechanism, and in five minutes had me caught in a conversation of a kind I don’t like but can’t resist when Liesl creates it.

–So you must give Jo a decision about more analysis? What is it to be?

–I’m torn about it. I’m seriously needed at home. But the work with Dr. von Haller holds out the promise of a kind of satisfaction I’ve never known before. I suppose I want to have it both ways.

–Well, why not? Jo has set you on your path; do you need her to take you on a tour of your inner labyrinth? Why not go by yourself?

–I’ve never thought of it; I wouldn’t know how.

–Then find out. Finding out is half the value. Jo is very good. I say nothing against her — But these analyses, Davey — they are duets between the analyst and the analysand, and you will never be able to sing louder or higher than your analyst.

–She has certainly done great things for me in the past year.

–Undoubtedly. And she never pushed you too far, or frightened you, did she? Jo is like a boiled egg — a wonder, a miracle, very easy to take — but even with a good sprinkling of salt she is invalid food, don’t you find?

–I understand she is one of the best in Zurich.

–Oh, certainly. Analysis with a great analyst is an adventure in self-exploration. But how many analysts are great? Did I ever tell you I knew Freud slightly? A giant, and it would be apocalyptic to talk to such a giant about oneself. I never met Adler, whom everybody forgets, but he was certainly another giant. I once went to a seminar Jung gave in Zurich, and it was unforgettable. But one must remember that they were all men with systems. Freud, monumentally hipped on sex (for which he personally had little use) and almost ignorant of Nature; Adler, reducing almost everything to the will to power; and Jung, certainly the most humane and gentlest of them, and possibly the greatest, but nevertheless the descendant of parsons and professors, and himself a super-parson and a super-professor. All men of extraordinary character, and they devised systems that are forever stamped with that character. . . Davey, did you ever think that these three men who were so splendid at understanding others had first to understand themselves? It was from their self-knowledge they spoke. They did not go trustingly to some doctor and follow his lead because they were too lazy or too scared to make the inward journey alone. They dared heroically. And it should never be forgotten that they made the inward journey while they were working like galley-slaves at their daily tasks, considering other people’s troubles, raising families, living full lives. They were heroes, in a sense that no space-explorer can be a hero, because they went into the unknown absolutely alone. Was their heroism simply meant to raise a whole new crop of invalids? Why don’t you go home and shoulder your yoke, and be a hero too?

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Categories: Davies, Robertson