Tom Goldpaugh
Marist College

David Jones and the Cost of Empire

      In January of 1970, David Jones received a letter from his friend Saunders Lewis, the Welsh Nationalist, in which Lewis mentioned having heard a BBC presentation of Jones’s fragment, "The Tribune’s Visitation." In the fragment, a Roman Tribune of the first century CE arrives unannounced at the barracks of an unnamed town in Palestine early in the morning just after a changing of the guard. While addressing the men, the Tribune admits his own longings for the “dear sites” of home and all the “deep things, integral to ourselves.” Such things, though, are for him and for his troops illusions, “bumpkin sacraments. . . . for the young-time, for the dream watches.” He and they “serve contemporary fact.” While he, too, would “weep. . . for the remembered things,” he tells his command “all that's done with/ for the likes of us,/in Urbs, throughout orbis.” He speaks to them “of ends, and not of origins,” and those are the ends of Rome: conquest and commerce. Bound to the empire and to each other by their sacramentum, he and his troops form “one family of one gens and I, the paterfamilias.” The fragment ends in a parody of the Eucharist as the Tribune breaks bread and drinks wine with the troops, initiating them into a secular ecclesia in which they “all are members of the Strider's body.”1

      Saunders Lewis found the work

moving and terrible. An indictment of all empires, of all that destroy the local thing, not merely military conquests, but industrial and commercial expansion; It is a very contemporary poem.2

      David Jones also felt the work “contemporary” writing to Harman Grisewood that “of all the separate pieces, [it is] the best thing I’ve managed to make. . . it states quite simply the situation of today.”3 The Tribune’s Visitation was one of five Roman fragments that David Jones published between 1955 and 1973, all extracted from “experiments” that he claimed “would not come together.”4

      In the forty years since "The Tribune’s Visitation" first appeared, the work and its companion pieces — "The Wall," "The Dream of Private Clitus," "The Fatigue," "The Narrows" and "The Tribune’s Visitation" —with their critique of imperialism’s military and economic destruction of local cultures in the interests of a global New World Order have come to speak even more directly to our immediate circumstances than they did when they were first published. Standing behind those fragments, though, was a larger project that presented an even more extensive analysis of “the cost of empire” (MS 46/ LR8/6) as one of Jones's speakers phrases it, than do the individually published fragments. Recently Jones’s original “experiments” have been recovered from the David Jones Archives in The National Library of Wales, and will be published by the University of Wales Press as The Grail Mass. More unified and finished than Jones’s references to “experiments” that “would not come together” suggested, this project presents Jones’s fullest examination of economic and military imperialism. In it, he outlines the deadening cultural globalization that results, the price empire exacts from those whose cultures are destroyed by it, and the impact it has on those who serve it - whether willingly like the Tribune or grudgingly like the two privates at the heart of the project. Composed primarily during the Second World War and running to over two hundred pages in manuscript, the Roman project consisted of three interrelated but independent “conversations” that take place between the Cenacle on Holy Thursday and the Cruficixion on Good Friday.5

      The history of Jones’s project is tangled, particularly as to why he never published the entire work.6 Suffice it to say, though, that bitter indictments of imperialism might not have been warmly received in the midst of World War II, particularly those which suggest, as Jones wrote in April of 1939, that “this so-called Dictatorship v. ‘Democracy’ business” is “largely an affair of sword against money."7 After the war and the subsequent publication of The Anathemata, Jones made repeated efforts to complete the work to his satisfaction but always failed. Three days before he died he even wrote to René Hague that he was still attempting to finish the project.8

      Like The Anathemata, this project opens at a Catholic Mass in war-time London. At the Eucharist, the work moves to a re-calling of the Last Supper in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. When Judas leaves the Upper Room, the work shifts to the first of the three conversations as Caiphais and Judas discuss the betrayal to take place in Gethsemane. At the conclusion of their conversation, the work moves into the central and longest of the conversations as two soldiers come on guard for the middle watch. Concurrent with the events in Gethsemane, the work moves through the four hours of the middle night watch and then concludes with the men in their barracks and the Tribune’s speech at dawn. After the Tribune’s speech, the project shifts to its third “conversation” which takes place shortly after the Crucifixion on Good Friday. Here, over dinner, a Roman official whom Jones described as “the Roman blimp,” his daughter who has a dilettante’s interest in the local religious cults, and a young subaltern discuss the day’s crucifixion, Rome’s policy of assimilation, and the inevitable expansion of Roman rule into Britain.9

      Jones claimed the initial inspiration for his project occurred in 1934 while he was visiting Jerusalem to recuperate from his first breakdown. One day while looking down into the streets from his room in the Austrian Hospice near to where the Antonia fortress once stood, he saw some British soldiers of occupation marching beneath his window. Suddenly, these soldiers with their “heavy field-service hob-nailed boots. . . the riot shields aligned to cover the left-side and in each right fist the haft-grip of a stout baton” evoked not “companions of twenty years back” but Romans, “a section from the Antonia up from Caesarea for duties in Heirosylma.”10 While his 1934 visit to Jerusalem might have been the immediate inspiration for his work, his antipathy to imperialism went back at least to his own experience as a soldier of occupation in Ireland toward the end of World War I. Likewise, his concern with the role of the “accidental” participants in the events of the Passion – the common soldier assigned to some miserable duty – also had a long history, if sketches done while he was a student at the Westminster School in 1920-21 portraying Roman soldiers at the time of the Passion are any indication.11 While his epiphany in Jerusalem brought these two long-standing concerns together, his reading of Tacitus’s Annals and his re-immersion in Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West and Man and Technic between 1939 and 1942 provided him with the historical detail, the Roman perspective, and an overarching intellectual framework for his project. What attracted Jones to Tacitus was Tacitus’s writings on Rome’s Germanic campaigns which suggested parallels between Rome’s wars and the world wars of the contemporary west. In particular, Tacitus’s account of the Teutoburg forest campaigns spoke to Jones’s own experience at the Somme. Equally important was Tacitus’s concern with the changes in Roman society as Rome entered into a permanent Imperial period under Tiberius’s rule, changes that Jones felt were occurring in western civilization. As he wrote in a letter to Tom Burns in March of 1942 in discussing his project: “Been reading some Tacitus. . . Considering how relatively early he was in the Roman empire, it’s interesting that he speaks as though the whole show was long past its peak.”12 If Tacitus provided a Roman perspective on the times, Jones’ immersion in the German meta-historian Oswald Spengler offered him a method for articulating what was essentially Jones’ own analysis of civilization and culture that had been developing since his time as a member of the Ditchling community in the early 1920s. By providing both a specific terminology and a systematic way of examining history, Spengler’s theories provide a theoretical foundation for Jones’s project, his system outlining a four-part pattern that begins with a cultural spring and ends in a civilizational winter. Late civilizations are marked by economic and military imperialism that precedes their final collapse. Spengler also proposes a morphological system whereby different time periods are contemporaneous on his spring-to-winter continuum. Thus Imperial Rome with its expansionist wars and its world economy was contemporary with the twentieth century West. Opposed to but being destroyed by this coming world-state, a world-state determined more by economic forces than military conquest, are small local cultures, their ways of life rooted in their particular sites. In its imperial phase, civilization militarily dominates and economically and culturally assimilates local cultures to the megalopolis, a Spenglerian coinage Jones uses repeatedly in his writings.

      Although all three conversations are concerned with the nature of empire, the middle conversation, the most highly crafted of the three and an important work in its own right, presents Jones’ most extensive critique of imperialism. Set on the Walls of the Antonia in Jerusalem, it falls into two parts. In the first, the speakers are two semi-Romanized conscripts: Crixus, a twenty-year veteran who also served in the Teutoburg campaigns, and his mate, Oenomaus, a six-year veteran. Their names, Jones wrote, are borrowed from Spartacus’ lieutenants, and his two privates “take a somewhat jaundiced view of the hierarchy of things” (MS 7/ LA 1/ 4, folio 23). As Crixus and Oenomaus look out over Jerusalem, they reflect on their lot as occupiers, “stone[s] in the living wall/ that circuits the city” (MS 13/ LR 8-6) and cogs in the machinery of imperialism and its world city, what all of the speakers refer to as the “Urbs throughout orbis” ( MS 42/LR 6-8 ) . The first half of the middle conversation ends with Crixus who remembers his Celtic origins offering a prayer to the Great Mother that celebrates local cultures and in which he calls upon her to protect them "in the days of the central economies"( SL 63 /MS 54/ LR 6-8). Immediately after this, a bugle blows, the middle watch ends, and Brasso Olenius, a centurion, enters. Equivalent to a master sergeant and a lifer, Brasso embodies what Jones sees as the most necessary figure for any empire in any “megalopolitan epoch” — ” the world-centurion” (MS 7/ LA 1/ 4, folio 23) without whom the Crixus’ and Oenomaus’ of the world would not stay awake on duty. Realizing that the two soldiers have not been at their appointed places, he details them to the next day's execution fatigue as punishment. In the fragment published as "The Fatigue," Jones charts the impersonal orders of empire that emanate “From where a high administration deals in world-routine” in a room in Rome that then travel “down through the departmental meander/ winding the necessities and accidents” as “the ball rolls slowly. . . and on it your name and number”( SL 39 / MS 68B / LR 6-8). It still takes a Brasso Olenius, though, to see that “you will furnish that Fatigue” (SL 41 /MS 68 D / LR 6-8). After the men return to the barracks, the Tribune, a Spenglerian fact man, enters and closes the conversation.

      The work opens with the classicum sounding the changing of the guard and as Private Aulius, thinking of his home in Etruria, returns to the barracks, Private Oenamus with his “fourteen more years of nights, fourteen years of nights of four vigiliae to each night” comes on guard. The opening meditations present Jones at his most bitter. The point of view moves between the meditations of Oenomaus and the musings of an omniscient speaker as the speaker says

Roll on duration — Private Oenomaus, time-expired
can legally walk-out on the bleeders
hand in his kit
throw in his mitt
then, for an honourable hero, adequate provision
— at a subsistence level. (MS 10/ LR 6-8)

      The voice becomes even more cynical as the work moves from Jerusalem to Rome and the voice pictures a retired soldier, the dole cut back because of “an awkward deficit in the Dacian returns, [or] a sell-out in Illyricum” (MS 10/ LR 6-8). This emeritus having “lost his eye to a Scythian sling” and having “left his nerves on the Frisian wires” stands “beside the architrave/ lee side the box office, at the swell/ entrances” of the Circus Maximus ”with his “pinned-on battle-honours, . . . hold[ing] out the cadger's palm for the small change“ (MS 12/ LR 6-8). Jones’s scorn is palpable for the upper classes on their way to see “if spotted cat from Africa or/ painted man from Thule/ draws first blood at the afternoon/ performance” as they pass by this emeritus who kept “our universal peace” allowing “you, secure behind the wall to drink the wine, to break the bread” (MS 13/ LR 6-8).

      At this point, Crixus enters, and the fragment published as "The Wall" begins with the lines “We don’t know the ins and outs/ how should we? How could we?/ It’s not for the likes of you and me to cogitate high policy or to/ guess the inscrutable economy of the pontifex” (SL 10). Again the work moves between the walls of Jerusalem and streets of Rome as we witness a Roman triumphal march. Here Jones indicts the merchant classes, from the “the shopkeepers [who] presume to make/ The lupine cry their own” to “the magnates of the boarium [who] leave their nice manipulations” (SL 11) to watch as a defeated Celtic chieftain is paraded in triumph toward his execution. This leads into a meditation that recalls the mythic origins and the rituals performed at the founding of Rome, the voice asking if all of these events only happened so that “we should sprawl/ from Septimontium/ a megalopolis that wills death?” (SL 13/ MS 20/ LR 6-8). We then return to Crixus saying again “we don’t know the ins and out/ how can we? how shall we” (SL 14/ MS 21/ LR 6-8). What he does know, though, is that while once they marched for Dea Roma, Minerva the armed goddess , and the Strider, Mars Gradivus, “the common father of the Roman people,” now “we march for kind Irene, who crooks her rounded elbow for little Plutus, the gold-getter” (SL 14/ MS 31A/ LR 8-6). The shift is telling: Irene, a minor Greek deity of Peace associated with the child Plutus, or wealth,13 was introduced to Rome by Augustus who built her temple, the Ara Pacis, to celebrate the Pax Romana. Throughout the work, Jones continues to attack the mercators who trade in everything from sidonian glass to silk from Cos to “west- waves Celts” (MS 59/ LR 8-6) and whose economic network with its “universal graft” (MS 47/ LR 6-8) can only exist as a result of this “armed peace” (SL 14).

      While "The Wall" is clear in its condemnation of expeditionary wars and the aristocratic and merchant classes who benefit from them, the original version is even more direct, linking the emeritus and the tribal chieftain as co-equal victims of empire. Where "The Wall" ends, though, Jones’s conversation continues, with Crixus commenting that in these new times, “we shall continue to march, in convoy, to safeguard the distribution,” their job to “ police the abundant store the she-wolf's litter garnered,” (MS 23/ LR 8-6) by keeping the locals in line. When Oenomaus relates what he has heard about a local “deliverer,” Crixus replies that “It isn't love/ what secures the world Oenomaus, but/ authority, that's what holds the walls of the world,/ not your dream-wallahs on hill sites” (MS 36/ LR 8-6). In fact, Crixus goes on to say, that if it serves the purposes of the “men of rule,” the cult of this local deliverer will be allowed to flourish and “We'll march out under the eagles and/ We'll march back under your Sibyl's/ Labarum, maybe, who cares so long as we/march. So long as our marching secures/ the inheritance of the men of rule” (MS 39/ LR 8-6). If anything, changing the insignia under which they march will just provide “a job for the metalsmiths, a bit of fat for the contractors/ of insignia” (MS 38/ LR 8-6). The one thing that will never change, Crixus says, is that “we shall march/ You and I comrade,” and, he adds, “our son's sons will march” (MS 39/ LR 8-6).

      Oenomaus’ mention of “local deliverers" leads into one of Jones’s more provocative themes. Despised as soldiers of occupation, Jones’s guards face the possibility of being stabbed in a back alley by a local whose knife cuts easily through their badly designed loricas, mass-produced and made on the cheap by a contractor who has paid the bribes back in Rome. Crixus can understand why the “zealot locals'ld knife the lot of us in the name of local autarchy” (MS 47/ LR 8-6). Their political aspirations are understandable if futile. It is the religiously inspired agitators that he fears more, and for reasons more complex than simply the possibility of his own demise. As he says, “the whole place crawls with `em, . . Jesus bar abbas with a stolen sword who thinks himself/ Dux Judas Maccabee restoring the kingdom of Israel. . . Yokel illuminati from Galilee,” with their hope for “for some nebulous imperium and consensus that passes a man's wit,” (MS 47/LR 8-6) under the spiritual rule of this “Syrian Jove/ whose very name their cult-priests make taboo” (MS 47A/ LR 8-6). In Crixus’ musings on these religious zealots all opposed to the materialism, the urbanity and the shallow “modernity” of Rome that constantly encroaches, Jones presents what is, in essence, an early version of the clash of civilizations.

      The concern, though, is that both political imperialism and religious monotheism, in their totalizing and hegemonic efforts, “work the same mischief” (MS 47A/ LR 8-6), although in very different ways. The dominance of Rome and its world economy would offer everyone, Crixus says elsewhere, “smooth sidonian glass,” and when the locals see their mustaches in that glass, off they will come. “When the world-mode can rig you out as flash as a Syro-Phoenician jockey,” whether you are in Thule or Thrace, well, “what’s freedom, autarchy, compared with that” (MS 63/ LR 8-6). As for monotheism, this “denies to a man's spirit a local habitation,” (MS 47A/ LR 8-6) and is as equally destructive. Cultures are rooted in site, language and custom. Crixus knows there is one Great Mother — “one earth brings us all forth, one womb receives us all “— but “She who loves place, time, demarcation, hearth, kin, enclosure, site, differentiated cult” (SL 59/ MS 48/ LR 8-6), will only answer if she is called by her local cult name and using the prayers particular to that name. Empire offers its hypocausts for heating and its aqueducts, and even provides religious toleration to the local cults. As the Roman functionary in the third conversation notes, in exchange for such conveniences all it requires is that one think of Roman rule not as a “halter, [that] you say, chafes your neck. . . [but] as the fending bulla strung for the adolescent” (RQ 157/MS 27D/ LR 5) that they will wear until they are ready as adults for “world citizenship.” Monotheism under one god, the same for all, would offer a “universal brotherhood” – and to recall Saint Paul, there would be neither “Greek nor Jew, slave nor free” - but the result would be to “orphan all the world” (MS 47A/ LR 8-6). Either one, if given the chance, would “take away the diversities by which we are” (SL 63/ MS 54/ LR 8-6). Still, far worse than either empire’s political dominance and its economic globalism or monotheism’s spiritual hegemony, Crixus says, would be if “the men of rule with/ the masters of the covenant come to a profitable/ pact, [and the] universal Caesar kiss the/ indivisible baal, then farewell hearth and farewell/ home for all the genii of the place and the sweet/ name-numina” (MS 47A /LR 8-6). As Julia, the Roman functionary’s daughter, says tellingly “Touch the nomen and destroy the gens” (RQ 170/ MS 40F/ LR 5) and, Jones suggests, there are many ways to destroy the gens.

      While meditating on the local zealots and considering just who among these mixed recruits might be the one to get “a dorsal kiss from a Keriot’s knife” (MS 45/ LR 8-6) some night, Crixus says to Oenomaus that it could be either of them, or Big Ginger from Autricum, or the Greek from Attica, or even Blondie, a “west-wave Celt” who got himself “bagged by a Greek mercator, and so by one mischance fell in with many fortunes” (MS 66H/ LR 8-6) and finally wound up in the Roman army on the Walls of the Antonia. Regardless of all the attempts to call on their own cult figures for protection, “we're all too far afield for/the protecting reach of those who watch,” and that, says Crixus, anticipating Augustine, “is the cost/ of Empire. . . . You can't stretch/ the navel string indefinitely and empire is/ a great stretcher of navel strings and a snapper/ of 'em, a great uprooter is empire – it’s a great robbery is empire.” It is not simply the theft of a local culture’s wealth or its land, although it clearly does that. Empire, Crixus says, “robs the / pieties, [and] you can't have the pieties . . . unless you're rooted” (MS 46/ LR 8-6).

      The human displacement that accompanies the imperium is central to Jones’s project. In the notes accompanying the published fragment of "The Tribune’s Visitation," David Jones mentioned that with "The Fatigue" he had taken “liberties with history in making the troops appear as legionaries and of mixed recruitment in order to evoke the heterogenous character of the forces of a world imperium” (SL 45). Actually, when David Jones began his project he was under the mistaken notion that the Xth Fretensis had been stationed in Jerusalem at that time and that it had mixed recruitment. Only when he was well into the work did he realize that the main garrison at Jerusalem at this time consisted of local auxilia14. The greater point, aside from this particular accident of history, concerns Jones’s analysis of the world imperium and how it uproots and assimilates heterogenous peoples into one vast global civilization. In his project, he continually presents people displaced from their cultures, either by outright force, by economic necessity, or by simple opportunism. There is the gardener in the third conversation “a raw-boned Pict captured by a Phoenician syndicate, sold by a Jew bought at Alex, the bill of lading checked by an Ethiopian, freighted to Ostia” the result of which is that he “finds himself in our happy home” in Rome (RQ 170 /MS / LR 5). We hear Julia, the Roman official’s daughter of the final conversation, discussing ‘dear old nanny,’ brought in from Greece, who has spent her life raising the children of the Roman plutocracy and is now so Romanized that she can think of no greater honor than to serve in a Roman aristocrat’s household and wear the family castoffs.

      The creation of a globalized economy under one political authority is the ends and the means of empire. Even before the military enter to impose political rule “the softer wares” have already arrived to “soften them up,” and it is always “the mercators and the rest of the sharks that go before the eagles to fatten the spoils” (MS 65/ LR 8-6). In fact, “when any tout from Miletus can unpack/ his pretty wares by soft Thames run,” then “the mission of empire is accomplished” (MS 63A/ LR 8-6). From there, it is simple for “It’s by such things as these that men are/ weaned from their gods. . .” for “who wants heroes on hill-sites or naiad lovers, once there's a tesselated bath in all the world-tenements” (MS 65/ LR 8-6). As Crixus says, “by assimilation most of all, we/ conquer them,” but then adds “and by equation too, Comrade” (MS 62/ LR 8-6).

      It is in this “equation” that there is the end of all the tutelars of the place that embody the cultural diversities. Rome tolerates all cults. It not only tolerates them, but it equates all cult figures, making them, essentially, the same. Since they are equivalent, speaking of the Celtic Gods, he says

Their Sulis we can juxtapose with
Great Minerva, and see how dim she’ll
shine down the history-paths, how
bright the other. . . (MS 62/ LR 8-6).
History, we know, is written by the winners, and “history itself we bring,” for “what is history but the boast of Rome,” and even foreign gods with their Roman names “will learn to be good citizens” (MS 62/ LR 8-6). The end result, of course, is the end of all the individual local cultures and their replacement by the “world civilization.” In his 1944 essay "Wales and Visual Form" David Jones commenting on the increasing globalization he saw occurring in England and Wales wrote
We are all of the diaspora now. . . .Any person, either Welsh or English, in so far as the forms they make reflect the inner feeling of the localities called ‘Wales’ or ‘England” and in so far as he inherits and reflects the traditional mood of those places, is a man of the disaspora. . . . All who ‘are of’ the cultures are now necessarily ‘of the dispersion,’ because the cultures themselves no longer exist.15

      Jones’s attitude toward the Roman Empire, though, is a complex one. Without such an interlocking world economy and a world imperium, Jones suggests, the crucifixion could not have happened, or at least not in the way or for the immediate reasons that it did: Roman authorities overseeing the execution of a Jewish “deliverer” using a method of execution appropriated from the Carthaginians, employing soldiers “of mixed recruitment” who carry the tools of execution, including “hooks of Danubian iron” (SL / MS / LR 8-6) and sponges from the Bay of Gabes in North Africa, in “a wattled basket/ shipped from Thames” (SL / MS / LR 8-6). The local religious authorities who instigated the execution recognize that such an execution is in their own immediate interests, because it is also Caesar’s interest — as Caiaphas says in the first conversation “we’re faced with Caesar’s interests:/accommodate we must”. . .Christ is “an irritant —[to] Caesar’s peace and ours” (RQ 149/ MS 18M/LR 6-1). At the same time, the Roman officials see it is in their long-term interests. As the Roman official in the third conversation says: “we are concerned . . . with the ordering of a protectorate. . . . no, he did the only thing / the fellow had to swing” (RQ 158/ MS 28/ LR 5-1). All the "fact men," it seems, want to keep the universal peace.

      At the same time, without that same interlocking world economy and that same world imperium, the particular western culture that arose, partially as a result of the crucifixion, would not have come about16. In this, David Jones’s position on Empire as a state of political and economic hegemony and spiritual and cultural bankruptcy and his simultaneous view of the Roman Empire as a particular historical force integral to the rise of Christianity and as a part of our common heritage stand in a complicated relationship to each other. While the first speaks to our present circumstances in one manner, the second speaks to our world in a rather different way. In the "Preface" to The Anathemata, while David Jones spoke of the experiments from which he had extracted selected “fragments” to create The Anathemata he said of the original work that “what was then written is another book”17. Interestingly, it was only in the final draft of that "Preface" where he deleted the phrase “perhaps a better book.” While I greatly doubt that “what was then written” was a “better book” than The Anathemata, it is evident that what written was a different book serving a very different purpose than The Anathemata. At the same time, both the unpublished project and The Anathemata were actually complimentary to one another. In late 1942 just as he was completing the first full-draft of his middle conversation, Jones wrote a draft of a letter intended for The Catholic Herald where he wrote

The main characteristics of our age and its products are obvious to all: the standardization, the mass production, the particular kind of organization etc. — the characteristics of the mechanized ‘world state.’ (CF2)
One of David Jones's central themes that he reiterated continually in his letters and essays, both published and unpublished, was the destruction being wrought as a result of the modern, industrialized “world state.” A second theme, though was how western culture and its signa came into being and how they could be preserved in the “December of our culture” (SL 64). As he wrote in a second letter to The Catholic Herald,
To Israel were the promises made. To the Greco-Roman world was granted the privilege of giving modes and forms and shapes and instruments by which those Judaic promises were made available under forms native to themselves. Subsequently, the North and West accepted , or were compelled to accept, those Judaean revelations under those Mediterranean forms and translated them into terms of a Christian art by virtue of imagination. The extremely complex historical result is “our world,” a world of imagination and affection within a pomerium which circuits Kells, Byzantium, Hippo, Upsala. It remains our world even in these global days. (29 November 1942/ CF2)
It was this world of “imagination and affection” that Jones saw as threatened with extinction in “these global days.”

      In effect, David Jones was motivated by two impulses. The first was that of the Jeremiah who saw the coming New World Order and used a Spenglerian system of analogy to critique it in his three Roman conversations. The second was the sacramentalist and conservator who sought to make a meta-sign that would preserve those threatened signa. To the Jeremiah, the Roman Empire provided a useful analogue to our current world. To the conservator, Rome’s empire co-created the conditions that allowed that “world of imagination and affection” to come into being, a world that Jones sought to preserve in The Anathemata. In this sense, then, the three conversations that form The Grail Mass and The Anathemata itself are companion pieces, and even as the Roman conversations outline the current problem, The Anathemata in its celebration and conservation of the endangered signa of the culture offered itself as a solution.

      Harman Grisewood in his introduction to The Dying Gaul wrote that in David Jones’s work: “Rome is not only the historic Rome. It is also the large, conquering, imperial power of money or of military might, wherever in history it is found” (DG 11). This last phrase “wherever it is found” must, I think, give many of us pause as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. If we are not yet in the “December of our culture,” we must acknowledge that, as David Jones writes elsewhere, “the times are late and getting later.” In 1943 while he was engaged on his project, David Jones wrote in "Art in Relation to War" that “Because the Land is Waste,” he intended that his essay “do what the hero in the myth was rebuked for not doing, i.e. it seeks ‘to ask the Question” (DG 123). If Jones’s project has any relevance to our present state, it is because it still forces us to ask the question as to “Why the Land is Waste.”


1.   David Jones, "The Tribune’s Visitation," The Sleeping Lord and other fragments (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), 45-69. In all further instances, when citing David Jones’s work, I note page numbers from The Sleeping Lord and other fragments or The Roman Quarry (designated SL and RQ) and the original manuscript notation (designated MS) and their file locations in The National Library of Wales. Some of Jones’s manuscripts are still being catalogued and in some few instances, the original manuscript sheets have been lost.
   I wish to thank the Trustees of the Estate of David Jones and the National Library of Wales for permission to cite from the unpublished writings of David Jones.

2.   From an unpublished letter from Saunders Lewis to David Jones dated December 31, 1969, on deposit at the David Jones Archive, National Library of Wales, file CT1/4. Although Lewis speaks of hearing the work broadcast, the only broadcast version Jones made was that of the 1958 BBC Third Programme.

3.   From an unpublished letter to Harman Grisewood dated 14 July 1971 cited in Thomas Dilworth’s The Shape of Meaning in the Work of David Jones (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 294.

4.   The history of David Jones’s published fragments is tangled and some clarification is in order. In all, David Jones published five Roman and three Celtic fragments that he had extracted from a longer project that pre-dated The Anathemata. This original project, he claimed, never came together to his satisfaction, and after extracting some sections for use in The Anathemata, he abandoned it. Between the years 1955 and 1973, though, he returned to that project’s remains and extracted parts that he felt could stand alone.
   The five Roman works he extracted were "The Wall," first published in Poetry, 87, No 2, 1955; "The Tribune’s Visitation," first presented on a BBC Third Programme in March of 1958 and first printed in The Listener, 22 May 1958; "The Dream of Private Clitus," which initially appeared in Art and Literature, No 1, March 1964; "The Fatigue," originally published by Rampant Lions Press, in honor of David Jones’s seventieth birthday in 1965; and "The Narrows," appearing in an Agenda David Jones Special Issue, 11:4/12:1 (Autumn/ Winter, 1973-1974). The three Celtic works were "The Tutelar of the Place," first prepared for a BBC broadcast in 1956 and first published in Poetry, 97, No. 4, January 1961; "The Hunt," which was originally recorded by the BBC in March 1958 and published in a substantially different (and earlier) form in Agenda, 4, No. 1, April-May 1965; and "The Sleeping Lord," first published in the David Jones Special Issue of Agenda, 5, Nos, 1-3, Spring-Summer, 1967.
   In creating The Sleeping Lord and other fragments, his final book, Jones gathered together all of these previously published fragments, save for "The Narrows." To these he added two other works. The first was the brief and haunting lament 'A, a, a, Domine Deus,' which appeared in the David Jones issue of Agenda, 5, Nos. 1-3, Spring-Summer, 1967, but which had previously appeared as part of his essay "Art and Sacrament" in Epoch and Artist, the 1959 collection of his selected essays. The second was a fragment “from The Book of Balaam’s Ass,” the work that he claimed was the original work he abandoned in 1940.
   While Jones claimed to have abandoned his original project and he always implied that his published fragments had been extensively revised, The Roman Quarry and Other Sequences and the manuscripts in the National Library of Wales offer a very different story. For the most part, all of the later “fragments” save for the middle section of "The Sleeping Lord," were substantially completed by 1946. In addition, the original versions and the later published versions are often very similar.

5.   This point deserves some qualification. The current paper concerns itself with the Roman material in David Jones’s project. The full project in its most developed pre-Anathemata state (c. 1946) consisted of five distinct sections: a Mass section that framed the entire work in much the same way that the Mass frames The Anathemata; his three “Roman conversations"; and an extensive section of Celtic material that David Jones developed independently beginning in 1943 and inserted directly into the center of his middle Roman conversation. For a full examination of the history of his Celtic material, I would refer the reader to my study "Mapping the Labyrinth: The Ur-Anathemata of David Jones.” Renascence. LI: 4 (Summer 1999) 253-280.

6.   In "To Make (and Unmake) a Shape in Words: David Jones and the Continuation of The Anathemata," in Left Out: Texts and Ur-texts, eds. Nathalie Collé-Bak, Monica Latham, and David Ten Eyck. (Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 2009), I discuss these reasons at length.

7.   From a letter to H.S.E and Helen Ede dated 11 April 1939 published in DaiGreatcoat: A Self Portrait of David Jones in His Letters, ed. René Hague (London: Faber and Faber, 1980) 90. Subsequent citations are cited as DGC.
   The nature of David Jones’s political positions is still a controversial issue. Elizabeth Ward in David Jones: Mythmaker (Manchester: University of Manchester Press, 1983) and William Wooten in his review of Thomas Dilworth’s edition of David Jones’s Wedding Poems in London Review of Books (25 September 2003) claim that Jones’s work evidences at the very least an implied sympathy towards fascism. In contrast, Thomas Dilworth has consistently argued that Jones, while politically naïve, is fundamentally unsympathetic to fascism, most notably in his article "David Jones and Fascism" in The Journal of Modern Literature, 13, No 1 (1986) 149-162. Kathleen Staudt in her study At the Turn of a Civilization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994) points out that, in fairness to Ward, the issue of Jones’s politics have “too often been sidestepped or minimized by Jones’s readers and admirers” (20); however, after an extended analysis of Ward’s argument, she concludes, quite rightly I believe, that “there seems to be no basis for Ward’s discernment of protofascism in Jones’s poetry” (26).
   This current paper does not directly address the issue of Jones’s political positions before and during the Second World War. I am, though, in substantial agreement with both Dilworth and Staudt. Jones’s cultural views were far from the mainstream. Admittedly, he had little trust in western liberal democracy and he was adamant in his opposition to what he saw as the flaws of modernity. With that said, even the most critical reader of the full letters, the still-unpublished essays and essay fragments, and the still-unpublished poetry would be hard pressed to come to the conclusion that Elizabeth Ward and some others have reached based on their readings of what are sometimes partial documents. In fact, I would argue that in some ways, it is the partial documents that have created part of the perception. René Hague, in censoring Jones’s writings, such as Jones’s essay on Hitler on deposit at the Burns Library in Boston College and many of the letters in Dai Greatcoat: A Self-Portrait in His Letters, inadvertently created the appearance that there was material that was potentially damaging. A full disclosure would have shown that Jones’s ideas were clearly conservative but hardly fascist in sympathy.

8.   On October 25th, 1974, David Jones wrote to René Hague that he had once again returned to his project in one final attempt to finish the work. Although he was “beginning to wonder if I can manage what I wanted," he felt he "must make the attempt somehow” (DGC 262). He died three days later.

9.   In a letter dated 28 May 1962, David Jones wrote to Harman Grisewood that in an attempt to complete the project, he was working on two conversations. The first was “a thing I did in 1940 (or thereabouts) about a conversation between Judas and Caiaphas” while the second was “- the dinner party with the old Roman Blimp and the girl and the subaltern in Jerusalem at the time of Our Lord’s Passion.” (DGC 192). Both conversations in very flawed versions have been published in The Roman Quarry as "The Agent" and "The Old Quarry, II."

10.   “Two Letters to Saunders Lewis.” Agenda: David Jones Special Issue. 11.4-12.1. (1973-1974) 23-24.

11.   Jonathan Miles and Derek Shiel in David Jones: The Maker Unmade (Bridgend: Seren, 1995) discuss Jones’s works involving the common soldier at the Passion done while he was a student at Westminster Art School, noting of his work "The Betrayal" that “Jones’s experience of soldiery informs his imagining of a Biblical scene and he obviously considered the result successful for he had a more finished version hanging in his room late in life” (38). Further citations are denoted MU.

12.   Letter to Tom Burns dated 15 March 1942. DGC 117.

13.   Jones’s image of Irene cradling Plutus, or wealth, is drawn from a famed statue of Irene and Plutus by Cephisodotus, a Roman copy of which is in the Antiksammlungen, Munich.

14.   While there were four such legions in the region at that time – the Fretensis, the Ferrentium, the Fulminata, and the Gallica – they were stationed not in Jerusalem but close by in Syria. In a number of Jones’s revisions, particularly those in the third conversation, he plays with the historical possibility that troops from those legions might have been called in due to the volatile circumstances surrounding the Passover.

15.   David Jones, The Dying Gaul and Other Writings, ed. with an introduction by Harman Grisewood. (London: Faber and Faber, 1978) 88. Subsequent citations in endnotes are cited as DG.

16.   There is often a direct correlation between Jones’s visual work and his writings composed during the same time. In some cases experiments in one area became a means of working out problems in another. For example, Jones’s work "A Map of the Themes in the Artist’s Mind" began in an attempt to clarify material that he was using in the Celtic section of his poetic project. In the case at hand, as he was attempting to work out his complex attitude toward Rome as embodiment of Imperialism and global world culture and Rome as necessary force in the development of what has since become a common cultural heritage in his project, he was also at work on the painting "The Mother of the West," a work he created in 1942 while he was engaged on his Roman conversations. In the painting (a pencil, ink and watercolor on paper), the Roman she-wolf nourishes the "Agnus Dei," which has been wounded. Surrounding the two animals are the destroyed icons of religion amidst Roman siege engines. As Shiel and Miles write, “The scene appears to be an outpost of an assailed Roman Empire, hence, according to the Spenglerian scheme, contemporaneous with Jones’s own time, and the landscape also is suggestive of the Western Front.” According to Miles and Shiel, the work is “original in concept but unsuccessful in form” (MU 235). Typical of many of Jones’s paintings of this period, the painting is overcrowded with detail and didactically insistent (although upon what exactly what it is insisting is, as Shiel and Miles note, unclear), all of the elements simultaneously competing for attention. At the same time, when seen in conjunction with his Roman project of the same period, it is clear that collectively the paintings and poetry are, in some instances, more attempts to work out an issue than they are finished works of art.

17.   David Jones, The Anathemata: fragments of an attempted writing (London: Faber and Faber, 1972) 14.