The Vesper-Song of the Reverend Samuel Marsden

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Representation and Text
Conflicting Perspectives
The Vesper-song of the
Reverend Samuel Marsden
Stewart McGowan, HSPA, 2011
Lecture Overview
• Encourage personal response to related
texts, particularly Slessor’s poem
• Use the rubric sheet to guide analysis of
texts
• Focus on language features of Slessor’s
representation of Marsden
• Provide insight into relating chosen texts
to Conflicting Perspectives and The
Justice Game
MODULE C: Representation and Text
This module requires students to explore various representations of
events, personalities or situations. They evaluate how medium of
production, textual form, perspective and choice of language influence
meaning. The study develops students’ understanding of the
relationships between representation and meaning. (Reread English
Stage 6 Syllabus, p 52.)
ELECTIVES: Advanced
MODULE C: Representation and Text
Elective 1: Conflicting Perspectives
In their responding and composing, students consider the ways in which
conflicting perspectives on events, personalities or situations are
represented in their prescribed text and other related texts of their own
choosing. Students analyse and evaluate how acts of representation, such
as the choice of textual forms, features and language, shape meaning and
influence responses.
Students choose one of the following texts as the basis of their further
exploration of the representations of conflicting perspectives.
Background: Marsden
• http://www.adb.online.
anu.edu.au/biogs/A02
0176b.htm
• Wikipedia article
includes a description
of Marsden
overseeing the
flogging of convicts
MARSDEN, SAMUEL (1765-1838), chaplain, missionary and farmer, was born on 24
June 1765 at Farsley, Yorkshire, England, the son of Thomas Marsden, a blacksmith…
…
The advent of the more religiously inclined Governor John Hunter in 1795 recognized the
chaplain's efforts to reclaim the convicts' souls or at least to achieve an outward
observance of moral and religious injunctions; but this effect was counterbalanced by
Marsden's appointment as a magistrate and superintendent of government affairs at
Parramatta. Clerical justices were common in England at the time but his magisterial
posts kept him occupied with heavy temporal duties, and they also further estranged him
as a clergyman from the convicts to whom he dispensed justice. No aspects of
Marsden's activities did more harm to his pastoral work or to his historical character in
Australia than his reputation for extreme severity as a magistrate. This was firmly set by
September 1800 when, in the course of an inquiry into a suspected Irish uprising, Judge
Advocate Richard Atkins and Marsden had a suspect flogged mercilessly in the hope of
securing information about hidden weapons. This particular action was scarcely
defensible, but Marsden was not the only magistrate who ordered the infliction of illegal
punishments. His general severity can be attributed to his high-mindedness, his
passionate detestation of sin and his conviction that Parramatta was such a sink of
iniquity that morality could be preserved only by the most rigorous disciplinary measures.
For all that, the flogging parson, like the hanging judge, is commonly regarded as an
unattractive character.
MARSDEN, SAMUEL (1765-1838), chaplain, missionary and farmer, was born on 24
June 1765 at Farsley, Yorkshire, England, the son of Thomas Marsden, a blacksmith…
…
The advent of the more religiously inclined Governor John Hunter in 1795 recognized the
chaplain's efforts to reclaim the convicts' souls or at least to achieve an outward
observance of moral and religious injunctions; but this effect was counterbalanced by
Marsden's appointment as a magistrate and superintendent of government affairs at
Parramatta. Clerical justices were common in England at the time but his magisterial
posts kept him occupied with heavy temporal duties, and they also further estranged him
as a clergyman from the convicts to whom he dispensed justice. No aspects of
Marsden's activities did more harm to his pastoral work or to his historical character in
Australia than his reputation for extreme severity as a magistrate. This was firmly set by
September 1800 when, in the course of an inquiry into a suspected Irish uprising, Judge
Advocate Richard Atkins and Marsden had a suspect flogged mercilessly in the hope of
securing information about hidden weapons. This particular action was scarcely
defensible, but Marsden was not the only magistrate who ordered the infliction of illegal
punishments. His general severity can be attributed to his high-mindedness, his
passionate detestation of sin and his conviction that Parramatta was such a sink of
iniquity that morality could be preserved only by the most rigorous disciplinary measures.
For all that, the flogging parson, like the hanging judge, is commonly regarded as an
unattractive character.
Rubric
Examples and significance
Representation of events, personalities
and situations
 About a personality and his influence: Rev Samuel
Marsden
Conflicting perspectives
 Notes that the man is controversial: is he a ‘hard man
for hard times’ or a sadist?
Evaluate medium of production, textual
form, perspective and language choice
Biographical article – online. Concerned with
objectivity while still drawing conclusions about the
character and significance of the man
 Academic language.
 attempts to summarise the historical assessment of
Marsden.
Concentrates on factual details initially, then on a
balanced assessment of his character
 e.g. ‘Marsden was not the only magistrate who
ordered the infliction of illegal punishments’: focus is
on the historical perspective rather than the character of
the man
How do choices shape meaning and
influence response?
 article is learned, largely dispassionate and factual.
Background: Marsden
.
The very first blows made the blood
spout out from Fitzgerald's shoulders;
and I felt so disgusted and horrified,
that I turned my face away from the
cruel sight. ...
I have witnessed many horrible
scenes; but this was the most appalling
sight I had ever seen. The day was
windy, and I protest. that although I
was at least fifteen yards to leeward,
from the sufferers, the blood, skin, and
flesh blew in my face as the
executioners shook it off from their
cats. Fitzgerald received his whole
three hundred lashes,
Rubric
Examples and significance
Representation of events, personalities
and situations
 Focus is on an event: an eye-witness account of a
flogging
Conflicting perspectives
 initial conflict is between convicts and the law.
However, the narrator ‘s view can be inferred
Evaluate medium of production, textual
form, perspective and language choice
 eye-witness account: primary source
 some unfamiliar language: leeward, cats
description dwells on the details of the punishment:
“although I was at least fifteen yards to leeward, from
the sufferers, the blood, skin, and flesh blew in my face
as the executioners shook it off from their cats”
 personal view clearly indicated: “appalling”
How do choices shape meaning and
influence response?
 narrator shows and tells us of his disagreement with
the situation; he positions us close to the event in an
effort to get us to share the horror that he feels.
The Vesper-song of the
Reverend Samuel Marsden
Kenneth Slessor
The Vesper-song of the
Reverend Samuel
Marsden
First Responses
VESPER-SONG OF
THE REVEREND SAMUEL MARSDEN
My cure of souls, my cage of brutes,
Go lick and learn at these my boots!
When tainted highways tear a hole,
I bid my cobbler welt the sole.
0, ye that wear the boots of Hell,
Shall I not welt a soul as well?
0, souls that leak with holes of sin,
Shall I not let God's leather in,
or hit with sacramental knout
Your twice-convicted vileness out?
Lord, I have sung with ceaseless lips
A tinker's litany of whips,
Have graved another Testament
On backs bowed down and bodies bent.
My stripes of jewelled blood repeat
A scarlet Grace for holy meat.
Not mine, the Hand that writes the weal
On this, my vellum of puffed veal,
Not mine, the glory that endures,
But Yours, dear God, entirely Yours.
Are there not Saints in holier skies
Who have been scourged to
Paradise?
0, Lord, when I have come to that,
Grant there may be a Heavenly Cat
With twice as many tails as hereAnd make me, God, Your Overseer.
But if the veins of Saints be dead,
Grant me a whip in Hell instead,
Where blood is not so hard to fetch.
But I, Lord, am Your humble wretch.
- Kenneth Slessor
Rubric
Examples and significance
Representation of events, personalities
and situations
 Focus is on an personality
 Slessor imagines Marsden addressing his
‘congregation’:
Conflicting perspectives
 Conflict is initially between Marsden and the
convicts
Evaluate medium of production, textual
form, perspective and language choice
 poem, first person, language is of exceptionally high
modality: ‘come lick and learn at these my boots’
 written in the 1930’s, near the centenary of
Marsden’s death. Written against the background of the
Depression and inevitable war
Marsden’s humility is ironic: ‘humble wretch’ – no!
 much of the language is unfamiliar:
Language –vocabulary
Cure – pun: curates in the church have charge over a cure
 sole: another pun human soul/ sole of a shoe
God’s leather i.e. A whip
Sacrament: a holy service
 knout: another sort of whip
 twice-convicted: i.e. A convict who has again broken the law
 tinker’s litany: tinkers wares would clatter and rattle as they
approached: a litany is a religious chant or song
 graved: another pun: engraved/ sent to his grave
 testament: Old and New... But note what the Bible says about
anyone who writes ‘another testament
Language –vocabulary
 stripes of jewelled blood: the marks of the whip – but note the
metaphor! Like jewels! (Milton + false paradise?)
Grace: ‘state of Grace’ a state of spiritual contentment
 weal: wound left by a whip
 vellum: soft, thin leather, originally used for books (note the
extended metaphor
 glory is ironic: Gloria in excelsis deo Glory to God! Marsden
hypocritically claims that he does all this for god
 scourged: cleansed of sin by whipping. Suggests sadomasochism
 cat: cat-o’ nine tails – a whip (but the multiple tails...)
 overseer: responsible for supervising (and punishing) convicts
 ‘grant me a whip in Hell instead’: if you don’t need someone to
swing a whip in heaven....
VESPER-SONG OF
THE REVEREND SAMUEL MARSDEN
My cure of souls, my cage of brutes,
Go lick and learn at these my boots!
When tainted highways tear a hole,
I bid my cobbler welt the sole.
0, ye that wear the boots of Hell,
Shall I not welt a soul as well?
0, souls that leak with holes of sin,
Shall I not let God's leather in,
or hit with sacramental knout
Your twice-convicted vileness out?
Lord, I have sung with ceaseless lips
A tinker's litany of whips,
Have graved another Testament
On backs bowed down and bodies bent.
My stripes of jewelled blood repeat
A scarlet Grace for holy meat.
Not mine, the Hand that writes the weal
On this, my vellum of puffed veal,
Not mine, the glory that endures,
But Yours, dear God, entirely Yours.
Are there not Saints in holier skies
Who have been scourged to
Paradise?
0, Lord, when I have come to that,
Grant there may be a Heavenly Cat
With twice as many tails as hereAnd make me, God, Your Overseer.
But if the veins of Saints be dead,
Grant me a whip in Hell instead,
Where blood is not so hard to fetch.
But I, Lord, am Your humble wretch.
VESPER-SONG OF
THE REVEREND SAMUEL MARSDEN
My cure of souls, my cage of brutes,
Go lick and learn at these my boots!
When tainted highways tear a hole,
I bid my cobbler welt the sole.
0, ye that wear the boots of Hell,
Shall I not welt a soul as well?
0, souls that leak with holes of sin,
Shall I not let God's leather in,
or hit with sacramental knout
Your twice-convicted vileness out?
Lord, I have sung with ceaseless lips
A tinker's litany of whips,
Have graved another Testament
On backs bowed down and bodies bent.
My stripes of jewelled blood repeat
A scarlet Grace for holy meat.
Not mine, the Hand that writes the weal
On this, my vellum of puffed veal,
Not mine, the glory that endures,
But Yours, dear God, entirely Yours.
Are there not Saints in holier skies
Who have been scourged to
Paradise?
0, Lord, when I have come to that,
Grant there may be a Heavenly Cat
With twice as many tails as hereAnd make me, God, Your Overseer.
But if the veins of Saints be dead,
Grant me a whip in Hell instead,
Where blood is not so hard to fetch.
But I, Lord, am Your humble wretch.
Rubric
How do choices shape meaning and
influence response?
Draft paragraph:
This is the incomplete draft of my
paragraph. More needs to be done.
Specifically, it still needs to be linked to
The Justice Game. Try this for
yourselves: finish this paragraph and
then write another that explores the links
between this poem and one of the
chapters in TJG.
A final note: do you agree that this is a
more effective related text than the two
historical sources? What does this tell
you about choosing related texts?
Examples and significance
Slessor uses the medium of poetry to launch a
vicious satirical critique of Samuel Marsden and
the values and attitudes he represents. He has his
persona speak of how his ‘...stripes of jewelled
blood repeat/ A scarlet Grace for holy meat.’ It is
a startling image that combines the religious idea
of ‘Grace’ and the comparison of pieces of ‘meat’
flying from the backs of whipped convicts as
‘jewels.’ Slessor challenges the historical view of
Marsden as a tough man for tough times,
showing us instead a hypocritical sadist. In terms
of conflicting perspectives. Slessor’s perspective
on Marsden is an effective critique of those who
would use violence to…
VESPER-SONG OF
THE REVEREND SAMUEL MARSDEN
My cure of souls, my cage of brutes,
Go lick and learn at these my boots!
When tainted highways tear a hole,
I bid my cobbler welt the sole.
0, ye that wear the boots of Hell,
Shall I not welt a soul as well?
0, souls that leak with holes of sin,
Shall I not let God's leather in,
or hit with sacramental knout
Your twice-convicted vileness out?
Lord, I have sung with ceaseless lips
A tinker's litany of whips,
Have graved another Testament
On backs bowed down and bodies bent.
My stripes of jewelled blood repeat
A scarlet Grace for holy meat.
Not mine, the Hand that writes the weal
On this, my vellum of puffed veal,
Not mine, the glory that endures,
But Yours, dear God, entirely Yours.
Are there not Saints in holier skies
Who have been scourged to
Paradise?
0, Lord, when I have come to that,
Grant there may be a Heavenly Cat
With twice as many tails as hereAnd make me, God, Your Overseer.
But if the veins of Saints be dead,
Grant me a whip in Hell instead,
Where blood is not so hard to fetch.
But I, Lord, am Your humble wretch.
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