Pulcinella in Hades
Pulcinella in Hades is a limited edition accordion fold book… eight feet of continuous four plate color etchings, vertically descending into Hades. It’s a comedy. The protagonist, who appears in every image, is Pulcinella of the commedia dell’arte. Why an underworld journey should be treated as a comedy can perhaps best be explained by the tremendous amount of literature to back up the view that Hell is indeed a merry place. Comic journeys to Hell and Hades are long standing traditions, and quotes relating to this tradition appear in the margins of this book.
The central image is bordered by handwritten texts from Plato to Bertolt Brecht, from William Blake to Wilfred Owen as well as many other writers who had a vision of the underworld. The quotes were written out in what amounts to a 21st century handwriting sample by seventeen different people – artists, filmmakers, professors, doctors, etc. These texts were then converted into letterpress plates and printed on the margins of the prints by Jonathan Clark of Artichoke Press, Mountain View, California.
Texts in order of appearance.
The Devil said, “In order that you may receive the wages you have earned, go and fill your knapsack full of the sweepings, and take it home with you. You must also go unwashed and uncombed, with long hair on your head and beard, and with uncut nails and dim eyes; and when you are asked whence you come, you must say, ‘From hell.’”
Brothers Grimm, The Devil’s Sooty Brother. translated by Margaret Hunt
Marginaliaist – David Beronä
You great star, what would your happiness be had you not those for whom you shine?
For ten years you have climbed to my cave: you would have tired of your light and of the journey had it not been for me and my eagle and my serpent.
But we waited for you every morning, took your overflow from you, and blessed you for it.
Behold, I am weary of my wisdom, like a bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to receive it.
I would give away and distribute, until the wise among men find joy again in their folly, and the poor in their riches.
For that I must descend to the depths, as you do in the evening when you go behind the sea and still bring light to the underworld, you overrich star.
Like you, I must go under
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, translated by Walter Kaufmann
Marginaliaist – DeWitt Cheng
O nobly-born, listen undistractedly. Not having been able to recognize when the Peaceful Deities shone upon thee in the Bardo above, thou hast come wandering thus far. Now, on the Eighth Day, the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities will come to shine. Act so as to recognize them without being distracted.
O nobly-born, by not recognizing now, and by fleeing from the deities out of fear, again suffering will come to overpower thee.
Tibetan Book of the Dead , translated by W. Y. Evans-Wentz
Marginaliaist – Mary Ellen Landes
An Angel came to me and said O pitiable foolish young man! O horrible! O dreadful state! consider the hot burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to all eternity, to which thou art going in such career.
I said. perhaps you will be willing to shew me my eternal lot & we will contemplate together upon it and see whether your lot or mine is most desirable.
So he took me thro’ a stable & thro’ a church & down into the church vault at the end of which was a mill; thro’ the mill we went, and came to a cave, down the winding cavern we groped our tedious way till a void boundless as a nether sky appear’d beneath us & we held by the roots of trees and hung over this immensity, but I said, if you please we will commit ourselves to the void, and see whether providence is here also, if you will not I will?
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Marginaliaist – Louis Girling
And that girl the world, who gives herself and giggles
If you only let her crush you with her thighs,
Shared with Baal, who loved it, orgiastic wriggles.
But he did not die. He looked her in the eyes.
When Baal saw that she was surrounded with the dead
Baal’s delight was multiplied by three.
There is room, they’re just a few, Baal said.
There is room, he said, above her knee.
Bertolt Brecht, Chorale of the Great Baal, translated by Eric Bentley and Martin Esslin
Marginaliaist – Jonathan Clark
Here at the spot Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims fast, and I, drawing my sharp sword from beside my hip, dug a trench of about a forearm’s depth and length and around it poured libations out to all the dead, … and again I vowed to all the dead, to the drifting listless spirits of their ghosts, that once I returned to Ithaca I would slaughter a barren heifer in my halls, … And once my vows and prayers had invoked the nations of the dead, I took the victims, over the trench I cut their throats and the dark blood flowed in – and up out of Erebus they came, flocking toward me now, the ghosts of the dead and gone…
Homer, The Odyssey, Book 11, translated by Robert Fagles
Marginaliaist – Marc Wallace Wolodarsky
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
Wilfred Owen, Strange Meeting
Marginaliaist –Charles Schlossman
After we won the war the whole of us were gladly marching to the town. But as the “Invisible and Invincible Pawn” woke up all the dead soldiers and replaced their heads which were cut off by the enemies to their necks and as my own was cut off as well, so he mistakenly put a ghost’s head on my neck instead of mine. But as every ghost is talkative, so this head was always making various noises both day and night and also smelling badly. Whether I was talking or not it would be talking out the words which I did not mean in my mind and was telling out all my secret aims which I was planning in mind whether to escape from there to another town or to start to find the way to my home town as usual.
Amos Tutuola, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Marginaliaist – Yumiko Masuzawa
And now he began to speak, and said that he had seen the devil, had spoken with Lucifer familiarly, and had been very merry in hell, and in the Elysian fields; affirming very seriously before them all, that the devils were boon companions and merry fellows: but in respect of the damned, he said he was very sorry that Panurge had so soon called him back into this world again: “For,” said he, “I took wonderful delight to see them.” “How so?” said Pantagruel. “Because,” said Epistemon, “they do not use them so badly, as you think they do.”… “Those that had been great lords and ladies here, got but a poor, scurvy wretched livelihood below. But, the philosophers and others, who in this world had been poor, were great lords down there.”
François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel Book II, translated by Sir Thomas Urquhart
Marginaliaist – Timothy Hampton
I went down to Satan's kitchen
To break my fast one morning,
And there I saw souls piping hot
All on the spit a-turning.
And there I took a cauldron
Where boil’d ten thousand harlots
Though full of flame, I drank the same
To the health of all such varlets!
My staff has murdered giants,
My bag a long knife carries,
To cut mince pies from children's thighs
With which I feed the fairies.
Traditional, Tom O'Bedlam’s Song
Marginaliaist –Darryl Cohen
For I not long ago swallowed down one dead, Lazarus by name; and not long after, one of the living by a single word dragged him up by force out of my bowels: and I think that it was he of whom thou speakest. If, therefore, we receive him here, I am afraid lest perchance we be in danger even about the rest. For, lo, all those that I have swallowed from eternity I perceive to be in commotion, and I am pained in my belly. And the snatching away of Lazarus beforehand seems to me to be no good sign: for not like a dead body, but like an eagle, he flew out of me; for so suddenly did the earth throw him out.
The Gospel of Nicodemus, The Harrowing of Hell Chapter 5, translation edited by Tischendorf
Marginaliaist – Art Hazelwood
Only one who’s also raised
the lyre among shades
may return unending
praise with warning.
Only one who’s tasted
the poppy of the dead
with them won’t forget
the tone so delicate.
Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus: First Series, Nine, translated by A. Poulin, Jr.
Marginaliaist – Simon Blattner
And then the mob of devils made a great to-do over Jurgen.
“ For it is exceedingly good to have at least one unpretentious and undictatorial human being in Hell. Nobody as a rule drops in on us save inordinately proud and conscientious ghosts, whose self-conceit is intolerable, and whose demands are outrageous.”
“ How can that be?”
“ Why, we have to punish them. Of course they are not properly punished until they are convinced that what is happening to them is just and adequate. And you have no notion what elaborate tortures they insist their exceeding wickedness has merited, as though that which they did or left undone could possibly matter to anybody. And to contrive these torments quite tires us out.”
James Branch Cabell, Jurgen
Marginaliaist – David Avery
And even while he prayed began her answer:
“ O seed of divine blood, O Trojan son of Anchises,
The Way down to Avernus is easy going –
Night and day the door of the Dark God
Is open wide – but to retrace your steps,
To re-climb to the upper air: what a task, what toil!
Virgil, The Aeneid, translated by Patric Dickinson
Marginaliaist – Larry Warnock
“…Nevertheless, as I am thus delightfully honoured by thine entry here, my lovely brother, I wish to return with thee to the living world. Now I go to discuss the matter with the gods of Yomi. Wait thou here, and look not upon me.” So having spoken, she went back; and Izanagi waited for her. But she tarried so long within that he became impatient. Then, taking the wooden comb that he wore in the left bunch of his hair, he broke off a tooth from one end of the comb and lighted it, and went in to look for Izanami-no-Mikoto. But he saw her lying swollen and festering among worms; and eight kinds of Thunder-Gods sat upon her… and Izanagi, being overawed by that sight, would have fled away; but Izanami rose up, crying: “Thou hast put me to shame! Why didst thou not observe that which I charged thee?…
Japanese Myth as told by Lafcadio Hearn in Japan an Attempt at Interpretation
Marginaliaist – Klaus-Ullrich S. Rötscher
Then after the others had passed through, all traveled into the Plain of Oblivion through terrible stifling heat; for the plain is bare of trees and all that grows on the earth. There he said they camped, as evening was coming on, beside the River of Neglectfulness, whose water no vessel will hold. Everyone was compelled to drink a measure of this water; but those who were not saved by prudence drank more than the measure, and whoever drank forgot everything. When they were laid to sleep and midnight came, there was thunder and earthquake and then suddenly they were carried upward this way and that to birth, like shooting stars. Er was himself prevented from drinking the water; yet how and by what way he came again to his body, he knew not, only he suddenly opened his eyes in the morning and saw himself lying upon the pyre.
Plato, The Republic Book X, translated by W. H. D. Rouse
Marginaliaist – Jessica Dunne
The Guide and I into that hidden road
Now entered, to return to the bright world;
And without care of having any rest
We mounted up, he first and I second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things which Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri, Inferno, canto XXXIV, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Marginaliaist – Julie Armistead
… this I shall do by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell as salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.
William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Marginaliaist – Art Hazelwood
More about the text in Pulcinella in Hades
It should be said that many great books were read or reread in the course of selecting the marginalia text. David Avery was an essential comrade in this search and in the joy of discovering so many texts. I believe the only textual regret is that Aristophanes’ The Frogs, which is a play we discovered towards the end of the project, could not be adequately excerpted. It seems to be such a perfect match for Pulcinella in Hades. In The Frogs, it is Dionysus who takes a comic journey to Hades. For the optimal viewing experience Pulcinella in Hades should be viewed while listening to the opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck.
Seventeen people were asked to write in their own hand the literary marginalia selected to accompany the text. Many complained that their handwriting is terrible. Many were correct. This little booklet is meant to aid in the reading of the marginalia.
- Art Hazelwood
Marginal Note on Marginalia
- Timothy Hampton, UC Berkeley