Long thought to be a fabulous hoax played by Hugh Kenner on Ezra Pound for his 75th birthday, the “Mucorix Manscript,” as it has come to be known, has been baffling scholars for years. But now a Latinist from Finland Boj Neirbo says he has unraveled the mystery of the, until now, untranslatable document, claiming that the late Latin Classical text, a weird hybrid of Latin and Aramaic, can be sourced to a time immediately following the nadir of Roman poetry.
Looking at the subtexts, pretexts, ur-texts and contexts in the manuscript, Professor Selywn Mauberly of Puerto Rico State University and his colleague Johnathan Boy were “immediately struck by the authenticity” of the phrasing, syntax and diction.
“I think the late Mr. Kenner would be pleased to know that his little joke turned out to be something rather spectacular,” Mauberly writes in the official journal of Roman verse, Latin Poetry Yesterday – and, Yes, Today. “He must have known the world would eventually discover what he passed off as his own was in fact a long-lost manuscript from a poet who calls himself Ferrugus Mucorix – an obvious pseudonym.”
Also given the title “Carmina Mucronis” by the 9th century English monastic scholar St. Hubbins of Butterbreadbury, the enigmatic manuscript, which is dated to sometime in late winter A.D. 1-3., is filled with simple yet startling images, erotic themes and quite a bit of immature humor, Mauberly states. The centerpiece of the collection, a long didactic poem which blends epic, satire and scatological humor, is of particular note for the clues it leaves regarding other manuscript mysteries still raging in the heady world of contemporary classical scholarship.
“I’d be telling tales out of school if I said any more,” Neirbo said, speaking without even a whiff of a Swedish accent at a press conference held in the third booth on the left from the rest rooms at a Denny’s in Hoboken, NJ. “You just have to buy the book.”
According to Mauberly, at the same press conference, the work also includes a number of fragments of what appear to be a larger work.
“There are a swarm of theories swirling around the Maypole, much like those pieces of well-chewed meat that swirl around a sink drain but never seem to get to take the final plunge,” Mauberly said as he gave a sideways sneering glance to Neirbo. “But the most popular, and by far the most credible, I might add, is the belief that these fragments were actually part of a larger work attempting to celebrate the glories of the Roman sewer system such as it was at that time.”
While not at the press conference, Mauberly’s assistant, Boy, noted that it sought to do for plumbing what the renowned Roman epic poet Vergil’s Georgics did for farming.
“You might call it ‘The Cloacics’,” he said by phone from what sounded like someplace deep in a well with the constant rumble of large machinery in the background.
Also intriguing Mucorix scholars for years was the identity of Flavia, to whom many of the poems were addressed. From the text, scholars have gleaned that she was an Arabian slave with whom Mucorix has several trysts and who is owned by an individual identified as Calvus.
“As an objet de mon affection Flavia really out-Lesbias Lesbia, truly eclipses Cynthia and, in fact, indeed, decidedly, even, serves as a sort of uber-Kerouac,” Mauberly said at the same press conference between bites of warmed over bacon and cold fried eggs, alluding to Mucorix’s predecessors, the 1st century Roman poets Catullus and Sextus Propertius, and 20th century Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg.
“But there’s a lack of originality there to Flavia which pretends to something else,” Neirbo said not quite under his breath, fixing Mauberly with a cold stare as he reacted to Mauberly’s tart reminder that Denny’s no longer has a “smoking section” by stabbing his cigarette out in the yolk of Mauberly’s third egg, which Mauberly said he “wasn’t going to eat anyway.”
Mauberly then proceeded to order a strawberry ice cream soda.
Running to a little more than 20 pages, the manuscript has been traced by Mauberly to actor Rudolph Valentino, who it is believed purchased the manuscript back in the early 1920s in Syria as the actor, an early proponent of method acting techniques, was sifting through palimpsests at a book stall in a Damascus market. It then vanished, Mauberly says, before resurfacing at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C., in time for the poet Pound’s 75th birthday. It is now housed in the New Jersey State University Lou Costello Library, Exit 32.
“Can I get some more coffee?” Neirbo said, lifting his cup as he attempted to gain the attention of the waitress, who said she didn’t “have time for his shit.”
“That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted,” added Mauberly looking up from the bits of strawberry seed collecting at the bottom of his glass.
Editor’s Note: Add another first to Korrektiv’s long list of accomplishments! After consulting with Boj Neirbo and pushing enough alcohol and tobacco in his direction, Korrektiv has acquired the first North American rights to his translation of the Mucorix Manuscript. Beginning with the introductory poem (which appears below), Korrektiv will be periodically publishing the collected works of Mucorix over the next month. I’m sure you will all be excited as the Korrektiv Kollektiv in seeing this important literary figure virtually resurrected before your eyes here at Korrektiv, where yesterday’s poets are and always remain yesterday’s poets today.
Carmina Mucronis: I
Stride on, my strident little book,
and tell the days of love and war;
stride on from noisy city avenues
to farms that lie in peaceful sunlight,
up the fields flush with wine
awaiting harvest vats and jars –
and tell Mars of your conquests,
all the while dedicated to Venus
who alone holds your shaft and shield,
mixing love and war in her bowl.
Stride on, my strident little book,
and tell the days of love and war
to the fortunate Gaius Laternium;
o, for he shall have you at last
when in his cups, clattering full
with mirthy bubbled blood
of love, that heady mixture of wine
and mellowing honey. For you,
famous scribbler of time and place,
here are some accounts of battle
given in softer measures than yours.
May Venus grant me a good vintage
in polished jars of posterity!