Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thomas Hardy: Architectural Masks

I have The Wordsworth Poetry Library edition of Thomas Hardy's poetry, The Works of Thomas Hardy, which contains all of his poetry.  Every so often I take it down and browse through it, seeing what pops what.  I'm invariably surprised by the wide variety of his poetry, some somewhat dour, some cheerful, but all thoughtful.  This is one I just came across, one I don't remember having read before.

Architectural Masks
There is a house with ivied walls,
And mullioned windows worn and old,
And the long dwellers in those halls
Have souls that know but sordid calls,
          And daily dote on gold.

In blazing brick and plated show
Not far away a "villa" gleams,
And here a family few may know,
With book and pencil, viol and bow,
           Lead inner lives of dreams.

The philosophic passers say,
"See that old mansion mossed and fair,
Poetic souls therein are they:
And O that gaudy box!  Away,
            You vulgar people there."

Hardy was trained as an architect and worked for about five years for an architectural firm.  I wonder if any of his experiences as an architect are reflected above. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gracian--talking about oneself

No. 117

"Never talk about yourself.  For you either praise, which is vanity, or you reproach, which is poor spirit, in both instances evincing a guilty heart in the speaker, which gives pain to the listener:  if it is to be avoid in private life, it is to be shunned even more in public office, where you speak to the crowd, and where you at once pass as a fool if you but give the semblance of it.  A similar weakness of mind lies in speech about those present, because of the danger of foundering on either of two rocks, that of overappreciation or that of depreciation." 

Baltasar Gracian
from The Art of Worldly Wisdom
trans. Martin Fischer

Seems somehow rather appropriate right now, or so I believe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

G. K. Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday

I haven't read much by G. K. Chesterton, save for a number of his Father Brown mysteries.  Therefore, I was expecting an espionage tale with a rather traditional flavor.  The cover of the copy I read had a blurb by Kingsley Amis:  "The most thrilling book I have ever read."   Well, that wasn't exactly what I got when I began reading.

It's a farce, a satire, with a distinct flavor of  Monty Python.  I am also reminded of Joseph Conrad's satiric The Secret Agent, in which the anarchists are depicted as a fairly harmless and silly bunch of parlor terrorists, all except for the Professor, of course   What is curious is that Conrad's The Secret Agent was published in 1907, a year earlier than the publishing date of 1908 for Chesterton's novel.

A satire, even perhaps a farce, for how else could one characterize Chesterton's spy novel in which the head of the British Secret Police conducts his interviews in a darkened room so those who work for him don't know who he is?  In contrast, the evil anarchists are out in the open, holding their meetings out on a balcony where anyone can see and hear them.  Moreover,  the head of the anarchists,  Sunday ( the seven members of the Council identify themselves as days of the week) wears a white suit, and everybody knows who he is.   A Central Anarchist Council?   Organized anarchists? 

Gabriel Syme is recruited for the British Secret Police.  He is the perfect foil for what follows because he is serious about his new occupation and concerned about the harm the anarchists might do.  He's also very naive, foolishly naive, and a perfect picture of the stereotyped noble Englishman.   His task is to infiltrate the anarchists, discover their plans, and report his findings without revealing his true identity.  However, he carries his identification as a member of the secret police with him, just in case he has to identify himself.

In order to be admitted into an anarchist meeting, he has to promise to the anarchist he meets that he won't reveal anything he learns at the meeting to the police.  He manages to get himself elected to the Council and is known as  Thursday.  However, after the meeting he finds himself in a quandary.  He has infiltrated the Central Anarchist Council and is now aware of a plot to kill the Czar and the French President who will be meeting in a few days. But, since he has promised he won't reveal what he knows to the police, he decides that he can't warn the authorities for that would be going back on his word, and to a true Englishman,  his  word is a sacred bond. Consequently, he decides he must stop the assassination on his own.

What follows is farcical.  Those whom he believes are enemies turn out to be friends, while those he believed to support him, turn out to be enemies, for awhile anyway.  After a while, he doubts himself, as to which side he's on.

He and several fellow officers go to France in order to prevent the assassination.  It turns into a pursuit of  Sunday, the head of the anarchists,  for reasons I won't divulge here.  It would only spoil the fun. It is at this point that I wonder if Chesterton is an ancestor in some way of  Monty Python.  After a bewildering series of chases and escapes in which numerous factions change sides several times, everybody eventually returns to England for the ending, if one chooses to call it that.

The pursuit through France and England included boats, horses, buggies, automobiles, an elephant, and an hot air balloon.  Since the Wright Brothers made their first flight in 1903, travel by aircraft wasn't feasible yet, otherwise I'm sure Chesterton would have included that in the mix (mess?) also.

Highly recommended if you are looking for something to read that shouldn't be taken too seriously (or at least I think so).  On  the other hand, a second reading may cause me to change my mind about that. 

Read and enjoy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wallace Stevens: "The Reader"

I may have mentioned this before, but I will say it again:  Wallace Stevens is an acquired taste, at least that's how I see him.  I can't say he's one of my favorite poets, but every so often I have to browse through my copy of a collection of  his poems,  The Pa/m at the End of the Mind.  So far most of his poems puzzle me to the extent I'm not even sure that I'm getting the overt sense of them, much less anything deeper.  But, once in awhile I encounter one of his quirky ones that strikes a chord somewhere.  Here's the most recent example, and it's an autumn poem also:

The Reader

All night I sat reading a book,
Sat reading as if in a book
Of somber pages.

It was autumn and falling stars
Covered the shrivelled forms
Crouched in the moonlight.

No lamp was burning as I read,
A voice was mumbling, "Everything
Falls back to coldness,

Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermilion pears
Of the leafless garden."

The somber pages bore no print
Except the trace of burning stars
In the frosty heaven.

-- Wallace Stevens --

Falls back to coldness,

Even the musky muscadines,
The melons, the vermilion pears
Of the leafless garden."

 Stevens doesn't seem to be celebrating a rich harvest here, as many autumn poems do.   This is a more somber poem.  He might be contemplating autumn as the prelude to winter and death.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The House of the Dead

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was arrested in 1849 for  being a member of the Petrashevky Circle and sentenced to death.  Granted a last second reprieve (he was about to be executed when the order arrived at the place of execution) he was sentenced to serve time at the prison camp in Omsk, Siberia.  He was released in 1854 and was fortunate to be given permission to return to St. Petersburg.  Without this permission, he would have spent the rest of his life in a town in Siberia, the fate of his "narrator" in the novel.

Perhaps to distance himself as far as possible from the story, Dostoyevsky has adopted the convention of an "editor" who is given a manuscript written by Goryanchikov, a former inmate of a convict prison in Siberia.  This manuscript, of course, is a first person narrative, which gives  the reader the sense of immediacy and the feel of actually being present in the prison.  The only other prison story that I have read so far that made me feel I was there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  I recommend reading them together for an fascinating comparison of the Siberian prison camp under the tzars and  under the commissars.  Frankly I prefer the tzars' prison, for as beastly as life was then, it was still far more humane than under the commissars.

The narrator,  Goryanchikov,  was not a political prisoner as was Dostoyevsky, but like Dostoyevsky he was a nobleman.  He was in prison for killing his wife out of jealousy.   We never learn much about the details for Goryanchikov seems to want to put his former life behind him and seldom thinks about it.  His narrative is about his life in prison, including his reactions to this new and horrifying way of living and the people he meets there.  While there is some parts that focus on the prison staff--guards, administrators, doctors-- most of the narrative concentrates on his fellow prisoners.

Goryanchikov discovered shortly after arriving that he was hated by the majority of the convicts for he was a nobleman.  It wasn't personal; it was class hatred that set him apart.  And, it lasted, he reports, for his entire stay in prison, although it did ease off somewhat near the end of his sentence.  Some of the convicts even wished him well as he finished his sentence and was released.

The structure of the work is mostly chronological and follows a very logical plan.  The first days are treated in considerable detail, with the first weeks, then months, and the first year are dealt with in some detail, while the following years are given in less detail.  Significant events are covered in the latter parts of the narrative, such as his stay in the hospital.  The narrator also spends more time reflecting on issues brought up by his  experiences in prison:  the ideal prison administrator, the different types of guards, the psychological effects of whippings and beatings, the various personalities of his fellow convicts.

This is psychologically well-grounded as we all are far more observant when we are put into a new situation, and details are far more noticeable for their novelty.  As we become familiar with the situation, the novelty dissipates, which now gives us the freedom to step back and gain a larger perspective about our environment.  Moreover, prison life tends to be monotonous with most variety being provided by the convicts themselves and their interactions with each other.  After awhile this furnishes the only novelty in prison as prisoners leave, are transferred, or die and new ones arrive. Occasionally, a new administrator appears or a new guard or staff member arrives, which results in some minor changes, but for the most part, it will be the convicts themselves who provide whatever variety there is.

I found it a fascinating account of a horrifying situation and can only marvel at the adaptability of humans who can survive here.

Highly recommended--and as I mentioned above, this should be read along with Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Quatrain LXV

This is the seventh in a series of linked quatrains that take place in a potter's shop in which the pots attempt to discuss the nature of the Potter/Creator and their relationship to Him.  This one, though,  is a bit different from the others that have preceded it.

First Edition:  Quatrain LXV

Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh,
"My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
     But, fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"

 Second Edition:  Quatrain XCVI

"Well," said another, "Whoso will, let try,
My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
    But fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"

Fifth Edition:  Quatrain LXXXIX

"Well," murmur'd one, "Let whoso make or buy,
My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry:
    But fill me with the old familiar Juice,
Methinks I might recover by-and-by!"

The second, third, and fourth lines of the three editions are identical, except for a comma in the first version that was dropped in the second edition and does not reappear in the fifth edition.  "But" in the first edition is an interjection and the removal of the comma changes it into a conjunction, a change in usage that doesn't seriously affect the sense of the line.

The major changes occur in the first line when "another" is replaced by "one."   The "another" joins the speaker with the others for it is "another" in a series of speakers.  In the fifth edition, "one" separates it from the others to the extent that it is one that speaks and not necessarily one in a series.  In fact, while it is one in a series of speakers, it separates itself  from the others by what it says. While the others attempt to analyze their relationship to the Potter and their likely fates, this one is more concerned with the present.  It is dry and it needs wine, "the old familiar Juice," to help it recover.

This, of course, fits in perfectly with a previous theme brought out by the Poet/Narrator, that of the uselessness of the attempts to answer the universal questions:  How did I get here?  Where did I come from and where am I going?  What is the nature of the Universe?  Is there a Creator and what is the relationship between us?  Previously the Poet/Narrator had listened to saints and sages and wise men but had learned nothing and thereby decided that enjoyment of life was the only sensible course of action. 

In this linked series, various pots had attempted to answer the same questions with the same result: ignorance for they don't know the answers.  Now, one pot has decided that the only course was filling oneself up with wine, "the old familiar Juice."  The Poet/Narrator has used the pots to recreate once again his theme that we don't know and therefore should make the best of it.

This quatrain can also be seen somewhat differently if one favors a religious interpretation.  This pot may be speaking of a loss of faith and is praying to the Creator for that "old familiar Juice" which could be seen as God's grace to restore its faith.   However, that "by-and-by" at the end of the line suggests there's no real hurry.  This reminds me of the famous line from The Confessions of St. Augustine: "God, give me chastity and continence - but not just now."  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Robert Grudin: space-time perception


"We cannot project space-time into psychological experience without profound changes in perception and comprehension.  By fiat of four-dimensionality, "what" becomes "what/when,"  "who" becomes "who/when,"  "you" and "I" and everything undergo similar transformations.  A challenging idea, implying that identities and relationships are always in motion; that attempts to codify them in static, absolute terms are at very best relative and approximate.  To some observers this might suggest absolute relativism, loss of identity, chaos.  But this extreme hypothesis seems to be true neither in science nor in human affairs.  Things may change;  but they change at characteristic rates and in characteristic ways, recognizable and natural.  We search for character, value, truth, not so much like pilgrims seeking a marble shrine, as like listeners perceiving, in different musical instruments at different times, recurring themes and rhythms.  Thus a kind of stability-- perhaps the only real stability--exists in space-time, and our ability to recognize this mobile truth bears the same proportion to normal common sense as physics bears to solid geometry."  

 -- Robert Grudin --
from Time and the Art of Living

An interesting concept.  When I think of a person or object, I shouldn't see this person or object as static and concrete, but I should perceive them as being in motion and liable to change.  My perception of them would then include the notion of change, of some sort of flux.  How would this change my relationship to them?   What would be the effect on me of actually seeing them this way?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Immersion: Wendell Berry and Loren Eiseley

"I have been walking in the woods, and have lain down on the ground to rest.  It is the middle of October, and around me, all through the woods, the leaves are quietly sifting down.  The newly fallen leaves make a dry, comfortable bed, and I lie easy, coming to rest within myself as I seem to do nowadays only when I am in the woods. 

And now a leaf, spiraling down in wild flight, lands on my shirt at about the third button below the collar.  At first I am bemused and mystified by the coincidence--that the leaf should have been so hung, weighted and shaped, so ready to fall, so nudged loose and slanted by the breeze, as to fall where I, by the same delicacy of circumstance, happened to be lying.  The event, among all its ramifying causes and considerations, and finally its mysteries, begins to take on the magnitude of history.  Portent begins to dwell in it.

And suddenly I apprehend in it the dark proposal of the ground.  Under the fallen leaf my breastbone burns with imminent decay.  Other leaves fall.  My body begins its long shudder into humus.  I feel my subtstance escape me, carried into the mold  by beetles and worms.  Days, winds, seasons pass over me as I sink under the leaves.  For a time only sight is left me, a passive awareness of the sky overhead, birds crossing, the mazed interreaching of the treetops, the leaves falling--and then that , too, sinks away.  It is acceptable to me, and I am at peace.

When I move to go, it is as though I rise up out of the world." 

--  Wendell Berry --
from Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season
edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch
Skylight Paths Publishing

Loren Eiseley has been walking for many hours and has come to the Platte River in Nebraska, which stretches from the Rockies to the Missouri and then to the Gulf of Mexico. He is hot and dry and dusty. The River is cold yet inviting and only a few inches deep in most places, but still there are dangerous holes and quicksands. He is alone and he can't swim and he is afraid of water as the result of a childhood incident. Yet, the sight of the River stirs him "with a new idea. I was going to float."

"I thought of all this, standing quietly in the water, feeling the sand shifting away under my toes. Then I lay back in the floating position that left my face to the sky, and shoved off. The sky wheeled over me. For an instant, as I bobbed into the main channel, I had the sensation of sliding down the vast tilted face of the continent. It was then that I felt the cold needles of the alpine springs at my fingertips, and the warmth of the Gulf pulling me southward. Moving with me, leaving its taste upon my mouth and spouting under me in dancing springs of sand, was the immense body of the continent itself, flowing like the river was flowing, grain by grain, mountain by mountain, down to the sea. I was streaming over ancient sea beds thrust aloft where giant reptiles had once sported; I was wearing down the face of time and trundling cloud-wreathed ranges into oblivion. I touched my margins with the delicacy of a crayfish's antennae, and felt great fishes glide about their work.

I drifted by stranded timber cut by beaver in mountain fastnesses; I slid over shallows that had buried the broken axles of prairie schooners and the mired bones of mammoth. I was streaming alive through the hot and working ferment of the sun, or oozing secretively through shady thickets. I was water and the unspeakable alchemies that gestate and take shape in water, the slimy jellies that under the enormous magnification of the sun writhe and whip upward as great barbeled fish mouths, or sink indistinctly back into the murk out of which they arose. Turtle and fish and the pinpoint chirpings of individual frogs are all watery projections, concentrations--as man himself is a concentration--of that indescribable and liquid brew which is compounded in varying proportions of salt and sun and time. It has appearances, but at its heart lies water, and as I was finally edged gently against a sand bar and dropped like any log, I tottered as I arose. I knew once more the body's revolt against emergence into the harsh and unsupporting air, its reluctance to break contact with that mother element which still, at this late point in time, shelters and brings into being nine tenths of everything alive."

-- Loren Eiseley --
from The Immense Journey

While the circumstances are different, and the ideas and the tones are different, the experiences, I think, are the same--the loss of self into the world about.  Berry's is about the ultimate end of all of us--death--and he concludes that "It is acceptable to me, and I am at peace."  Eiseley's theme is about the unity of all--water, life, the continent.  He recapitulates in a way the emergence of life out of non-life.  

I've had only three experiences that could be considered somewhat similar, although the overall tone was one of an overwhelming sense of peace and unity.  The first time was while I was driving along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I had been there for several hours and had made several stops at various viewpoints along the road.  I had a tape in the player and it was playing one of Beethoven's symphonies when I was filled with a sense of peace and belonging?  The feeling is indescribable.  The second occurred years later, when I was returning from another trip to the Grand Canyon and I was driving south from Prescott, Arizona when it happened again, and this time I was listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.  There seems to be a pattern here:  the Grand Canyon, driving, and Beethoven.

The third and last time was, again, years later when I was driving through the upper part of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  The road wound among the peaks with a deep valley to one side and around each corner was another spectacular vista.  This time I was playing a tape of Beethoven's 6th Symphony.  


I'm hoping for a fourth, but .  .  .  

And you?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Eric Hoffer: some thoughts on play


"Man is a luxury-loving animal.  Take away play, fancies, and luxuries, and you will turn man into a dull, sluggish creature, barely energetic enough to obtain a bare subsistence. A society  becomes stagnant when its people are too rational or too serious to be tempted by baubles."

I don't I've ever met a society or a group of people who are too rational, but I know I've met those who are too serious, who believe that the only worthwhile activity is making money, and who assign value on the basis of whether it is profitable.  If they can't make a profit on it, it has no value.  They may play golf but only because one can make profitable contacts out on the greens.

"To be aware how fruitful the playful mood can be is to be immune to the propaganda of the alienated, which extols resentment as a fuel of achievement."


"It is a juvenile notion that a society needs a lofty purpose and a shining vision to achieve much.  Both in the marketplace and on the battlefield men who set their hearts on toys have often displayed unequaled initiative and drive.  And one must be ignorant of the creative process to look for a close correspondence between motive and achievement in the world of thought and imagination."

-- Eric Hoffer --
from Reflections on the Human Condition

Hoffer is not alone when he speaks of the importance of fun and play.  For a similar point of view, go to two posts on  Lin Yutang, one dated October 10, 2011 and another on June 6, 2011.

 Is fiction play?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Loren Eiseley: "Wind Child"


They have just found where Monarch butterflies go
                                                                  in autumn
those red-gold drifters edged in black
that blow like leaves but never         
                              quite coming to rest,
always fluttering  
                              a little out of reach,
over the next house, or just making it
                                     above the hedge
flickering evasively through the last sunlight,
                                       the attrition tremendous,
                                       thousands die,
blown to sea, lost to children, lost to enemies but
                                            beating, beating on,
speed fourteen miles an hour on a three-thousand mile
                                                                             course to Mexico.
                          Where is the compass?
                              We don't know.
                          How did the habit start?
                               We don't know.
                         Why do the insects gather
                                 in great clumps on trees
                                 in the Sierra Madre?
                              We don't know.
They are individualists.  They fly alone.  Who wouldn't
                                                                     in autumn
like to rock and waver southward like an everblowing leaf
             over and through forests and hedges,
                       float in the glades             
                          sip the last nectar?
What a way to go, you make it, or you don't, or the winds
                         snatch you away.
Fly Monarchs and then, if your wings are not too old and frayed,
start the long road back in the spring.  Nature is
                                                 prodigal in numbers
prodigal of her milkweed children (did they learn to travel
                                                        from milkweed down?)
But I was overlooked, am really not human,
              would be first a tiger-striped caterpillar
              and then a Monarch, elusive, flickering, solitary
blowing on storms and beating, always beating
                        to go somewhere else, to another flower.
               Over the fence then.  Out of humanity.
                           I am a wind child.   

-- Loren Eiseley --
from Another Kind of Autumn

This, to me, is the most evocative part of the poem.  I can close my eyes and see them, remember them doing exactly this.  I don't know if they were Monarchs, but I do remember butterflies fluttering over rooftops and then barely clearing a low hedge, pausing briefly at a blossom or a brightly colored shirt on a clothesline, and then moving on, always moving on.   It is hard to believe that they are hardy enough to make a journey of thousands of miles and then some able to come back several seasons later. .

those red-gold drifters edged in black
that blow like leaves but never         
                              quite coming to rest,
always fluttering  
                              a little out of reach,
over the next house, or just making it
                                     above the hedge
flickering evasively through the last sunlight,

Shakespeare has Hamlet at one point say "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."--even such an ordinary, commonplace creature as a butterfly is a marvel, once we look closely at it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Rubaiyat: Quatrain LXIV

This is the sixth in a  series of linked quatrains, all playing with the theme of the Potter/Creator, in which the pots reassure themselves that the unpleasant tales they've heard about the Potter can't possibly be true.

First Edition: Quatrain LXIV

Said one--"Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
     They talk of some strict Testing of us--Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

Second Edition:   Quatrain XCV

Said one--"Folks of a surly Master tell,
And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
     They talk of some sharp Trial of us--Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

Fifth Edition: Quatrain LXXXVIII

"Why," said another, "Some there are who tell
Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
    The luckless Pots he marr'd in making--Pish!
He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

It seems clear that they are speaking of the Creator as seen by Christians, Jews, and Moslems.  The references to hell and testing clearly suggest the teachings of those religions.  Our life here on Earth is a test, and those who fail the test are destined for eternal punishment.  All three quatrains agree on this point, and all three dismiss this possibility with the identical last line:  "He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."

However, there are some interesting, if not intriguing, differences among the three quatrains.  The Potter/Creator is called "a surly Tapster" in the first edition, which carries the hint of one who dispenses alcohol--a Tapster. This fits in well with the numerous references to wine in previous quatrains.   In the second version, the "surly Tapster" becomes a "surly Master,"  a distinctly different person here.  A Master is one who controls others while a Tapster simply provides drinks upon demand.  There's much more of a sense of control in the second edition. In the fifth edition, it is neither a Tapster nor a Master, but a more generic "one who threatens."

One more difference is that in the first and second editions, the Potter's face is daubed with "the Smoke of Hell,"  which suggests a strong physical connection to Hell.  One cannot be covered with smoke unless one comes in contact with it.  However, in the fifth edition, that connection disappears for the Potter now becomes one who will toss the "marr'd pots" into hell.

What is also significant is that the pot does not claim to be speaking from personal experience, but telling us of what others say.  This echoes earlier quatrains in which the Poet/Narrator tells us that many speak of what is to come after death, but none have ever come back to speak from their own experience.  And, the Poet/Narrator dismisses what they have to say in a number of quatrains wherein he tells us repeatedly that we know not where we came from and we know not our destination, if there is one.

In the first edition, the pot speaks of "Testing," a process designed to determine what qualities we posses, or lack, perhaps.  This "Testing" becomes "a sharp Trial" in the second version, which, in addition to a sense of testing, carries legal or judicial implications.  A "Trial" is reserved for those who are charged with some crime.  Just as all in the first edition will face a test, all in the second seemingly will be on trial for some misdeed.

The fifth edition, though, recalls an earlier quatrain, specifically LXIII of the first edition, XCIII of the second, and LXXXVI  of the fifth, in which a "pot of a more ungainly make" suggests that its flaws are the result of the potter's shaking hand and not the fault of the pot.   If the pot is not perfect, then who is at fault?  Could the Potter be responsible for the pot's flaws and if so, is it fair that the pot, therefore,  be punished?   In one sense, the pot is a victim of a less than perfect Potter.  Moreover, in the fifth edition, the sense of  a test or a trial conducted by "a surly Tapster" or "Master" disappears completely and is replaced by "one who threatens he will toss to Hell/ The luckless Pots he marr'd in making."  These are not pots who have failed a test, but "luckless Pots he marr'd in making."

In the fourth line of the quatrain, the pot reassures the others in all three versions by dismissing those threats of hell by insisting "He's a Good Fellow, and 'twill all be well."  This is not the angry, vengeful Creator of the Old Testament, but a more congenial Creator, "a Good Fellow"  and therefore, " 'twill all be well."

Of course, this more reassuring and comforting view of the Potter/Creator has no more substance or supporting evidence than do the claims that are being dismissed.   The "surly Tapster" and the "Good Fellow"  are simply speculations about the unknown, with a tinge of wishful thinking attached to the latter view.