A Curve from Wyatt to Rochester
Thou knew'st this papyr, when it was Meer seed, and after that but grass; Before 'twas drest or spun, and when Made linen, who did wear itthen…
COVERS ARE ABOUT BOOKS. But when you find books about covers, well, then you have wandered into a paradoxer's paradise, a place where a sensualist's eye might at any moment be turned on its own holdings, a literalist's eye on the unsettled literary premises themselves, and an analyst's eye on content's uncontainability. In such regards the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in English poetry resemble our own era. Materialists, students of sensation, these poets knew how to redden a reader, inflame a page.
Cover: the wild beast hides his hide under it, fills his belly with it. The cover he consumes may sleeken his skin for the volumes of his own consumers (those arguably lesser beasts whose books—leather-boundornot— have boards and leaves). In other words: a guise can expose; a hide can reveal.
A name is itself a kind of cover, and in the English literary tradition of the time, poetry went under the name of numbers—numbers not only configured poetry's events but transfigured them, too. Numbers as an incarnation of mystery may seem to today's computer-whizzing,