So-Called Dangerous

Lyrics

(The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall both be thought wise)  (1)

Think
Like mountain climbing
or skiing in the alps
Think of it--
I don't.

It was a big fat February
Wet, the ugly pavement cracked
Pause, unsafe.

I thought:
Insect posse will be crushed. (2)
It was a bit of Code Selfish.

There was not much going on
in the minds of the weak.
They were unprepared to be torched
By lighter kleptomaniacs,
So-called dangerous.

There is mad
And there is bad
And there is sad
And there is bad and sad.

Dangerous.

And the meek shall inherit the mirth. (3)

They were big, panoramic
"Same again, sir?"
How can you have the same again?

But they say:
Dangerous. (4)

Notes

1. This line, spoken by someone who isn't MES, is a truncated version of the following "Proverb of Hell," from Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "The selfish smiling fool, and the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod." This is an "infernal" echo of the Biblical proverb (Proverbs 17:28) "Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise..." which also inspired Mark Twain's proverb "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." This may also have been a lampoon of Charles Caleb Colton's "Silence is foolish if we are wise, but wise if we are foolish." There are a whole host of wise man/fool sayings going back to antiquity.  

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2. This line also appears in "Free Range."

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3. A paraphrase of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:5): "The meek shall inherit the earth."  

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4. Martin has found an account which, if true, which might be the original of this conversation (although it might also be something MES said more than once). According to Peter Kimpton in the Guardian:

Brevity can come in many forms, banal or brilliant. Several years ago I walked into a pub outside Manchester, and spotted the Fall's Mark E Smith. As a fan of that cantankerous and already half-wizened word sorcerer, and seeing him having almost finished a drink, I spontaneously decided to offer him a pint – of "the same again". He fixed me a wobble-eyed grimace, by then somewhere on a broad spectrum of paralytic, and then uttered this gnomic retort: "Eh? Ow can y'ave the same again?"

I was temporarily flummoxed, but then realised, that even in a state of extreme non-sobriety, characteristically obnoxious and ungrateful, Smith had also simultaneously expressed pedantic profundity. It's true, you can try and have another pint, but it won't be exactly the same again. It was only a couple of years later that I heard this very phrase on a Fall record. It still wonder whether it was born in that moment.

Fred points out the likely origin of this idea in Heraclitus, who Plato famously reported to have said "You cannot step into the same river twice." Plato's intention in quoting Heraclitus was polemical, however, and two other existing fragments of Heraclitus are thought more likely to be his actual words (all existing statements by Heraclitus are derived from quotations by other authors): "On those stepping into rivers staying the same, other and other waters flow," and "Into the same rivers we both step and do not step, we are and are not." Whether Heraclitus ever said something closer to Plato's version is doubtful, but in the other two quotes the point is a bit more subtle: stability rests on change, as both human beings and rivers are continually changing, but they maintain a kind of identity in the midst of flux. 

"Pedantic profundity" seems rather close to a contradiction in terms, but I like it; it's not a bad description of what I aim to provide here at The Annotated Fall. In fact, the phrase, whether the author intended this or not, expresses an identity in contradiction much like Heraclitus' fragments do, and one is struck by the audaciousness of the phrase, even as one...blah, blah, blah...

^

Comments (8)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 03/05/2013
"The selfish smiling fool and the sullen frowning fool shall both be thought wise"

It's closer to William Blake's version of the Proverb, in his "Proverbs of Hell":

"The selfish smiling fool & the sullen frowning fool shall be both thought wise, that they may be a rod."

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=kG9ht6M6nZ8C&lpg=PA60&dq=%22selfish%20smiling%20fool%22&pg=PA60#v=onepage&q=%22selfish%20smiling%20fool%22&f=false

Dan
bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 03/05/2013
Ha! I was napping there...
Ted
  • 3. Ted | 11/07/2013
"Same again, Sir? How can you have the same again?"

This strikes me as a pub owner's version of the Heraclitus saying: "You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in."
Martin
  • 4. Martin | 04/04/2014
I just read an article on The Guardian website in which readers are encouraged to recommend songs about impermanence. The writer, Peter Kimpton, includes the following in his introduction:

"Brevity can come in many forms, banal or brilliant. Several years ago I walked into a pub outside Manchester, and spotted the Fall's Mark E Smith. As a fan of that cantankerous and already half-wizened word sorcerer, and seeing him having almost finished a drink, I spontaneously decided to offer him a pint – of 'the same again'. He fixed me a wobble-eyed grimace, by then somewhere on a broad spectrum of paralytic, and then uttered this gnomic retort: 'Eh? Ow can y'ave the same again?'

I was temporarily flummoxed, but then realised, that even in a state of extreme non-sobriety, characteristically obnoxious and ungrateful, Smith had also simultaneously expressed pedantic profundity. It's true, you can try and have another pint, but it won't be exactly the same again. It was only a couple of years later that I heard this very phrase on a Fall record. It still wonder whether it was born in that moment."

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/apr/03/readers-recommend-songs-about-impermanence-peter-kimpton
bzfgt
  • 5. bzfgt | 08/04/2014
Thanks, Martin, that's a winner! I'm livid, though...in the comments, he links to the lyrics...here: http://www.releaselyrics.com/072f/the-fall-so-called-dangerous/
dannyno
  • 6. dannyno | 24/05/2014
Before the last "dangerous, MES says "But they say"
dannyno
  • 7. dannyno | 13/05/2016
"They were unprepared to be torched
By lighter kleptomaniacs"

I was just thinking about these lines. Is "lighter" an weight-related adjective here, or is it a reference to cigarette lighters? It would make some sense if a cigarette lighter thief set you on fire ("torched"), wouldn't it?
bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 14/05/2016
Yes, I always took it to be the latter, lighters are certainly an item that often involve in/advertent pocketing and accusations of thievery, as anyone who has ever carried one knows...could be a play on the other involved too, though.

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