Blue Ship & Drunken Boat

The unreasonable befouled family, mocked faith and brought shame to the entire endeavor, author Michel Foucault writes in Madness and Civilization (Western approaches to the mentally ill 1500-1800) and as a result needed to be hidden from view — be concealed. And yet the mad ones mostly confined to prisons, were also the object of exhibition. Barred windows on public walls were meant as viewing stations. The “strange Brotherhood of the Blue Ship” traveled Europe miming the insane. A fine line that — unreasonable/mad/insane.
“Confinement hid away unreason, and betrayed the shame it aroused; but it explicitly drew attention to madness, pointed to it. If, in the case of unreason, the chief intension was to avoid scandal, in the case of madness that intention was to organize it,” writes Foucault.
Perhaps Marquis de Luc de Clapiers Vauvenargues, 1715-1747, understood this all too well, writing “We discover in ourselves what others hide from us, and we recognize in others what we hide from ourselves.” Or his brethren some years later writing about his drunken boat “Bathed in your watery waves, I can no longer ride/In the wake of cargo ships of cotton,/Nor cross the pride of flags and flames,/Nor swim beneath the killing stare of prison ships.” Rimbaud writes in the summer of 1871. “…eternal weaver of immovable blues,” of letting the boat go.

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