Thus saith the Lord, I inform you that I overturn, overturn, overturn.
October 12, 2013 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Abiezer Coppe is the best-known of the Ranters, religious dissenters that arose out of the poliical social, and religious ferment of 17th C England. He is most notable for A Fiery Flying Roll. (version with modernized spelling)

The Roll is still potent today, full of vivid imagery, delirious language, and attacks on pretty much all of the Establishment. It was condemned by Parliament, which asserted that the pamphlet "doth contain in it many horrid Blasphemies, and damnable and detestable Opinions..." Coppe was tortured and jailed, where he wrote a number of other works various degrees of outrage and remorse. Eventually freed, Coppe lived another two decades, mostly keeping his head down as "Dr. Higham."

Sadly, only the Roll seems easily accessible on the web, and Coppe's work is largely forgotten when not actively maligned, but he ia appreciated by some Quakers (review of a print collection).

For the musically inclined, Leon Rosselson has "Abeizer Coppe".
posted by GenjiandProust (12 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I confess, I am unsure whether his name is pronounced "cop" or "coop," having heard it said both ways.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2013

Wow, so he proclaimed himself (My Most Excellent Majesty, My Almightiness) to be literally God (that excellent majesty which dwells in the writer of this Roll)?
posted by edheil at 11:26 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love A Fiery Flying Roll and Coppe's other works with a burning passion. I "repurposed" (stole) some of his imagery and language and gave to a character in my first novel.
posted by Kattullus at 11:31 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mefi's own...
posted by Segundus at 12:21 PM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

A Fiery Flying Roll? Now I know where The Flying Burrito Brothers got the name.
posted by scruss at 12:22 PM on October 12, 2013

Is that where the term "Holy rollers"comes from?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:25 PM on October 12, 2013

It's still early in Beijing, but I'm expecting someone to bowl up later to, er, coppe to it.
posted by Wolof at 6:06 PM on October 12, 2013

Coppe has always been pretty big in my spirtual canon. I think that the dual infulence of a canonical church and an offical dissent made him much less powerful, but in terms of english socio-political mysticism, he is much less crazy and much more clear about how the whole mess inter relates.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:30 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Genjiandproust wrote: I confess, I am unsure whether his name is pronounced "cop" or "coop," having heard it said both ways.

He wrote his name in Hebrew as "כף". If you were transliterating a name like "coop" you wouldn't spell it that way, but it's a plausible spelling if you were transliterating "cop" and left out the auxiliary signs.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:56 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Enjoyed that linked review of his collected writings, and what he says about the ambiguity of Coppe's later retractions of his preaching chimes with what Hill says in World Turned Upside Down. That latter book is great for giving a sense of the social crisis and religious milieu that the Ranters and other millenarians and radicals operated against - while Coppe eschews "sword-levelling' he also makes specific reference to the Leveller martyrs shot at Burford IIRC - and you get more of the same in even greater depth in Hill's study of Milton and his links to the radical "underground" of Interregnum and Restoration London.
Not sure where I've put my copy of that but did drag out TWTUD, which I've not read in years, and there's plenty of good stuff in there I'd forgotten too - Hill writes about the Ranter propensity for oaths and swearing as also a "symbolic expression of freedom from moral restraints' and recounts how Coppe once supposedly swore for an hour from the pulpit, though also said, "One hint more: there's swearing ignorantly, i'the dark, and there's swearing i'the light, gloriously."
posted by Abiezer at 6:12 AM on October 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I guess this is as good a place as any to plug Mike Duncan's (of The History of Rome fame) new podcast Revolutions. His first sequence is on the English Civil War and I hope he delves into some of the more radical political and religious material.

Thanks, Abeizer. I wasn't sure whether to include that review or not. I mean, I love my well-thumbed Aporia Press Selected Writings (the book reviewed), but it seemed a little... maybe not right... to include a review of an out-of-print book. But the tone was so open that I thought it shed some light on a complex person.

PinkMoose -- I don't think Coppe was crazy, but his prose is certainly ecstatic, and I think it's attractive both to people who are interested in his religious thought and people who seek out "outsider writing" for its numinous glory.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:31 AM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ah, there is an FPP on Revolutions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:33 AM on October 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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