Afternoons and Fauns

Why is it when you see something for the first time, you are suddenly inundated with more of them? This week quite by accident I ran into this video of Debussy’s Afternoon of a Faun, which I had never heard before, and posted it on Facebook. (This is nice to play in the background while doing other things.)

Then, last night I was reading an introduction to French poetry, and discovered that the poet Stéphane Mallarmé also wrote a poem called L’Apres-midi d’un Faune, the original “Afternoon of a Faun” that inspired all the rest of them.  Mallarmé’s original poem is published with drawings by Manet.  French here, English translation here, description of poem at wiki. Briefly, the faun falls asleep and dreams of nymphs. Then Mallarmé writes his poem, French poet Paul Valéry calls it the greatest poem in French literature, and it becomes a landmark in the history of French symbolism. Then Debussy writes his orchestration, followed by several ballets by Vaslav Nijinsky and others, which become of great significance in the development of modernism.

I don’t think I’m in the mood for it after all.

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Translating Hafiz

What is a “translation”?

I recently came across a reference to the 14th century  Persian poet Hafiz (thanks, paulinelaurent!) who recommended the book The subject tonight is love, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. Wanting to explore Hafiz further, I googled for some texts of his poems and found a few examples of the Ladinsky poems here. Here is one:

Damn Thirsty

First

The fish needs to say,

“Something ain’t right about this

Camel ride –

And I’m

Feeling so damn

Thirsty.”*

[*disclaimer:  I am thoroughly enjoying this particular Camel ride.—N]

~||~||~||~||~||~||~||~||~||~

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Lorca: Waltz in the Treetops

Vals en las Ramas

Cayó una hoja
y dos
y tres.
Por la luna nadaba un pez.
El agua duerme una hora
y el mar blanco duerme cien.
La dama
estaba muerta en la rama.
La monja
cantaba dentro de la toronja.
La niña iba por el pino a la piña.
Y el pino
buscaba la plumilla del trino.
Pero el ruiseñor
lloraba sus heridas alrededor.
Y yo también
porque cayó una hoja
y dos
y tres
Y una cabeza de cristal
y un violín de papel
y la nieve podría con el mundo
una a una
dos a dos
y tres a tres.
Oh duro marfil de carnes invisibles!
Oh golfo sin hormigas del amanecer!
Con el numen de las ramas,
con el ay de las damas,
con el croo de las ranas,
y el geo amarillo de la miel.
Lllegará un torso de sombra
coronado de laurel.
Será el cielo para el viento
duro como una pared
y las ramas desgajadas
se irán bailando con el.
Una a una
alrededor de la luna,
dos a dos
alrededor del sol,
y tres a tres
para que los marfiles se duerman bien.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

a quick translation:

Waltz in the Branches

A leaf fell
and two
and three.
A fish swam across the moon.
Water sleeps an hour
The white sea a hundred.
The woman
was dead on the branch.
The nun
sang inside the grapefruit.
The girl
went by pine to the pineapple.
And the pine
searched for the triple quill.
But the nightingale
cried its wounds all around.
And myself as well
because a leaf fell
and two
and three
And a head of crystal
And a violin of paper
and snow had power over the world
one by one
two by two
and three by three.
Oh hard ivory seed of invisible meats!
Oh gulf without ants of the sunrise!
With the muse of the branches,
with the “oh!” of the women
with the “croo” of the frogs,
and the earthy yellow of the honey.
A torso of shadow will come
crowned with laurel.
The sky will be for the wind
hard as a wall
and the torn off branches
will go dancing with it.
One by one
around the moon
two by two
around the sun,
three by three
so that the ivory seeds sleep well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

from Federico Garcia Lorca, Canciones y  Poemas para Niños.

This might also be a good place to post a link to the Spanish dictionary at the Real Academia Española.

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Yosano Akiko’s Sea of Death

From languagehat’s A Draft of Mandelstam thread come two tantalizing translations of a poem by Yosano Akiko about the Sea of Death, one apparently a traditional translation of Russian to English and the other an original translation from Japanese:

Sashura:

They told me that the road I took
would lead me to the Sea of Death;
and from halfway along I turned back.
And ever since, all the paths I have roamed
were entangled, and crooked, and forsaken.

read (and Bathrobe):

Sono michi o zutto yuku to

If to go by that road until the end

Shi no umi ni ochikomu to oshierare,

To the sea of death you will come I was told

Chūto de hikikaeshita watashi,

Midway I turned around

Hikyō na rikō-mono de atta watashi,

being me, weak and rational.

Sore irai, watashi no mae ni wa

Since then before me

Eda-michi to

crossroads and

Mawari-michi to bakari ga tsuzuite iru.

detours only continue.

In Japanese with transliteration:

卑怯

その路をずつと行くと
死の海に落ち込むと教へられ、
中途で引返した私、
卑怯な利口者であつた私、
それ以来、私の前には
岐路と
迂路とばかりが続いてゐる。

Sono michi o zutto yuku to
Shi no umi ni ochikomu to oshierare,
Chūto de hikikaeshita watashi,
Hikyō na rikō-mono de atta watashi,
Sore irai, watashi no mae ni wa
Eda-michi to
Mawari-michi to bakari ga tsuzuite iru.

…and I can’t resist the Google Translate version:

Cowardice

I go with the path by
Education is to drop into the sea of death,
I’m halfway 引返Shita,
I am clever, who has been unfair,
Since then, in front of me
Crossroads and
Continues to occupy only detour.

More by the same poet:

Translations of seven poems by Kenneth Rexroth, some of them quite, mm…, I suppose NSFW.  I rather like this one:

Not speaking of the way,
Not thinking of what comes after,
Not questioning name or fame,
Here, loving love,
You and I look at each other.

and this has echoes of Omar Khayyam:

This autumn will end.
Nothing can last forever.
Fate controls our lives.
Fondle my breasts
With your strong hands.

Here are two more translated poems along with a short biography.

The appearance of her first book, Tangled Hair (Midaregami), in 1901, created a scandal, not only for its explicit female sexuality but for its complexity & presumed unintelligibility within the framework of the traditional tanka form. As a by now acknowledged masterwork of “Japanese romanticism,” already influenced by symbolist & other fin-de-siècle European writing but drawing as well from older Japanese & Chinese sources, it provided a vehicle for women’s liberation – a “battleground poetry,” in Janine Beichman’s phrase, not as a form of rant, but as Yosano described it, writing of her own “first poems,” “I realized that if women didn’t really exert themselves they would never mix with men on an equal footing. That was the first time I made a poem.” The resulting innovations – both in tanka (five-line closed verse) & in “new-style” poetry – went beyond most poets of her time: a use of multiple voices (male as well as female); an unprecedented focus on the naked body derived, it was said, from European painting & from the erotic side of the ukiyo-e (floating world) tradition of print-making; & a sense of mystery & ambiguity, created by formal means (“asymmetry, ellipses, and numerous allusions”), that she called shinpi & that Beichman delivers further as “the palimpsestic effect.” Her work, as it moved into the new century, was voluminous; by Kenneth Rexroth’s count, “she wrote more than 17,000 tanka, nearly five hundred shintaishi (free verse [poems]), published seventy-five books, including translations of classical literature, and had eleven children.” She was also an active pacifist & a socialist sympathizer, who openly opposed Japan’s military adventures in the twentieth century, as in a fiercely anti-war poem addressed to her brother (1904), which brought denunciation as “a traitor, a rebel, a criminal who ought to be subjected to national punishment.”

Some excerpts from Tangled Hair are online here.
And here are some more (thanks, read).

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Lorca by moonlight

Does Federico Lorca’s gypsy poem La Casada Infiel (which I ran through Google Translate here) take place in the moonlight or in the dark? And can you see colors in the moonlight?

To answer these and other nycthémèrish questions, I set out a few hours after the start of the full moon Friday night to take some pictures, and ended up at the confluence of, er, Wolf Lake and Indian Creek.  Yeah, Chicago has some real world-class rivers and lakes, and undoubtedly more prestigious confluences, and maybe some day I’ll take the trouble to conduct experiments on those too, but this one is within walking distance.  I have also seen a wolf here with my own eyes, so quite possibly this is a lycanthropic stream, although I’m not sure of the effects of last century’s reversal of the stream to flow into the Calumet River on any of its magical properties.  Probably the same as before.

I used a hundred-dollar camera (Cannon Powershot 560), timed exposures, and no tripod. The photos are more, or maybe less, associated with a line or phrase in the poem.  More details after the photos.

~~~~~~~~~

yo me la llevé al río
[I took her to the river]

Se apagaron los faroles y se encendieron los grillos.

[The lanterns were extinguished. The crickets were kindled.]

como ramos de jacintos

[like hyacinth buds]

me sonaba en el oído

[they sounded in my ear]

como una pieza de seda

[like a piece of silk]

Sin luz de plata en sus copas

los árboles han crecido

[without the silver light in their crowns, the trees have elongated]

y un horizonte de perros

ladra muy lejos del río.

[a horizon of dogs barks far in the distance]

bajo su mata de pelo

hice un hoyo sobre el limo

[under its mat of hair I made a hole over the inundated terrain]

Ni nardos ni caracolas

tienen el cutis tan fino

[neither petals nor shells have skin so delicate]

ni los cristales…

[not crystals…]

…..con luna

[…in the moonlight]

relumbran …

[reflect…]

… con ese brillo

[…with such shining]

como peces sorprendidos

[like surprised fish]

montado en potra de nácar

[mounted on a mother-of-pearl steed]

sin bridas y sin estribos

[without bridles or stirrups]

La luz del entendimiento

[the light of understanding]

~~~~~~~~~

And here is a gratuitous photo of the full moon at the end.

The objects brought to the lake were materials from this and other Lorca poems:

  • silk–one a light blue-green, and the other with a black and white pattern
  • crystals–manufactured crystal globes, a natural crystal polished in the shape of an egg (a crystal will reverse print), and a natural white pointed crystal with facets
  • silver colored hand of Fatima and blue protective eye with beads
  • a dark purple crystal from Mount Sinai, a metal key chain with a picture of the pope on it blessed by the pope, a cross of Ethiopian silver, red and yellow Palestinian-style cross stitch, and a paper straw sewing basket with a blue satin lining, none of which photographed successfully in the moonlight.

Yes, I could see color; I was wearing blue jeans and green sneakers, and could determine the colors of both in the moonlight.

The shell was a conch (in the Carribean pronounced conk) from the thrift store–they were popular tourist items in the last century and are now scarce. The flower was a moonflower from the back fence.  I photographed some of my irises but they didn’t really turn out or look very scary.

I started out by walking around Wolf Lake by way of the alleys on the south end, but there was a lot of ambient light, nothing good to rest the camera on for timed exposures, and not very good access to the lake, not to mention no river as in the poem. So once again I ended up sneaking into the park after hours.  After taking pictures for some time, I suddenly became aware that it was late, and I was alone in the middle of deserted park in a dangerous city. As if to underscore the need for alarm, I saw a movement close to me.  Not Lorca’s barking dogs or the intruders they were presumably barking at, but a raccoon lumbering under the foot bridge.  Then came a huge splash on the other side of the creek.  Turtle?  At night? Or a surprised fish?  At any rate, the vegetation suddenly seemed unfriendly and it seemed wise to leave the park as quickly as possible and move towards the road where there was still some occasional traffic.  As I left the park area, a stranger in a silver sports car stopped and offered me a ride. I declined with a wave of the camera and he quickly drove off.

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Koran 13:11

Does Allah help those who help themselves? This Koranic ayah was cited in Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh. I have used it as the subject of a small Sura Koran, the framed calligraphy art favored by a people whose religion discourages graven images.  You find the framed verses in homes, always over the door leading outside. The Arabic text is: إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا۟ مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪

Verily, Allah does not change a people’s condition until they change what is in themselves.
QUR’AN, SURAT AL-RA’D
(The Chapter of Thunder), Verse 11

₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪₪

 

 

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More raw Lorca: “La monja gitana”

More Lorca from the closet:

A few weeks ago I was googling Lorca– I forget why—particularly this poem about the gypsy nun. I ‘m posting it here mostly because the introductory offer of Word 2007 that came with my netbook just ran out and this is the fastest way I can think of to get the text in a place where I can look at it.  The first part is in Spanish, the second part in English (courtesy of Google translate, hence the odd word choices) and the last part is my personal reaction, mostly just thinking out loud not done yet, but will probably be some photos of bees on clematis once WordPress fixes their current image editing problems. Mostly my thinking out loud stuff stays in the back room, but once I published one by mistake briefly and someone actually enjoyed it and was puzzled when I unpublished it again,  so FWIW, this one gets published.

LA MONJA GITANA

A José Moreno Villa

Silencio de cal y mirto.
Malvas en las hierbas finas.
La monja borda alhelíes
sobre una tela pajiza.                    4

Vuelan en la araña gris
siete pájaros del prisma.
La iglesia gruñe a lo lejos
como un oso panza arriba.           8

¡Que bien borda! ¡Con qué gracia!
Sobre la tela pajiza
ella quisiera bordar
flores de su fantasía.                      12

¡Qué girasol! ¡Qué magnolia
de lentejuelas y cintas!
¡Qué azafranes y qué lunas,
en el mantel de la misa!                16

Cinco toronjas se endulzan
en la cercana cocina.
Las cinco llagas de Cristo
cortadas en Almería.                      20

Por los ojos de la monja
galopan dos caballistas.
Un rumor último y sordo
le despega la camisa,                       24

y al mirar nubes y montes
en las yertas lejanías,
se quiebra su corazón
de azúcar y yerbaluisa.                   28

¡Oh, qué llanura empinada
con veinte soles arriba!
¡Qué ríos puestos de pie
vislumbra su fantasía!                     32

Pero sigue con sus flores,
mientras que de pie, en la brisa,
la luz juega el ajedrez
alto de la celosía.                                 36

=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=

google translate:

THE GYPSY A NUN

José Moreno Villa

Silence of lime and myrtle.
Hollyhocks in the fresh herbs.
The nun embroiders thatched
wallflowers onto a canvas.                 4

Fly in the gray spider
seven birds of the prism.
The church growls in the distance
like a bear belly up.                              8

How good side! How funny!
On the straw-colored fabric
she would embroider
flowers of her fantasy.                      12

What a sunflower! What magnolia
sequins and ribbons!
What crocuses and what moons
on the tablecloth of the Mass!        16

Five sweetened grapefruit
in the nearby kitchen.
The five wounds of Christ
cut in Almeria.                                      20

Through the eyes of the nun
two horsemen gallop.
A rumor last and deaf
he takes off his shirt                            24

and looking at clouds and mountains
stiff in the distances,
your heart breaks
sugar and verbena.                              28

Oh, what a steep plateau
twenty soles up!
What rivers standing positions
sees its fantasy!                                     32

But still with her flowers
while standing in the breeze,
light plays chess
top of the lattice.                                  36

=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=

And now–two gratuitous bees:

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Lorca raw: La casada infiel

This is a poem from Federico García Lorca’s Romancero Gitano–Gypsy Ballads–in Spanish, followed by a machine translation. I’m taking out of the drafts, where I have had it since June, and putting it up mostly so I can find it, but you never know who else might find it interesting.

[Some links, including Leonard Cohen, now added at the end.]

La casada infiel
A Lydia Cabrera y a su negrita

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.

Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.

Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.

En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.

El almidón de su enagua
me sonaba en el oído,
como una pieza de seda
rasgada por diez cuchillos.

Sin luz de plata en sus copas
los árboles han crecido
y un horizonte de perros
ladra muy lejos del río.

Pasadas las zarzamoras,
los juncos y los espinos,
bajo su mata de pelo
hice un hoyo sobre el limo.

Yo me quité la corbata.
Ella se quitó el vestido.
Yo el cinturón con revólver.
Ella sus cuatro corpiños.

Ni nardos ni caracolas
tienen el cutis tan fino,
ni los cristales con luna
relumbran con ese brillo.
Sus muslos se me escapaban
como peces sorprendidos,
la mitad llenos de lumbre,
la mitad llenos de frío.

Aquella noche corrí
el mejor de los caminos,
montado en potra de nácar
sin bridas y sin estribos.

No quiero decir, por hombre,
las cosas que ella me dijo.
La luz del entendimiento
me hace ser muy comedido.

Sucia de besos y arena
yo me la llevé del río.
Con el aire se batían
las espadas de los lirios.

Me porté como quién soy.
Como un gitano legítimo.
La regalé un costurero
grande, de raso pajizo,
y no quise enamorarme
porque teniendo marido
me dijo que era mozuela
cuando la llevaba al río.

* * * * *
Via google translate, which doesn’t always get the grammatical forms, but doesn’t do too bad with the lexicon:

And I took her to the river
thinking that was a maiden,
but had a husband.

Santiago was the night of
by pledge.

The lanterns
and went on crickets.

In the last corner
I touched her sleeping breasts
and opened to me suddenly
like spikes of hyacinth.

The starch of her petticoat
sounded in my ear
as a piece of silk
rent by ten knives.

No silver light on their glasses
the trees have grown
and a horizon of dogs
far from the river barks.

Past the blackberries,
the reeds and the hawthorne
under his mop of hair
I made a hole in the earth.

I took off my tie.
She took off her dress.
I, the gun belt.
She, her four bodices.

Nor nard nor snail
have skin so fine
or glass with silver
shine with such brilliance.
Her thighs slipped away from me
like startled fish
half full of fire,
half full of cold.

That night I ran
the best of roads,
mounted on a nacre mare
without bridle stirrups.

I do not mean a man,
the things she told me.
The light of understanding
me more discreet.

Smeared with sand and kisses
I took her river.
Fought with the air
The swords of the iris.

I behaved like who I am.
As a gypsy.
I gave her a sewing
large satin straw
and did not want to fall in love
because they had a husband
I said it was a maiden¹
when the river was.

mozuela:

¹maiden, schmaiden:

mozuela [mo-thoo-ay’-lah]
noun
1. A very young lass or woman: sometimes applied in contempt. (m & f)
2. A prostitute. (Vulgarism) (m & f)
adjective
1. Young, youthful. (m)

..and “wife” is esposa, casada is married person (f.)

Night of St. James must have been 24 July, the eve of the saint’s day on 25 July (not a lunar-calculated holiday, at least not now):

Fiesta de Santiago (Feast of St James). The famous Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage of thousands of people from all over Spain and many other parts of Europe to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, takes place in the week leading up to St James’ Day, 25 July. The city also has its fiestas around this time. The streets are full of musicians and performers for two weeks of celebrations culminating in the Festival del Apóstol.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[Text and YouTube link.]
[text & tr. Stephen Spender and J.L. Gili]
[Leonard Cohen:

Here of all places I don’t have to explain how I fell in love with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I was 15 years old and I was wandering through the bookstores of Montreal and I fell upon one of his books,and I opened it,and my eyes saw those lines “I want to pass through the Arches of Elvira,to see her thighs and begin weeping”. I thought “This is where I want to be”… I read alone “Green I want you green “I turned another page “The morning through fistfulls of ants in your face” I turned another page “Her thighs slipped away like school of silver minnows”. I knew that I have had come home. So it is with a great sense of gratitude that I am able to repay my debt to Federico Garcia, at least a corner, a fragment, a crumb, a hair, an electron of my debt by dedicating this song, this translation of his great poem “Little Viennese Waltz”, “Take This Waltz”….

It was a long time ago in a book store in Montreal I stumble on a book by a great Spanish poet. And in this book he invited me to enter a universe of ants and crystals and arches and minnows and thighs that slipped away like herds of tiny fish…

You know it was many years ago in the city of Montreal that I stumbled upon this volume. I opened it and I accepted the poet’s invitation to enter into this world where fistfuls of ants were thrown at the sun and crystals obscured the pine trees and there were the arches of Elvira to pass through and begin weeping and there were those thighs that slipped away like schools of silver minnows. That was the irresistible seductive invitation I could not resist. I slipped into that fist, I did, I lived among the ants and I learned their ways. I mastered the crystals. I healed many alcoholic gurus with my crystal powers. I passed through the arches of Elvira and I did, I began weeping. That’s nothing new. I saw those thighs glistening like hunting horns and I touched them, I did, I pulled my hand away and I slipped away like a school of silver minnows. I’ve never left that world….

There are two poems connected with Lorca in Book of Longing.

The Faithless Wife (after the poem by Lorca)

The Night of Santiago
And I was passing through
So I took her to the river
As any man would do

She said she was a virgin
That wasn’t what I’d heard
But I’m not the Inquisition
I took her at her word

And yes she lied about it all
Her children and her husband
You were meant to judge the world
Forgive me but I wasn’t

The lights went out behind us
The fireflies undressed
The broken sidewalk ended
I touched her sleeping breasts

They opened to me urgently
Like lilies from the dead
Behind a fine embroidery
Her nipples rose like bread

Her petticoat was starched and loud
And crushed between our legs
It thundered like a living cloud
Beset by rator blades

No silver light to plate their leaves
The trees grew wild and high
A file of dogs patrolled the beach
To keep the night alive

We passed the thorns and berry bush
The reeds and prickly pear
I made a hollow in the earth
To nest her dampened hair

Then I took off my necktie
And she took of her dress
My belt and pistol set aside
We tore away the rest

Her skin was oil and ointments
And brighter than a shell
Your gold and glass appointments
Will never shine so well

Her thights they slipped away from me
Like schools of startled fish
Though i’ve forgotten half my life
I still remember this

That night I ran the best of roads
Upon a mighty charger
But very soon I’m overthrown
And she’s become the rider

Now as a man I won’t repeat
The things she said aloud
Except for this my lips are sealed
Forever and for now

And soon there’s sand in every kiss
And soon the dawn is ready
And soon the night surrenders
To a daffodil machete

I gave her something pretty
And I waited ’til she laughed
I wasn’t born a gipsy
To make a woman sad

I didn’t fall in love. Of course
It’s never up to you
But she was walking back and forth
And I was passing through

When I took her to the river
In her virginal apparel
When I took her to the river
On the Night of Santiago

And yes she lied about her life
Her children and her husband
you were born to judge the world
Forgive me but I wasn’t

The Night of Santiago
And I was passing through
And I took her to the river
As any man would do

]

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Wolf Ears

Infants have been said to find the Poetic Edda calming, especially the Fáfnismál in Old Norse. Fáfnismál is the story of the young Sigurth killing the dragon Fafnir. I wasn’t sure about all the dragon blood and fratricide, but after trying the meter a little bit, (it’s written in Ljóðaháttr), I sort of liked the philosophical angle. Here it is in English, with commentary in English, and in Old Norse.

The “wolf ears” are from an old Viking proverb that appears in other sources:

þar er mér ulfs ván,
er ek eyru sék

meaning “There is ever a wolf | where his ears I spy.”
Or in plain English, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”.

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Another proverb about rashness:

Fafnir spake:

11….In the water shalt drown | if thou row ‘gainst the wind,

í vatni þú druknar
ef í vindi rœr,

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Sigurth spake:
24. “Unknown it is, | when all are together,
(The sons of the glorious gods,)
Who bravest born shall seem;
Some are valiant | who redden no sword
In the blood of a foeman’s breast.”

24.
“Þat er óvíst at vita,
þá er komum allir saman,
hverr óblauðastr er alinn,
margr er sá hvatr
er hjör né rýðr
annars brjóstum í.”

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Sigurth spake:
28. “Better is heart | than a mighty blade
For him who shall fiercely fight;
The brave man well | shall fight and win,
Though dull his blade may be.

Sigurðr kvað:

28.
“Fjarri þú gekkt,
meðan ek á Fáfni rauðk
minn inn hvassa hjör;
afli mínu
atta ek við orms megin,
meðan þú í lyngvi látt.”

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Image: St. George Church, Madaba, Jordan

Posted in Poetry. Comments Off on Wolf Ears

Tawddgyrch Cadwynog

Yesterday while looking for examples of the Georgian shairi poetry format, I ran across a reference to “the long sixteen-syllable line that the obscure hynmographer Pilipe Betlemeli had used for his invocation of the virgin.”     I wasn’t able to track down Betlemeli’s Georgian invocation, but oddly enough there is a hymn to the virgin written in a similar form, a Welsh poetry form called Tawddgyrch Cadwynog, also with 16 syllables, but with a slightly different end-rhyming scheme. This early English Hymn to the Virgin was written in English but with Welsh orthography about 1470 by Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal, a Welshman attending Oxford in England.  It has been the subject of much curiosity by  linguists as it occurs about the time the Great Vowel Shift:

Very early in the NE period, the ME i tended to develop into a
diphthong. This diphthongization, together with that of ME ii,
constitutes (according to Jespersen) the first step in the ” great
vowel-shift.”^ “The long |i”| must through |ii| have become |ei|
about 1500 ; it is transcribed ei in the Welsh hymn written
about that time, by S[alesbury], 1547 and H[art, Orthographic),
1569, while the Lambeth fragment 1528 identifies it with F ay ”
(Jespersen, p. 234). On this point, Wyld, p. 223, states : ” The
present-day development [of ME i] is the well-marked diphthong
[ai]. The first stage in the process was most probably [i*], that is,
the latter part of the old long vowel was made slack. We must
consider this stage as already diphthongal. The next stage was
probably a further differentiation between the first and second
elements of the diphthong, the former being lowered to [e]. The
subsequent career of the diphthong may well have been [si-sdi-ai].
A point of importance is that at one stage the diphthong became
identical with that developed out of old oi^ . . . The stage [ei]
may be represented by the occasional spellings with ey, ei in the
fifteenth century.” Among these he mentions those found in the
W Hymn to the Virgin. He concludes (p. 225) by stating that
” from this combined evidence of occasional spellings and the
statements of grammarians, it appears (i) that from the fifteenth
to well into the seventeenth century old i was pronounced by many
speakers as a diphthong ^ of which the first element was a front
vowel, the diphthong thus being either [e^’, ei] or [sti] ; (2) that
during the same period other speakers pronounced old I and old
with one and the same diphthongal combination ; (3) that at any
rate from the seventeenth century onwards, the first element of the
diphthong was either [9] or [a], most probably the latter, giving
the diphthong [a«].” So there were in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and
seventeenth centuries, two types of pronunciation for this i.

[source: The English element in Welsh; a study of English loan-words in Welsh by T.H.Parry -Williams

Most of the copies of this are locked up tight behind paywalls, but a later copy from a Welsh source was published in Anglia; Zeitschrift für englische Philologie (Anglia, Journal of English Philology) “AN0THER WELSH PHONETIC COPY OF THE EARLY ENGLISH HYMN TO THE VIRGIN FROM A BRITISH MUSEUM MS. NO. 14866.” by 0. T. Williams, Uniyersity College of North Wales, Bangor.


I Dduw ac i Fair Wyry.
(To God and to Virgin Mary.) 

Llyma owdyl arall i dduw ac i fair a wnaeth Kymbro yn
Ehydychen wrth ddysgu achos dwedyd o im or Saeson nad
oedd na mesur na chynghanedd ynghynibraeg. Yntau ai atte-
bodd i gwnai ef gerdd o Saesneg ar fesur a chynghanedd
Kymraeg fal na fedreur Sais nag yr im oi gyfeillion wneythur
moi math yn i hiaith i himein ac i canodd ef val i canlyn
ond am fy mod in scrivennu r llyfr hwn oll ag Orthographie
kymbraeg e gaiff hyn o Saesneg ganlyn yn llwybr ni-
darllenwch ef val Kymbraeg. 

That is " Here is another ode to God and to Mary, written by 
a Welshman, when he was a Student at Oxford, because an 
Enghshman said, that there was neither metre nor alliterative 
harmony in Welsh. He answered him and said that he would wnte 
an English poem in Welsh alliterative metre, the like of which the 
Englishman nor any of Ins friends could not write in Ins own language, 
and he sang it as follows, but because 1 am writmg this book in Welsh 
orthography, this much of English shall follow our path; read it like Welsh." 

meichtii ladi owr2 leding tw 3 haf at hefn owr abeiding in 4 tw* thei* ffest ef erlesting e i set a braints 7 ws tw bring
7 \>mf2 gWrtMS ' : * miCMi ' 2 ° Ur ' 3 t0 ' 4 yntw ' 5 ddei ' 6 everlastiu e> 20*
yw wan 1 ddus 2 wyth blus 3 dde blessing off 4 god Hur ywr gwd abering wher 5 yw bunn 6 ffor ywr wunning 7 syns Kwin and ywr sonn* üs King owr fforffadders 9 ffadder l0 our 11 ffiding owr pop on ywr paps had sucking 12 in 13 hefn blus 3 ffor» 4 ddus 2 thiug attendans wythowt ending wising 15 tw 10 breicht 17 King 18 wyth coning 10 and blus 20 ddei 21 blosswm ffruwt bering ei wowld as owld as ei sing win 22 ywr lof 23 on yowr 24 lafing 25 Quin od off owr god owr geiding modor 26 mayden 27 not wyth Standing whw 28 wed iirst 29 wyth a rieh 30 ring as god wud 31 ddus 2 gwd weding help us 32 prae ffor us 32 prefferring owr sowls assoel us 32 at ending niak ddat awl we 33 ffawl tw ffing ywr S}ais 34 lof 35 owr syns lefing 30 As wi mae dde dae off owr deing resef owr safiowr 37 in howsling as hi mae tak :!s us 32 waking tw hüm 39 in hus 40 meichti 41 whing 42 4:i meicht 43 hi 44 twk mi ocht tw tel owr 45 sowls 40 off hei tw soels off height 47 wi wish 48 wyth bwk 4<J wi wish 48 wyth bei to 50 hefn ffwl wel : tw haf on ffleight 51
1 wann, 2 ddys, 3 blyss, 4 of, 5 hwier, 6 bynn, 7 wynning, 8 synn, 9 fforffaddyrs, 10 ffaddyr, 11 owr, 12 swking, 13 yn, 14 i had, 15 sin, 16 dde, 17 bricht, 18 kwin, 19 kwning, 20 blys, 21 the, 22 wynn, 23 lyf, 24 ywr, 25 laving, 26 mwddyr, 27 maedyn, 28 hw, 29 syts, 30 ryts, 31 wad, 32 ws, 33 wi, 34 synns, 35 lyf, 36 leving, 37 saviowr, 38 tak, 39 hym, 40 hys, 41 michti, 42 wing, 43 micht, 44 hyt, 45 owt, 46 sols, 47 hiebt, 48 aish, 49 bwk, 50 tw, 51 flicht,
awl dids wel dwn 1 | t abeid 2 te 3 bwn l a gwd mit 5 wreight 6 a god mad tiwn 4 and se so swn 7 1 and north and nwn 8 i and so non meight 10 and synn and mwn 9 j as swn ' as preid : is " now snpprest ,2 bis 13 bei 14 is 11 pest 15 bis sowl 16 is 11 peight 17 ei 18 tel tw io 19 | as swm 20 dw 21 shio i wi uws not reight. 22 as now ei tro a boe 23 wyth 24 bo j hys lwcks 25 ys 26 so 27 l ffrom hym 29 a kneiglit 30 how mae uw 2S kno dde truwth us yt 31 ddat iyrth 32 us 33 cast dde ends bi last dde bands bi leight 34 o god set yt gwd as yt was dde rywl 35 doth 36 pass dde world hath peight. 37 A pretti thing wi prae to thest ddat gwd bihest that 38 god beheight 39 and bi was ffing untw 40 his 41 ffest ddat efr 42 shawl 43 lest wytb deifyrs leight 44 dde world awae 45 j is dwn 46 as dae 47 yt ys 49 nei neight 50 yt ys no wae 48 as owld ei sae 51 j ei was in ffae 52 wowld 54 god ei meight 55 eild a gwd mae 53 |
1 dywn, 2 tabyd, 3 deo, 4 trwn, 5 met, 6 wricht, 7 swn, 8 nwn, 9 mwn, 10 micht, 11 ys, 12 syprest, 13 hys, 14 sei, 15 best, 16 sol, 17 picht, 18 EI, 19 yo, 20 synn, 21 dwth, 22 rieht, 23 hoy, 24 withs, 25 lokes, 26 is, 27 slo, 28 yw, 29 hym ffrom, ' 30 knicht, 31 kyt, 32 yerth, 33 ys, 34 licht, 35 rvwl, 36 dwth, 37 picht, 38 ddat, 39 bihicht, 40 yntw, 41 hys, 42 ever, 43 shal, 44 licht, 45 away, 46 dynn, 47 day, 48 nay, 49 is, 50 nicht, 51 say, 52 ffay, 53 may, 54 wld, 55 micht.
a ' wae ' wi wowld dde syns ddeü 2 sowld n a baue 3 heiaht 1 an bi not howld and iwng 5 and owld wyth liym ddey 6 howld ddat Jesus 8 heiglit " dde Jews 7 has sowld o Jesus 10 Crist ddat werst a crown and 11 wi dei down a redi deight 12 tw thank tw thi 13 | at dde rwd tri ddeyn u own 14 tw licht dden went all wi tw grawnt agri j amen wyth mi [ thi tw 15 mei seight 16 ddat ei mae si owr lwk owr king owr lok owr cae mei god ei prae mei geid upreight ' 7 ei sik ' 8 ei sing ei shiäk ' '•' ei sae ei wer 20 awae a wiri weiglit 21 ei 22 fahrt 22 ei go j mei ffrinds 23 mei 21 ffoe 25 wyth ffend 28 ei ffeight 20 a 2ü ffond 2 ' a ffo ei sing also | in 30 welth in 31 wo 32 i tw Kwin o 33 meight 34 ei can no mo meighti ladi etc.
Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal ai cant medd eraill Ieuan ap I>ytherch ap loan Lloyd (That is "Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal sang it, according to others Ieuan ap Eytherch ap loan Lloyd.")
1 Awar, 2 ddey, 3 baut. 4 hicht, 5 ywng, 6 ddei, 7 Dsivws, - Dsiesws, 9 hicht, 10 trysti, II er, 12 dicht, 13 ddi, 14 ddey now, lö two, 16 siclit, 17 vpricht, 18 sik, 19 shiak with h underdotted, 20 wer, 21 wicht, 22 agaynst, 23 ffrynds, 24 mi, 25 ffro, 26 ei, 27 ffownd, 28 ffynd, 29 ffricht, 30 yn', 31 and, 32 wo, 33 off, 34 micht.

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Even with the obvious scanning errors and the hard-to-read format with the footnotes, it’s still an intriguing poem, all the more so for being so similar to another unique poetry form thousands of miles to the east.

Posted in Poetry. Comments Off on Tawddgyrch Cadwynog