Sunday, January 22, 2006

fabulistic song about a bird   [note pointing to a ballad]

Yesterday, I enjoyed composing -- and blogged at The Accidental Elephant -- a longish narrative poem (mildly archaic in style), a poem I feel happy about.

In terms of genre, no doubt this poem could be called a ballad, and the story it tells, a fable. Those are old and still accommodating drawers in the literary cupboard of this world.

I like this ballad so much, I rather hope more stories of similar ilk might emerge for me. Perhaps about the bird, perhaps about the princess, perhaps about her lowkey ipso facto advisor (apparently, some sort of court servant, educated but reticent almost to a fault -- though we find, not really a fault at all). Well, I'm glad they paid this one visit. If return engagements are in the works, that, too, would be welcome.

But! -- you've not seen the tale to which I allude?

Rather than repeating its text here, kindly allow me to direct you to this curiousity, pleasantry & novelty of a poem, by way of hyperlink:

        The Princess & Her Chapati Bird

As we do not have a Comments section at that Elephant blog, readers are cordially invited to register any such responses as they might care to note, in Comments here!


ps: I go into some amount of detail regarding this poem, in this discussion thread on the Caferati network.


Anonymous fingertree said...

You may see that I have signed the Guest Book at TAE on reading this very lovely tale that seems a lovely modern cautionary retelling of the Oscar Wilde story.The twist in the tale is quite lovely and has a delightful old world touch to it.

But why is the bird a chapati bird?

Sun Jan 22, 05:54:00 AM PST  
Anonymous fingertree said...

I am sure you could say 'why not?', even so...

Sun Jan 22, 06:37:00 AM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...


so happens, I'm not aware (regret to report) of the tale by the notable Wilde. Can you please enlighten me as to the title of this story? I would like to read it.

As for "why chapati bird?? the answer is not, in fact, sim;ly "why not?"! There is a much better (more specific) answer than that!

The solution to this enigma is strongly implied (even if not 100% spelled out) in this passage of the text:

a silly name at first it seemed
for none of us at first had dreamed
she'd feed this wild bird now tamed
chapati bird would change

[verse 10]

What do you think she would feed the bird? Chapatis! This simple food is, you know, perhaps the most common traditional form of bread in northern India. The tale has no specific suggestion of India per se (simply, of a north and a south), except for the reference to chaptis.

Thanks -- and now I have to think about what exactly you mean by "the twist in the tale." Do you mean the fact that the bird was not captured? or the fact that, though wild, it became sort of semi-domesticated ("tame" being the word used)? or the twist of its final non-return at end of the tale? or the girl's own becoming a (bird-like) singer? Each of those seem to me to be little twists along the way -- so I'm wondering which one (if any of those) you see as the tale's twist, praytell?


Sun Jan 22, 08:15:00 AM PST  
Anonymous fingertree said...

Good grief!I got Wilde confused with Hans Andersen :Wilde's 'The Nightingale and the Rose' and Hans Andersen's 'The Nightingale'.I do apologise.

Your tale is similar in spirit to Andersen.Maybe there is yet another story( perhaps there is of my imagining) of the caged bird that stops singing and dies.

In Andersen the contrast is between a real nightingle and a clockwork one as you might recall, and the real one whose singing allows the King to live chooses a life of freedom rather than its earlier caged royal one, and come and go as it pleases.

I suppose the twist then, is that the bird dies in its own good time and is mourned by the princess in song..

Sun Jan 22, 09:43:00 AM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

dear Tree--

well then, you're a wealth of good references! -- as I've red neither the Wild nor the Andersen per se -- though as an archetypal story, the outlines you sketch of it seem familiar enough in a general way. Such tales are found in many cultures, needless to say. I'm a bit more familiar with versions of the caged bird found in poets like Rumi (in his Mathnawi, Book 1) and in some particularly memorable poems of Tagore's. Wherever one happens to encounter such tales, certain basic ideas are familiar enough. The delight of this new story, perhaps, partly resides in its being an exemplary, rather than a cautionary, tale.

Come to think of it, this may be an interesting basic distinction in storytelling: that which portrays some ideal through direct example (the exemplary tale), versus that which portrays the ideal through the roundabout road of that ideal's loss (the cautionary tale).

But anyway, sometime I should track down Oscar Wilde's story, if merely out of curiousity.

This afternoon I have made (a rough guess) perhaps as many as 20 or 30 little word changes in the poem; some as small as a fine tuning between "the" versus "a" versus "this" -- all of which become surprisingly "important" in the overall effectiveness of the poem and its music (i.e., both with regard to sound & sense). I feel now (after dabbling in this bit of poem-polishing) that it rests as a more solid and (if I dare use such a word) serious thing. These days I'm not shy of posting a poem at once; but I'm also not hesitant to continue revising it for a little while. Typically, I guess such revision can go on for a day or so before all pieces seem settled. Particularly with a longer poem like this, its fine-tuning is in itself an interesting process, at times.

Thanks again for the literary references.

Sun Jan 22, 12:32:00 PM PST  
Anonymous fingertree said...

I think I was using cautionary, non technically, more in the sense of modern concerns (and hence cautions) about being less anthropocentric, more sensitive to 'nature'.

But thanks for the distinction between exemplary and cautionary.

Sun Jan 22, 01:10:00 PM PST  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Ah Fingertree--

I meanwhile had quite lost sight of the fact you did (in fact) use the word cautionary! I was merely (instead, reaching that word & concept by an alternative route) pondering the differences between a tale such as you describe: of a caged bird (which is the kind of tale I had in mind underlying this story, in a way -- even though things didn't go that way in the instance), versus what we have here.

Yes, this is I dare say precisely NOT a cautionary tale! -- at least as I understand the phrase. And in a sense it's also the opposite of a "modern" telling or retelling (since the poem is consciously slightly anachronistic & archaic in its modes of expression, and too, in its setting -- since in modern times we don't much have these princesses and courtiers quaking in their boots about uttering a wrong word) . . .

that said, this is mere hairsplitting about the words modern & cautinary (and I need not split hairs further about being a retelling of the Andersen -- or Wilde -- having already admitted to knowing neither); these are mere minor badmintonings of the ball of distinction. The central point is taken: the poem exists within a tradition of poetry and storytelling relating to the caged-bird archetype. It is a contemporary (indeed) retelling of that tale with (as you say) a twist: the twist being it's (per my new notion or distinction of the 2 types of such story) exemplary rather than cautionary.

& again-thanks for the remarks as well as the badminto.

& now I can venture out into the dogs-barking world at peace.

cheers, d.i.

Sun Jan 22, 01:31:00 PM PST  

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