Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“An oaf and his trove are not easily parted”
      thus spake the old monk with a laugh
“Polaris and Venus both weep broken-hearted”
      rejoined the mad guest, looking daft

“On an isle dwells an Ancient, betimes I espy him”
      allowed the wise monk with a smile
“every tree of his grove hid unknowably whilom”
      responded the guest in good style

“Does a flute ply the void? Is no tympany heard?”
      so inquired the old anchorite keenly
“Is the tune unalloyed by all taint of a word?”
      in such wise quipped the sailor serenely

Sits a wizened Franciscan with kettle at hand
      and the hour grows late after noon
hath the tea long extended, pell-mell and unplanned
      whilst the pair thus converse, patent loons


“For to sail the wide brine seeking high deathless plunder
      were rude or absurd!” quoth the guest
“Can the self from its semblance be cloven asunder?”
      this quandary the hermit expressed

“What to make of the fugue that our fortunes delimn?”
      thus inquired the sailor perplexed
“An we travel or sit, where’s the brink or the brim?”
      thus inquired the anchorite next

“When one floats with a craft, o’er the vast of the brine
      what determines the course one pursues?”
sitting pensive, the guest this perplexity fine
      retrospectively posed and perused

“When one climbs to an Abbey and taps at the door
      who’ll explain repetition’s design?”
pacing thoughtful, the hermit thus studied the chore
      very life had delivered in fine


Brightly lingering a spell over tea and conversing
      each sounded the thought of the other
with the annal the twain were together rehearsing
      akin to a babe and its mother

“Bababoo!” cries the babe who is toddling toward speaking
      by rudiments   “Baboo!” rings the echo
and if “Kalamazoo” be the word he were seeking
      what bodes it for thee or El Greco?

All art is but figments of figure and hue
      dreamy pigments of line and design
and if one who were striving for Kalamazoo
      spake Baboo, should this serve as a sign?

What means it if Lao-Tzu abide on an isle?
      what sooth hath the peach of the fable?
what boots it I write antiquarian style?
      and what should the telling enable?

some notes

tympany: drum [primary sense], inflated or bombastic utterance [secondary sense]
patent loons: obvious lunatics
chore: task [primary sense], also twist [an extrapolatable secondary sense -- considering the etymology: Middle English cherre, char turn, time, piece of work, from Old English cierr, cyrr; akin to Old English cierran to turn, Old Norse kjarr underbrush, Greek gerron wicker shield, wicker body of a cart; basic meaning: turn, bend, twist]. In context of the verse, "chore" of course suggests, the work of working out of a puzzle -- a puzzle delivered (as the poem notes) by life itself, in short.
Kalamazoo: a city in Michigan (also, a river beside that city). While the word was admittedly chosen simply on phonetic grounds, we may tangentially note this interesting anecdote about the possible origins of the name (thanks to a Wikipedia item): "Another popular account is the legend of a Potawatomi [tribal Indian] named Fleet Foot. In order to win his bride, he was required to run from his settlement to a point on the river and back before a pot of water boiled away. This event is thought to have occurred in 1810, a couple of decades before the first permanent white settlers. The Potawatomi word kikalamezo appears on an 1823 atlas of the area. The word translates as 'boiling pot' or 'place where the water boils,' and refers to the Fleet Foot legend."
what bodes it: what does it forebode or prefigure?
El Greco (lit. "the Greek"): the Spanish artist (1541-1614 AD). As the Wikipedia notes, "He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagoric pigmentation."
figments: -- a dictionary definition is worth noting: something made up, fabricated, or contrived; "uses this dim figment of the chronicles as an excuse to present the doubts and indecisions of a humanistic age -- Herbert Read". And this etymology is noted: Middle English, from Latin figmentum, from fig- (stem of fingere to shape, form, devise, feign) + -mentum -ment. The word "figure" is of course cognate, sharing the same root.
what boots it: what is its advantage, purpose, or use?


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