Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“The world and its work only naught into naught is”
      quoth Hafez   remembering the tome
who would parse out the puzzle confounded by aught is
      plead I   as I'm sifting the loam

Say you're idling on shores   of an indolent isle
      in mute colloquey with blusterings of breeze
would fine sand feign a hamlet   all miniature-style?
      do you loll in vague shadowings of trees?

Say I hold to what world I were born to   twain score
      and ten years long afore   have you gone
from what habiting you kept?   whilom dreaming of shore
      and fond isle?   one could wander anon

Mordant ticks of the clock   dimly mock the taut tabla
      smooth vina eftsoons would I learn
toward what shore do we flock?   is the sea Parabrahma?
      blind babbling  we yearn to return

            - F I N I S -

some notes

only naught into naught is: is merely nothing into nothing
The line from Hafez-i-Shiraz is very slighlty modified from the English version given by the redoubtable Col. Wilberforce Clark. The second line of the couplet reads, "The verifying of this matter, a thousand times I have made." Meher Baba was fond of quoting this particular couplet of the Persian poet.
quoth Hafez remembering the tome: (i) said Hafez, who remembered the tome [the Qu'oran]; or (ii) said Hafez --- as we may recall by recollecting [what is written in] the tome [i.e., the Divan-i-Hafez (his collected poems).

The poet's pen-name literally signifies "[one who] remember[s]". Conventionally, the poet is understood to bear this pen-name in honor of his knowing the Qu'oran by heart. But remembrance (the remembrance of God; the soul's remembrance of its original state; etc.) is of course central to the mysticism of Hafez's poetry. Coincidentally, the commonplace Farsi greeting (equivalent to "hello" and "goodbye" [= God be with you]) is Khoda hafez ("remember the Lord"). At any rate, the line in my poem mildly plays with this simplistic paradox: that he who remembered a book, is himself remembered in a book.
twain score / and ten years: this detail is autobiographical (i.e., I'm 50 years of age)
in mute colloquey: could mean in muted conversation (and/or in unvoiced conversation)
from what habiting you kept: from the abode you maintained
mock the taut tabla: immitate the percussive sounds of the well-tuned tabla (Hindustani drum)
smooth vina eftsoons would I learn: I should like to study the dulcet and suasive, ancient musical instrument called vina (thus confesses the poet at conclusion of the poem -- a germane remark, to the degree the whole poetic cycle could, under one possible construction, be deemed (almost) as an extended metaphor for this musical aspiration; -- albeit such a passing remark is, well, merely a passing remark, and, one trusts, in no wise a delimiting interpretational conception; at most, it [rather self-mythologically] notes one element in a (vague) congries of thoughts somewhat [i.e., more or less] underlying and underpinning the formation of the poem)
Parabhrahma (Skt.): God the Beyond
blind babbling: babbling in a blind (unenlightened) way. The word babble most literally denotes the nonsensical utterances of infants; but in a secondary sense, it conventionally suggests the sound of a brook or river -- such as may wend its way sea-ward.


Anonymous Brigitte N.S. said...

David, Not being much of a poetry fan, I didn't expect to get through this. But it flowed so smoothly and had such a fun heart quality, that I breezed right along. I thought/felt it was wonderful. Thanks.
My reply:
Wherever one goes
To escape or discover,
We take ourselves with us
Stay here! Be a LOVER

Mon Jul 10, 06:59:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Ellis said...

In the Silence, I enjoyed this narrative romance and its many wonderful turns of phrase.

The plot reminded me of G. K. Chesterton's fable of a man, sailing out for distant lands, who lands on his home country England but thinks he has landed on an exotic shore. This work inspired C. S. Lewis's first prose but roughest effort "The Pilgrim's Regress," in which the pilgrim longing for a beautiful island, after journeying, finds himself to have arrived at home.

Chesterton comments that this merged duality is important: most want the romance of strangeness with all the familiarity of home.

Mon Jul 10, 10:10:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Brigette and Ellis,
I'm obliged for your good remarks. Ellis, I'd quite forgotten about that work of Lewis's, and didn't know the Chesterton. I've a vague idea I've seen whisps of the idea somewhere else as well, perhaps in some folktale, perhaps in some other fiction; -- but not I imagine in quite so clear a form as in the works you cite. It interests me that Lewis and I both landed on the same word (his Pilgrim's Regress, cf. my poem's line "the drift of my thought turned regressive"); though with the sailor of my poem, the notion is perhaps one of going back to primordial origins (as figured by the island of immortality-peaches), while it sounds like Lewis's pilgrim's "regress" involves going back, well, where he came from more literally. In the instance, it seemingly amounted to a kindred experience.

Two works I'd deem particularly strong as influences on my thinking are the Noh-style play by W.B. Yeats, At The Hawk's Well (a work I know very intimately, since I spent several weeks editing a video I shot of a production of the play), as well as a novel I read with tremendous interest a couple weeks ago, Jose Saramago's The Double. (The latter is the first book I've read from that author, but I look forward to reading others.)

One may notice the identification (in end) of Lao-Tzu as the husbander of the elusive fruit trees. I'm not sure if this notion is supported by Chinese forms of the peach-of-immortality myth or not; but Lao-Tzu [literally "the old one," or, in another reasonable translation, the Ancient One) felt to be a suitable figure for that role.


Mon Jul 10, 07:16:00 PM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

I should add that in some respects, a primary influence for me, unavoidably, was W.S. Merwin's early narrative poem "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" -- an estimable model, that modernly reimagined, moderately quasi-archaic delve into fabulistic storytelling.

Tue Jul 11, 05:48:00 AM PDT  

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