Friday, July 07, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



"Good Father" I sighed   "I'm flummoxed and strange
      my canard   should no rustic believe
how I seem to be bagged   in dimensions deranged!
      wotting not   an to laugh or to grieve"

"Come sit" the monk bade   "in the hearth lives a fire
      whilom rarely I'd squander the kindling
whatsoe'er be thy saga   an comic or dire
      I espy in your visage no swindling"

We sat and we supped and we quaffed of his port
      the while I recounted my tale
the anchorite proved of a genial sort
      only what could the telling avail?

"I passed" I declaimed   "many years of a life
      whose burden late grew sore oppressive
having lost half a fortune   and all of a wife
      the drift of my thought turned regressive


"I recalled olden tales   of a land beyond seas
      wherein happiness falls from the bough
I resolved for to sail   if the wind should but please
      to reach land or risk limb were my vow

So a nautical chilla-nashini I kept!
      at its zenith   my craft struck raw sand
now adventured my foot onto shore   and I wept
      fell the sequel   oblique and unplanned

I encountered no tree   lading fabulous fruit
      all golden its nectarine kiss
whose taste and glad glimpse   whose scent or bare thought
      all impart absolute happiness

In lieu what I spied   as I roved from the beach
      were a hamlet whose map proved banal
if my aim were to taste   immortality's peach
      I were caught in illusion withal


"Every way of that ville   were a street of my town
      till I sauntered anon to a ruelle
I discovered a house like my haunt!   Do I frown?
      had my trek been the trip of a fool?

In the house stood a man who resembled myself
      never once he remarked on the marvel
his mood my erst mode   his trove my erst pelf
      he divulged how he hankered to travel

He fancied to wend   to the ends of the world
      his sojourn commencing eftsoons
in favorable gale   should his sail be unfurled
      a journey of one or two moons

He bade me abide in the haunting he left
      he departed by God   but this morn!
as he sallied forth sea-ward   I saw how bereft
      he'd debark as I landed   forlorn"


To a certain degree degree, the experiment with mildly archaic diction and style is also an experiment with primary and secondary meanings of some familiar words; for the more archaic sense as well as the current sense can (at times), in the setting of such a poem, be brought together into a more dynamic continuum. Perhaps I exaggerate what's actually accomplished in the instance. This is merely noting one line of interest. My interest in such possibilities owes something to the example of early Merwin (especially his superb, long narrative poem "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" from Green with Beasts, as well as stray things read from Robert Graves, Ezra Pound, Yeats, Frost, and even (to a minute degree) Tagore. Anyway, I'll put in a some notes (perhaps overmuch; but I won't do this always!)

  flummmoxed and strange: (i) confused and peculiar [modern sense]; (ii) embarrassed and a stranger [archaic sense]
  my canard should no rustic believe: (i) no simple-minded person would be likely to credit my false(seeming)/fantastical story [primary (figurative) sense]; (ii) no country-person (by nature, an expert in this field) would be apt to recognize my duck [secondary (literal) sense]
  bagged: (i) caught, stuck; (ii) drunk (as with the idiom, in the bag = inebriated); (iii) captured like a bird [such as a duck] -- can be noted as a mild, possible implication
  dimensions: (i) a system of physical (or metaphysical, or metaphorical, or even narratory) positional coordinates; (ii) may suggestion (as a secondary meaning) dementia = madness]; "dimensions deranged" may signify "disarrayed coordinates [of position]" (if taken primarily in a physical sense)
  wotting not: not knowing
  an to laugh or to grieve: whether to laugh or to grieve
  whilom: formerly
  an comic or dire: whether comic or dire
  chilla-nashini: a severe austerity of forty days' duration
  at its zenith (i.e., after the completion of the 40-day period)
  craft = boat or ship
  fabulous fruit: the fruit described in fables. Here, the peach of immortality (chiefly of Chinese [and also, possibly, Persian] conception) is indicated. At some point one might peruse the late Prof. Edward H. Shafer's tome, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand. (Whether it should prove germane in the instance, I wot not; my studies are sadly sporadic.)
  fell the sequel oblique and unplanned: what happened [fell or befell] next [i.e., the sequenl] transpired in a manner not directly following (from logic or expectation) nor consonant with anticipation (plan)
  withal: nevertheless
  ruelle (from the French rue, street, diminutive): a small street or lane
  trip: (i) journey; (ii) collapse or misstep
  trove and pelf: fortune and possessions
  haunting: dwelling [perhaps my own gerund-formation(?) from haunt = habitual abode; but I vaguely think I've seen the gerund form (in this sense) somewhere]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

should the notes be before or after
a poem? chilla nishini is not a familiar word. wot say?


Tue Jul 11, 07:23:00 PM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

Ah -- in my preference, the notes are better after the text. Those who encounter an unfamiliar word may easily enough look down to end-notes and consider if the question isn't cleared up there. For to make overmuch of such notes (placing them prior to primary text!) is comparable to placing cart before horse. Truth to tell, some may deem it a borderline insult merely to install such voluminous notes (or at least, may cavil at finding explained therein things that prove obvious enough to them; the self-annotation is considered plausibly pretentious, by some). However, one hazards these annoyances of opinion for sake of conveniencing many to whom one or another phrase are surely apt to be unfamiliar. Chilla-nashini falls in that class, undoubtedly.


Tue Jul 11, 08:31:00 PM PDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home