Friday, July 07, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“Such an annal as you weave,” now the anchorite spake
      “shows a form symapthetic to me
I alike brooked a life I inclined to forsake
      in a land far across the wide sea

I akin loved the lore of the ends of the world
      where all blessings depend from a bough
I the same went to sea with my sail unfurled
      all a’fierce my importunate vow

What to make of the greeting sustained in raw sand
      where a hamlet dissembles one's own?
how to reck such a sequel, oblique and unplanned
      in a quaint whilst familiar zone?

I forsooth became dumbstruck espying a self
      who portrayed me, unwise to the ruse
all tricked out as my glass, with my mood and my pelf
      wotting not the spectacular news


"E'en as scaled thee the hill to this hermitage leading
      the same long afore did I climb
e'en precisely as quoth thee in tale proceeding
      my spiel struck each note of that rhyme"

The anchorite paused, as he tended the fire
      that blazed in the hearth with its embers
what are we but plain voices in fugue of a choir
      unwitting? but someone remembers

What means it that he who paraded as me
      didn't trace his own face in my own?
and what bodes it if I who this anchorite spy
      fail to sort the purport of his tone?

The hermit and I took our stroll in the night
      noting Venus as well as Polaris
then he showed me a cell and remarked that he might
      on the morrow brook further my queries


After orisons of matins, o'er tea we convened,
      the bald anchorite tacit yet kind
"Have you kenned," he inquired, "or haphazardly gleaned
      the old doctrine of infinite mind?"

“I've puttered a tad an of this or of that
      hath philosophy's track long intrigued
but I wore in the world dark necessity’s hat
      I ploughed shallow betimes or fatigued

Of mind, what I'd grapple were logic and thought
      the sequence of question and reason
for infinity’s sky by such net to be caught
      should require an infinite season!”

He laughed at my quip, then directed, “Come sit”
      I dove and then drank the deep silence
it seemed I were standing eftsoons on a ship
      whilom semblance would merit reliance

some notes

how to reck such a sequel: how to regard such a subsequent experience?
all tricked out as my glass: appearing like my image in a mirror
wotting not the spectacular news: not being aware of the novel spectacle
my spiel struck each note of that rhyme: what I spoke followed, note for note, that utterance
"plain voices" may suggest: (i) isolated voices, (ii) plainsong (or plainchant) voices. The word plain, in its root, simply means level or flat (thus a geographical correlate of the geometrical plane), here variously suggesting a lack of ornament (self-comprehension), complexity (self-complication), intensity (self-accentuation), and multiplicty (self-exaggeration). If I may so riff. Technically and historically (which is to say, musicologically) speaking, I'm not sure to what degree or in what ways plainchant is related to (or distinct from) fugue -- the latter being a compositionally rigorous weaving of interlocking voices. I'm thinking one could allow that plainchant may be construed as a more archaic and simple antecedent of the baroque fugue (as in the works of Bach); while of course not all plainchant is fugal in character. Indeed, as I'm admittedly vague on the topic, I'll leave off further splittings of the hair. The idea of "isolated voices" is withal the primary sense of the phrase, in fine.
noting Venus as well as Polaris: respectively, the planet of sympathy (or love), and the star of constancy (the Pole Star): the lyrically various as well as the invariantly dependable; beauty as well as truth. Do I parse till the parchmenet be but ribbons? Ah, but the poem nears ending.
orisons of matins: early morning prayers
tacit yet kind: quiet but friendly
I've puttered a tad: I've tinkered (in such studies or speculations) a bit. The verb putter derives from potter (that is, the work of a ceramacist); whereas the noun tad derives from toad (as we may note, too, in the word tadpole). A ceramacist may apply a tad of clay, when seeking to perfect the pot he is puttering.
should require an infinite season: i.e., it would take forever


After believing the tale to have been concluded with this Part Three, lo and behold: a sequel: PART FOUR


Blogger david raphael israel said...

Anecdotally: while the writing of Part One of this 3-part story necessitated extensive revision (largely, to establish and fine-tune the pitch and range of style and lexicon), my writing of Parts Two and Three needed much less revising (although, on the other hand, after Part One, I did discard a false-start version of Part Two, albeit retaining elements of a couple verses which ended up in the final section of this Part Three). At any rate, also this authorial comment:

What I'm especially happy about in this tale is the balance or range of possible reading (interpretation). Who is the real figure? What is the real, underlying story? Which is the real scene, versus which is the dream-like scene? etc. If the poem gives an answer, I've not grasped it! But it does pose a continuing puzzle-pattern, one may say.

With this Part Three, I did make modest revision to the first stanza. Formerly, it had read:

“Such tale as you weave,” now the anchorite spake
      “shows a pattern familiar to me
I alike brooked a life I inclined to forsake
      in a land far across the wide sea

It occurred to me that the word "annal" adds some suitable variation on the general idea of an account; whereas a "form sympathetic" may include the idea of "a pattern familiar" -- but it has the advantage of the fine pedigree and nuances of the word "sympathetic" -- including the the medico-philosphical as well as literary-esthetic and even moral dimensions of sympathy, a word which at root could be translated "having shared (or similar) feeling."

Let me also add that although I offer parsings of several of the slightly more archaic or arcane lines in notes, I demur from doing so for the poem's important final line, albeit tempted. Perhaps the notes, even so, can barely be tolerated by the perspicuous reader. My apologies to the wise; no offence by this rude gesture was intended. ;-)


Sat Jul 08, 04:27:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

ps: in fact, a yet-earlier form of line 2 of that stanza had been
"shows a skein right familiar to me". And I suppose I first wrote "The tale you tell" rather than "Such a tale as you weave." I wanted to play on the idea of a woven thing (hence "skein" and then "pattern"); but form itself, thoughtfully construed, presumably includes (and fairly poits to) the idea of pattern. Partly for rhythmic reasons, "form sympathetic" proved the ultimate version.

Incidentally (this relates to a phrase in Part Two), I wish to remark about "absolute happiness":
the etymology of "absolute" (signifying, a thing that has no dilution, a condition where any admixture is absent) somehow seems to show itself as obvious, when the word is placed in context of the stanza, even though this basic meaning of "absolute" is one that frankly I had not registered or pondered or analyzed till the moment of writing this line of the poem.

A feeling for root meanings of words, as said, has been one little aspect of the amusement and investigation of this rather whimsical experiment in narrative.

Sat Jul 08, 04:51:00 AM PDT  
Blogger david raphael israel said...

pps: in end, Part Three (too) has called for a few more tweaks than I'd thought!

I was happy with those little polishings to these lines -- the original of which had been

"Have you kenned," he inquired, "or passingly gleaned
the doctrine of infinite mind?"

-- of course "haphazardly" fits more pleasingly, rhythmically speaking. But here, two distinguishable modes of learning (that which is kenned [known directly], versus that which is haphazardly gleaned [grasped by vagaries of chance and situation]) is playfully, passingly suggested.

As for "the old doctrine," it seems a truism that what is noted as "old" [original] is, in the realm of storytelling, of superior vintage.

I could also remark that the phrase "doctrine of infinite mind" is (so far as I am aware) more or less a neologism or conceit of the poem (albeit it does seem a fair extrapoliation from a few other kindred phrases, words, and ideas). The idea of "the universal mind," anyway, is a familiar one. For purposes of this poem, the notion of an endless (infinite) repetition, with its varied mysterious, gothic, intriguing, disgusting, astonishing, and no doubt philosophical ramifications, came to the fore as a focus or theme for bemused meditation.

Sat Jul 08, 05:43:00 AM PDT  

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