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Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Pat Hathaway (---.inetarena.com)
Date: November 01, 2000 09:46AM

  One of my favorite "poems" is the first few lines of Joyce Cary's novel "The Horse's Mouth."<br />


"I was walking by the Thames. Half-past morning on an autumn day. Sun in a mist. Like an orange in a fried fish shop. All bright below. Low tide, dusty water and a crooked bar of straw, chicken boxes, dirt and oil from mud to mud. Like a viper swimming in skim milk. The old serpent, symbol of nature and love.

Five windows light the caverned man; through one he breathes the air
Through one hears music of the spheres; through one can look
And see small portions of the eternal world.

Such as Thames mud turned into a bank of nine carat gold rough from the fire."

Can this be a poem? Or, because it is in a novel and paragraph form, must it be prose?


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: November 01, 2000 10:45PM

Good question - there is a poetry school that writes in a prose form.

I wholly agree that the passage you quote from Joyce Cary reads like poetry and could easily be line broken to appear in a more conventional form. So, if it feels and reads like poetry,who will say it isn't?

I see no reason why it cannot read as prose and poetry. Stay open-minded and be ready to interpret as your heart takes you.

Chesil


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Soma (---.tnt1.hba1.da.uu.net)
Date: November 02, 2000 03:41AM

Here is a translation from the Russian. It sounds poetic, but was it poetry or prose in the original?

Listening to the horrors of war, with each new victim of the fight,
I pity not the friend and not the wife.
I do not pity the hero himself.
Alas, the wife will console herself, and the best friend will forget a friend.
But there is a soul somewhere who will remember till death.
Amidst our hypocritical deeds and every triviality of our prosaic life,
I perceived the only sacred, sincere tears in the world -- the tears of the poor mothers.
They cannot forget their children who have perished on the field of the bloody harvest,
like unto the weeping willow that cannot raise its drooping boughs.


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Chesil (---.neo.rr.com)
Date: November 02, 2000 07:02AM

Translations are a whole different area. With some notable exceptions, I do wonder whether the current thirst for literal translation isn't robbing us of the soul of the poetry.

I like to use this example. Here is John Dryden, the first Poet Laureate, translating Horace:

Happy the Man

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been. has been, and I have had my hour


and here is a recent translation of the same lines:

A happy life and mastery
over himself shall be his who daily
can say: "I have lived: tomorrow the Father
may fill the vault with dark clouds

or brilliant sunlight, but he will not render
the past invalid, will not re-shape
and make undone whatever
the fleeting hour has brought."

A competent translation, no doubt, but I know which I prefer! I also suspect that Horace himself would have preferred the Dryden for capturing the spirit of the piece. Modern translators do not seem to understand the need to also interpret the poetic as well as translate the language.

Call me old fashioned - and many have - but I have been appalled by recent retranslations of Omar Khayam. Fitzgerald (and probably the Persian poet himself) must be spinning in his grave.

Chesil


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Pat Hathaway (---.inetarena.com)
Date: November 02, 2000 09:55AM

It's poem-shaped, but heavy, somehow. "War and Peace..." ? Just guessing...


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Leiv (193.216.206.---)
Date: November 03, 2000 06:39AM

Incidentally, this bit:

 Five windows light the caverned man; through one he<br />

breathes the air
Through one hears music of the spheres; through one can
look
And see small portions of the eternal world.


is a quote - from William Blake, I believe.


RE: Can it be poetry...?
Posted by: Pat Hathaway (---.inetarena.com)
Date: November 03, 2000 09:47AM

Leiv - there's LOTS of Blake in this book--you might enjoy reading it, if you haven't already, just to visit Blake in a different setting...




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