Bathers, G.W. Russell
April tenth can be written as 10-4. Anyone who ever used a CB radio or a walkie talkie knows that this is an acknowledgement code, a response to a message which means “message received and understood”. The manner in which messages are received and understood is an interesting semiotic. It gives us clues to “tribal” affiliations.
Some examples might be:
Hooah = US Army and Cavalry, Oorah = US Marines (USMC), Hooyah = US Navy, Aye Sir = US Navy, Aye Aye Sir = Royal Navy / USMC, Roger/ Copy/ Wilco = Trained radio operators – especially maritime, Romeo = Australian version of Roger, Sir Yes Sir = usually grunts in basic training.
Today is also the birthday of George William Russell, one of the leading lights of the Irish Literary Revival. I am not a great fan of his poetry, but I do love his paintings. I find his poetic style to be a bit over-garnished, but he does have an ear for the Irish cadence and the unique nature of Hiberno-English syntax. He was a mystic and many of his poems are filled with allusions to mysticism and turgid with symbology. He would understand the significance of the semiotics above, and would be careful to use the right ones.
Willam Butler Yeats and his fellow members of the Golden Bough shared Russell’s love of the obscure forces that shape our supposed history. Russell himself used a symbol as a pseudonym, writing as AE, or more properly ᴁ.
This poem is about an ostensible Celtic goddess, Danu or Dana. Ostensible because there is no record of the Goddess, but she is extrapolated from the “People of the Goddess Dana”, the Tuatha Dé Danann in the Irish Language. Danu is a Hindu river goddess. Proto Indo-European language roots associate Danu with rivers across Europe, the most obvious being the Danube. In the more modern Ireland we have a singer, Dana (Rosemary Scallon) who was our first winner of the Eurovision song contest, and we also have a traditional Irish music group called Danú, from Dungarvan. They have a guitarist with a beautiful name and a better pedigree. Dónal Clancy is son of Liam, one of the Clancy Brothers.
Dana ; by George William Russell
I am the tender voice calling “Away,”
whispering between the beatings of the heart,
and inaccessible in dewy eyes
I dwell, and all unkissed on lovely lips,
lingering between white breasts inviolate,
and fleeting ever from the passionate touch,
I shine afar, till men may not divine
whether it is the stars or the beloved
they follow with rapt spirit. And I weave
my spells at evening, folding with dim caress,
aerial arms and twilight dropping hair,
the lonely wanderer by wood or shore,
’till, filled with some deep tenderness, he yields,
feeling in dreams for the dear mother heart
he knew, ere he forsook the starry way,
and clings there, pillowed far above the smoke
and the dim murmur from the duns of men.
I can enchant the trees and rocks, and fill
the dumb brown lips of earth with mystery,
make them reveal or hide the god. I breathe
a deeper pity than all love, myself
mother of all, but without hands to heal:
Too vast and vague, they know me not. But yet,
I am the heartbreak over fallen things,
the sudden gentleness that stays the blow,
and I am in the kiss that foemen give
pausing in battle, and in the tears that fall
over the vanquished foe, and in the highest,
among the Danaan gods, I am the last
council of mercy in their hearts where they
mete justice from a thousand starry thrones.