Translating Federico

Cordoba

Patio of the Oranges at the Mosque in Cordoba

 

If you follow this blog you know I have a special place in my heart for Federico Garcia Lorca.  Today is his birthday, born June 5th 1898 as Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca.  This translates as Frederick Sacred Heart of Jesus García Lorca.  Which gives some clue to the conservative Catholic religious nature of the Spain into which he was born.

An Andalusian he was born, an Andalusian he died. His birthplace, Fuentes Vaqueros (Cowboy Springs) is near to Granada, one of the three great Moorish cities of Andalusia in Southern Spain.  He was murdered in Fuente Grande (Big Spring) during the Spanish Civil War because as a homosexual artist with a mighty pen he represented everything the Conservative Nationalists were fighting to defend Spain against.  Liberalism, futurism, surrealism, atheism, anarchism, communism, education, anti-capitalism.

Many think the poem below was foreshadowing his death.  The hooks are certainly appealing, the boy born in Cowboy Springs – Vaquero/Jinete.  Born in one spring, died at another.  I didn’t like any of the translations I found, so this is my own from the original.

 

 

Rider’s Song (Canción del jinete); by Federico Garcia Lorca (Trans. D. Clancy)

Cordoba, far and distant.

Black pony, full moon,
and olives in my pack.
Although I know the ways
I’ll never reach Cordoba.

Across the plain, against the wind,
black pony, red moon.
Death seeks me out
from the towers of Cordoba.

How long the road!
How brave my pony!
But death awaits me
before I reach Cordoba!

Cordoba, far and distant.

POTUSterity

Trump Failure

Victor Juhasz: Rolling Stone

On the birthday of Walt Whitman it is interesting to note that the great American poet left some profound poetic tributes to the legacy of his president Abraham Lincoln.

How distant does this seem from the legacy that will follow the current POTUS?

O Captain! my Captain:  Walt Whitman (1865 on the death of Lincoln)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
the ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
the port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
while follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
where on the deck my Captain lies,
fallen cold and dead …

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d:  Walt Whitman (1865)

When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
and the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
and thought of him I love …

abraham-lincolns-death-picture

Free like Clancy

Clancy

In modern culture the cowboy is not just a man who works horses or drives cattle.  The cowboy is a symbol.  By definition a symbol is a thing that represents or stands for something else.  The cowboy is a complex symbol representing adventure, independence, freedom, a carefree life untroubled by the manners and conventions of civilized society.  He represents the polar opposite of living in a city, with a job, family, mortgage, car payments etc.  He is an escape fantasy.

When Philip Morris cigarette company advertised their Marlboro brand the ad agency, Leo Burnett, tied it to the symbol of the Cowboy.  It was an instant success because the target market identified immediately with all the meanings conveyed by that symbol.  The cowboy became known as the Marlboro man.

In Australia the free-ranging cowboy symbol has a name, which happens to be my own;  Clancy.  Inspired by Banjo Patterson’s poem “Clancy of the Overflow” the aussie cattle drover crystallized in the minds of Australians in the character of the eponymous hero.  So much so that Clancy inspired his own literary following.

Clancy appears in the poem, and in the movie “The Man from Snowy River”.  A less favourable view of the drovers life is given in “Clancy’s Reply” by Thomas Gerald Clancy and the popularity of the genre is mocked in the parody “The Overflow of Clancy” by the enigmatic HHCC.

The poem below is by well known Australian poet Dorothy Hewett, born May 21st 1923.  Her usage of Clancy is a clear nod to the symbology of Clancy representing the wild carefree and fun existence as a stark contrast to her Quaker roots.

 

Once I Rode With Clancy; by Dorothy Hewett

Once I rode with Clancy through the wet hills of Wickepin,
by Kunjin and Corrigin with moonlight on the roofs,
and the iron shone faint and ghostly on the lonely moonlit siding
and the salt earth rang like crystal underneath our flying hoofs.

O once I rode with Clancy when my white flesh was tender,
and my hair a golden cloud along the wind,
among the hills of Wickepin, the dry salt plains of Corrigin,
where all my Quaker forebears strove and sinned.

Their black hats went bobbing through the Kunjin churchyard,
with great rapacious noses, somber-eyed,
ringbarked gums and planted pine trees, built a raw church
in a clearing, made it consecrated ground because they died.

From this seed I spring—the dour and sardonic Quaker men,
the women with hooked noses, baking bread,
breeding, hymning, sowing, fencing off the stony earth,
that salts their bones for thanksgiving when they’re dead.

It’s a country full of old men, with thumbscrews on their hunger,
their crosses leaning sideways in the scrub.
My cousins spit to windward, great noses blue with moonlight,
their shoulders propping up the Kunjin pub.

O once I rode with Clancy through the wet hills of Wickepin,
by Kunjin and Corrigin with moonlight on the roofs,
and the iron shone faint and ghostly on the lonely, moonlit siding
and the salt earth rang like crystal underneath our flying hoofs.

And the old men rose muttering and cursed us from the graveyard
when they saw our wild white hoofs go flashing by,
for I ride with landless Clancy and their prayers are at my back,
they can shout out strings of curses on the sky.

By Wickepin, by Corrigin, by Kunjin’s flinty hills,
on wild white hoofs that kindle into flame,
the river is my mirror, the wattle tree our roof,
adrift across our bed like golden rain.

Let the old men clack and mutter, let their dead eyes run with rain.
I hear the crack of doom across the scrub,
for though I ride with Clancy there is much of me remains,
in that moonlit dust outside the Kunjin pub.

My golden hair has faded, my tender flesh is dark,
my voice has learned a wet and windy sigh
and I lean above the creekbed, catch my breath upon a ghost,
with a great rapacious nose and somber eye.

Courage to face despair.

argoo

Tim Severin’s reconstruction of The Odyssey Ship

Jessie Redmon Fauset was born this day, April 27th in 1882 and was one of the contributing poets to the Harlem Renaissance.   More importantly her work portrayed images of African-Americans as working professionals, challenging embedded racial stereotypes.  As literary editor of the NAACP magazine “The Crisis” she promoted the work of writers including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay.

She taught a generation of African-Americans to honestly represent their racial qualities and to celebrate them; to be black, and be proud.  She challenged the inbuilt racism of African-Americans themselves where lighter toned people looked down upon the darker and few drops of mongrel white blood were valued over pure black ichor.

She tried but was arguably less successful at teaching women to represent their gender qualities and to celebrate them.  She is now recognised for her work as a feminist and her promotion of feminist writers.

The poem below derives from Homers Odyssey and the tale of the Lotus Eaters.  But it appears Fauset has taken her cue from Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote of Ulysses as opposed to Odysseus and used the ‘Lotos’ spelling in his poem “The Lotos-Eaters”.

Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
in the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
on the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.

 

‘Courage!’ He Said; by Jessie Redmon Fauset

ULYSSES, debarking in the Lotos Land,
struck the one note that the hapless Ithacans
travel-sick, mazed, bemused, could understand,
and understanding, follow.

‘Courage,’ he said, ‘remember, is not Hope!’
He left the worn, safe ship, spume-stained and hollow.
‘To be courageous is to face despair.’
And through the groves and ‘thwart the ambient air
resounded reedy echoes:
‘Face despair!’
But this they understood.
And plunging on prepared for best, and most prepared
for worst, found only in their stride
a deep umbrageous wood,
and grassy plains where they disported; eased
and bathed lame’ feet within a purling stream
and murmured: ‘Here, Odysseus, would we fain abide!’
But neither the stream’s sweet ease
nor the shade of the vast beech-trees,
nor the blessed sense
of the sweet, sweet soil
beneath feet salt-cracked and worn
brought to them even then,
(still fainting and frayed and forlorn),
such complete recompense
as the knowledge that once again
facing the new and untried,
they had kept the courage of men!

Happy Birthday Michael D. Higgins

Happy 77th birthday, President Higgins - Top 10 Michael D moments

Michael D. Higgins was born on this day in 1941.

He is the 9th president of Ireland and is in every way the polar opposite of the chimp in chief who currently serves as President of the U.S.A.

Higgins, a son of Limerick,  is a successful Galway University academic with post-graduate degrees awarded in the USA.  He is a fluent speaker of English, Irish and Spanish.  He gave up his academic career to concentrate on politics in the 1970’s.  He served the Labour party in Ireland and is a lifelong socialist.

He served as a Senator, a TD (Irish Member of Parliament), Government Minister and  Mayor of Galway before being elected President of Ireland.

He uses his time in the presidency to address issues of justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism, anti-racism and reconciliation. He made the first state visit by an Irish president to the United Kingdom in April 2014.  He has welcomed the British Royal Family to his home in the Phoenix Park.  He is famous for his two beautiful dogs who seem to participate in every state occassion at the Park.

As president he demonstrates understanding, leadership, care for the common good, tolerance, inclusion and collaboration – as I say the exact opposite of POTUS on every measure.  He is modest, accessible and approachable.  He casts a very long shadow for a man of small stature.  He is the very best of Ireland.  And he is a poet.

Take Care; by Michael D. Higgins

In the journey to the light,
the dark moments
should not threaten.
Belief
requires
that you hold steady.
Bend, if you will,
with the wind.
The tree is your teacher,
roots at once
more firm
from experience
in the soil
made fragile.
Your gentle dew will come
and a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.
In the misery of the I,
in rage,
it is easy to cry out
against all others
but to weaken
is to die
in the misery of knowing
the journey abandoned
towards the sharing
of all human hope
and cries
is the loss
of all we know
of the divine
reclaimed
for our shared
humanity.
Hold firm.
Take care.
Come home
together.

Michael D Higgins Reveals His Dog Died And Was Secretly Replaced

We are what we do.

Change the World for a Fiver by We Are What We Do

In 2004 an organisation called WeAreWhatWeDo.Org published a book on how to change the world for a fiver.  At the heart of this philosophy is the concept of the “Parlour General, Field Deserter” so beautifully encapsulated by Marge Piercy (Happy Birthday Marge)

The Parlour General is also called a slacktivist.  Slacktivism is defined as: the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.

The Slactivist is the person who constantly forwards touchy feely motivational posts on social media, wears the French Flag and sticks “Je Suis Charlie” on their profile, tags posts with #MeToo or #IBelieveHer but never actually gets off their backside to do anything about these causes.

So today figure out the cause that is most important to you and ask “What can I do?”  Not on social media.  What can you actually do?  The answer today is nothing because you are in lockdown, but prepare for the day you can get out.  Then act.

 

To Be Of Use; by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Le Martyr Irlandais

Cork Mayor

Born on this day in 1879 Terence MacSwiney was one of two Cork Lord Mayors who had a significant impact on the struggle for Irish Independence.  His death was a triumph for the Irish Cause and a complete Political and Propaganda failure by the British Government.

McSwiney was an IRA volunteer, a soldier prepared to die for the cause.  But he was presented to the world by Sinn Féin as a “sensitive poet intellectual”.  That is a brilliant piece of spin.  In Catholic communites he was presented as a modern day martyr.

MacSwiney was an early adopter of hunger strike, following the lead of Thomas Ashe in November 1917 going on hunger strike 3 days prior to his release after his arrest for wearing an IRA uniform.

In the 1918 General Election he won the Mid Cork seat.  In 1920 the Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás Mac Curtain, was assassinated by a Royal Irish Constabulary murder squad.  This was a symptom of the collapse of the British civil administration in Ireland.  When the police become murderers you know things have gone wrong.

MacSwiney was elected Lord Mayor of Cork.  Five months later he was arrested and imprisoned in Brixton Prison in England, after a trial in a military, not a civil court.  In protest MacSwiney immediatly went on hunger strike.  In response the Sinn Féin publicity machinery went into overdrive and made MacSwiney a cause célèbre on the international stage.

For the 73 days to his death his case played out in the USA, on the continent and in the British Colonies.  A small determined man in India in particular was paying close attention.  In London a Vietnamese independence campaigner named Ho Chi Minh said “A nation that has such citizens will never surrender.”

The greatest empire in the history of the world was unable to retain control of it’s closest possession in such circumstances.  Within a year the British agreed to Irish Independence.

Dig No Grave Deep; by Terence MacSwiney

Lay not the axe to earth;
love does not sleep.
If yet thy thought esteemeth mine of worth,
for it dig no grave deep.

Let it put forth its power,
aside the surface sweep;
then will leap forth the long-desired flower
which thou mayst reap.

 

 

Ye goode olde dayes.

Myles_Birket_Foster_-_The_Country_Inn

The Country Inn: Myles Birket Foster

Born on this day in 1859 AE Housman was too old to serve in Flanders Field but he was a poet ahead of his time.  The sentimentality of his poetry conjures up the nostalgia of a bucolic idyll of an England that never was.  His verse was the poetic equivalent of the chocolate box art of John Constable and Myles Birket Foster.  His nostalgia for a simpler and more wholesome life is reflected in JRR Tolkien’s image of the Shire from Lord of the Rings.  I like the lyric from the Kinks “Muswell Hilbillies” which says “Take me back to the black hills where I ain’t never been”.

World War One began with the Jingoistic and Triumphalist doggerel of music hall verse singing of the glories of adventure:  It’s a long way to Tipperary!

It then moved towards sacrificial verse like Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and of Housman which said “This is what we are fighting for”.

Eventually it descended into the true war poets like Sassoon, Owen and McCrae who expressed the absolute futility of young lives thrown away.

 

A Shropshire Lad 53; by A.E. Housman

The lad came to the door at night,
when lovers crown their vows,
and whistled soft and out of sight
in shadow of the boughs.

‘I shall not vex you with my face
henceforth, my love, for aye;
so take me in your arms a space
before the east is grey.

‘When I from hence away am past
I shall not find a bride,
and you shall be the first and last
I ever lay beside.’

She heard and went and knew not why;
her heart to his she laid;
light was the air beneath the sky
but dark under the shade.

‘Oh do you breathe, lad, that your breast
seems not to rise and fall,
and here upon my bosom prest
there beats no heart at all?’

‘Oh loud, my girl, it once would knock,
you should have felt it then;
but since for you I stopped the clock
it never goes again.’

‘Oh lad, what is it, lad, that drips
wet from your neck on mine?
What is it falling on my lips,
my lad, that tastes of brine?’

‘Oh like enough ’tis blood, my dear,
for when the knife has slit
the throat across from ear to ear
’twill bleed because of it.’

Gary Whitehead, a mouse and Covid19

Glendalough

Carpark in Glendalough during Lockdown

Monday morning Week 2 of Coronavirus lockdown.

Spring is upon us and the weekend discarded its shroud of rain and wind and blessed us with some sun for a change.  Here in rural Tipperary we were released to walk the quiet country roads.  Dublin was somewhat different.  Given a sniff of good weather Dubliners all collectively head for the same spots:  Glendalough, the Sally Gap, Howth Head, Dollymount Strand, Bettystown, the Phoenix Park etc.  As a result you get crowding, traffic jams, queues for the coffee truck or the chip van.  The opposite of social distancing.

As a result the council steps in and shuts down car parks, exacerbating the problem in the ones that remain open.

Huge cities are not human places.  Now that many of us can work remotely what is the point of crowding millions of people into boxes of glass and steel? So much valuable time is lost commuting too and from the workplace.  Today that time is being used for exercise.  A fit workforce is a productive workforce.

If Covid-19 teaches us one thing it is that we can reverse the flow of people from country to city.  In the modern world it is not necessary to cram your employees into a factory where you can supervise them.  Technology can do that for you.  I predict that many of those working from home today will continue to work from home long after the crisis is past.

 

Mouse In The House; by Gary Whitehead

For two nights now it’s wakened me from dreams
with a sound like paper being torn, reams

of it, a scratching that’s gone on for hours.
Blind in the dark, I think of my father’s

letters, the ones composed but never sent.
They were addressed to his sister, my aunt,

a woman I never met but whose voice,
slurry and calling from some noisy place,

introduced itself one New Year’s eve, late,
before my mother came and silenced it

with a click. She was one of many things
we never spoke of. But when the phone rang

at odd hours, I’d wonder if it was her.
That voice had resurrected the picture

in the silver frame, my parents’ wedding
day: on the church steps the woman throwing

rice, blond and beautiful, showing no trace
at all of malice in her youthful face.

Now the awful sound, waking me again
like a secret, calls to mind the poison

I left out, and my mother on their bed
tearing a box of letters into shreds.

Lockdown Week 1

Image result for phyllis mcginley

It has been nothing short of bizarre this week and reminds me a lot of the Phyllis McGinley poem below.  We now have the subject matter for a hundred such poems.  Phyllis was born on this day in 1905 in Ontario, but was not a Canadian.  There is a town called Ontario in Oregon, USA.  There’s a trick question in there for a table quiz!

I worked from home all this week, with a break on Tuesday which was St. Patrick’s Day.  The Irish national holiday passed free of parades, with pubs and restaurants closed.  Tourists stranded in Dublin by the rapid pace of events wandered empty streets like lost souls.

Our heating broke down.  We spent the day shuffling a hot air blower and an oil filled radiator from room to room to alleviate the cold.

The plumber did come and spent the day with us on Thursday fixing the system.  He was pursued about the house by Louise wielding anti-bacterial sprays and sterile wipes in case he had been repairing a heating system in an infected house.

The three kids are working/studying from home also.  Esha sat her first exam of the semester, remotely from her bedroom on Friday.  It’s at times like this that you recognise wants from needs; electricity, wi-fi, heating.

Today Jerry and I did the weekly shop.  A bizarre experience.  Supermarkets filled with socially distanced shoppers.  None of the usual friendly chat and greetings.  No touching.  Everyone super polite, standing back to let others pass by.  No rushing at the checkouts.

You know instinctively that all this distant politeness will come to a violent end if the supply lines dry up.  The most important thing today for goverments the world over is to continue to provide confidence to citizens that the food, and drink, will continue to arrive on the shelves.  A hint of panic and there will be blood in the aisles.

 

Daniel At Breakfast; by Phyllis McGinley

his paper propped against the electric toaster
(nicely adjusted to his morning use),
Daniel at breakfast studies world disaster
and sips his orange juice.
the words dismay him. headlines shrilly chatter
of famine, storm, death, pestilence, decay.
Daniel is gloomy, reaching for the butter.
he shudders at the way
war stalks the planet still, and men know hunger,
go shelterless, betrayed, may perish soon.
the coffee’s weak again. in sudden anger
Daniel throws down his spoon
and broods a moment on the kitchen faucet
the plumber mended, but has mended ill;
recalls tomorrow means a dental visit,
laments the grocery bill.
then having shifted from his human shoulder
the universal woe, he drains his cup
rebukes the weather (surely turning colder),
crumples his napkin up
and, kissing his wife abruptly at the door,
stamps fiercely off to catch the 8:04