Thursday, December 15, 2011

noigandres again

This exchange about a word-mystery, between the American poet Ezra Pound and the language scholar (Doctor) Emil Levy, took place in 1911 in Freiburg:

. . . Doctor, what do they mean by noigrandres?
And he said: "Noigandres! NOIgandres!
You know for seex mon's of my life
Effery night when I go to bett, I say to myself:
Noigandres, eh, noigandres,
Now what the DEFFIL can that mean!"

Emil Levy did solve the word-mystery:  noigandres  means to protect from, to ward off ennui.  And so a lovely line of poetry/song from the Provencal--a language of the medeival troubadours--can now be understood:

E jois lo grans, e l'olors d'enoi gandres
And joy is its seed, and its smell banishes sadness

The provencal poet is conjuring a flower, after he has heard "birdsong that whirls and turns" ("sona e tint e tart").  (All this word-talk can be found in Hugh Kenner's book on Pound in a chapter called The Invention of Language.)

It is a lovely notion, yes, a word appearing again that brings a new way for us to banish sadness.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomas Transtromer's SONG

I told Gretchen I had read a poem at lunchtime that transported me-- with images, movements, a crashing horse on the sea, gulls like ragged sailcloth.  Gosh.  Gretchen said I should put it on the blog:  yes.

Here are the first six stanzas of Tomas Transtromer's Song.  The translation, from the Swedish, is by Robert Hass in his book of poems, Time and Materials.  Vainomoinen is the mythic singer of the songs of the great Finnish epic, The Kalevala.  You can read the entire poem at this link:  SONG  .


Dressed in the ragged sailcloth of dead ships,
Flecked gray with the smokes of outlawed coasts,
The white flock swelled, the swarms of gulls cried out:

Alarm!  Alarm!  There's something overboard.
They crowded tight to form a signal flag
That, fluttering, reads:  Look sharp!  There's booty here!

So the gulls steered across the water-widths,
Blue pastures striding in the waves' white foam,
A streak of phosphor straightway to the sun.

But Vainomoinen on his ancient journeys
Sparkles on sea swells in the ancient light,
His horse's hooves so swift they're hardly wet.

And back of him the green forest of his songs:
The oak tree poised to leap a thousand years,
A great mill turned by birdsong, and the wind

Imprisons each of the trees in its own roar.
Immense pinecones glimmer in the moonlight
When the sentinel pine ignites and flares.

A great mill turned by birdsong!  Wow.