Category Archives: Literature

The Last of the Fire Kings -an extract from Derek Mahon

Five years I have reigned
During which time
I have lain awake each night

And prowled by day
In the sacred grove
For fear of the usurper,

Perfecting my cold dream
Of a place out of time,
A palace of porcelain

Where the frugivorous
Inheritors recline
In their rich fabrics
Far from the sea.

I find these few lines deeply even profoundly moving.  The whole poem may be found at http://www.troublesarchive.com/artforms/poetry/piece/the-last-of-the-fire-kings 

There it states,”Derek Mahon’s reference to an ancient curse can be construed as referring to the weight of tradition in Northern Ireland and the legacies of division and violence.” However, it is the mythological images that it conjures up and which I do not fully understand which particularly appeals to me. Although it may help a little to know that a frugivore is an animal that thrives mostly on raw fruits, succulent fruit-like vegetables, roots, shoots, nuts and seeds. It can be any type of herbivore or omnivore where fruit is a preferred food type.

For those interested in an analysis or interpretation of the whole poem, there is a PhD thesis from Durham at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/108461.pdf

By Severn – Ivor Gurney

  1. If England, her spirit lives anywhere
    It is by Severn, by hawthorns and grand willows.
    Earth heaves up twice a hundred feet in air
    And ruddy clay falls scooped out to the weedy shallows.
    There in the brakes of May Spring has her chambers,
    Robing-rooms of hawthorn, cowslip, cuckoo flower —
    Wonder complete changes for each square joy’s hour,
    Past thought miracles are there and beyond numbers.
    If for the drab atmospheres and managed lighting
    In London town, Oriana’s playwrights had
    Wainlode her theatre and then coppice clad
    Hill for her ground of sauntering and idle waiting.
    Why, then I think, our chiefest glory of pride
    (The Elizabethans of Thames, South and Northern side)
    Would nothing of its needing be denied,
    And her sons praises from England’s mouth again be outcried.

by Ivor Gurney

Brise Marin par Stéphane Mallarmé

La chair est triste, hélas ! et j’ai lu tous les livres.
Fuir ! là-bas fuir! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres
D’être parmi l’écume inconnue et les cieux !
Rien, ni les vieux jardins reflétés par les yeux
Ne retiendra ce coeur qui dans la mer se trempe
Ô nuits ! ni la clarté déserte de ma lampe
Sur le vide papier que la blancheur défend
Et ni la jeune femme allaitant son enfant.
Je partirai ! Steamer balançant ta mâture,
Lève l’ancre pour une exotique nature !

Un Ennui, désolé par les cruels espoirs,
Croit encore à l’adieu suprême des mouchoirs !
Et, peut-être, les mâts, invitant les orages,
Sont-ils de ceux qu’un vent penche sur les naufrages
Perdus, sans mâts, sans mâts, ni fertiles îlots …
Mais, ô mon coeur, entends le chant des matelots !

Stéphane Mallarmé, Vers et Prose, 1893

Image result for mallarme

This lovely poem reminds me a little of the Breton crabbers that came into St Ives in the 1950s and 60s.

Herbstwanderung

Herbstwanderung

Golden und rot leuchtende Blätter
in tief stehender Sonne.
Farben explodieren
verschwenderisch
trunken
vergehend.

Reife Früchte
Beeren unbekannten Namens
aromatische Fülle
Ahnung von Fäulnis.

Vögel sammeln sich
Kraniche ziehen
Wespen umsummen das Obst
Waldtiere bereiten sich vor.

Altweiberfäden zeigen sich
in schrägen Sonnenstrahlen,
auf Spinnweben glitzern Tautropfen,
ein Blatt dreht sich herabfallend
in seiner farbigen Schönheit.

Es riecht feucht
intensiv
erdig
nach Pilzen
nassem Holz
Tannennadeln
sich zersetzenden Blättern
Wildschweinen.
Dieser Geruch:
unvergesslich
Heimat.

Ich sammle bunte Zweige
die letzten Blüten
Äste mit Beeren
anmutige Gräser –
sie werden das Zimmer schmücken.

Bald sind die Zweige kahl,
tragen die Äste nur noch sich selbst
die Gräser hängen,
sie haben ihre Schönheit überlebt.
Die Vase bleibt leer.

Bald wird der weich-feuchte Waldboden
frosthart
Schnee bedeckt die abgestorbenen Blätter.
Die große Stille zieht ein.

Text from Renate Augenstein

Under the influence of both Louis MacNeice and Dylan Thomas

It is always a pleasure to discover a new poet as I did when I came across the following book locally, which I strongly recommend for its style and elegance ;-

The spirits have dispersed, the woods
faded to grey from midnight blue
leaving a powdery residue,
night music fainter, frivolous gods
withdrawing, cries of yin and yang,
discords of the bionic young;
cobweb and insects, hares and deer,
wild strawberries and eglantine,
dawn silence of the biosphere,
amid the branches a torn wing
— what is this enchanted place?

From The Dream Play
By Derek Mahon

More may be found at www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/92168

Image result for derek mahon

 

The ingenious poetry of Szymborska

I love these lines from this Polish Nobel Prize-winning poet, Wislawa  Symborska:-

“We stand in the meadow where it became flesh,
and the meadow is silent as a false witness.
Sunny. Green. Nearby, a forest
with wood for chewing and water under the bark-
every day a full ration of the view
until you go blind. Overhead, a bird-
the shadow of its life-giving wings
brushed their lips. Their jaws opened.
Teeth clacked against teeth.
At night, the sickle moon shone in the sky
and reaped wheat for their bread.
Hands came floating from blackened icons,
empty cups in their fingers.” They come from her poem “Some like poetry” which can be read at http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/wislawa_szymborska/poems/11678

Her poems are also available in German from Suhrkamp

Budapest circa 1913 – “Sunset”-a brilliant, intriguing film by László Nemes

One of the better reviews on this film comes from Paul Whitington at https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/movies/movie-reviews/sunset-review-kafkaesque-melodramatic-enthralling-38163466.html where he writes:-

Laszlo Nemes’ sumptuously photographed drama is set in 1913 in Budapest, where the existential anxieties of the Austro-Hungarian Empire are embodied in the slender form of Irisz Leiter (Juli Jakab), a young woman with a dark past.

She bears the name of the city’s most stylish hat store, Leiter’s: her parents died there in a fire when she was two, and Irisz was raised elsewhere but now returns, looking for work, and answers.

Instead she finds secrets, a wall of silence, and dark rumours about a murderous brother she never knew she had.

Full of dark portents of the continental carnage to come, Sunset is Kafkaesque, melodramatic, enthralling.”

This is not an easy film to understand and it certainly is not in the usual genre of an historical film. Much is about the contrast between the superficial elegance and the arduous and dangerous conflicts beneath this attractive outward view. However, it has to be said that I very much enjoyed the visual presentation of the surface; the milliner’s store with its stupendous colourful hats and the horse drawn carriages. History crept in when a news-vendor announces that the Austro-Hungarian empire is to launch another battleship- jogging the memory that this primarily land locked empire held a port at Trieste. As I have yet to visit Budapest, although I have visited both Vienna and Bratislava, this area intrigues me. This point in time too is the subject to much of the concerns of the novels of Joseph Roth and the magnificent films of that other brilliant Hungarian director, from a previous generation, stván Szabó. Also, for good measure, the Empress Sisi arrives from Vienna in a somewhat grumpy personification. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduchess_Elisabeth_Marie_of_Austria

Image result for laszlo nemes sunset

In thinking about this film, I remembered that the famous psychoanalyist, Melanie Klein was living in Budapest at this time. She received her psychoanalytic education with Sándor Ferenczi in Budapest during World War I. She specialized in his advice in child analysis and became one of the first in this field. I mention this because much of the film really deals with states of mind like confusion, exclusion and certain feminist attitudes. It is interesting to see what the film is saying about issues in the contemporary world and in its concentration upon one individual’s perceptions and their attempts to understand relationships with siblings, we seem to be in territory where Klein’s work is uniquely valuable. Here is her photograph wearing an elegant hat.

Image result for Melanie Klein in Budapest

A slideshow of Klein’s life and theories may be found at https://slideplayer.com/slide/6193313/

 

Watching this film, one is reminded that the film-maker has stated that he has been influenced by Stanley Kubrick and indeed some of the themes do seem rather similar to those Kubrick examines in “91/2 Weeks”. This latter film was an adaptation, of course, of Arthur Schnitzler’s  “Traumnovelle” (Dream Story” but without the anti-anti-Semitic aspects of the earlier work which seems based upon Viennese secret societies. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/24/alternative-ending-discovered-to-book-behind-eyes-wide-shut