The lyrics of this marvelous song by Merz (1999), are by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–89, an English Jesuit and innovative poet who experimented with metre and developed what he called ‘sprung rhythm’, anticipating free verse.
LOOK at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!—
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.
Buy then! bid then!—What?—Prayer, patience, aims, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.
Gil Scott Heron (1 April 1949 – 27 May 2011) – good profile on Wikipedia. Thanks to Ann Walsh for the link to this, a quieter, more personal side to the angry granddaddy of rap.
Gil Scott-Heron: Where Did The Night Go?
Long ago the clock washed midnight away
Bringing the dawn
Oh God, I must be dreaming
Time to get up again
And time to start up again
Pulling on my socks again
Should have been asleep
When I was sitting there drinking beer
And trying to start another letter to you
Don’t know how many times I dreamed to write again last night
Should’ve been asleep when I turned the stack of records over and over
So I wouldn’t be up by myself
Where did the night go?
Should go to sleep now
And say fuck a job and money
Because I spend it all on unlined paper and can’t get past
“Dear baby, how are you?”
Brush my teeth and shave
Look outside, sky is dark
Think it may rain
In a week we’ll be burying my mother’s ashes on Drummond. We’ve decided to read some of her poems, with a translation into English. She published a volume of them in the Wilhelm Andermann Verlag in Vienna in 1944 when she was 21; a miracle, since paper was so rare towards the end of the war. Her friend Stefan Hlawa provided the cover illustration.
A note on translation: With this particular poem I found you really do have to change the sequence of adjectives in English. I also found it interesting to consider the different meanings of “little” and “klein” (descriptive, diminutive, romantic/endearing…) In German, for example, Little Red Riding Hood is simply Rotkäpchen. I briefly considered writing “Tiny ancient god“. Or “Little, ancient god“, after all? Still thinking it over.
My brother Chris first introduced me to the poem when he gave me these, from a cycle he drew in the ’70s, pastels and wash on paper:
Ian James presented a lovely recording tool, Vocaroo, on his blog, and I’ll be using it in online courses. But here on this blog, dear reader, it’s an easy way to record yourself and to practice your pronunciation. Listen to my recording to help with the more difficult words. Then record yourself (you might have to press “record” twice to make it work on the second go!)
Recipe For Happiness
Khaborovsk Or Anyplace
by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
One grand boulevard with trees
with one grand cafe in sun
with strong black coffee in very small cups.
One not necessarily very beautiful
man or woman who loves you.
One fine day.
I wonder about the meaning of the last line. What do you think: Is today a very fine day indeed? Or is Ferlinghetti talking about one fine day in the future when he might experience this idyllic café scene? Is he remembering a day when he was truly happy? Or is he being just slightly sarcastic about this “quick and easy” recipe for happiness? I think it’s completely up to you.
I hadn’t quite made up my mind about what the line meant when I read it for this recording, and you can tell, can’t you? Change the meaning of the line and poem, and your intonation will change, too. So come on, you can do better: First decide what the line means to you, and then read the poem out loud. If you have the means of recording it, please do, and send me the link, ok?