Thursday, February 11, 2016

William Dunbar's Lament For The Makers - 2

      [detail from "The Triumph of Death"  (c.1562) - Pieter Bruegel, the Elder (1525-1569), in the collection of the  Museo del Prado, Madrid]                 

continuing from yesterday 

AG: Well there are two things I wanted to derive from this. Did everybody follow along the sense of the poem [William Dunbar's "Lament For The Makers"]?  Did… For the complicated words, Middle English words, there were obviously little footnotes on the bottom of the page and on the side of the page so you can look those up. The only one, rare one, that I noticed that was not noted –  “That Scorpion fell has done infeck/Maister John Clerk, and James Afflek– "infect" or "poison" (so that was in line fifty-seven or so, page seventy-three) - And a better translation than we have here - on the fourth line of page seventy-three, third line - "Themself from Death may not supplee" - "Themself from Death may not deliver" - "Death may not help" ('help" or "deliver" my be better, or sound better anyway). And then in the second stanza, line eight, "The flesh is bruckle", they have "pale" - or "The flesh is brittle" also - "bruckle"/"brittle" was the suggestion, I think, from the old Oxford anthology. "As with the wynd wavis the wicker" - the "wicker" is a willow twig, a willow branch (willow tree), as when the wind waves the twigs in a..  What else is there? Those are the main.. Well, also, on line forty-five, "I see that makaris.." -   "I see that makaris amang the lave" - the rest ("lave" is "rest", "remainder" or "rest" we could translate it as, I guess. And "facultie",  in the third line of that stanza - "Spirit".."Sparit is nocht their facultie" - "faculty" there would be "profession", their vocation or profession (that is, the poets aren't spared, those of that profession aren't spared, or that work - it's not translated here that's why I was noting that). 

So there were two things I wanted to derive from this. First, that the poem is really personal, because he's just talking about his old friends, or old teachers, or writers that he liked, or writers that he heard of through manuscripts. So that, in that sene, it's a little bit like the modern poet Frank O'Hara's poetry in that the poem is personal and he's talking about his own personal life and his own personal influences. He's also tracing a lineage of who his teachers were, but it's very home-made, in the sense that it's local (these are all people that have written things that are in specialized anthologies and they're not like big Shakespeares or anything like that but they are his friend-poets, or people he's read about, people he's heard of.  Like "Blind Harry and Sandy Traill" (whoever they are! - of course somebody knows who they are) - Blind Harry, Sandy Traill,Patrick Johnstoun, John Clerk, and James Afflek". So, actually, you could write a lament for all your, your old friends who, you know, O-D'd, or stumbled off the Brooklyn Bridge (which is what I did). In other words, to have the chutzpah (nerve) to write about my own friends as if they were the immortal makers of Dunbar, or the names in the Bible (you know, the books of lineage in the Bible, all the generations in the Bible. So you can.. actually.. if you take the names of your own friends, or streets, or details of your own existence, anonymous though they be, un-immortal and unhallowed as they be, not even..not even stars on television, or even the comic books, but just stars in your own brain, the stars of your own consciousness, you can write then romantic poems about the heros of your own soul. You don't have to wait for public approval of your street, your house, your own body (your own toes), your own friends or your friends' poetry, but, you've got to be smart that the names and persons that you choose do have some kind of resonance in them in some corner of the universe, you know, that's not too stupid a corner. There's got to be some smarts about it some way or other - oh..a witty name for a street, like Root Street - "I went down to Root Street/sucking on my lollipop", or something like that. It has to have.. there has to have some kind of resonance, some kind of internal evidence of genius.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eight and-a-half  minutes in and concluding at approximately  fifteen-and-a-half minutes in]  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

William Dunbar's Lament For The Makers - 1

                                                      [William Dunbar (1460-1520)]

AG: (searching through his anthology)  (Is (Robert) Creeley ….in the Norton book?… yeah, one-two-two-five..yeah, I think that might be… One-two-two-five, that might’ve been it?…No.  I’ll find it, there is some poem of his that’s like that.

So we have (William) Dunbar’s "Lament for the Poets" or "Lament for theMakers" – You remember poesis was making, making - “makeles” here – 15th-16th century. It’s (this poem's) like my own poem, "Howl", in theme and subject . It’s a lament for all the poets that he knew that lived and died, that he knew of.

So, actually, it’s his.. it’s a recitation of his lineage, an outline of who the poets were that influenced him, William Dunbar.

Is Pat O’Brien here ? – [to Pat O'Brien - Student] - (You want to try to read it?  You have a good.. you got a good.. is this a good text? I have a couple of texts here that.. maybe the one we have in the Oxford book is better?
Pat O’Brien: (.. (Norton) - page seventy-two)
AG: I’ll be up here tho’ – Can you help out (since you know the language)?

Student (P O'B) I can just do this in common Middle English. I’m not very good at Middle Scots
AG: Well, is it Middle Scots?
Student (P O'B)  Yeah, you've got to give it the Scots, roll the "r"s and so forth, and I can't do any of that.
AG: Okay
Student (P O'B):  “Lament to the Makers"
AG: Is that makers and not muckers?
Student (P O'B): Yeah
AG: Makers?
Student (P O'B): Right, well, you might say mucker
AG: Muckers?
Student (P O'B): But in general, you don’t pronounce the “i-s” after a vowel in Middle Scots (except when you feel it!)
AG: Okay ..and it’s "while he was sek?" – right?
Student (P O'B): Right
AG: In our book, we don’t have that. The full title is "Lament to the Makers When He Was Sek” -  Q-W-H-E-N - "Qwhen he was Sek" (S-E-K} – You might write that in - Q-W-H-E-N… Q-W-H-..
Student (PO'B): Q-U?
AG:  I have “Q-W” here  in the..   What do you have? Do they have that one?
Student (PO'B): Q-U-H-E..
AG: Q-U-H-E-N – he has Q-U-H-E-N,  I have  Q-W-H-E-N,  so we take a choice – "Whan he was sek" – S-E-K
Student – S-E-I-K
AG: S-E-I-K? – I have S-E-K here. What have you got?
Student (PO'B): - S-E-I-K
AG: Do it strong, oratorical 
Student: Oratorical?
AG: Yeah

[P O'B (Pat O'Brien) begins reading Dunbar's poem approximately  three-and-a-half minutes in]

THAT in heill was and gladnèss

Am trublit now with great sickness

And feblit with infirmitie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance here is all vain glory,
This fals world is but transitory,

The flesh is bruckle, the Feynd is slee:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,

Now sound, now sick, now blyth, now sary,
Now dansand mirry, now like to die:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

No state in Erd here standis sicker;

As with the wynd wavis the wicker

So wannis this world's vanitie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Unto the Death gois all Estatis,

Princis, Prelatis, and Potestatis,

Baith rich and poor of all degree:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knichtis in to the field

Enarmit under helm and scheild;

Victor he is at all mellie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That strong unmerciful tyrand
Takis, on the motheris breast sowkand,

The babe full of benignitie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He takis the campion in the stour,

The captain closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewtie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He spairis no lord for his piscence,

Na clerk for his intelligence;

His awful straik may no man flee:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Art-magicianis and astrologgis,

Rethoris, logicianis, and theologgis,

Them helpis no conclusionis slee:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In medecine the most practicianis,

Leechis, surrigianis, and physicianis,

Themself from Death may not supplee:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

I see that makaris amang the lave
Playis here their padyanis, syne gois to grave;

Sparit is nocht their facultie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has done petuously devour

The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

The good Sir Hew of Eglintoun,

Ettrick, Heriot, and Wintoun,

He has tane out of this cuntrie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

That scorpion fell has done infeck

Maister John Clerk, and James Afflek,

Fra ballat-making and tragedie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Holland and Barbour he has berevit;

Alas! that he not with us levit

Sir Mungo Lockart of the Lee:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Clerk of Tranent eke he has tane,
That made the anteris of Gawaine;

Sir Gilbert Hay endit has he:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Harry and Sandy Traill

Slain with his schour of mortal hail,
Quhilk Patrick Johnstoun might nought flee:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has reft Merseir his endite,

That did in luve so lively write,

So short, so quick, of sentence hie:—
    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

He has tane Rowll of Aberdene,

And gentill Rowll of Corstorphine;

Two better fallowis did no man see:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

In Dunfermline he has tane Broun

With Maister Robert Henrysoun;

Sir John the Ross enbrast has he:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

And he has now tane, last of a,

Good gentil Stobo and Quintin Shaw,

Of quhom all wichtis hes pitie:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Good Maister Walter Kennedy

In point of Death lies verily;
Great ruth it were that so suld be:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Sen he has all my brether tane,

He will naught let me live alane;

Of force I man his next prey be:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

Since for the Death remeid is none,

Best is that we for Death dispone,

After our death that live may we:—

    Timor Mortis conturbat me.

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape and continuing to approximately eight-and-a-half minutes in]