Sunday, December 26, 2010

Catullus 101

Multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus
advenio has miseras, frater, ad inferias,
ut te postremo donarem munere mortis
et mutam nequiquam alloquerer cinerem.
Quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum.
Heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi,
nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias,
accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu,
atque in perpetuum, frater, ave atque vale.

- Catullus

Crossing many nations and many seas
I arrive bereft, brother, at your grave's edge
To formally repay the last of death's duties
And question, in vain, the mute dust.
Now that fortune has torn you away from me -
Oh pitiful brother snatched too soon from me -
What else now but to perform these ancient customs
Handed down from dead to living, rites of distress,
Offerings you must accept, soaked in a brother's tears
And so forever, brother, hail and farewell.

[The translation is mine, though it draws heavily on the notes in Anne Carson's Nox (I don't read Latin) and is probably best thought of as a variation on the original rather than an accurate rendition. You can find a more accurate translation here.]


Not an event but an unfolding. Not a death but a life.

The accordions of grief swell and subside. Music, like breath, does not come easily. Mourning is memory turning in on itself. Turning its back on History.

Faces remembered in the turning away.

Fragments of old injuries combine to make an ache. You seek the current beneath the surface, the blue beneath the bruise. The blush of first blood, reconstructed, re-construed.

Repent means "the pain again".

These are the rites by which we translate thoughts to language, the dead to the lost. Poems, like funerals, customary but incomplete, render meanings from absence, end in surrender.

The elegy like a tree growing in a graveyard, uncertain of where to point. Bare lines containing nothing. Buried roots.

The truth about feelings. Feelings about the truth.

[after reading Anne Carson's latest, from which the line in italics is taken]

Saturday, December 25, 2010

People Play

The childhood we want to return to is not the same as the childhood we are trying to escape from.

That is the meaning of all our games.

This miserable man longs for a company of actors, an epic tragedy, something that will lend weight to the lightness of his disquiet.

The light of these words to explain the nameless shadows. Even if it means distorting their shapes.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Music

If you live in North America, you've spent the last month or more being bombarded by kitschy muzak in the name of Christmas . So now that the night has finally arrived, I figured the best way to celebrate would be with real music: the coming together of one greatest songwriter of all time with one of the last century's most glorious voices:

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the Road

I walk away from the processions of others
Seeking the abandoned places where it all began
Like a man who stands outside his lover's house
Trying to recall that first feeling.

- Hu Ming-Xiang

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wanderer: Twilight

I travel from horizon to horizon
Seeking a sky that will accept my night.
But the sun refuses me wherever I go
And the songs of the orioles mock me.

- Hu Ming-Xiang