Thursday, 21 July 2011

Take A Break

I've long loved J. C. Squire's hilarious parody, 'If Pope had written "Break, Break, Break"'. First, here's the original Tennyson poem which provides the object of Squire's parody:

Break, Break, Break

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill:
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

And here's Squire's clever literary lampoon, deftly capturing the zeugmatic style and leisured scribe-by-the-yard manner of the earlier 18th century:

Fly, Muse, thy wonted themes, nor longer seek
The consolations of a powder'd cheek;
Forsake the busy purlieus of the Court
For calmer meads where finny tribes resort.
So may th' Almighty's natural antidote
Abate the worldly tenour of thy note,
The various beauties of the liquid main
Refine thy reed and elevate thy strain.
See how the labour of the urgent oar
Propels the barks and draws them to the shore.
Hark! from the margin of the azure bay
The joyful cries of infants at their play.
(The offspring of a piscatorial swain,
his home the sands, his pasturage the main.)
Yet none of these may soothe the mourning heart,
Nor fond alleviation's sweets impart;
Nor may the pow'rs of infants that rejoice
Restore the accents of a former voice,
Nor the bright smiles of ocean's nymphs command
The pleasing contact of a vanished hand.
So let me still in meditation move,
Muse in the vale and ponder in the grove,
And scan the skies where sinking Phoebus glows
With hues more rubicund than Gibber's nose. . . .

(After which the poet gets into his proper stride).

And here's my own.

'If David Jones had written "Break, Break, Break"'

In Quintile month                   or Sextilmonað

                  the rising waters                   insolent footlappers

white horses of Lear’s kingdom                   salt daymares

on shorelines                   and tidemarks                   

                shatter the

Where is your curragh                   Inspiratrix of All Graces?

                  Are you she                   solemn as a rushlight on the tide

pale Venus of the northern seas?                   Be you Branwen, Fflur,

foamflower Essyllt            hung with whale-tooth ivory?

            Is it
MAPONOS or Mabonograin

with his black creel         and bone-blue catch

chanting countersong to Dylan’s


                  Caesar’s barges cross the strait, aquila-signed

                  against landfall sergeants of alder-pool, Stour-bend ---

αιαι αιαι                   cries Private Davies

                  Pretannic woad worn,

put out y'r bloody cigarette, man, there'll be hell to pay if Fritz clocks that, see---





(and so on for another 78 densely-footnoted pages.)


Fionnchú said...

Yerra, David Jones (not as in Bowie's original name, not to be confused w/ Davy Jones the Monkee) deserves parody, and you delivered. I marvel at D.J. as I do G. Hill, but they both baffle me. (I have a painting of Jones' among those on my blog page, moreover-- he & Eric Gill I have a long-time fascination with.)

Bo said...

Glad you like it!

As a teenager, I used to see DJ, with superstitious awe, as a kind of totem pole for the mysterious world-to-be-understood that lay within English literary study. I just didn't get him.

Fifteen years later, I reread him, and, I think, Got Him.


Sovay said...

If David Jones had written "Break, Break, Break"'

You are awesome.

That is all.

Bo said...

Glad you liked it! Good to hear from you. If you leave me a gmail address (or any email address) I'll add you to the list of readers for my (bigger) private blog. (I won't publish your email of course!)

Aelred Patrick said...

Haha, well done. DJ fascinates me as well: he is as elusive as he is allusive but this is a funny, witty catch of him. I especially like "the 78 densely footnoted pages."

Jane Holland said...

Interesting use of HTML in the poem - was that meant to be there? And when's your first collection out?


Bo said...

Oh how irritating. The HTML only shows up in some browsers (not in mine.) Try now....?

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