Posts Tagged ‘W. H. Auden’

Louis Esterhuizen. Die sterwensberou van W.B. Yeats

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

 

Gister, 75 jaar gelede op 28 Januarie 1939, het William Butler Yeats (foto) in ‘n gastehuis, waar hy tuisgegaan het aan die Franse Riviera, gesterf. En om dié dag te herdenk het The Atlantic ‘n berig geplaas oor die drie gedigte van Yeats wat ten tye van sy dood in die tydskrif se uitgawe vir Januarie 1939 verskyn het. Op hierdie stadium was Yeats, in die ouderdom van 73, ‘n Nobelpryswenner, voormalige lid van die Ierse Senaat, mede-oprigter van die Nasionale Teater in Ierland en ‘n digter in die volle swang van sy ambag.

En tog was hierdie laaste gedigte uit die pen van hierdie befaamde digter ‘n priemende aftakeling van eiebelang en selfwaarde; verse deurspek met verwyt en berou:  “(T)here was no gentle beauty in the three poems by Yeats that appeared in The Atlantic in January 1939, the month the poet died. All of them are brutal pieces of deathbed reckoning,” skryf The Atlantic se beriggewer.  “In Man and the Echo, the poet stands in front of a blank cliff face, racked by guilt over his role in the 1916 Easter Rising”:

I lie awake night after night
And never get the answers right.
Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot?
Did words of mine put too great strain
On that woman’s reeling brain?
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house was wrecked?
And all seems evil until I
Sleepless would lay down and die.

Ook in die daaropvolgende gedig  The Circus Animal’s Desertion dryf hy die spot met sy loopbaan as skrywer: “My circus animals were all on show,” skryf hy en vervolg met bittere selfverwyt omreder hy nooit daarin kon slaag om uitdrukking aan sy “suiwere” visie te gee nie; lê hy ten slotte op ‘n ashoop “filled with broken, hideous things”: “Now that my ladder’s gone, / I must lie down where all the ladders start / In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.”

In die laaste van die drie gedigte, Politics, beskryf Yeats ‘n patetiese ou man wat smag na die arms van ‘n jonger vrou. Volgens The Atlantic se berig, die volgende: “This wasn’t far from the truth: Yeats spent his last decade carrying on with women half his age, and even had a vasectomy-like operation to improve his sexual ‘vigor’. “ Ook Yeats se vrou se skrywe aan hom word aangehaal:  “’When you are dead, people will talk about your love affairs,’ wrote Yeats’s much-younger wife, George, in a letter to her husband, ‘but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were.’”

Volgens JennieRothenberg Girtz, beriggewer by The Atlantic, het die Indiese filosofie van Vendata ‘n bepalende invloed op Yeats se lewens- en wêreldbeskouing gehad in sy laaste jare. Volgens die Vendata is die heelal ‘n illuasie en die mens gefragmenteerd. Sy haal Yeats aan wat Vendata soos volg in die vertaling van die Mandukya Upanishad beskryf het:

Whereas we are fragmentary, forgetting, remembering, sleeping, waking, spread out into past, present, future, permitting to our leg, to our finger, to our intestines, partly or completely separate consciousnesses, it is the ‘unbroken consciousness of the Self,’ the Self that never sleeps, that is never divided, but even when our thought transforms it, it is still the same.

Haar eie slotsom is soos volg: “At the end of his life, Yeats seemed to be loosening his grip on that small, fragmentary self. The three Atlantic poems show him shedding the very last vestiges of his pride and dignity—his literary greatness, his sexual magnetism—everything that made him William Butler Yeats. As W.H. Auden put it, after his friend and mentor was buried in the ground: “Let the Irish vessel lie / Emptied of its poetry.”

By wyse van kopknik en huldeblyk aan een van die gootste digters wat ooit geleef het, plaas ek hieronder WH Auden se gedig oor sy gestorwe vriend en leermeester.

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In Memory of W. B. Yeats

I

 

He disappeared in the dead of winter:

The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,

And snow disfigured the public statues;

The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.

What instruments we have agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day.

 

Far from his illness

The wolves ran on through the evergreen forests,

The peasant river was untempted by the fashionable quays;

By mourning tongues

The death of the poet was kept from his poems.

 

But for him it was his last afternoon as himself,

An afternoon of nurses and rumours;

The provinces of his body revolted,

The squares of his mind were empty,

Silence invaded the suburbs,

The current of his feeling failed; he became his admirers.

 

Now he is scattered among a hundred cities

And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,

To find his happiness in another kind of wood

And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.

The words of a dead man

Are modified in the guts of the living.

 

But in the importance and noise of to-morrow

When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,

And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,

And each in the cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom,

A few thousand will think of this day

As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.

 

What instruments we have agree

The day of his death was a dark cold day.

 

II

     You were silly like us; your gift survived it all:

     The parish of rich women, physical decay,

     Yourself. Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.

     Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,

     For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives

     In the valley of its making where executives

     Would never want to tamper, flows on south

     From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,

     Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,

     A way of happening, a mouth.

 

 

III

          Earth, receive an honoured guest:

          William Yeats is laid to rest.

          Let the Irish vessel lie

          Emptied of its poetry.

 

          In the nightmare of the dark

          All the dogs of Europe bark,

          And the living nations wait,

          Each sequestered in its hate;

 

          Intellectual disgrace

          Stares from every human face,

          And the seas of pity lie

          Locked and frozen in each eye.

 

          Follow, poet, follow right

          To the bottom of the night,

          With your unconstraining voice

          Still persuade us to rejoice;

 

          With the farming of a verse

          Make a vineyard of the curse,

          Sing of human unsuccess

          In a rapture of distress;

 

          In the deserts of the heart

          Let the healing fountain start,

          In the prison of his days

          Teach the free man how to praise.

 

(c) W.H. Auden (Uit: Another Time, 1940: Random House. Copyright

 

 

Gisela Ullyatt. Labirinte en Minotaurusse.

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

                                                                                          

Labirint by The Edge Mountain Retreat

 

Die pad Hogsback toe lê ineengerol tussen haarnaalddraaie wat nouliks een voertuig toelaat. Tog duik daar plek-plek die kranksinnigheid van twee voertuie op wat hierdie smal ruimte moet trotseer. Die kronkels is onvoorspelbaar en bosboutrokke met reuse houtstompe kruie voort. As jou voertuig agter een beland, is geduld en berusting jou onvermydelike voorland. Die pas beloon jou egter ook met verruklike berge wat oorgroei is met digte bosse, varings en watervalle. Wanneer dit reën, hang daar ’n mistige stortgordyn oor alles; die pas word dan iets wat die motoris se diepste vrese en verwondering ontketen.

Hoër op kom jy allerlei voertuie teë wat nie die pas kon volhou nie; enjinkappe gaap oop  soos verveelde monde. Wanneer ons in Hogsback aankom, het ’n cappucino nog nooit so pikant gesmaak nie. Ons is verlig. Volgende navigeer die GPS ons na die labirint. Opperste modderpad, met dongas en slaggate waarop ons karretjie erg moerig reageer. Dis net ’n paar kilometer, maar dit voel soos ’n Oos-Kaapse ewigheid. Met ons binnegoed behoorlik geskud, soos ou sakke meel, bereik ons The Edge.

Dit voel inderdaad of ons op die randjie van die aarde tot stilstand gekom het. Die labirint kyk uit oor berge, plantasies, skeure en valleie. Dit is uitgelê volgens die klassieke elfbanige Chartres-ontwerp. Ons begin die 700 meter met stadige, amper gewyde treë terwyl die son ons kopvelle gaarkook.

Die oorsprong van die labirint is nou verwant aan die mite van Theseus en die Minotaurus. Volgens oorlewering het Ikaros se vader, Daidalos, koning Minos se paleis-labirint, Knossos (in Kreta), ontwerp en gebou. Minos het sy vrou, Pasifaë, se kind, ’n hibried tussen ’n mens en  bul, in die middel van die labirint ingekerker. Een keer ’n jaar is sewe meisies en sewe jong mans van Athene gekies en in die labirint gedwing; hulle was die “monster” se enigste bron van kos. Theseus het besluit om ’n einde aan hierdie wrede praktyk te bring wat tot die slagting van die Minotaurus lei. Ariadne, Minos se eie dogter se hulp word benodig. Omdat die labirint ondergronds was, kon hy slegs sy weg terugvind met Ariadne se bol tou.

Die woord ‘labirint’ word dikwels met ’n doolhof (maze) verwar. Met goeie rede: gaan kyk jy in die Pharos tweetalige woordeboek, is die Afrikaanse vertalings ‘doolhof’ en ‘labirint’. Blaai jy na ‘labyrinth’, bly die konsep verwarrend: ‘labirint’ en ‘doolhof’ word beide weer as ’n propperse Afrikaanse vertaling gegee. Die Duits verduidelik ‘maze’ as das Labyrinth en ‘labyrinth’ het dieselfde verduideliking. Die Grieks en Latyn help ook nie veel nie: die Griekse woord vir beide ‘labyrinth’ en ‘maze’ is λαβύρινθος. Die Latynse term vir die twee konsepte is bloot ‘labyrinthus’.

Daar is egter ’n duidelike verskil tussen ’n labirint en ’n doolhof. Jeff Saward definieer ’n doolhof as volg: “To qualify as a maze, a design must have choices in the pathway” (2002:8). ’n Doolhof se doel is om ’n raaisel op te los; daar is verskeie ingange, sommige loop dood en die pad na binne is nie noodwendig die uitgang nie.

Volgens Saward, is ’n labirint ’n ontwerp wat slegs een pad volg; dus is die paadjie wat na die kern lei ook die pad wat jou na die begin terugneem. Die labirint is introspektief en gemik daarop om harmonie te bring; ’n reis na jou eie kern. Maar hierdie harmonie is geen speletjie nie. Die Minotaurus wat in die kern wag kan nie geëksternaliseer word soos in die mite nie. Jý is die Minotaurus.

Labirinte en doolhowe word ook in die digkuns as gelykwaardige konsepte uitgebeeld. W.H. Auden se gedig, “Labyrinth” is ’n uitstekende voorbeeld van hierdie verwarring; die titel en die inhoud korrespondeer nie:

Anthropos apteros for days

Walked whistling round and round the Maze,

Relying happily upon

His temperament for getting on.

 

The hundreth time he sighted, though,

A bush he left an hour ago,

He halted where four alleys crossed,

And recognized that he was lost.

 

“Where am I?” Metaphysics says

No question can be asked unless

It has an answer, so I can

Assume this maze has got a plan […]

His absolute pre-supposition

Is – Man creates his own condition:

This maze was not divinely built,

But secreted by my guilt.

The centre that I cannot find

Is known to my unconscious Mind;

I have no reason to despair

Because I am already there […]

 

 

Oor die algemeen blyk daar ’n lakune te wees in die Afrikaanse en Engelse digkuns wat labirinte aanbetref. Die labirint word meermale as ’n simbool aangewend, maar die proses van labirint-loop of die beskrywing van ’n labirint (byvoorbeeld die bane, die kern of die mitologiese oorsprong) word nie dikwels aangetref nie. Google-skakels lei die leser na swak gedigte vol clichés van innerlike berusting en “healing”, maar dit is duidelik dat dié gedigte as ’n tipe van terapie geskryf is. Die skrywers hiervan (ek huiwer om die term “digters” te gebruik!) inkorporeer selde enige kennis van die mitologie waaruit die labirint spruit of genoegsame agtergrond of beskrywing van die fisiese labirint.

Dieselfde lakune is opmerklik in die digkuns wat die Minotaurus aanbetref. Daar is vele gedigte oor mitologiese figure soos Ikaros, maar weinig oor die mens-bul. Daar is egter ’n hele paar voorbeelde van die Minotaurus in musikale komposisie: ’n vollengte opera genaamd Minotaur deur Harrison Birtwistle (1934-); ’n ballet – The Minotaur –  deur Elliott Carter (1908-2012), en Minotaurus, gekomponeer deur Karl-Binger Blomdahl (1916-1968).

Volgens die tradisionele mitiese uitkyk word die Minotaurus as monster gebrandmerk, verdoem tot ’n chtoniese labirint. Maar hierdie mite is dekonstrueerbaar: die Minotaurus kan ook dui op die vergete, mishandelde of misvormde kind, die buitestander of degenerate. Inrigtings vir “sielsiekes” is ’n goeie voorbeeld van hoe die gemeenskap sy eie Minotaurus wil besweer deur ’n sondebok te vind wat as “apart” beskou word. Die “mad woman in the attic” is ’n verdere voorbeeld. Etikettering van “fratse”, liggaamlik en geestelik, maak dit makliker om nie jou eie blindekol of skaduwee in te sien nie. Selde word ‘Minotaurus’ en ‘liefde’ in dieselfde asem genoem.

Petra Müller se ‘halfbul’ (Om die gedagte van geel:106) is een van die weinige gedigte wat wel dié mitologiese misfit verwoord:

die donker word moeg van sy eie rumoer,

gaan lê ver weg, trek hom plat,

word stil

 

die minotaur rus, herkou die herkoms

van sy eie vlees – ’n ou verhaal waarin daar steeds

die sidderinge loop van iets wat eenmaal liefde was

 

soms hoor hy klanke uit die bowe-wêreld:

vroue, kinders, water, duif

 

hy steier half-orent, en sien die bulstuif van sy asem

uit sy eie neus se gate kom;

 

laat sak sy skof weer,

gaan weer lê

Bronne:

Mendelson, E. ed. 1991. Collected Auden. New York: Vintage.

Müller, P. 2012. Om die gedagte van geel. Kaapstad: Tafelberg.

Saward, J. 2002. Magical paths. Londen: Mitchell Beazley.

Louis Esterhuizen. W.H. Auden se verlore joernaal gevind …

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

 

Groot opgewondenheid heers in die internasionale boekgemeenskap nadat The Independent bekend gemaak het dat ‘n joernaal van W.H. Auden (foto), wat vir dekades as “verlore” geag was, inderdaad gevind is: “Auden, who died in 1973 aged 66, wrote the journal between August and November 1939. It gives an insight into the poet whose works include “Funeral Blues”, “Lullaby” and “The Unknown Citizen”. Edward Mendelson, the literary executor of Auden’s estate and an English professor at Columbia University, said: ‘The journal gives a personal sense that we don’t really have elsewhere of Auden in this hugely important era’.”

Dié joernaal gaan glo volgende maand deur Christie’s opgeveil word en die algemene verwagting is dat dit vir tussen £40,000 en £60,000 van die hand gesit sal word. Die joernaal, wat 96 bladsye beslaan, is glo  deur Auden aan sy vriend George Davis gegee waarna dit verlore geraak het.

Volgens The Independent se berig, die volgende: “It is one of only three journals that the poet is known to have kept and covers the period shortly after what he described as the ‘eleven happiest weeks of my life’ – the honeymoon period of his relationship with the American poet Chester Kallman. The frank details of his personal life are set against the build-up to the Second World War. He wrote: ‘I am happy, but in debt… I have no job. My [US] visa is out of order. There may be a war. But I have an epithalamion to write and cannot worry much’.”

Aangrypend is egter die volgende aanhaling uit die joernaal: “Woke with a headache after a night of bad dreams in which C [Kallman] was unfaithful. Paper reports German attack on Poland. Now I sit looking out over the river. Such a beautiful evening and in an hour, they say, England will be at war.”

Sjoe. Vir jou leesplesier volg een van die drie gedigte wat in die periode wat dié joernaal geskryf was, ontstaan het.

*

Funeral Blues (Song IX / from Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

© Wystan Hugh Auden (1907 – 1973)

 

 

Desmond Painter. Grafskrif vir ‘n tiran

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Ek kom vanoggend toevallig op hierdie gedig van WH Auden af. Ek plaas dit nie hier om spesifiek ‘n toespeling te maak op die dood van Eugene Terre Blanche nie (hy was immers nooit werklik in ‘n magsposisie nie), maar omdat dit enige vorm van totalitêre, puriteinse politiek (en politici) so skitterend aan die kaak stel. Die digterlike woord kom hier te staan teenoor die lomp maar gevaarlike retoriek van die ‘tiran’ – mense soos Mugabe, Malema en, ja, ook Terre Blanche.

Epitaph on a tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.