Monday, April 30, 2007

Take That, Spenserian Stanza!

This is for Charles. Hopefully this will teach him to have a go at Spenser. Reading The Fairy Queen? He never had it so good (compared to this)...


Into a forest, dark, decayed -
Called "Wood You Cannot See For Trees" -
A wild waste (no light, all shade)
Came foorth doollefull DIOGENES,
(Munching on ham and Edam cheese.)
Behind him, on these gloomy ways
Follows the Dwarf MELODRAMATESE;
Before, a light which casts its rays
And glist'ring, seem to set the woods ablaze!

And nowe the dwarf tugs at his arm,
And now, with countenance most awful
Begs that his maister flee from harm,
Warns of a fate most grim and fearefull.
(His maister bids him to be chearfull).
They draw nigh to a dreary den:
The dwarf grows more aghast and tearfull:
"FLEE!" then he crieth, "This is MURDOCH'S DEN,
And those that lie within be ne Beasts, ne Men!"

Both peer into the griesly gloom,
While the dwarf cries out in shrieking tones,
With tales of impending doom,
And many horrifying groans,
And frankly irritating moans.
But deep withinne, they scry a beast
A-scrunching on some skulls and bones -
"FLEE!" cries the dwarf. "We've time, at least -
'Tis PHATARSEPHIL sate at his charnel feast!"

But closer still they draw and see
This dreadfull beast engorge its tail
In its north mouth, and out the south
Eftsoons disgorge it, without fail;
And round about, knights clad in mail
Do rush with swords and spiked-chains,
Its leathern hide for to assayle,
But all are crushed with cries of pain! -
God help those entrapped in foule Errours traine!

Then, eyes gleaming full of murd'rous hates
Does PHATARSEPHIL escry this payre
Stand, ghast and gaping, at its gaytes:
He reares up fierse into the ayre
For then to drag them into its layre:
But lo: DIOGENES forth thrusts his LIGHT
And its beames do spred forth everywhere,
And noble rayes of GOOD and RIGHT
Do spred forthe and conquer ERROUR'S night!

And in those glist'ring lantern beams
The BEAST itself doth fade away
Mid'st many corny squawks and screams:
DIOGENES and dwarf choose not to stay,
But ride foorth into the Lanterne's day,
Questing, questing, evermore
Through the darkling woodland ways
To bring the light of Life and Law,
To find the fabled, far-off Culture War...


Charles Murton said...

I'm going to need some first rate mock Middle English to answer this. But I'm working on it.

TimT said...

I wouldn't worry so much, this poem was only written in second-rate Middle English - and VERY second rate at that...

Charles Murton said...

Done! If you write on public transport no doubt you have experienced the annoyance of the person in the seat next to you, who subtly peeks to see what you are doing.

I haven’t bothered with the older spellings – they’re very hard to do with the charm of the real thing.

Although these lines be mainly prosaic
I trust a few trinkets are more elegiac.

Booke the nineteenth, canto MDLII

And now Tim Train climbs on a tram
A publick transport sight to see
And bored, he pens an epigram
With notebook rested on his knee
To Tim Blair, & Duck, Kate, and me.
But getting off comes all too soon
He quick dots i and crosses t
(In the seat beside, that curious goon
Looks away, and taps out an I-pod tune.)

But foolish me, the Devil whispers
“See Will Type’s bard praise Spenser’s Queene…”
I’ll not be one of those arty lispers
I sink the boot like you’ve never seen
For a lyric stoush I’m waxing keen.
But noble Tim throws down the glove
And pens Spenserian stanzas mean
Inspired by his poetic love
He writes his riposte, and posts above.

And answer now these rimes must I
I make some coffee and light a fag
For Will Type’s bard I must satisfy
I don’t want to seem a non-lit’ry dag
I lift my quill and my shoulders sag…
For I can’t do the rime Spenserian
My Fairie Queene’s a dowdy hag
The prospect makes me feel quite weary an’
My mind slows down, and my eyes grow bleary an…

TimT said...

Quite glorious, Charles!

Yes, the only time I usually get to write are during rush hour, and then it is dreadfully hard to write whoever you're surrounded by. (And on the weekend while I was reading my old copy of Spenser on the train, the bum behind me thought I was reading a Bible or something, and slid a book onto my seat, saying it was 'the same as what you're readin', mate.')

For one who claims not to have attempted to write in the original dialect, you've done quite well! Of course, we'll never get the exact tone, but in certain basic ways, the English language hasn't changed much since those times.

The last rhmyes, 'Spenserian', 'weary an'', 'bleary an'... are quite delicious.

A noble verse!

Charles Murton said...

Thank you!

Which do you think is the best edition? I like them with LOTS off notes and annotations. I like to wallow in every bit of word-play and arcane reference.

TimT said...

I have two copies, one is (I think) a Wordsworth classics residing in Newcastle. It has copious notes, several introductions, aside from Spenser's own introductions (in keeping with academic tradition) and an extensive glossary. The text is a decent size and it has a handsome illustration on the cover, possibly Pre-Raphaelite. (Can't remember)

I prefer it to the current edition I'm reading, which is (I think) a 1924 reprint by Macmillan. It contains essentially all of the important works of Spenser, but the text is tiny and cramped, and the glossary less extensive. It does contain several wonderful translations from Latin and Greek, the Amoretti, and the Sheapearde's Calendar, which is difficult to get on its own. So those are some compensating virtues!

I love the music of Spenser's prose; his line always, always, always flows, even if he does sometimes get up to some quite curious grammatical and spelling tricks to accomplish this. (The Calendar is better for this than many other works by Spenser.)

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