mjj (flemmings) wrote,

'Tonight we dine without the Master'

Waddell reminds me so much of (what I have heard about) donnish conversation in Oxbridge colleges- in-jokes, allusions, 'who needs no introduction' etc.
The port goes round so much the faster,
Topics are raised with no less ease –
Which advowson looks the fairest,
What the wood from Snape will fetch,
Names for pudendum mulieris,
Why is Judas like Jack Ketch?
Waddell at least is talking about more genial subjects than Larkin's smutty dons- well, I mean, Larkin, what would you expect?

"...But the new things are the anonymous lyrics, the glorious rhythms of

"O Roma nobilis, orbis et domina'
"O admirabile Veneris idolum",

and still more significant in promise, the alba of the Vatican MS. formerly at Fleury, and "Iam dulcis amica" of the MS. of St. Martial of Limoges. The alba is more precious for its Provencal burden than for other merit: it still holds to Prudentius, and the cry might be to waken faithful souls rather than sleeping lovers, the enemy in ambush the Enemy of souls rather than the jealous guardian. But in its own exquisite phrase,

"Dawn is near: she leans across the dark sea".

For Iam dulcis amica, the quatrain halts a little, the rhythm wavers; Ovid's upholstery is in the background, a little the worse for wear. But its strength is in the sudden impatience with which the catalogue of attractions is thrust aside, the sudden liquid break like the first bird notes in the stuffy pedant-music of the Meistersingers:
Ego fui sola in silva
Et delexi secreta loca."

Maybe what she reminds me most of is Seidensticker's Tokyo diary, kept while he was translating Genji. It's the perfect companion to reading Genji itself, as Seidensticker chatters along about what he thinks of To no Chujo or Ukifune in between snarling at Mishima's obscurity and trying to find surviving bits of the Yoshiwara. The difference being that Genji is one book only, even if a long one; Waddell is referring to the whole corpus of medieval Latin lyric poetry, which one is supposed to have at one's fingertips. Naraba ii naa....
Tags: history, japan, reading_17, translation, verse

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