Anno MMXIV Æfterra Geola – In þissum monaðe ond in Solmonaðe greate wind ond regen oft sloh Brytene ond macode grēatne flōd on wonglande ymb Pedride in Sumorsǣtnum.
I’m interested in this ‘undefined belief that we enrich the self-understanding of our communities.’ Contemplative pedagogy and attention to the affective domain have helped me define this belief a little more sharply and advocate on its behalf to my colleagues. Epistemologies that are intuitive, affective, imaginative, ‘shamanic,’ or even ‘mystical’ can complement rather than compete against reverence for the scholarly process and attention to difference. That is, we can cultivate enthusiasm for the process of deepening a sense of self through transformative encounters with the Other; at the same time, we can cultivate humility when faced with the prospect that we may never really know the Other.
Every language has different registers of diction, but the English language comes by those registers in a particular way, one that reflects the entire history of the language. Unlike the romance languages, which were derived from the Latin spread throughout Italy, France, and Spain during the Roman Empire, English descended independently from German. Old English, the language of the eighth- or ninth-century poem we call “The Seafarer,” now looks and sounds to us like a foreign language, close to the German from which it was derived: with some study, one can see that the Old English line “bitre breostcaere gebiden hæbbe” means “bitter breast-cares abided have” or “I have abided bitter breast-cares.” The language of Chaucer’s fifteenth-century Canterbury Tales, or what we call Middle English, feels less strange, in part because its sense now relies largely on word order rather than on word endings: “Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages” or “then people long to go on pilgrimages.” And the Modern English of the Renaissance we can read easily, because it is the language we speak today, even though the language has continued to evolve: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments.”
How Poems Think, by Reginald Gibbons. University of Chicago Press.
“Do poems think? Big question, one that has nagged people at least since Plato was grumbling about the dangerously loose thinking of poets in contrast to the rigor of philosophers. “There’s an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry,” he said in the Republic — but what exactly that quarrel was is moot — not least because Plato’s use of dramatic dialogue to make his case was itself poetical.”
… [As] Pound puts it in “How to Read,” “English literature lives on translation, it is fed by translation; every new exuberance, every new heave is stimulated by translation, every allegedly great age is an age of translation.” Maybe our afﬁnity for translation has to do with the fact that reading English is already a matter of translating, internally, between its Anglo-Saxon and Latinate elements. To appreciate Shakespeare, in particular, requires this sort of quasi-bilingualism: “No; this my hand will rather / The multitudinous seas incarnadine,/Making the green one red,” says Lady Macbeth, and the contrast between “incarnadine” and “red” brings home the disparity between the rhetoric of blood and its reality.
January 1938 | Richard Eberhart