(Poem #294) Tarantella
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn? And the tedding and the spreading Of the straw for a bedding, And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees, And the wine that tasted of the tar? And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers (Under the vine of the dark verandah)? Do you remember an Inn, Miranda, Do you remember an Inn? And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteeers Who hadn't got a penny, And who weren't paying any, And the hammer at the doors and the Din? And the Hip! Hop! Hap! Of the clap Of the hands to the twirl and the swirl Of the girl gone chancing, Glancing, Dancing, Backing and advancing, Snapping of a clapper to the spin Out and in --- And the Ting, Tong, Tang, of the Guitar. Do you remember an Inn, Miranda? Do you remember an Inn? Never more; Miranda, Never more. Only the high peaks hoar: And Aragon a torrent at the door. No sound In the walls of the Halls where falls The tread Of the feet of the dead to the ground No sound: But the boom Of the far Waterfall like Doom.
Nice interplay of form and content here - insistent rhythms, strong assonances, multiple rhymes (internal as well as line-ending), rising and falling cadences - all these combine to evoke the dance form of the title. At the same time, the words themselves paint a vivid (if slightly touristy, imho) picture of the Mediterranean countryside. As Martin mentioned in a previous post about the poet, Belloc does indeed have the ability to take a perfectly ordinary event or emotion and craft an original and memorable work of art from it - and if that's not genius, what is? thomas. PS. 'Tarantella' : a lively folk dance of southern Italy in 6/8 time. (Italian, from Taranto, Italy.) PPS. The opening line - 'Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?' - has been the starting point for any number of parodies and pastiches. It _does_ have a certain something about it, don't you think? [Bio] Though Belloc lived most of his life in Britain, where he wrote works of prose and verse in tribute to his adoptive Sussex, he was born in the French town of La Celle St. Cloud, near Paris. His father, a French lawyer, died when he was just two years old. Shortly afterwards his English mother, Bessie Parkes, moved the family to London. Hilaire was enrolled at the Oratory School where he studied under the legendary Cardinal Newman. He also met Cardinal Manning, the combative English convert, who had a lasting influence on his brand of Catholic apologetics. Manning's social teachings became especially evident in Belloc's later economic writings. At school, the young Belloc delighted in such classical authors as Homer, Virgil and Horace and took away most of the student prizes. Unsure of his future vocation, he spent a brief stint at the French Naval "Stanislas College," but despite his love of sailing, he quit after just a few weeks. In 1890 Hilaire met his future wife, Elodie Hogan, an American who was visiting Europe with her mother. The following year he booked passage to New York from whence he tramped his way across the continent to Napa Valley, California, in order to make his proposal to Miss Hogan. Belloc returned to France in 1891 to spend a year as a soldier in the horse artillery, after which he went to Balliol College at Oxford. He graduated with top honors in History but due to his outspoken Catholic views was denied a fellowship. 1896 marked Belloc's marriage to Elodie and the successful publication of The Bad Child's Book of Beasts a collection of whimsical cautionary tales. This was soon followed by biographies of the French revolutionaries, Danton and Robespierre. In 1902 Belloc wrote The Path to Rome describing his one man pilgrimage to the Holy City; a remarkable travelogue which remains his most popular work. Belloc served as a member of parliament from 1906-1910. During a campaign speech he made his famous defense of the Faith before a largely Protestant audience: "I am a Catholic. As far as possible I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that He has spared me the indignity of being your representative!" After a shocked silence there was a roar of applause, and Belloc won the election. Over the next thirty years, Belloc was to churn out dozens of titles on varied subjects including poetry, fiction, social commentary, and military science. Belloc is particularly noted for his spirited attack on the then predominant Whig or classical liberal view of European history. Europe and the Faith (1920), Characters of the Reformation (1936), and The Crisis of Our Civilization (1937) are typical of his insightful approach. Belloc also wrote a number of biographies, including Marie Antoinette (1909), James the Second (1928), Richlieu (1930), Oliver Cromwell (1934), and Milton (1935) which are still admired for their lucid and engaging style. Along with his friend and literary companion G. K. Chesterton, Belloc helped to found the economic theory of Distributism. Rooted in Leo XIII's landmark encyclical Rerum Novarum, Distributism was, and is, a meaningful alternative to the materialism of both laissez-faire capitalism and socialism. According to Belloc, Europe had seen the decline of slavery and the rise of an independent property holding yeomanry in the Middle Ages only to have this balanced economic arrangement upset by the Lutheran revolt of the 16th century. Acquisitive aristocratsostensibly promoting religious reformation, but mostly bent on filling their own pocketsbrought about a polarization of classes and the emergence of a rootless proletariat which has continued to this day. Ironically, while Belloc is denounced by liberals for his Catholic "triumphalism" his social analysis of the Reformation has been largely vindicated by recent scholarship. The ideas of Distributism were enunciated in The Servile State (1912), The Restoration of Property (1936) and in the pages of G.K.'s Weekly. Belloc's contributions to poetry, collected in Sonnets and Verse (1938), are still acclaimed by literary critics. According to Michael Markel, he "was a first rate craftsman in the classical tradition of A. E. Housman." Belloc also tried his hand at novel writing, producing satirical works like The Postmaster General (1932), as well as light fiction including The Green Overcoat (1912) and Belinda (1928). What is perhaps his best and most unusual novel, The Four Men (1911), was later made into a BBC play and has since been reprinted by Oxford Press with an introduction by A.N. Wilson. The Four Men describes a ramble through the Sussex countryside by Sailor, Grizzlebeard, Poet and Myself aspects of Belloc's own personality. The book's timeless appeal lies in its expression of the fact that though a man's "loves are human, and therefore changeable, yet in proportion as he attaches them to things unchangeable, so they mature and broaden." Despite his outward exuberance as a writer and individual, Belloc faced a number of personal losses the death of his wife Elodie in 1914, his sons Louis, in World War I, and Peter, in World War II. Belloc weathered these storms with that sort of hard-headed faith he once ascribed to St. Thomas More, who had "nothing to uphold him except resolve." In 1942, however, he suffered a stroke which put an end to his literary work though he continued to live in quiet retirement for another eleven years. This redoubtable Catholic genius died in his beloved Sussex on July 16, 1953. The BBC interrupted all its programmes to announce the passing away of one of England's greatest literary figures. -- from the Web, [broken link] http://www.angelfire.com/va/belloc/ [Minstrels Links] Belloc is most famous for his children's verse, especially the many poems about beasts like the hippopotamus: poem #124 Of a more serious bent are the poems tinged by religious thought, such as 'Is there any reward?', at poem #176 For sheer imagery, 'October' is hard to beat: poem #226 while 'The Pelagian Drinking Song' is as funny as they get: poem #78