Some considerations on etymological form

John Bjarne Grover

I discuss here a poem from the 3rd from the beginning of my book 'The slades with the only turn' which is TEQ book 2. The poem is discussed relative to the painting by Giambattista Tiepolo in the church in Venice - in 'Chiesa dei SS.XII Apostoli' (my photo) - and compared with other poems of central poets it makes for an example of universals in poetry.

Here is poem #3 in 'The slades with the only turn' which is book #2 in 'The Endmorgan Quartet':

Luke 24:3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus

Tructory Atgill
was a string, and Duncan Blue.
Your shape in the corner
is finding the horner
between seven and nine.

Every five f-
I need to know,
every frow
by nineteenhundred.
You had not even restrict the got/god.

The hypothesis is that the first four books of TEQ represent the phenomenon of 'etymological form'.

There is no doubt that the poem describes the surrounding people - those who stand around Lucia - in the painting of Tiepolo in 'Chiesa di Santi Apostoli'. Notice the quasi clockdial on the painting - in fact two eccentric circles, one along the upper frame and the other around the clerical's garment and the group of people.

Since this painting also seems to be the target of much political intrigue - to the extent that one is justified in assuming that the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 can have served to index just 'check the Apostoli vecchia' - check the old Apostoli church. There seems to be a lot of intrigue around my person which could have indexed this artwork - including e.g. a name for the 'pirate flag' of the whiteness of her body.

The question is then whether the similarity with my poem is due to these intrigues or whether there is an independent poetic motivation in my poem which is the reason for it - in which case it would be about me sharing interests with Tiepolo but not with the administrative intrigues. I personally am convinced about this explanation - but clearly political intrigue may be not and could be inclined to insist on a share in my authorship by the logic that this poem looks as it does because of their intrigues.

I refer to some magnificent poems in support of my view that this is poetry and not administration:

1) Georg Trakl's "Nachts" in his book "Sebastian im Traum" represents that Lucia figure on the painting which is absent from my poem, such as the parallel text from Luke 24:3 suggests.

2) Dylan Thomas' "I see the boys of summer" from 1934, published in book form in 1952, is a very good interpretation of the themes which are in the painting. It contains three sections - I, II and III - and clearly part I is Lucia's monologue (absent from my poem, but maybe present in poem #2 in my book, although not immediately comparable - for which reason Trakl's poem has an explanatory force), part II is the surrounding people except for part III which is the paternal superego character with the long beard and tall axe. The details which can be observed from a comparison are amazing.

3) Nelly Sachs' "Tänzerin bräutlich" from her 'Flucht und Verwandlung' (it is in the collection from the early sixties called "Fahrt ins Staublose") is also a good representation of the themes in the painting. It shares two important peculiarities with Thomas' poem: The one is her 'Erdball' (the virtual clockdial on the painting) which is his 'the world's ball', this is discussed below along with the other.

Now the conclusion after these comparative studies of poetry is clearly that there is a poetic reason for the similarity of my poem with Tiepolo's and one can therefore safely suggest that this reason is also the reason for the form of my poem. In addition, there is the very suggestive motivation in the parallel text of Luke 24:3.

One can spot elementary traces of such etymology in Thomas' mention of the 'worm' - and his Davy's lamp is likely to be interesting. The poem #4 of mine - in parallel to Luke 24:4, following right after the above - starts with 'Julius Huilsen and Julius Huilsen' - which could be the two 'kissing' pillars of Thomas, which I take to be the two angels in white - and it here tells that the relation to the end of Thomas' poem is no coincidence.

Now the hypothesis is this: There is an etymological form in my poem which proves that it is related to the other poems but not to the political intrigue derived from Tiepolo's painting.

There are five 'frow-' in my Oxford dictionary: Frow, [frower], froward, frown, frowst, frowzy. Putting up the five rows and the two columns on the painting makes for a matrix - which perhaps is just the theme. The numerality in my poem (every five frow) is likely to be more universal than just being copied from current shared knowledge. How many english words rhyme with corner and horner? Dawner, mourner, porner, warner, yawner are probably acceptible - that makes for 7 words in total. Could be one can find another one or two which are acceptible in use and do not sound too strange - that makes for something between seven and nine. But this smells a little of administrative logic, doesn't it? The 'etymological form' is likely to be more sophisticated than this, though, in particular of the Tructory Atgill and the Duncan Blue, but it can serve as an example of the numerality in the poem: It means that the 'horner' is between seven and nine because that is the number of rhymes in this language from this particular view. That is why it is on that particular place on the virtual clockdial in Tiepolo's painting: It is because of the overall structure of the language - and perhaps because of the particular emotional male and female qualities of these two words (frow- and -orner). When that is the reason for the position on Tiepolo's clockdial, it is clearly not about an imitation of his work or administrative intrigues which there could be on it.

For the 'nineteenhundred', I refer to the short poem by

4) William B. Yeats: "The nineteenth century and after" in his 'The winding stair and other poems'.

Which tells of the 'keen delight'. This solves the element of 'nineteen'. With this in hand, one can find that it is not a coincidence for my poem. There is a poem by Seferis which contains the same element in a context resembling the rest of the Tiepolo scene. It is

5) George Seferis: "Thursday", in his "Book of exercises", part called 'Mr.Stratis Thalassinos, Notes for a week'. (In fact the whole week of notes, Monday to Sunday, are extremely interesting for this complex). This contains many of the same elements plus this single one of the sea withdrawing from the shore - leaving 'their own bitterness' (Keeley/Sherrard transl.) where Yeats has pebbles. The poems of Yeats and Seferis certainly are about 1900 (Seferis mentions the numeral 7).

Looking up the hebrew to see what the etymology is for the names - one finds that the hebrew interpretation of the two forms 1) 'tructory atgill' and 2) 'duncan blue' comes close to something like 1) an 'Erdball' (Sachs) or 'world's ball' (Thomas) and 2) 'wax and tax' - both of which can be found in some form or other (phonologically) in both Thomas and Sachs (for example 'Tod und Geburt' etc).

6) Mario Luzi's poem "Miraglio" from 'Avvento Notturno' seems to be concerned with the righthand half of the painting - telling the story from the top downwards, and with particular emphasis on the two green pillars. Clearly if the two halves of the painting are mirror-symmetric (cp. hebew phonology and the oral space), then it is enough to tell about the one of them.

7) This is given a final interpretation in Paul Celan's "Sprachgitter", the title poem, which seems to be about the 'jarnegg' - the 'cutting edge' - aspects of the theme, telling the story of the bisection of the scene into two halves - with the breath ('Passat') going in and out of the vocal cords which the pillars are constituting. The relation between this poem and Tiepolo's painting has an echo in the phenomenon of the line "der blakende Span" which has a mystic and inexplainable quality which struck me as the essence of the poem when I first read it. See photo below. Cp. also Thomas' "Davy's lamp".

8) If 'der blakende Span' is the key to Celan's poem, Mandelstam brings a proof for its relevance in his precise poem "The admiralty" (Stone, poem #48) which mentions a carpenter's 'rule of eye' - the second stanza is precise on this tool of the paternal superego. There is no doubt that even this poem is about the same Tiepolo theme - including the notion of the 'five': There are four principle elements but man has added a fifth by to the freedom of the human mind.

One evening in Venice I was out for a walk and went through a dark venetian backstreet when suddenly I saw the same word on a wall: Celan's "blakende Span". Sachs (from the beginning of her "Glühende Rätsel"): "Diese Nacht / ging ich eine dunkle Nebenstrasse / um die Ecke...". Here is the photo of the mystery:

© John Bjarne Grover
On the web 6 july 2011
Parts of this article were on on the web in 2009-2010