Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Beethoven: "destroy all within us except the pain of endless longing"


Abtei im Eichwald, Caspar David Friedrich, 1810


“Radiant beams shoot through the deep night of this region, and we become aware of gigantic shadows which, rocking back and forth, close in on us and destroy all within us except the pain of endless longing—a longing in which every pleasure that rose up amid jubilant tones sinks and succumbs. Only through this pain, which, while consuming but not destroying love, hope, and joy, tries to burst our breasts with a full-voiced general cry from all the passions, do we live on and are captivated beholders of the spirits.”

 - E.T.A. Hoffmann, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung



The Effect of Fog and Snow 
Seen through a Ruined Gothic Colonnade, L. J. M. Daguerre, 1826



“On May 28, 1810, Elizabeth Brentano, a young woman who is described as having been beautiful, highly cultured and fascinating, wrote a letter to Goethe describing her meeting with Beethoven. In the course of this letter she professes to report a conversation with Beethoven and attributes to him the following remarks :

“When I open my eyes I must sigh, for what I see is contrary to my religion, and I must despise the world which does not know that music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy, the wine which inspires one to new generative processes, and I am the Bacchus who presses out this glorious wine for mankind and makes them spiritually drunken. When they are again become sober they have drawn from the sea all that they brought with them, all that they can bring with them to dry land. I have not a single friend, I must live alone. But well I know that God is nearer to me than to other artists; I associate with Him without fear; I have always recognized and understood Him and have no fear for my music—it can meet no evil fate. Those who understand it must be freed by it from all the miseries which the others drag about with themselves." 
"Music, verily, is the mediator Between intellectual and sensuous life." 
"Speak to Goethe about me. Tell him to hear my symphonies and he will say that I am right in saying that music is the one incorporeal entrance into the higher world of knowledge which comprehends mankind but which mankind cannot comprehend." 
On the following day, when Elizabeth showed Beethoven what she had written he exclaimed, Did I say that? Well, then I had a raptus. 
But the question is whether Beethoven said any of it at all. It is an unfortunate fact that the fascinating Elizabeth was not a perfectly truthful person. Even her champion, Thayer, admits that she was not above forging documents, or parts of documents. And the remarks attributed to Beethoven in this letter certainly differ in style from anything to be found in his writings. Schindler, the constant associate of Beethoven in his last years, stated that he had never heard "the master" talk like it. On the other hand, Beethoven was at this time only forty years of age; he had not yet entered into the silence of his last years. And Elizabeth was indisputably far more intelligent and responsive than Schindler. Moreover there are certain points about the report which, when examined, are seen to be characteristic and such as would be difficult to invent. The reasonable hypothesis is to suppose that Beethoven did make certain claims for his music and that Elizabeth, very romantic and somewhat unscrupulous, gave them what she thought was an effective presentation”

-  J. W. N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development








Saturday, February 08, 2014

"He was a heavyweight."


source

Louis found Chip in the kitchen making himself a Bloody Mary and asked him, "Who's Ezra Pound?" 
Chip said, "Ezra Pound," stirring his drink and then pausing. "He was a heavyweight. Beat Joe Louis for the crown and lost it to Marciano. Or was it Jersey Joe Walcott?"
- Elmore Leonard, Riding the Rap, 1995
- Quoted in François Villon in His Works: The Villain's Tale by Michael Freeman, 2000

The inside joke here, explained to my friend, the poet and boxing aficionado Robert Lashley, is that there was a fighter, a great fighter, by the name of Ezzard Charles.

From Wikipedia: Ezzard Charles:

"He returned to boxing after the war as a light heavyweight, picking up many notable wins over leading light heavyweights, as well as heavyweight contenders Archie Moore, Jimmy Bivins, Lloyd Marshall and Elmer Ray. Shortly after his knock-out of Moore in their third and final meeting, tragedy struck. Charles fought a young contender named Sam Baroudi, knocking him out in Round 10. Baroudi died of the injuries he sustained in this bout. Charles was so devastated he almost gave up fighting. Charles was unable to secure a title shot at light heavyweight and moved up to heavyweight. After knocking out Joe Baksi and Johnny Haynes, Charles won the vacant National Boxing Association World Heavyweight title when he outpointed Jersey Joe Walcott over 15 rounds on June 22, 1949. The following year, he outpointed his idol and former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis to become the recognized Lineal Champion. Successful defenses against Walcott, Lee Oma and Joey Maxim would follow. 
In 1951, Charles fought Walcott a third time and lost the title by knockout in the seventh round. Charles lost a controversial decision in the fourth and final bout. If Charles had won this fight, he would have become the first man in history to regain the heavyweight championship.:


Friday, February 07, 2014

11 Translations of "Ballade de bonne doctrine à ceux de mauvaise vie" By François Villon


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The French poet, François Villon, was born in Paris in 1431 - the same year that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake - then disappeared, never to be heard from again, after 1463. He had lived a hard 32 years as a murderer, thief, outlaw, vagabond, but most of all as a poet. He wrote his most enduring and famous work, Le Grand Testement, in 1461, aged 30. It is a complex collection of ballads and rondels laced through with a macabre humor and aching death-haunted nostalgia. 

One of the more popular ballads, mostly due a translation / rendering by William Ernest Henley in 1887, is from Le Grand Testement, known as the "Ballade de de bonne doctrine à ceux de mauvaise vie." Henley's rendition employs the rich cryptolect canting lingo of thieves commonly spoken in 19th century England. The idea was to replicate the more visceral qualities of Villon's original French with it's in-jokes and slang that we are too linguistically distant from to understand.

Henley's translation, which he titled, Straight Tip to All Cross Cove, took on a life of it's own. In 1911, Andrew Lang remarked that "[Henley's] translations of two of Villon's ballades into modern thieves' slang were marvels of dexterity.” As might be expected, it angered the more "traditional" translators. In 1917, Henry De Vere Stacpoole, a well-known translator of Villon had this to say about Henley:

“This fine ballade is among the best that Villon ever wrote. It has a swing and go absolutely lost in the absurd travesty of it which W. E. Henley published under the name of a translation.  
The man who could render the ringing “Tout aux taverns at aux files” by “Booze and blowers cop the lot” did more than miss the music of the original, he missed the mind of the poet and the method and manner of the writer. 
Villon knew the worth and the worthlessness of slang and argot - none better; and to represent the poet as speaking in the language of a pot-house when he is speaking his own tongue is to misrepresent him.”

More recently, Douglas Hofstadter, in his book concerning translation, Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language, discusses Henley's Straight Tip to All Cross Cove as an instance of the difficulty / beauty of translating highly idiomatic texts.

The magician and historian Ricky Jay has recited Straight Tip in his performances.

And the internet is replete with websites offering gloss and commentary on this remarkable translation.


In his Norton Lectures, Borges famously said that "The original is unfaithful to the translation." And Sergio Waisman in Borges and Translation: The Irreverence of the Periphery writes:

The idea that the original can be unfaithful to its translation goes even further than the challenges to fidelity that Borges expresses in "Los traductores de Las 1001 Noches." There, Borges valorizes mistranslations and creative infidelities and suggests that a translation can surpass the original. 

Henley's Straight Tip to All Cross Cove appears to me to a particularly apt instance of this  observation. 

Given that Henley is idiosyncratically definitive, it is still enlightening to read other translations. I have collected a small selection here. Each has their merit and, for anyone who is not proficient in 15th century French, each new translation offers further insight into Villon’s ballad.

I have attributed and linked each translation to the best of my ability. If you are one of the translators and wish me to remove your version, please send me a note in the comments. 

Robert Peckham's Francois Villon. A Bibliography, 1990 is the most comprehensive source. Out of Print and unavailable online.

Please see The Memory Cathedral: Francois Villon for a detailed study of the poem and instruction for memorization. 


source


- More or Less Chronologically Ordered - 



Straight Tip To All Cross Coves, 1887
(De bonne doctrine a ceux de mauvaise vie)
Rendered by William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903)

 ‘Tout aux tavernes et aux filles’

I

Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack?
Or fake the broads? or fig a nag?
Or thimble-rig? or knap a yack?
Or pitch a snide? or smash a rag?
Suppose you duff? or nose and lag?
Or get the straight, and land your pot?
How do you melt the multy swag?
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

II

Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack;
Or moskeneer, or flash the drag;
Dead-lurk a crib, or do a crack;
Pad with a slang, or chuck a fag;
Bonnet, or tout, or mump and gag;
Rattle the tats, or mark the spot
You cannot bank a single stag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

III

Suppose you try a different tack,
And on the square you flash your flag?
At penny-a-lining make your whack,
Or with the mummers mug and gag?
For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag
At any graft, no matter what!
Your merry goblins soon stravag:
Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

The Moral.

It’s up-the-spout and Charley-Wag
With wipes and tickers and what not!
Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
 Booze and the blowens cop the lot.



Villon’s Ballade of Good Counsel, To His Friends of Evil Life, 1911
From Ballads in Blue China and Verses and Translations
by Andrew Lang
[ Check for OCR errors. ]


Nay, be you pardoner or cheat,
Or cogger keen, or mumper shy,
You'll burn your fingers at the feat,
And howl like other folks that fry.
All evil folks that love a lie!
And where goes gain that greed amasses,
By wile, and trick, and thievery?
'Tis all to taverns and to lasses!

Rhyme, rail, dance, play the cymbals sweet,
With game, and shame, and jollity,
Go jigging through the field and street,
With MYST'RY and MORALITY;
Win gold at GLEEK and that will fly,
Where all you gain at PASSAGE passes,
And that's? You know as well as I,
'Tis all to taverns and to lasses!

Nay, forth from all such filth retreat,
Go delve and ditch, in wet or dry,
Turn groom, give horse and mule their meat,
If you've no clerkly skill to ply;
You'll gain enough, with husbandry,
But sow hempseed and such wild grasses,
And where goes all you take thereby?
'Tis all to taverns and to lasses!

ENVOY.

Your clothes, your hose, your broidery,
Your linen that the snow surpasses,
Or ere they're worn, off, off they fly,
'Tis all to taverns and to lasses!

On Henley: 

“The ballade was an old French form of verse, in France revived by
Theodore de Banville, and restored to an England which had long
forgotten the Middle Ages, by my friends Mr. Austin Dobson and Mr.
Edmund Gosse. They, so far as I can trust my memory, were the first
to reintroduce these pleasant old French nugae, while an anonymous
author let loose upon the town a whole winged flock of ballades of
amazing dexterity. This unknown balladist was Mr. Henley; perhaps
he was the first Englishman who ever burst into a double ballade,
and his translations of two of Villon's ballades into modern
thieves' slang were marvels of dexterity.”



Ballad of Good Doctrine To Those of Evil Life, 1914
By Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1863 - 1951)

Ye who be smugglers of papal bulls,
Or cheaters at dice, whatever be ye --
Coiners who risk life and limb like fools,
Then boil in hot oil for their felony,
Traitors disloyal -- ye know who ye be --
Stealers of jewels, of perfume and pearls:
So where goes it all, that ye get in fee?
All to the taverns and to the girls.

Rhyming and jesting, cymbals and lutes --
Don ye these emblems of minstrelsy.
Farce and imbroglio, music of flutes --
Try these in hamlets or Gay Paree.
Go mumming in masque or mystery,
Win money at cards, or at ninepin hurls.
But 'tis of no use1 It'll flow, hear ye me,
All to the taverns and to the girls.

Ye shrink before such a hard-knocks school --
Play safe, then, with honester husbandry:
Of horses be grooms, go tend to a mule,
Plow ye the fields, here and there plant a tree.
And should ye be short on Latinity,
As lowly in learning as poor pleasant churls,
Just work, lest your hard-earned pennies flee
All to the taverns and to the girls.

Envoi:

Your stockings and doublets, your fine drapery,
Every last rag that around ye furls,
Ere ye be done, will have slipped, ye shall see,
All to the taverns and to the girls.



Ballad of Good Doctrine to Those of Evil Life, 1917
From Francois Villon, his life and time, 1431-1463
By Henry De Vere Stacpoole (1863 - 1951)

Be ye carriers of bulls,
Cheats at dice - whate’er ye be,
Coiners - they who risk like fools,
Boiling for their felony.
Traitors perverse - so be ye -
Thieves of gold, or virgin’s pearls,
Where goes what ye get in fee?
All on taverns and on girls.

Song, jest, cymbals, lutes -
Don these signs of minstrelsy.
Farce, imbroglio, play of flutes,
Make in hamlet or city.
Gain at cards, or ninepins hurls.
All your profits, where go they?
All on taverns and on girls.

Turn, before your spirit cools,
To more honest husbandry;
Grooms of horses be, or mules,
Plough the fields and plant the tree.
If you’ve no Latinity.
No more learning than the curls,
Work - nor cast you money free
All on taverns and on girls.

ENVOI

Stockings, pourpoint, drapery,
Every rag that round you furls, 
Ere you’ve done, will go, you’ll see.
All on taverns and on girls.

On Henley:

“This fine ballade is among the best that Villon ever wrote. It has a swing and go absolutely lost in the absurd travesty of it which W. E. Henley published under the name of a translation.

The man who could render the ringing “Tout aux taverns at aux files” by “Booze and blowers cop the lot” did more than miss the music of the original, he missed the mind of the poet and the method and manner of the writer. 

Villon knew the worth and the worthlessness of slang and argot - none better; and to represent the poet as speaking in the language of a pot-house when he is speaking his own tongue is to misrepresent him.”



Ballad of Good Doctrine to Those of Ill Life
By John Payne

SMUGGLE indulgences, as you may: 
Cog the dice for your cheating throws.
Try if counterfeit coin will pay,
At the risk of losing your ears and nose :
Deal but in treason, lie and glose,
Rob and ravish : what profits it ?
Where do you think the money goes ?
Taverns and wenches, every whit.

Flute and juggle and cymbals play :
Follow the mountebanks and their shows :
Along with the strolling players stray,
That wander whither God onlv knows :
Act mysteries, farces, imbroglios :
Gain money by cards or a lucky hit
At the pins : however if s got, it goes :
Taverns and wenches, every whit.

Turn from your evil courses, I pray.
That smell so foul in a decent nose :
Earn your bread in some honest way.
If you have no letters, nor verse nor prose,
Plough or groom horses for food and clothes.
Enough shall you have if you stick to it:
But throw not your wage to each wind that blows :
Taverns and wenches, every whit.

ENVOI.

Doublets, pourpoints and silken hose,
Gowns and linen, woven or knit,
Ere your wede's worn, away it goes :
Taverns and wenches, every whit.


A Bug in the Ear to All Children of Darkness
By Peter Dale

Whether you counterfeit your brass
and end so oiled you boil and bake;
traitors whose credit wouldn't pass;
or peddle pardons; learn to shake
the loaded dice; or maybe take
to filching in and out of doors - 
where does it go, the money you make?
All to the taverns and the whores.

Rhyme or rail or clash your brass,
like shameless fools that always fake;
mime, mum, or try some magic pass;
or if in towns and cities, make
miracles, mysteries, jigs; or take
a trick or two or skittle scores - 
soon gained, soon gone! (You still awake?)
All to the taverns and the whores.

If depths like these are not your class,
then plough up fields or drive a rake;
or turn to doctoring horse and ass.
But only if you cannot take
to book and pen. A crust you'll make.
Yet if you've slaved at prison chores
you haven't lifted loot to take
all to the taverns and the whores.

Envoi 

Before you do much worse then, take
trousers and shoes and all that's yours,
gowns and the silks for your own sake
all to the taverns and the whores.


All to the girls and taverners, 2004
By Stephen Eridan
From The Testament by Francois Villon with facing Notes
Metric translation with altered rhyme scheme


Whether you trade indulgences ,
Play false at bones, counterfeit coin,
Stack the cards, for connivances
Men are boiled, that's the crowd you’ll join,
Or the traitors and heretics,
Whether rapists, thieves, cozeners,
Where goes the booty from these tricks?
All to the girls and taverners.

Play cymbal, rhyme and pluck the lute,
Acting like some dopey mummer,
Do sleight of hand and blow the flute,
In cities and towns each summer,
Stage acts, farces, moralities,
Cards or ninepins, come up winners,
It goes real quick, now hear me please,
All to the girls and taverners.

Hey, don't waste your life with such fools,
Till the fields as long as there's light,
Brush and tend the horses and mules,
Even if you can't read or write,
You can do alright with some care,
But if you keep cutting corners,
Won't you just fork over your share,
All to the girls and taverners.

Pants , laced doublets and softest hose,
Also your best leathers and furs ,
Before you do worse just take those,
All to the girls and taverners.




"Good Doctrines for a Bad Life”, 2004
By Scriblerus

For whether you carry bulls
Or cheat or play dice,
Counterfeiting you burn yourself;
Like those who are emboldened,
Perjurious traitors, empty of faith;         5
Be a thief, steal or pillage:
Where does the booty go, to what end?
All to the taverns and to the girls.

Rhyme, mock, disturb, wrestle,
Like a madman or a shameless crook,         10
Con, embezzle, draw your sword;
Do, in towns and cities,
Tricks, games and parlor games;
Win at the berlanc, the glic or bowling,
It all goes--and listen--                   15
All to the taverns and to the girls.

Walk away from such garbage;
Get a hoe, labour in fields and meadows;
Care for and saddle horses and mules;
You are a blessed ignorant;                 20
You will have enough, I guarantee.
But whether you plough or till your field,
You only labour for one thing
All to the taverns and to the girls.

THE MESSAGE    

Shoes, embroidered pourpoints,              25
Dresses, and all your clothes,
So it doesn't get worse, carry them
All to the taverns and to the girls.



A Good Doctrine for a Bad Life
By Jack Rusher

Whether you smuggle papal bulls,
Or hazard a cheat while playing dice,
Or burn yourself shaping fake coins,
Like those who’re boiled in oil for their felonies.
Perjurious traitors; empty of faith;
Stealing jewels, perfume and pearls,
Where do your winnings go?
All to the taverns and the girls.

Rhyme, rail, crash or fight,
Like a fool or a shameless tout,
Bullshit and battle, or play the flute.
Do, in towns and cities,
Play farces, games and masquerades,
Win at cards or ninepins.
It all goes — and listen —
All to the taverns and the girls.

From this stink you recoil?
Then work hard in fields and meadows,
Turn your thoughts to horses and mules.
If you lack an education,
You’ll still have enough coin.
But whether you plough or till your fields,
Your labor and your work:
All to the taverns and the girls.

The Message

Shoes, embroidered doublets,
Dresses, and all your drapes:
Before you do worse, just carry them
All to the taverns and the girls.


Ballade: A Good Lesson for Bad Men
from The Testament, lines 1692–1719
By David Georgi


Say you sell indulgences
or cheat at cards, or dice all day,
or stamp false coins (and so get burned
with others scalded for that crime,
lying faithless traitors all),
or burgle, pilfer, or purloin:
where do you suppose your profit goes?
All to the taverns and the girls.

Rhyme or riff, play flute or cymbals
as beguiling, shameless fools do;
clown, swindle, con, do magic tricks,
or stage in every town and city
farces, dramas, morality plays;
win at poker, craps, or ninepins—
however it comes, you know it goes
all to the taverns and the girls.

Perhaps such vices make you shudder?
So work! Mow fields and meadows,
groom horses or look after mules
if you lack an education:
you’ll have enough, you’ll be content!
But after you scutch and strip your hemp,
still, don’t you take your meager share
all to the taverns and the girls?

Your hose, your clothes, your lace-up vests,
your robes and haberdashery—
before you go do worse, just take it
all to the taverns and the girls.





Booze and Bitches Just Fuck You Up, 2014
By Scot Casey

Say you palm off communion plates,
Say you play and cheat at bones,
Print out bills til you get burned,
Scarred and scammed like all the others,
All of them fuckers, none of them true,
When you're the man who does the work.
What do you get from all of this shit?
Booze and Bitches just fuck you up.

Sing it say it bang or bash,
Fucking loser, drunken fool,
Fake it, break it, take all the cash.
Bright big city, piece of shit town,
Run your con and all your games:
Cards or drugs or whatever's rough.
I tell you this: You gonna always lose
Cause Booze and Bitches just fuck you up

Say you think your sick of this shit?
Go work for the man in the government:
Kiss the horse's ass and the pig's soft dick.
You are such a fucking idiot.
So sit back now and just rest your bones,
You'll never be able to work enough.
Cause you know your shit will always go
To Booze and Bitches who fuck you up.

You still got your shoes on your feet,
Shirt on your back, your bones and blood,
That's all your ever gonna need

For Booze and Bitches to fuck you up.


Please see The Memory Cathedral: Francois Villon for a detailed study of the poem and instruction for memorization.