By Brian Friel
What does ‘Translations’ imply about cross-cultural communication?
In the play Translations they have a main thread that is all about cross-cultural communication. The implication is that cross-cultural communications can be extremely difficult. Communication works best when there is understanding. That is shown by the British who actually cared enough to learn about the Irish culture, and those that only cared about following orders regardless of repercussions. If you try and communicate without understanding, you undoubtedly fail in your attempt. This worked both ways in the play, the Irish did not understand what the British were trying to do and not many of them tried to. They did not see what was to come. Those that saw what was coming, even a little bit of it, did not have the resources, (people who agreed with them) to stop the complete take over that eventually occurred. Without understanding in any endeavor, there can be no ultimate success.
By Austin Clarke
It should not be surprising that a poem titled Celibacy should have an overall tone of hunger. He seems to be describing the state of celibacy and the Church as he sees it and everything is dull, brown and grey. The only bright spot in the poem is one of the descriptions of the lady of desire.
Dews dripped from those bright feet.
But, O I knew the stranger
The only other section that mentions a brightness of any kind is the last stanza,
But fiery as the frost
Or bladed light, she drew
The imagery is consistently dark and dreary. In fact after the first mention of her “bright feet” it dips immediately back into dullness.
By her deceit and, tired
All night by tempting flesh,
I wrestled her in a hair shirt.
A hair shirt, (if I am remembering right.) is a shirt that is basically industrial weight burlap cloth and a person had to wear it when doing penance for sinning. So it seems he is describing desire as something one is supposed to do penance for. Celibacy then, is something else one must always being doing penance, due to desires. The poem shows the subject cannot stop the desire for the lady, so he must do penance for it. The language in the poem indicates that since desire cannot be eluded, then celibacy, and any Church path, is meant to be hard. The second stanza really shows this best.
Bedraggled in the briar
And grey fire of the nettle,
Three nights, I fell, I groaned
On the flagstone of help
To pluck her from my body;
For servant ribbed with hunger
May climb his rungs to God
This isn’t just a dark satire against celibacy; it is more of an indictment of the Church at the time. “For servant ribbed with hunger, May climb his rungs to God.” The poem indicates that the only way to God is through starvation and penance. Clarke is using celibacy as an example of the path the Church advocates for people and his view of this is not pretty. It is however a beautifully written piece as is all of Clarkes I have sampled so far. He is elegant and graceful, even in describing darkness. That is talent.
The question for this weeks blog is an interesting one;
As the novel ends Stephen philosophizes about Ireland and what it means to him. What conclusions does he come to?
It seems to be that Stephen discovers he has to be free to truly experience the real spirit of Ireland. To be free to him means to travel, put distance between himself and Ireland. In his diary entrance for 16 April, he starts with “away, away”.He describes tall mast of ships crying out for him to come away with them. Then they say they are his kin and he is theirs. He exualts in being able to leave on his own. Alone.
Stephen’s next entry, ends with a good description of his thoughts on Ireland. “I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.
He does not believe he can experience Ireland within Ireland, not in his soul anyway. In the previous entry, the tall ship mast’s had called him their kin. He either believes to discover the soul of his people he has to go away Or it is his own urges to go off to be alone, to become the artist he desire to be, that will help him discover his races soul.
Of course the last line entry to his diary is, “Old Father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead”. So it could mean he takes his country, his fathers memories, and his Church on his journey with him. The wonderful thing about good literature is that it can be taken different ways. It is all a matter of perspective.
J.M. Synge wrote the play, The Playboy of the Western World, and it is a wonderful example of an Irish Play. A man comes into a village, professes to murdering his father, and becomes an instant celebrity. At least until his father turns up and he tries to kill him, (again), then the village has a problem with him. It is a fun play written with the language and sensibilities of what was considered to be peasants. The question at hand is…What do you think were the reasons behind the riots that erupted at the ‘Playboy’s’ first performances? By the way, it wasn’t only Dublin theatre goers who rioted…there were riots in New York and Philadelphia too when the play did a tour of the US!! Who was behind that?
This is an interesting question, because by today’s standard’s there is nothing in the play to get really worked up over. The use of the word “shift” for woman’s underclothes, and women being willing to be alone in the same house at night with a man, was considered shocking. Due to religious upbringing, people do not like to talk about anything that might in any way suggest sex. Think of America in the 1950’s. Everyone likes to think the U.S.A was Leave it to Beaver, yet in hindsight it was anything but. In Dublin and elsewhere they had a carefully constructed image of themselves and when someone shows what is actually there, they get more than a tad upset about it. The play was a wonderfully written piece of entertainment. The riots were a case study in cultural psychology.
Response to William Butler Yeats
The Stolen Child
It may have become obvious by this point, but my favorite time in literature is the mythic and medieval. So out of all the reading I have done this past week of Yeats, it is The stolen Child that jumped out at me. It is a wonderful mix of the mythic and melancholy which I believe was one of Yeats great strengths as a poet. This poem displays his greatness like the mists over the lake he describes.
The first stanza begins with a description of the location. “Sleuth Wood in the lake” is a nice way of telling us there is mystery with “Sleuth” in a wood on the lake. He populates this wood with ‘flapping herons” and “drowsy water rats”, going onto describe “fairy vats”, full of berries and “stolen cherries”. All of this is pure Irish myth and at that point he lets you know where he is going with it.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you
This too is typical Irish myth; you just do not see it coming. The faery in Ireland have been used in some stories to protect humans, at least they believe they are. He continues the next stanza with more faery fun and ending with the same chorus. There is only one difference.
In this stanza the faery speaks of dances and mingling hands and glances. From there they leap and “chase the frothy bubbles”. It becomes a little more ominous here because of the two lines before the chorus warning the child, the poem is no longer faery having fun. They are chasing the bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
From here the faery repeat the last five lines from the first stanza.
The third stanza is similar to the second, but Yeats ads more ominous lines before the repeated final five lines. In fact there is only the first four lines out of fifteen that are of the lighter variety. This stanza speaks of gushing water that could barely bathe a star. A wonderful image isn’t it. Bathing a star! Then however they whisper to trout to give them unquiet dreams. (Another wonderful image, really). This leads to ferns dropping tears onto young streams. It gives me the picture of a woman weeping over her child. Is this the faery weeping for the child? Or for humanity? Then of course the last five are repeated again before the last stanza begins.
In the last stanza there is no debate over if the child is going with them. It has been decided and they have lured the child to come along to safety. There is continued melancholy and a little bitter sweetness that I will copy down in full.
Away with us he’s going,
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can
The poem as a piece tells the tale of faery luring a child with happy images, so they can save him from a world so full of weeping. Each stanza builds to the last, as all good short poetry does, to show us the child’s decision to the faery offer to come away. I could write ten pages about how beautiful I find this poem, but it would quickly become redundant as well as insufficient to the task. There are not enough words.