Sunday, September 11, 2016

Humpty Dumpty Or: Maestría poética ( A Lucianesque)

A: It is merely a matter of deciding who is master, poem or poet.

B: That sounds a bit Humpty Dumpty.

A: Do you mean upside-down or are you referring to Alice?

B: Upside down—isn't that Topsy Turvy? But I refer to Alice of course and her Humpty Dumpty--"When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." 

A: You approve what was said, then—clearly the poem is master.

B: Approve? How do you come to that conclusion? Alice's Humpty claims complete mastery of the meaning of  language. How does that translate into supporting what was said--that the poem is the master of the poet and not the other way round?

A: My dear fellow, you are widely read but you seem to pay very little attention to what you read.

B: How is that?

A: Who is Humpty Dumpty?

B: I don't follow.

A: Of course, you don't. You don't ask the right questions.

B: Who is Humpty Dumpty then?

A: Humpty Dumpty is a nursery rhyme, thus a poetic form, thus a poem and is in complete mastery of all surveyed.

B: Including the poet who composed the rhyme, whoever that may have been?

A: Yes, but the composer may not have been a poet in the first place. Indeed, probably wasn't.

B: You seem to be saying that Humpty Dumpty composed some anonymous poet, not the reverse.

A: In a way, yes. But you beg the question. The authorship of the rhyme is completely unknown. Or do you prefer a goose?

B: Well, certainly the rhyme did not compose itself, did it?

A: No, but that is not the same as saying that the rhyme is master of the author or authors, whoever that may have been. Authorship is completely inconsequential.

B: I don't follow.

A: Of course not. As was said, you don't ask the right questions.

B: Let me ask—does this seemingly topsy-turvy view apply to more than poetry? To film or not, for example?

A: Sometimes.

B: Sometimes?

A: If the director is considered the main author of a film, with great films it is clearly the film who is master, not the director.

B: Are you serious?

A: Of course.

B: An example please.

A: That is easy—Carol Reed's The Third Man. Is there really any doubt that inarguably great film is master of a competent if otherwise undistinguished director and not the reverse.

B: That is intriguing. Orson Welles was in that film.

A: At least as much in the breach as in the observance. He is not onscreen at all for more than half the film as I recall.

B: Be that as it may—would you say the same about Welles' own Citizen Kane?

A: It almost goes without saying. Welles knew when and how to be mastered. In the making of The Third Man perhaps he was contagious. But this is a distraction. The subject is poetic mastery, not film mastery.

B: And?

A: You are well read. Have you read much ancient poetry—ancient Greek poetry for example? Homer?

B: A bit of Homer of course--in translation.

A: Translation is often a problem. But let me do the asking in regard to Homer and other ancients.

B: Yes?

A: Is there recorded any instance among the Greeks in which the Muse calls on the poet rather than the poet upon the Muse?

B: Muses now—what nonsense is this? Next you will be counting Beatrice or Virgil or The Divine Comedy itself the master of Dante and not the reverse.

A: Naturally. By the way, have you ever asked yourself why it is called “Comedy”? Bocaccio added the "Divina."

B: No. What a strange question.

A: And also by the way, why do you fall into thinking Humpty Dumpty masculine? It was an egg after all, wasn't it?

B: Even stranger and more Humpty Dumpty.  May I ask who is Alice?

A: Alice, it again almost goes without saying, is prose in conversation with poetry, that is, Humpty Dumpty.

B: Ah, then--an allegory?

A: May I remind you, dear fellow, that Lewis Carroll was weaned on Pilgrim's Progress?  Through The Looking Glass might be considered a comic version--or even a mirror image. Something, say, that might dream up a Christian mathematician.

B: Thoroughly new and intriguing. One has never heard or thought any of that.

A: I rest my case.

E. A. Costa   September 11, 2016   Granada, Nicaragua

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