The Well

In the birthplace of civilisation
the spring of health is open to all.
The croaking frogs draw us closer,
their chorus leading the giant
who approaches with long, loping strides.
A copper dagger pierces his navel.
With a bow and arrow clasped in his hands
he kneels down by the spring,
ready to attack anyone who approaches:
a hero never dies surrounded by thieves,
a hero dies like alone, like a wounded lion.

We cannot draw water from the well any longer
and the ink in our pens has run dry.
He who presses on with the pen
will be called a hero of deceipt.
He who is fearful yet stands firm,
even unsupported,
will open the opposite door:
that between wisdom and understanding -
the first generation we behold.

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Comments (2)

Meg Arenberg

This translation sounds lovely, but I do not think it is accurate. I disagree with the translators interpretation of the poem. I do not read it as laudatory of Fumo Liongo at all—quite the opposite, I think Kezilahabi laments the hold of poetic tradition on modern creativity and applauds the hero’s killer for figuratively opening a door to a new generation of poets unrestrained by this tradition.


Most publishers moved dniurg the period 1960s-1970s to a standard of minimum capitalization (and also omitting periods after abbreviations — this Fr’ and St’, not Fr.’ and St.’).Two main reasons for this:(1) To save money in hot-metal typesetting, where the more metal you use, the more it costs. Significant savings could be made in the course of a full-length book. Today, of course, it makes little difference except in the cost of additional printer’s ink.(2) Because excessive use of capital letters is a distinct noise factor and interrupts the flow of reading. One reason for this is that the mind subsconsciously goes back to look for a preceding period (full stop) every time it encounters an upper-case letter. Another is the subsconscious tendency to emphasize every capitalized word as having more importance than those around it.So a sentence like We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection   or the incessant use of capitals for the Priest in the rubrics of the Order of Mass and GIRM in the new translation of the Missal (as opposed to previous incarnations of GIRM, where it was normally lower-case) has the effect of bringing the reader up short every time it happens.It is also amusing to speculate on how such capitalization can be conveyed in musical settings of texts. Should the composer indicate a sforzando every time s/he encounters a capitalized word or syllable?!I would like Paul Ford to include versions of GIRM prior to 2002 in his study, starting with the unofficial Moroney translation that appeared in July 2000 and preceding through subsequent drafts until 2002, but it may be that this would be a much larger exercise.

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