Sunday, June 26, 2005

Save the Fast Dance for Me.

Here at One Man Crappolas-ville USA - as the multitude of his readers will testify, there can be found the occasional bit of amateur (rubbish as opposed to unpaid) Lit Crit. Often this will be the result of a little inspired reading from either the Blogging arena or elsewhere. That last sentence is probably a little self-evident, but nevermind.

Someone, somewhere - you know what it's like when you're reading countless Blogs, it's rather like all the houses you view when you're looking to buy, they merge in the mind. But someone, somewhere, and I appologise for failing to remember who, recently reproduced the poem below in honour of a childhood memory and the battered book he remembered reading it from. It's called Tarantella by Hilaire Belloc.

DO you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the tedding and the bedding
Of the straw for a bedding,
And the fleas that tease in the High Pyrenees,
And the wine that tasted of tar?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
(Under the vine of the dark veranda)?
Do you remember an Inn, Miranda,
Do you remember an Inn?
And the cheers and the jeers of the young muleteers
Who hadn't got a penny,
And who weren't paying any,
And the hammer at the doors and the din?
And the hip! hop! hap!
Of the clap
Of the hands to the swirl and the twirl
Of the girl gone chancing,
Backing and advancing,
Snapping of the clapper to the spin
Out and in--
And the ting, tong, tang of the guitar!
Do you remember an Inn,
Do you remember an Inn?
Never more;
Never more.
Only the high peaks hoar;
And Aragon a torrent at the door.
No sound
In the walls of the halls where falls
The tread
Of the feet of the dead to the ground,
No sound:
But the boom
Of the far waterfall like doom.

It's a cracking poem full of rhythm and cadence with many rhetorical flourishes such as euphony, repetition patterns and internal rhyme. Taken together with its short staccato lines and the progression of its chords, the poem invites a rapid reading which in turn symbolises the movements of the tarantella dance. As I recall the commentators on the site were quite sniffy not just about the poem, but also about the writer's decision to post it, as if it was something of a cop out. Bollocks to them I say - I've a good mind to turn this whole blog into one big poetry-fest and fly in the face of this popular conception. Or at least do a post in support.

The title of the poem: Tarantella, has been taken from the mad frenzied dance Spanish and Italian folk in Medieval times would immediately spring into if unfortunate enough to have been bitten by the deadly tarantula. Folklore had it that if anyone was bitten by the spider, the only possible cure from the deadly toxins now surfing through their body- which would no doubt be short-cutting straight to the heart as these things are apt to do - was to snap out of the trance-induced shock of the attack and dance a mad whirl of alternating clockwise and anticlockwise movements with arms and legs in crazed freewheel. This would continue until the dance - probably something of a learned response from Mediterranean childhood, think dog-bell-food, dog-bell slaver, until once exhausted the victim would either fall down dead - i.e. it didn't work - or fall down in cough-gasping, back into safety zone mode, having sent the poison on a blood whirlpool of a U turn and forced out, like a bad spirit, through the now gaping skin pores.

Being bitten wasn't all bad. It invariably developed into something of a social occasion - a sort of 'you have the dance floor to yourself 15 minutes of fame business' and as such you weren't expected to do the embarrassing bit alone - it was, after all, a rather dramatic and public cry for help. People would surround the victim and musicians and accompanying handclappers (untalented groupies) would be quickly mustered - in those days you could get hold of mandolin, guitar and tambourine players easier than you can get hold of plumbers now. And they would strum and pluck and shake (and for all I know, rattle and roll) in search of the correct rhythm. Once the correct rhythm was found - and the victim could tap into it with sufficiently synchronized mania, there was a good shout for survival. And new chums made.

The dance of the tarantula the 'Tarantella' has long since been adopted by Sicilians Italians and Spanish and has become a favourite dancing activity at weddings - bald uncles and shriven black widows weeds wearing grannies like to have a go - not just the young lovers, all in keeping with Mediterranean tradition.

The Miranda of Hilaire Belloc's "Tarantella" is not an Italian, Sicilian or less obviously a Spanish lady, but a Scottish lass (Miranda Mackintosh) whom Belloc met at an inn in the Pyrenean hamlet of Canranc on the River Aragon in 1909. The poem, written twenty years later, was a New Year's present to the Scottish Miranda. The holograph copy is inscribed: "For Miranda: New Year's 1929." One can only assume that much fun was had during their stay for such an emotion-filled if belated memory.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?