Thursday, June 29, 2017

Greek music by Borges

Alex Waterhouse-Hayward gives us a poem of Borges for which no English translation exists. I did not know there was such a thing.

Música griega – Jorge Luís Borges
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos dignos del amor de Helena de Troya.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos dignos de haber muerto en Arbela.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     creeremos en el libre albedrío,
     esa ilusión de cada instante.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     sabremos que la nave de Ulises volverá a Itaca.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos la palabra y la espada.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos dignos del cristal y de la caoba,
     de la nieve y del mármol.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos dignos de las cosas comunes,
     que ahora no lo son.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     seremos en el aire la flecha.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     creeremos en la misericordia del lobo
     y en la justicia de los justos.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     mereceremos tu gran voz Walt Whitman.
     Mientras dure esta música,
     mereceremos haber visto, desde una cumbre,
     la tierra prometida.

Digging around finds jbrignone in .ar with some background, 
(Published in the newspaper Clarín on April 11, 1985)
(It should be noted that at this time Borges frequented not only the office of the Greek Orthodox Church, but also the taverna of Takis Delénikas and accompanied his partner to the classes of Greek dance of Jorge Dermitzákis. Although this is not one of the best of Borges, nevertheless it gives a good account of the climate of enthusiasm that permeated these eternal philhellenes in those evenings. JB)

I have always found Greek dance tremendously moving and powerful though I cannot dance. Alex likes to quote his grandmother, Nadie te quita lo bailado, which is approximately, no-one can take away from you the dances you have danced. In the case of no dances, perhaps the memory of watching dancers is enough. There is a fragment of a poem I wrote for my wife after watching her dancing with her eleven girl cousins, written down somewhere.

In the meantime here is a rough translation of the poem - shoved the música through Google Translate and tinkered a bit around the edges, to produce a sort of Tom Waits cover version, all rough growls and sounds made by hitting something metal with a stick. The tinkering is based on my understanding of Borges which is itself dependent on translations by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, W.S. Merwin, Alastair Reid, and others: to whom my debt is great.

I did not know why we might have died in Arbela. That was the Battle of Gaugamela, where Alexander with vastly inferior forces and a brilliant dangerous strategy, defeated Darius of Persia and ended the Achaemenid empire. Though the Greeks did not know mahogany or Whitman or a promised land, and our unworthiness of the common things is a very Borgesian idea, for me these only strengthen the message of eternal philhellenism.

Musica Griega - Jorge Luis Borges

While this music lasts,
we will be worthy of the love of Helen of Troy.
While this music lasts,
we will be worthy to have died in Arbela.
While this music lasts,
we can believe in free will,
that illusion of each moment.
While this music lasts,
we will know that Ulysses' ship returns to Ithaca.
While this music lasts,
we will be the word and the sword.
While this music lasts,
we will be worthy of crystal and mahogany,
snow and marble.
While this music lasts,
we will be worthy of the common things,
which now are not deserved.
While this music lasts,
we will be in the air the arrow.
While this music lasts,
we can believe in the mercy of the wolf
and in the justice of the righteous.
While this music lasts,
we will deserve your great voice Walt Whitman.
While this music lasts,
we merit a view, from a summit,
of the promised land.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

bluegills !

Please to excuse the excitable post. Bluegill fishing according to myth and legend is easy, and they spawn prolifically. By these lights, it is one of the few fish species remaining where you can catch and kill a mess of 'em for a fish fry, guilt-free. In twenty-seven years of living in the US this would be the first time I've found bluegill as described in these foundational myths of US fly-fishing. So yes, I am excited, sufficiently to put up a post to commemorate this possibly singular occurrence.

John Gierach, himself something of a legend, got his start in paid writing with the aid of bluegill.
"I wrote a story about fly-fishing. I think it was about bluegills, because I used to go out to the ponds and catch bluegills for food. And I sold it, and I remember it was like, $75, which was huge money back then. And I just thought, “Well, maybe I can do this to finance my ‘real’ writing career instead of driving a garbage truck.” "
Paid writing is of course very different from writing, as witness this. An opportunity for gratitude, since I have derived tremendous pleasure and consolation from John's books over the years: thank you the bluegill.

An elderly fisherman needs elderly gear, a 1941 Heddon cane rod, and an English reel from the 50s, JW Young Landex. For me there is a small but constant pleasure to be found in fishing this outfit. The reel is nicely engineered and solidly built, long outlasting its owners. I confidently expect it to outlive me and hope that my sons will sell it on through ebay, to another eccentric. There is an element of pity and terror in this new enthusiasm for old fishing gear - like Frodo speaking of Gollum, "I have to believe he can come back." - if I can save these oddments from the teeth of time, perhaps I too may yet be saved. Perhaps not, but at least the fishing has been fine meantime.

The biggest bluegill I ever caught, some 9" or so. That's not large enough to qualify as a 'bull' bluegill which is 10-12" but quite big enough for who it's for. Bull bluegill indeed, it is impressive how fishermen can find a way to be macho even about little fish.

This is not a bluegill but some other representative of the glorious panoply of sunfish native to the US. First guess was a punkinseed but those have orange markers on their black ears (the little black tab at the top of the gill cover or operculum). 

I was standing in the shade, casting to fish in the shade. Upon hooking one it would dart out to deeper water, flashing in the sun, suspended in clear water above the dense green weeds. That much I remember.

The original plan was to catch bass, some hawgs as we fishermen like to say, but did not manage that. The bass were all fun-size like this one.

OK back to the bluegill, I may have been wandering a bit. It turns out that killing a mess of 'em is most likely counterproductive. An enterprising fisheries biologist in Wisconsin questioned the conventional wisdom than overpopulation produces stunted fish. Andrew Rypel set up a study using the ponds under his management. More restrictive size and number limits allow the 'stunted' populations to start growing again. Not only that, but the limit reductions will produce more fish flesh. As the bluegill get bigger in length, they get exponentially bigger in weight, so a few bigger fish weigh more than many small ones. The next step is a ten-year study in Wisconsin using varied regulations across many different ponds.

Later found another study which gets into the deep weeds of bluegill sexuality. The tale of big bull bluegill getting the babes is simple, clear, and wrong. There are two approaches to spawning. The second one is the sneaker or satellite male, who puts his efforts into growing massive gonads instead of simply growing massive. Then he waits for the rapture of the breeding pair, darts in and spreads his seed across the eggs, and escapes before the bull notices. These males are smaller but tend to produce larger offspring. The sneak then runs off to enjoy life, while the bull is left guarding his (and other fishes') progeny. Once the sneaker gets too big to sneak, he starts cross-dressing, and becomes a satellite breeder. These imitate the female colouring and hang around the breeding pair. The bull probably thinks he's getting some hot two-girl-fish action and feels all manly/bullish/bluegillish. Nature is always weirder than I imagined, it's wonderful.

Another tweet about why the panfish ingloriously named 'crappie' gets pronounced 'croppie' reveals that the French for bluegill is le crapet arlequin - the harlequin croppie. How delightful.