Thursday, December 18, 2008

Polyphloisbos and Arnaut Daniel

Plato’s Cratylus deals at length with the original nature of some words. There are certain words which naturally surface like oxygen through the pool of language to the world. Some words actually do just come up from the ground like Holderlin’s flowers-—words that seem to embody their sense in their sound—-perfect, natural words. Pound’s proselytizing of Arnaut Daniel, troubadour, as the greatest poet that ever lived was premised on Daniel’s capacity to use these kinds of words with greatest range and ease.

An example from Homer: In the Illiad, phloisbos refers to the noise and confusion of battle. Elsewhere, in describing the sea, polyphloisbos is used for the sound of waves on the shore or on the fore of a ship. It channels the noise and confusion of a battle scene onto the crash of water against an object. Polyphloisbos is aggregate, percussive, embattled, confused and specific. It is the only word for the crash of water on a ship’s crest.

Additionally, it circles sonically on its percussive stresses. POlyPHLOisBOS: Crash/recession/surge/recession/final, conclusive 'B'-crash. It is sonically a wave against an object, surging and receding and returning with upshot. Listen to the way waves sound next time you are by a sea-beat, rocky shore. They SAY ‘polyphloisbos’

Poetry’s purpose, then, perhaps, is to improve our attention to the natural sound of our world through the language we use to consider that world. Arnaut Daniel is the greatest poet that ever lived if he is able to suffuse our grasp of the world with the feel of cleanliness and clarity in the sound of his language. His words make us better witnesses to the aural niceties of our world

See also Gavin Douglas, Pound’s translations of Daniel, and a number of passages from the Divine Comedy

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