I remember reading an issue of Agenda,
in which William Cookson similarly compared
some lines by Heaney with the corresponding
ones in Golding's translation. Cookson pointed
out that Golding's lines managed to combine
formality and colloquialism in a way that
seems impossible in present-day English.
It's true that the Hughes lines quoted by Ric are
just poorly written. But the comparison does
raise the question that maybe the English
language has simply lost its freshness after
400 years of use and misuse, and we can never
recover Golding's directness.
(I don't necessarily agree with this idea, I'm
interested in members' comments).
> From: R I Caddel <[log in to unmask]>
> To: british n irish poets <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: entice new readers
> Date: 09 February 1998 09:22
> Well I still haven't managed to read that book we were talking about a
> while back, but I did pick up a prizewinning and acclaimed Tales from
> which is "Ovid for the Millenium" and "should entice new readers to the
> ancient stories". And I came across this bit, from The Flood:
> A few crowds are squeezed on diminishing islets
> Of hill-tops.
> Men are rowing in circles aimlessly, crazed,
> Where once they ploughed straight furrows or steered waggons.
> And that sent me back to a version some hundreds of years earlier:
> Some climbed up to the tops of hils, and some rowde to and fro
> In Botes, where they not long before to plough and Cart did go
> Now the top one is in the present tense, which should give it that much
> more in the way of immediacy, urgency, no? And yet, it seems to me that
> all the energy is in the rough, monosyllabic sound of the second. Where
> the first is weighed down with descriptors which pull the energy out of
> ("diminishing" "aimlessly") the second carries no such extra baggage. And
> whilst, obviously, the second is using a fairly conventional metre
> nevertheless, is made energetic by the irregular internal rhyming, and
> syntax), what is the first doing? Why is the line break where it is at
> end of the first line? it neither supports a movement nor creates tension
> with it...
> And so on. I hope there are folks out there who'll tell me just as
> specifically why the first bit is so appropriate to our millenial times,
> which I just can't see, except that it's scaled the whole event to a
> passage of an official bbc report. I'm still waiting for the cris cheek
> version - that, I'd guess, would put the energy and range back into it
> which I find so sadly lacking, or which I just don't get, in the first
> bit. I tried, as always, but I just don't get it.