Tuesday, December 30, 2014

in animals

Though the Senses know not from what Places or Parts, Cold comes, or what it Causes, yet they know that we have here at this time Cold with all its Potent Strength, as an Army of Flakes of Snow, with Ammunition of Hail for Bullets and Wind for Powder, also huge Ships of Ice, which Float in the Main Sea, and stop up all the Narrow Rivers; also Cold and its Army Shooting forth the Piercing Darts, which fly so Thick and Fast, and are so Sharp, as they enter into every Pore of the Flesh of all Animal Creatures, whereby many Animals are Wounded with Numbness and Die Insensibly although Mankind bring what strength they can get against Cold, as an Army of Furs, where every Hair stands out like a Squadron of Pikes, to resist Cold's Assault; and Ammunition of Coals serves for Bullets, and Ashes for Powder, with great Loggs for Cannons, Billets for Muskets and Carbines, Brush. Faggots for Pistols, where the Bellows as Firelocks, makes them fly up in a Flame; also great Pieces of Beef for Ships for Men of War, with Cabbages for Sails, Sausages for Tacklings, Carrots for Guns, and Marrow-Bones for Masts, Ballasted with Pepper, and Pitch'd or Tarr'd with Mustard, the Card and Needle being Brewis* and Neat's Tongues, the Steers-men Cooks, besides many Pinnaces of Pork, Mutton, and Veal, and Flying Boats, which are Turkies, Capons, Geese, and the like, all which Swim in a Large Sea of Wine, Beer, and Ale, yet for all this we are Beaten into the Chimney-corner, and there we sit Shaking and Trembling like a Company of Cowards, that dare not stir from their Shelter; and many in the Sea-fight have been Drowned, from whence some have been taken up Dead-Drunk, then carried and Buried in a Feather-bed, where, after a Long Sleep, they may have a Resurrection, but how they will be Judged at that time they Rise, whether Damned with Censure or Saved by Excuse, I cannot tell.

(Margaret Cavendish, Sociable Letters (1664))

So slight
that in animals and limbs
- what more that in reputation and disrepute -
like a worm and trampled down
and like me
              and soon
So slight
             and as all
so slight and

(Gunnar Björling, from You Go the Words, tr Fredrik Hertzberg (2007). The dates I'm giving for translated works are the dates of the published translations, not the originals. This long poem was completed in Swedish in 1955. I read You Go just after or before Inger Christensen's Alphabet and was surprised a little bit later when Christensen cropped up at Biblibio and Wuthering Expectations. She is not a household name in the English-writing world but there she was anyway, like a sprig of mushroom in the grass.)

* brewis could mean either broth or bread soaked in broth, according to the Collins English Dictionary. "C16: from Old French broez, from broet, diminutive of breu broth."

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