Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sulla strada dell’esilio

Paris Night

Upon the stonework bridge I stood
   with shoulders bent and head
And listened to the songs of night
   sung by the river below
And the clouds above which veiled
   the winter moon, so far
From what I once called home
   yet farther still from all I'd dreamed.

A shadow in the alleys of the heart
   wandering in fear and hope
Surrounded by the memories of now
   and then and tomorrow
Squeezed into a moment caught between
   the massive centuries
Yet living in that moment all
   unuttered human drama

Now sensing in my soul that night
   forever there yet gone
I know of many waters fled
   beneath the bridge of stone
And much to flow.  I await
   the ultimate union
Of river and sea, of sky and earth,
   reality and dream.

Cum subit illius tristissima noctis imago,
Qua mihi supremum tempus in urbe fuit,
Cum repeto noctem, qua tot mihi cara reliqui,
Labitur ex oculis nunc quoque gutta meis.

20 mai 1968

The closing quatrain is Ovid, Tristia 1.3, in which he laments his exile from Rome.  One translation is as follows:

When the saddest memory comes to mind,
of that night, my last hour in the city,
when I recall that night when I left so much
so dear to me, even now tears fall from my eyes.

The photo shown here was taken in May 2014.  I am sure the view was less brightly lit when I stood in the same spot in December 1967, a young student far from his native California yet who felt so at home in this great and beautiful European capital.

This is one of the items buried amid chaotic gibberish in the journals of my college and seminary days.  Evidently written just before my college graduation it speaks of the memories and yearnings awakened during my semester abroad.  The "many waters fled" suggest the immense changes I felt within from my time in France, experiencing a different culture, thinking and even dreaming in a different language,  learning to eat and dress and behave somewhat differently from the ways of home.  Memories "squeezed into a moment caught between the massive centuries" even today makes me think of the exterior reality of walking down streets with stone walls on either side, ancient walls (especially to someone whose entire life had been lived on the West Coast).  In fact, I walked each day past Notre Dame de Paris going to and from my hotel.  And here was my little life caught in that immense context, and feeling that I was very much part of it while simultaneously a stranger in its midst.

Well, let us assume a kid who cites Ovid in Latin must have some feeling for centuries of history.

Exile, journey, and longing for a home still unknown are undoubtedly themes of my life and now that I am in my late sixties it is certainly time to reweave these threads into some deeper wholeness.  The Italian title ("on the road of exile") comes from Turandot, possibly my favorite passage in the opera:

LIÙ (si avvicina al Principe, piangendo)
Signore, ascolta! Ah, signore, ascolta!
Liù non regge più!
Si spezza il cuor!
Ahimè, ahimè, quanto cammino
col tuo nome nell’anima,
col nome tuo sulle labbra!
Ma se il tuo destino
doman sarà deciso,
noi morrem sulla strada dell’esilio!
Ei perderà suo figlio...
io...l’ombra d’un sorriso!
Liù non regge più!
Ah, pietà!

Non piangere, Liù!
Se in un lontano giorno
io t’ho sorriso,
per quel sorriso,
dolce mia fanciulla,
m’ascolta: il tuo signore
sarà domani forse solo al mondo...
Non lo lasciare,
portalo via con te!

Noi morrem sulla strada dell’esilio!

Noi morrem!

Dell’esilio addolcisci a lui le strade!
Questo, questo, o mia povera Liù,
al tuo piccolo cuore che non cade
chiede colui che non sorride più...
che non sorride più!


LIÙ (weeping, approaches the Prince)
My lord, listen, ah! listen!
Liù can bear it no more!
My heart is breaking!
Alas, how long have I travelled
with your name in my soul,
your name on my lips!
But if your Fate
is decided tomorrow
we’ll die on the road to exile!
He will lose his son...
And I...the shadow of a smile!
Liù can bear it no more!
Ah, have pity!

Don’t weep, Liù
If one far-off day,
I smiled at you,
then for that smile,
my sweet girl,
listen to me: your master tomorrow
will be perhaps alone in the world...
Don’t leave him!
Take him away with you!

We’ll die on the road to exile!

We’ll die!

Soften for him the road to exile!
O my poor Liù, this, this
is what he who smiles no more
asks of your unfailing heart...
he who smiles no more!

Darkslayer, books one and two of The Chronicles of Mídhris, tells of my young hero Ian Dyrnedon who slips between dimensions and finds himself in a parallel world.  He never returns to his family in Yorkshire and is forced to make his home in a new world and among a new people. There he finds such happiness and peace as he can, though life forces upon him so many and such strong experiences that there is always a restlessness, a source of perpetual uneasiness for his wife, a strong woman whose sole weakness is concern for him.

Books three through eight have similar threads in the story lines and the final two volumes (should I live long enough to get them written) bring the story of the redactor of the Chronicles, my own alter ego, who suffers an ultimate parting no words can capture.

I suppose the two clearest life tasks I now face are making sense of the journey of my life and getting the story of the Dyrnedon family journey into published (or publishable) narrative.  Whether any other huge tasks will come to pass remains to be seen, and I am agnostic there.  That I leave to Christian grace and Eghran's chance.

--the BB

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