Friday, April 5, 2013

Notes on "In Parenthesis" pt. 1

Notes on David Jones' In Parenthesis, pts 1-4.

Jones, David. In Parenthesis: seinnyessit e gledyf ym penn mameu. New York: Chilmark Press, 1962. Print.

The places where Jones' notes on some of these topics are very thorough, I have left out my own comments as these are merely supplements to his for those unfamiliar with the works he is referencing.

Title page:
  • "Seinnyessit e gledyf ym penn mameu" - "His sword rang in mothers' heads"
    • Jones gives a fairly thorough description of Y Gododdin in his footnotes, but the specific passage from which this quote comes (verse XXVII) is about the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, lord of Cantref Gwaelod, (it was his land that became the Drowned Hundred when careless watchmen neglected the dyke during a storm). If I am not entirely mistaken, I believe other sources give his son the name Elffin. The names Offer and Maddeu appear to belong to places. The passage is describing the prowess of Elffin, and the meaning of this phrase is that he was a mighty warrior, killing many men, whose mothers were presumably remembering his sword with great sorrow. The line could well describe the whole work in that the survivors remember the death of loved ones caused by the war. 
Dedication page:
  • Oeth and Annoeth
    • I actually know nothing about this place other than that it appears to have been one of three prison-fortresses in the Welsh Triads. As to the warriors, note 47 from Part 7 is very helpful. Jones says, "Oeth and Annoeth's hosts occur in Welsh tradition as a mysterious body of troops that seem to have some affinity with the Legions" (Pt. 7 n. 47). Such a dedication is fitting here where Jones is commemorating the men with whom he fought in coverts and in the open.
  • From The Mabinogion, the story of "Branwen daughter of Llyr"
    • The most important thing to note is that Bran, the brother of the titular character, is a remarkable king, and after he is mortally wounded in a fight, he orders his followers to cut off his head. He is more than a little bit magical, so when they do so, his head continues to speak to them, and his men bring him back to Britain where they spend many, many hpapy years in Harlech castle. Their only order is never to open the door... which of course means that eventually someone does. At which point, the enchantment is broken, Bran's head stops speaking, and his men burry it (supposedly where the Tower of London now stands) where it will protect Britain against invasions. Jones' quote is taken from the moment when the door is opened, and the sorrow of the men could well be the sorrow Jones and others of his generation might feel when opening this book to return to the world of the war.
Part One, title page:
  • "Men marched...together" - Y Gododdin
    • If I have found the correct verse (it is sometimes hard to tell when Jones' translation is different from my own), this quotation is drawn from either the beginning of XXXI or XXXII, and both deal with the mustering and feasting period the men had before they went to Cattraeth - a fitting quote for a section that deals primarily with a roll call and with marching. 
  • "Lance-Corporal Aneirin Merddyn Lewis"
    • Aneirin is, of course the name of the poet traditionally credited with writing Y Gododdin and Merddyn is the Welsh fo Rmerlin. Thus it is fitting that Lewis should be both Welsh and the singer in the company (III. 42, 45).
Part Two, title page:
  • "On Tuesday...enamelled shields" - Y Gododdin
    • The quote comes from LXVIII.
      "The soldiers celebrated the praise of the Holy One,
      And in their presence was kindled a fire that raged on high.
      On Tuesday they put on their dark-brown garments;
      On Wednesday they purified their enamelled armour;
      On Thursday their destruction was certain;
      On Friday was brought carnage all around;
      On Saturday their joint labour was useless;
      On Sunday their blades assumed a ruddy hue;
      On Monday was seen a pool knee deep of blood.
      The Gododin relates that after the toil,
      Before the tents of Madog, when he returned,
      Only one man in a hundred with him came"
      (text from Project Gutenberg).
    • The action in Part Two is similar in some ways as there is a period of hearing lectures, a paragraph where days are broken down (14). The end of the part signals John Ball's entrance into areas touched by the war. 
Part Three, title page:
  • "Men went to Catraeth...the strong, the weak" - Y Gododdin
    • The passage is paraphrased from VI
      "The heroes marched to Gododin, and Gognaw laughed,
      But bitter were they in battle, when they stood arranged according to their several banners;
      Few were the years of peace which they had enjoyed;
      The son of Botgad caused a throbbing by the energy of his hand;
      They should have gone to churches to do penance,
      The old and young, the bold and the mighty;
      The inevitable strife of death was about to pierce them"
      (text from Project Gutenberg).
  • "David of the White Stone"
    • A Welsh folk song that can be heard here, sung by Welsh mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins. Wikipedia also has a short article about the song's origins and has a translation of the words. It is interesting to note that as soon as it is mentioned that Aneirin sings, the references to Welsh, British and Anglo-Saxon works begin to appear within the text as well as on the title pages of each section.
  • "Craig-y-Ddinas"
    • One of the locations beneath which Arthur supposedly sleeps.
Origional image can be found here.

  • "Pen Nant Govid" 
    • As Jones points out in note 42, Pen Nant Govid is from The Mabinogion. His comment is fairly exhaustive.
  • "dogs of Annwn"
    • The dogs of Annwn (Welsh lord of the underworld) were white and had red eyes. Their presence was associated with death.
III. 54:
  • "Those broad-pinioned; // blue-burnished, or brinded-back; // whose proud eyes watched // the broken emblems." He is invoking one of the three traditional "beasts of battle" (the eagle, wolf, and the raven).
  • "The white-tailed eagle at the battle ebb, // where the sea wars against the river"
    • As Jones says in his note, these lines are from the Anglo-Saxon poem "The Battle of Brunanburh". Continuation of "beasts of battle" imagery.
  • "the speckled kite of Maldon and the crow"
    • There is also and Anglo-Saxon poem called "The Battle of Maldon" and again, Jones is continuing the "beasts of battle" trope - a particularly chilling way to describe the rats!
Part Four, title page:
  • "King Pellam's Launde"
    • King Pellam's land is the Wasteland of T.S. Elliot. Pellam (also called the Fisher King in some sources) suffered from the Dolorous Stroke, and was only healed once Galahad, Percival, and Bors successfully completed the Quest for the Holy Grail. In other sources, the condition of the Fisher King influences his entire land, thus when he suffers from the Dolorous Stroke, his land is a wasteland.
  • "Like an home-reared animal...steep-piled sods"
    • The quote comes from LXXXVIII
      "Instantaneously is his fame wafted on high;
      His anchors from the scene of action cannot be restrained.
      Unflinching eagle of the forward heroes,
      He bore the toil, and brilliant was his zeal;
      The fleetest coursers he outstripped in war,
      But was quite a lamb when the wine from the goblet flowed.
      Ere he reached the grassy tomb, and his cheeks became pale in death,
      He presided over the banquet of mead, and honoured it with the generous horn"
      (Text from Project Gutenberg).

      I think the prison of earth can here be interpreted to be the trenches.
IV. 59:
  • "So thus he sorrowed...comforted"
    • This phrase comes from the section in Le mort d'Arthur after Lancelot has seen the Holy Grail but is unable to obtain it. In Jones' use, I think it could be that he listener is comforted by the sound of bird song, even in a horrible place. 
IV. 67:
  • "Since Boniface once walked in Odin's wood"
    • St. Boniface was an Anglo-Saxon missionary to the Germans, relevant here I think, due to their location.
IV. 77:
  • "Nant Honddu"
    • A village in South Wales, just north of Abergavenny. 
IV. 79:
  • "My fathers were the Black Prinse of Wales"
    • I suspect Jones is here referring to the son of Edward III, Edward, the Black Prince who, as Edward III's oldest son, would have been the Prince of Wales. 
  • "I was the spear in Balin's hand // that made waste King Pellam's land"
    • Sir Balin is the knight who inflicted the Dolorous Stroke on King Pellam. I am not entirely sure what Jones is doing with either of these references  other than that Dai is making a number of impossibly grandiose claims, including these. 
IV. 80-1:
  • "Mediatrix" - "female mediator/intermediary"
  • "O dulcis // imperatrix" - "O sweet empress/commander"
  • "Pontifex maximus" - "high priest"
  • "Litoris Saxonici" - "the Saxon Shore
    • The Saxon Shore was made up of a series of costal forts built by the Romans to defend the western shores of Britain from the Saxons.
  • "Britanniarum" - "of the Britains?" I am not entirely sure how one ought to translate a genitive plural of the name of Britain
  • "Gwledig" - Google was unhelpful, and dictionaries only supplied me with the possible meaning "rustic".
  • "Bretwalda" - an Anglo-Saxon term for the most powerful of the British Kings from the 5th century onwards
IV. 89:
  • "It may be remembered ...stove in"
    • a reference to the drowning of the Low Hundred (Cantref Gwealod). Lance-Corporal Lewis is appreciating the similarities of his situation to that of Cantref Gwealod. 
  • "ein llyw olaf"
    • Jones' notes for this section are very thorough - but on a personal note, Llywelyn died on my birthday! (Alas!)

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