Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You'd Rave And Rend Them With Your Teeth

A Question

I asked if I got sick and died, would you
With my black funeral go walking too,
If you'd stand close to hear them talk or pray
While I'm let down in that steep bank of clay.

And, No, you said, for if you saw a crew
Of living idiots, pressing round that new
Oak coffin - they alive, I dead beneath
That board, - you'd rave and rend them with your teeth.

Written 1908, Published 1909

This poem, written not long before Synge's death, was sent in a letter to Molly Allgood. He had in fact asked her if she'd go to his funeral, to which she replied, "No, for I could not bear to see you dead and the others living."

This poem reminds me so much of the way Synge describes the way the Aran Islanders at the turn of the 20th century mourn:

"While the grave was being opened the women sat down among the flat tombstones, bordered with a pale fringe of early bracken, and began the wild keen, or crying for the dead. Each old woman, as she took her turn in the leading recitative, seemed possessed for the moment with a profound ecstasy of grief, swaying to and fro, and bending her forehead to the stone before her, while she called out to the dead with a perpetually recurring chant of sobs." - The Aran Islands 

I love how Synge always draws from his life in his art, and lets his art inform his life. It makes for much self reflection and serious engagement with subject matter.

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