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Thread: Help me please to understand the meaning.

  1. #1
    Flypaper Anna_MAlkovych's Avatar
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    I tried, but it is difficult, I can't get what he meant by it. I see, that it is connected to many historical dates, but that is probably all. And what is telescope thing with ceiling-rose. Sacred Heart is not from the small letter, why is that? And then, that Athene part, why is he watching from the nail and who is that? Oh, and three legged brother ? I'll great any of your thoughts, I really do need help with understanding, because I wanted to translate it.
    From the collection: According to the Small Hours
    by Aidan Mathews

    I EYE DROPS

    Dropping them into my brother's eye
    Was like a bomb-bay opening over Germany.
    When I squeezed the rubber nipple, ointment dripped
    Pear-shapes from a pipette

    Like sobs in a cartoon, Egyptian pupils
    Raining down on boulevards and department stores
    And all the sights of the lit-up city
    That you would miss if you so much as blinked.

    His cornea was an archer's target
    For Robin of Sherwood to start quivering,
    A dart-board for the orbiting
    Shots of morphine before shut-eye. Lights-out.

    When he batted the world in a slow exposure
    It took in the whole, telescoped
    Ceiling-rose where he had hung Hurricanes
    And Lancaster bombers by their ball-turrets,

    The light-bulb bobbing in carbon copies
    And my double, his three-legged, two-faced brother.
    We have filled in long since for the sake of the children
    The pond that froze over in a film of oil.

    In the language of Greece, of grey-eyed Athene,
    I have seen and I know are a perfect likeness.
    It grows on the pupil. God in a toga
    Regarded him daily from a nail on the wall,
    From a cyclops Sacred Heart, as he stockpiled
    Spectacles like a minor pogrom.
    He wore them for those black-and-white newscasts
    Of the night-bombing of North Vietnam

    When the long rope-ladders descended and ascended
    Like the chiselled calendars in a cell
    On the open-eyed children of the blind asylum
    And were followed at curfew on Christmas Eve

    By parachutes full of dolls with eyelids
    That cried chemical tears if you tilted them
    Upside-down like a full-term baby
    Intent on his tunnel-vision, his solo flight-plan.

    Twenty years on, an optician
    Drops deadweights like pennies on my framed face
    Until I can see the writing on the wall
    That my brother chalked up with such a dry eye.

    I decided to read it again and again if I have some gueses in most part but in cyclopes part it seems like a combination of words and Spectacles is that like people who watch so play or like glasses for eyes or maybe both varients are no good?

  2. #2
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    A quick Google search reveals that Aidan Mathews' had a brother who died young of cancer. This poem deals with this... treatment of his brother with morphine and eye-drops as his sight worsened. "Sacred Heart" is capitalized because it refers to a specific religious image (Google "Sacred Heart" and click on the Wikipedia link). There are many uses of puns and double meanings to this poem which is essentially an elegy, but I would not want to give you more until you offer some of your interpretation.
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  3. #3
    Flypaper Anna_MAlkovych's Avatar
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    stlukesguild
    As a total beginner in translating I get only the partial picture, don’t see the whole thing, cause of I have lots of holes in knowledge. Well I’ll try to say what I could get from it. Egyptian pupils – maybe, it is Horus eye it is often drawn with tears under it , so if it is really about his brother then it was he who would never see things that are worth seeing. Well then I have a hole – I don’t get why Robin of Sherwood is quivering or something, them next morphine has a sleep effect, so the the shut-eye is understandable. Then it seems like batted is in the meaning of wink, he captured everything in his eyes, like models of airplanes ( still do not get telescoped
    Ceiling-rose – separately know the words, or I think so) Carbon copy is x-ray photo, my double – is probably the authors picture, taken by his three-legged, two-faced brother – photocamera. We have filled in long since for the sake of the children
    The pond that froze over in a film of oil.
    In the language of Greece, of grey-eyed Athene,
    I have seen and I know are a perfect likeness.
    It grows on the pupil. God in a toga
    Regarded him daily from a nail on the wall,
    From a cyclops Sacred Heart, as he stockpiled
    Spectacles like a minor pogrom. – the only thing I am sure I get here is word pogrom cause it is a Russian one, and it is my native tongue. Well it might be that there is A Jesus on the wall, but then I don’t get the Athene part at all and cyclop thing at all.
    He wore them for those black-and-white newscasts
    Of the night-bombing of North Vietnam

    When the long rope-ladders descended and ascended
    Like the chiselled calendars in a cell
    On the open-eyed children of the blind asylum
    And were followed at curfew on Christmas Eve – well here his bro seems to be reading news in papers about war, but still unclear thing is asylum – in Russian it had several meanings both like a place where people seek refuge and as madhouse, there where several more – but they had no connection at all.
    By parachutes full of dolls with eyelids
    That cried chemical tears if you tilted them
    Upside-down like a full-term baby
    Intent on his tunnel-vision, his solo flight-plan. – here is now almost a clear part, except for I wonder id tunnel-vision – is it like before death like white tunnel of light
    Twenty years on, an optician
    Drops deadweights like pennies on my framed face
    Until I can see the writing on the wall
    That my brother chalked up with such a dry eye. – well, here seems like the author goes to optician and gets the drops for himself and remember his brother died cause his eyes where dry

    After writing out my ideas – it seems like I get nothing, need some better brain, mine seems to be broken down.

    Forgot to say, sorry if I wrote total nonsense, I tried not too, but one cannot always do, what he was intending to do.

  4. #4
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Mathews is quite in love with clever visual images... metaphors... The poem is something of a flash-back as he remembers applying eye drops to his dying brother while having eye drops placed in his eyes some 20-years later). He equates the deliberate, careful act of targeting his brother's eye with the drops to the bombardier sighting his target and dropping bombs over Germany in WWII. He "justifies" this extreme analogy by refering back to how his rother used to build model airplanes from WWII.

    Seriously, the vocabulary of this poem is not difficult. Where the challenge would arise for any translator, I would imagine, is in the wealth of historic and cultural allusions, puns, double-meanings, etc... In the lines:

    His cornea was an archer's target
    For Robin of Sherwood to start quivering...


    The poet clearly compares his act of targeting his brother's cornea with the eye drops to that of Robin Hood... the famed archer. But he, the poet/Robin starts "quivering"... which plays upon the dual meaning of "quiver": to shake and the satchel in which an archer carries his arrows. Thus he shakes as he tries to focus on the delicate action... perhaps shakes out of emotion... as he sights his target.

    Terms like "lights out" and "shut-eye" also suggest multiple meanings. Shut-eye is a colloquialism for sleep ("I gotta catch some shut-eye") but used here it also suggests his attempts to target the drops into his brother's eye before his eye involuntarily shuts. "Lights out" suggests the result of closing the eyes... it also suggests the sleep caused by the Morphine... it also alludes to the call to turn out all light ("Lights Out!") during WWII when the bombers were coming thus making targeting more difficult (another connection with the bombardier image). Lastly, it has the possibility of alluding to the finality of death: lights out. These layers of meaning are something that must be understood... and then recreated... if one is to translate such a poem.
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  5. #5
    Flypaper Anna_MAlkovych's Avatar
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    stlukesguild
    Well I don't try to excuse myself here, but that is the second poem I try to translate from English, so I kind of suck and I am a bit scared to make it sound good, but then understand, that I didn't get the meaning right. So if it is not too much bother, this part:
    In the language of Greece, of grey-eyed Athene,
    I have seen and I know are a perfect likeness.
    It grows on the pupil. God in a toga
    Regarded him daily from a nail on the wall,
    From a cyclops Sacred Heart, as he stockpiled
    Spectacles like a minor pogrom.
    Likeness - this word bothers me, does he mean that the language of Greece and Athene's are the same, or I just do not get it? And then is that likeness in the pupil, meaning that things like this happened before and happen now? God in toga - that is Jesus, no matter how I thought about it - it seems like it is referred to him. But why he watches him from Cyclops Sacred Heart, I am no good with religion, but as far as I remember Jesus had both eyes, so maybe it is referred to the brother - like Jesus is watching him both from the wall and his own ( brother's) heart, then the next part is out of my understanding - collecting spectacles and pogrom how is that can be connected - maybe I just do not get the meaning of pogrom in English - here we use it like meaning disorder - for instance if the robbers where in the house and everything is out of place, but normally this word is connected with some material destruction

    stlukesguild
    Forgot to ask. This: We have filled in long since for the sake of the children
    The pond that froze over in a film of oil. - Is it refered to Lake Ladoga or I think too much? Is the meaning of the sentence : that they filled the pond for the sake of children - It seems stupid when I wrote it. Can you maybe paraphrase it for me.

  6. #6
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    In the language of Greece, of grey-eyed Athene,
    I have seen and I know are a perfect likeness.
    It grows on the pupil. God in a toga
    Regarded him daily from a nail on the wall,
    From a cyclops Sacred Heart, as he stockpiled
    Spectacles like a minor pogrom.


    The poem refers to vision in an endless array: the failing vision of his dying brother, his focusing upon dropping the eye drops accurately into his brother eyes, the trip to the eye-doctor 20-years later that inspires a flash-back... telescoping his "vision"/memory, they eye of God, the eye glasses, etc... "In the language of Greece... are a perfect likeness" suggests the vision of Greek literature... its ability to produce a "likeness"... a representation of nature. I suspect he alludes to Greek literature as a result of the choice of the words "language of Greece". "...Of grey-eyed Athene" simply reiterates the language of Greece... but it also employs the image of vision/sight/eyes by employing the common phrase Homer uses in describing Athena as the "grey-eyed goddess". His choice of Athene may also (or not) have a purpose in alluding to her symbolic representation as Wisdom. "It grows on the pupil" suggest that the likeness he has seen in Greek literature(?) grows... on the pupil... etches itself upon the eye... upon the inner eye... upon memory? "God in a toga..." Jesus in his gown "Regarded him daily from a nail on the wall..." In other words the image of Jesus hanging on the wall (from a nail) appeared to watch him "From a cyclops Sacred Heart as he stockpiled Spectacles like a minor pogrom.": from the single heart-eye (Cyclops) while his brother amassed eyeglasses (spectacles) as his eye-sight failed... amassed eyeglasses like the Nazis (or others who have rounded up the Jews... or others) amassed eyeglasses of those they killed/gassed. Again... the choice of the word "spectacles" also suggests other possibilities... that of a theatrical extravaganza or grand theatrical event... which his dying may have seemed.

    In the end, it is virtually impossible to give a single literal "meaning" to this poem (which is why translating poetry especially can be so difficult) because of the various possible levels of "meaning"... because "meaning" is not always clear and literal. At its simplest I imagine the lines you quote suggest something to the extent of :

    In the language of Greece... of Wisdom... or Philosophy
    I know there is the ideal of the perfect likeness (Plato's Chair?)
    Which etches itself upon the eye/memory.
    In this manner a (Greek) icon... an image of Jesus of the Sacred Heart... another image of Wisdom... etched itself upon the poet's memory as he looked upon it daily... as it (with its cyclops-like single eye in the form of Jesus heart) looked down on the poet and his brother as he amassed "spectacles like a minor pogrom": eyeglasses ... or as his dying days became as ever increasing drama... not unlike the daily tortures wrought in the pogroms.

    Again... this is not an easy poem in the least to translate because of the multiple possibilities of meaning, the puns, allusions, etc... I salute your efforts.

    The light-bulb bobbing in carbon copies
    And my double, his three-legged, two-faced brother.
    We have filled in long since for the sake of the children
    The pond that froze over in a film of oil.


    As the poet's brother looks up at the poet through the blur of the eye-drops and partially blinded by the light on the ceiling, the light bulbs dance and blur... creating the look of multiple carbon copy bulbs and through the same double-vision the dying man sees his brother, the poet with three legs (which also has a possible childish vulgar connotation which may be apt as something shared between brothers) and two faces (which also has the meaning of being "two-faced" as lying or a traitor... going behind his back... which again suggests the brother remembering the relationship they had as children... now all changed. They are now both grown and perhaps have children of their own and the pond which they once played in as children which froze over in the winter they have now filled in for sake of the safety of their own children... again suggesting how their youthful brotherly relationship has long ago changed.
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  7. #7
    Flypaper Anna_MAlkovych's Avatar
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    stlukesguild, Hurray I think I am getting it. Thank Heaven, I was afraid I never will, but the peaces of puzzle seem to be taking its places. I think I know how to say that in Russian, I finally can try moving from analyzing to actual translating. You really saved me.

    I salute your efforts.
    Thanks. I'll try my best. I so wish you new Russian to show the version of The Shape of Nothing Happening by Patrick Mcguinness I made, it took lots of effort too - especially in the places I never expected it to be like dado rail (In Russian there no one word translating - it was given like a whole paragraph), but well this one's more complicated for me, but that's what makes it so interesting.
    I head the silence is the loudest thing in the world.

  8. #8
    This is the first poem I've read by Mr. Mathews. I agree with stlukesguild that he seems to be in love with clever images and metaphors, and I am impressed with the fine control of language in this poem. As others have said, this poem describes the administration of eye drops (and narcotic pain-killers) to his brother during a terminal illness, and in the process makes an extended analogy (metaphor) to more general human history (both mythologic and political). There is a lot to admire. Comparing his brother's corneas to an archer's target is etymologically precise. The black circle on a target is called a "bull's eye" because of its resemblance to bovine eyes. The ceiling rose describes the round (usually plaster) escutcheon from which a ceiling light is hung, and from which the model planes in this poem were hung. I appreciate the fineness of these images.

    However, I tend to be a literal reader of the images in poems. I admire accurate imagery (the more accurate the better), but I tend to notice things that do not jibe with reality. One thing I noted was that the Lancastrian bomber was suspended from its ball turrent. The ball turret of the Lancastrian is situated on the top of the plane well back of its center of gravity. A Lancastrian model so suspended would be pointing down. The Lancastrian was not a dive bomber.

    This is something that a reader who knows nothing of airplanes would noit notice and makes me think that Mathews was being careless.

  9. #9
    Flypaper Anna_MAlkovych's Avatar
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    Nick Capozzoli, never knew that, well I was never into planes so I can forgive myself for that, but thanks it is interesting
    stlukesguild, I think I did it, the translation I mean, do not know how good it is, but I did. Still wish it was more rhymed (rhymed ones sound more like music; and good words and nice music make a good song - that is much more, I think, than just good words), but I am afraid to go too far from the original
    I head the silence is the loudest thing in the world.

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    In US, pogrom means an organized persecution or massacre, usually of Jews. A synonym would be 'ethnic cleansing', although I consider that to be a euphemism. Stockpiled spectacles/pogrom would refer to a pile of eyeglasses or dead bodies, not too many.

    I know just enough Russian to understand it is difficult for someone whose first language is not Russian to translate anything literary from English into Russian. The closest I ever got was musical lyrics:

    Nye znayu kag delat
    Nye znayu kuda idti
    Ya tak rad, ya tak rad
    Ya rad, ya rad, ya rad

    It's a song by musical group Cream "I'm so glad"
    Have studied Russian for three years, but haven't gotten through War and Peace in Russian yet.

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    In US, pogrom means an organized persecution or massacre, usually of Jews. A synonym would be 'ethnic cleansing', although I consider that to be a euphemism. Stockpiled spectacles/pogrom would refer to a pile of eyeglasses or dead bodies, not too many.

    I know just enough Russian to understand it is difficult for someone whose first language is not Russian to translate anything literary from English into Russian. The closest I ever got was musical lyrics:

    Nye znayu kag delat
    Nye znayu kuda idti
    Ya tak rad, ya tak rad
    Ya rad, ya rad, ya rad

    It's a song by musical group Cream "I'm so glad"
    Have studied Russian for three years, but haven't gotten through War and Peace in Russian yet.

  12. #12
    Registered User Jassy Melson's Avatar
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    For me, this poem is ruined because it equates the night bombing of Vietnam to the bombing of Germany in World War II. Whether you agree or disagree with the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, this poem reads like a propaganda piece for North Vietnam. It's really too bad, because most of the poem is very good; in fact, it's excellent.
    Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist.

    Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. - Albert Einstein

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    need help interpretating the meaning of a poem please

    Syrinx: opening

    No opening is ever natural,
    even the reeds at the water's edge,
    Is preparing to be gathered.


    Can someone please give me the interpretation or the meaning behind
    this words in this poem. thanks in advance.

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