Sunday, November 20, 2005

Poetry Break: Sei ruhig.

All this analysis of Medieval "reweth" and Early Modern "rueth" and their effect on "me" has reminded me (or should I say, "me remembreth"?) of a poem that I wrote about 15 years ago, while I was living in Tuebingen, Germany and still struggling with "The Awful German Language."

This must have been about the time that I encountered a man sitting alone in a student cafeteria, his table all to himself. In his early thirties, blond, and handsome in a rather dignified way, he suddenly began talking, very loudly . . . to the world at large. I don't recall his words because I couldn't understand most of them, given my poor German, but I understood that he felt aggrieved by the state of the cosmos, God's injustice, all of the evil in the world . . . and probably his girlfriend.

The din eventually grew so loud that one of the cafeteria ladies serving up the food called out, "Ruhe!"

At this call for peace and quiet, the man stopped in mid-sentence, reflected for a moment in silence, then replied: "Aber es gibt gar keine Ruhe!"

That, I understood: "But there is no peace and quiet." And I nearly laughed because of the unintentional irony -- of course, there was no peace and quiet with him talking so loudly. But I also felt a bit of sadness, imagining the poor fellow's unquiet mind. At the same time, I found myself somehow impressed, for the man was right -- there is no peace, no quiet in the world.

Whether his words entered into my deeper musing, I don't know, but around that time, I wrote this little poem, playing across languages with similar-sounding words:

With ruth my soul lies buried,
in dark, abandoned ground,
where rue, like dropping waters,
sheds astringent leaves around,
and rueful breath of God
lows with distant, hollow sound.

Copyright 1991
Horace Jeffery Hodges


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