Saturday, January 24, 2015

Poet Laureate

From the Book of Zimmerman, Chapter 1974:
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me;
Written by an Italian poet
From the 13th century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal;
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul, from me to you,
Tangled up in blue.
Ol' Bob has never really clarified the issue of the identity of that poet.  The interwebz are full of speculation, but I've never had cause to wonder.  See, I've always known -- pretty much with absolute certainty -- that it was Petrarch that he must have been talking about.  (14th century... 13th century... who's counting?)

Why Petrarch?  Simple... his poetry spoke to me, too, through a wormhole that cut right through 6 centuries and 2 languages.  Definitely the same exact effect as Bob's burnin' coal.  I've been as uplifted as Bob's lyrical narrator,

Blessed be the day,
And the month, and the year,
And the season, and the time, and the hour,
And the moment,
And the beautiful country, and the place
Where I was joined
To the two beautiful eyes that have bound me.

I've been as tortured,

I find no peace, and yet I make no war;
and fear, and hope; and burn, and I am ice;
and fly above the sky, and fall to earth,
and clutch at nothing, and embrace the world.

One imprisons me, who neither frees nor jails me,
nor keeps me to herself nor slips the noose;
and Love does not destroy me, and does not loose me,
wishes me not to live, but does not remove my bar.

I see without eyes, and have no tongue, but cry;
and long to perish, yet I beg for aid;
and hold myself in hate, and love another.

I feed on sadness, laughing weep;
death and life displease me equally,
and I am in this state, lady, because of you.

And I've been given wake-up calls similar to those that Petrarch tried to give the dry scholastics of his day...

Suppose that you have learned by heart the deeds
of illustrious heroes throughout the ages.
What good is this if it does not change
the way you live your daily life?

I also was always touched by the wide-eyed zeal with which Petrarch pursued the goal of being the first Italian poet to be crowned with a laurel wreath since the ancient Roman practice fell out of favor centuries before.  The guy had chutzpah... much like this other guy who just appeared on the cover of AARP's magazine!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Alpha-Bytes: Somtow's Inquest Script

It's been well over a year since I've done an Alpha-Bytes post (last one was November 2013, I think).  My initial description was that these posts were a place for me to "...gush geekily about my favorite alphabets, ciphers, and alternate writing systems."

Earlier in 2013, I posted about one of my favorite slipstreamish, sci-fi, alt-hist, weird-lit authors: Somtow Sucharitkul.   I bemoaned that I couldn't find any online examples of the alphabet he created for his "Inquest" series of novels and stories.  Well, if you want something done right...

Ai! Click for bigger versions.
The above comes from the prologue of 1984's Utopia Hunters.  Apologies in advance for cellphone-pic quality, but I'm not able to put them through a proper scanner. The next one is from the same book's epilogue:

I'm not sure if all that weeping and yearning is representative of the rest of the books.  It's been almost 30 years since I've read them, but I might give them another whirl if I end up finding them all.  (These were a recent windfall at $1.48 apiece at a used bookstore in my new town!)

Alas, I don't have a one-to-one list of each glyph's phonetic meaning.  A quick scan of these examples tells me that it might have been meant as a far-future evolution of the Roman alphabet.  There are quite a few quasi--almost--sorta similarities between some symbols and their intended vowels or consonants.  Still, the overall appearance is hauntingly alien.

Somtow's exploration of language went even further in 1985's The Darkling Wind.  We saw these glyphs translated into not one, but two different alternate tongues...

Apologies again, this time for cutting off the rest of the Lowspeech and all of the English translation that spills onto the next page.  Later in the book, Somtow explored a graphical layout reminiscent of the one I transcribed in my post about him, this time laying out the relationships between the godlike beings that dominate his Inquest universe...

I have a vague recollection of seeing a page or two in one of the other novels that gives a full description of the script and its quirky phonetics.  If I see it, I'll update!