Thursday, June 20, 2013

Popocatapetl!




You know how it is - don't you? You're sitting there watching TV, mindlessly - in this case, a Doris Day movie with Oscar Levant in it (he doesn't get the girl - but, notably, he was the one who coined the infamous quote, "I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin"), when suddenly.

Just these things came into my mind, these - things. One was, how old is Johnny Depp anyway? He fell off a horse while playing Tonto and could have been kicked to death, and now there are rumors going around that he really is dead.

There were worse things, as Doris sang "You smile and I hear violins, it's magic. . ." with Oscar (needing the money no doubt)  playing florally on the piano. Then these words sprang into my head:  Harald Hardrada and Tostig. Surfeit. Popocatapetl. Along with them, meaningless bits of phrases: a surfeit of peaches and honey. Somebody died of it. And you know you'll never boil a kettle/on Mount Popocatapetl.





I found out something about some of it. Google seldom lets me down.  Harald Hardrada was some sort of English king or whatever, really boring stuff. I kept coming across the word thegn, which sounded like someone with a really bad headcold. I still have an old satire called 1066 and All That, and remember some obscure English show called The Norman Conquest, starring, I think, a comedian called Norman Wisdom.

Tostig, he sounds kind of Scandinavian or Norse or something, one of them Vikings maybe? But I thought they got lost in North America.





But Popocatapetl, now. That one I thought I recognized, from a jolly Aztec-colored, magenta-and-turquoise little poem we chanted in school. About how you can't boil a kettle /on Mount Popocatapetl, likely due to the altitude which makes people walk 2 feet off the ground.

But I couldn't find it. I only found some shred of a reference to it that led to nothing: the search terms gave what might be the first line, teasingly: "My friend if you should want to go and make your"- and when I googled it I got a whole long post about William the Conqueror. Well, at least it sort of matched up with my Tostig thing.

Yes, that could very well have been the first line. But I was quite blown away by some of the poems and song lyrics Popocatapetl inspired, such as:

ROMANCE

by: W.J. Turner
    HEN I was but thirteen or so
    I went into a golden land,
    Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
    Took me by the hand.
     
    My father died, my brother too,
    They passed like fleeting dreams,
    I stood where Popocatapetl
    In the sunlight gleams.



     
    I dimly heard the master's voice
    And boys far-off at play,
    Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
    Had stolen me away.
     
    I walked in a great golden dream
    To and fro from school--
    Shining Popocatapetl
    The dusty streets did rule.
     
    I walked home with a gold dark boy,
    And never a word I'd say,
    Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
    Had taken my speech away:

     


    I gazed entranced upon his face
    Fairer than any flower--
    O shining Popocatapetl
    It was thy magic hour:

    The houses, people, traffic seemed
    Thin fading dreams by day,
    Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
    They had stolen my soul away!




    I would assume this poem alludes to homoerotic love, hidden behind a mountain where it has a chance of staying hidden. But it occurs to me that those Aztec-sounding names are wonderful when inserted into poetry, not to mention Popocatapetl, its six syllables rising and falling symmetrically like ocean waves.

    But soft - here's a lovely song lyric by a group I've never heard of, Krux:

    In the eye in the heart in the flesh
    In my mind all the time
    Silver fountains golden castles made of ashes
    Crimson tide blood like wine

    Earth mother birth goddess
    I love you like no other
    Within you around you
    A stream of fire inside you
    Earth mother birth goddess
    I love you like no other
    Within you around you
    I can't exist without you




    Dream forever prince of nowhere man of shade
    I cast my fire where I go
    Tears and treason in my prison night and day
    You destroyer of my soul

    Earth mother birth godess
    I love you like no other
    Within you around you
    A stream of fire inside you
    Earth mother birth goddess
    I love you like no other
    Within you around you
    I can't exist without you




    And here, this one more:


    Mexico: Popocatepetl, the Mountain
    Popocatepetl
    William Haines Lytle (1826–1863)
    (Excerpt)

        PALE peak, afar
    Gilds thy white pinnacle a single star,
    While sharply on the deep blue sky thy snows
      In deathlike calm repose.
        The nightingale        5
    Through Mira Flores bowers repeats her tale,
    And every rose its perfumed censer swings
      With vesper offerings.
        But not for thee,
    Diademed king, this love-born minstrelsy,        10
    Nor yet the tropic gales that gently blow
      Through these blessed vales below.
    *        *        *        *        *
        Deep in thy heart
    Burn on vast fires, struggling to rend apart
    Their prison walls, and then in wrath be hurled        15
      Blazing upon the world.
        In vain conspire
    Against thy majesty tempests and fire;
    The elemental wars of madness born,
      Serene, thou laugh’st to scorn.        20
        Calm art thou now
    As when the Aztec, on thine awful brow,
    Gazed on some eve like this from Chalco’s shore,
      Where lives his name no more.
        And thou hast seen        25
    Glitter in dark defiles the ominous sheen
    Of lances, and hast heard the battle-cry
      Of Castile’s chivalry.
        And yet again
    Hast seen strange banners steering o’er the main,        30
    When from his eyrie soared to conquest forth
      The eagle of the North.
        Yet at thy feet,
    While rolling on, the tides of empire beat,
    Thou art, O mountain, on thy world-piled throne,        35
      Of all, unchanged alone.
        Type of a power
    Supreme, thy solemn silence at this hour
    Speaks to the nations of the Almighty Word
      Which at thy birth was stirred.        40
        Prophet sublime!
    Wide on the morning’s wings will float the chime
    Of martial horns; yet mid the din thy spell
      Shall sway me still,—farewell





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