Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Heraclitus

I'm becoming more and more aware of this blog becoming more and more sporadic with the passing weeks. And what with trying to finish the second novel, do the revisions on the first, have a social life, and sleep every once in a while... I've decided to start throwing in a few stop-gap entries here and there to tide any audience I might have over. To that end, I thought I'd post up my Scots verse translation / arrangement of the existing fragments of Heraclitus.

Yeah, that's right. Verse. As in poetry. What? Ye got a fuckin problem with that?

Anyhoo, here goes:

Heraclitus


I
It wid be wise tae listen
No ti me but tae ma Word's division,
Showing each accordin tae its kind,
Things us they ur. Maist pay no mind
Tae who they find things us they ur;
They make nae sense u thur sensations,
Simply follyin their ain beliefs.
It isnae right tae act and speak like men asleep.
E'en the posset - curdled milk wi beer or
Wine an spice - ull separate unstirred.
It wid be wise tae listen,
No ti me but tae ma Word.
*
All things ur wan we should admit -
Wan an the same,
The straight an crooked path uf carding wheel,
Wan an the same,
The up an doon ways uf a hill.

In the circumference ae a circle
The beginning an the end ur shared.
*
This Word is true forever,
But is unnerstood as little when
First heard as if heard never.
E'en though a' thit occurs
Is in accordance wi this Word,
Men, unaware u whit they dae
Awake, forgetting whit they dae
In sleep, act like this is a new
Sense tae them, hauldin court on all
The words an deeds that ah set forth
An bringing witnesses uf nae repute
Oot in support ae points that they dispute.
*
The eyes make better witnesses than ears,
But eyes an ears ur baith false witnesses
Tae men wi souls that dinnae know thur tongue.
The fools hear like the deif, no
Knowin who tae listen, dumb:
Absent when present, the accusin axiom.
Let us no guess about the greatest things;
Dogs bark at whit they dinnae know.
*
II
Men that love wisdom must know much indeed.
If knowing much could teach, though, unnerstaunin, then
Pythagoras and Hesiod,
Hecataeus and Xenophanes
All should huv kent.
Hesiod's teacher u maist men -
So sure he knew so much ur they -
Who didnae know that night and day
Ur one. Pythagoras, son u Mnesarchus,
Wi the scientific inquiry he practiced,
Surpassed a' other men, and then,
Selecting oot u whit was penned,
Claimed fur his wisdom only such,
This knowledge u this much. Prince u pretence
!
*
An' Homer? Homer should be ripped
Fae a' the lists an whipped like Archilochus.
C'z he wis wrang in sayin, Would
That war might disappear from gods and men!
He didnae see that he was prayin
Fur the universe's end.
C'z if his prayer wur heard,
A' things wid cease ti be.

War is the faither and the king ae a',
Makin the gods, the men, the slaves, the free.
*
We huv tae know that war is shared
And conflict justice, that a' things
Come intae life and die through strife.

Men dinnae realise noo just who
Whit is in conflict actually is consensus,
In a harmony uf opposites, uf tensions,
Like the bow, the lyre.
Although its work is death, the biós ae the bow
Is bíos, life. Men wouldnae know
The name u Justice if it wisnae so.
*
In Priene, said Bias, son
Uf Teutamus
, u mair account
Than a' the rest, Most men are bad.
But wan is worth ten thousand ti
Me, ah say, if he be the best.
Still, the physicians cut an burn
An stab, an rack the sick, demand
A fee fur it they don't deserve.
It is a weariness to work
Fur the same masters, work an serve.
*
III
The mysteries men practice ur profane.
If it wur no fur Dionysus that they march,
They wid be acting wi'oot shame,
Singin this hymn tae phallus. Hades is the same
As Dionysus in whose honour they gaw wild an rave.
Night-walkers. Magi, Bacchii, Lenai - these
Initiates a' defiled, they try in vain
Ti purify themselves, bathin in blood,
As, efter steppin doon intae the sewer,
They thought tae wash thur feet in mud.
*
An, knowing no the nature uf
A hero or a god they pray -
If any marked 'm doing this, they'd say
He's lost his heid
- tae icons! - as if one
Should talk tae a man's hoose: Rise and become
The wakeful watchers u the quick and deid!
The fool's heart flutters at each word,
Wisdom unknown beciz they lack belief.
The maist renowned u them kens but conceits,
And thinks them sound. Yet this is true:
A' these false witnesses
An architects u lies,
These Justice shall outdo.
*
Hang these Ephesians, every adult man
And lea' the city ti the beardless child!
Fur Hermodorus, the best man
U them, wi' these words, they've exiled:
We will have no-one best among us;
If there's any so, let him go
Elsewhere, be so among others.

Whit thought or wisdom dae they own?
They folly poets, take the mob
As mentor. Naw, they dinnae know
That thur ur many bad, few good.
Only the best u them would choose
Wan thing above a' thit they could,
Tae be immortal among mortals, feted;
Maist u them, meanwhile, like beasts ur sated.
*
Although ah know it's difficult
When we relax ower a drink,
It's best tae hide ur folly. Though
Ur sodden souls ur jolly, blind,
The drunk trips on his sodden soul;
Led by a beardless boy, he strolls
Whuriver. Wiser wits ur dry.
We must extinguish ur debauchery,
Mair so thun ony hoose oan fire.
It isnae good to get a' that we'd like;
But it is hard tae wrestle wi yer heart's desire.
To purchase whit it prizes, it pays wi yer psyche.

*
IV
Wisdom is a solitary thing,
That will and will not be ca'ed Zeus.
Unlike the way u the divine,
The way u man, child tae the god -
As child's way tae a man - lacks
truth.
Compared tae the divine,
The wisest man is jist an ape,
Jist as an ape u beauty
Is grotesque beside mankind.
Men say this thing is wrang and that thing right.
Ti the divine a' things are right and gid and just.
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.
*
Ah huv sought fur mahsel; ye willnae find,
Whichever way, the limits u the mind,
The measure uf it is so wide.
Uf a' whose discourse ah huv heard, though, there's
No one comes claise tae unnerstaunin this:
That Wisdom stauns apart fae a', aside,
A solitary thing. The thunderbolt u lightning guides
The courses uf a' things
, but ah am yet ti hear:
It is tae know the thought bae which
A' things, through everything, ur steered.
*
They things that cin be seen an heard
An learned as wisdom are ma prize
,
Then; seekin gold, we dig up earth,
An find only a little
- nothin
If ye don't expect tae be surprised,
C'z it is hard. Man's nature is his fate -
Tae be sought oot an difficult
.
Nature loves tae hide. It scatters
And it gathers, rests by changin;
It advances an retires.
*
Each day jist like each other,
We baith step and dinnae step
Intae the self-same river;
Ur and urnae;
An the sun is new each day.
We cannae step twice intae the same river;
Fur the waters flow fresh over and they flow forever.
*
V
Wi bitter vetches fur thur food,
The oxen ur content; the ass
Wid raither huv its straw than gold;
Pigs wallow in thur excrement,
Delightin in the mire, as fowls
In barnyard dust.
The water, pure an foul -
The sea: Fish drink it an they thrive;
Men cannae drink it an survive.
*
Disease is the reason gid health pleases;
Evil makes the gid the better, best.
Wealth is defined by want, while - as
A' beasts, wi blows are driven ti pasture -
Whit we find in weariness is rest.
It is the contrary that gies us gain;
Gid and evil ur wan an the same.
So the divine is day an night,
Winter an summer, peace an war,
Glut an hunger - cold things become warm;
The arid is made damp. A' thit is hot
Cools down. A' thit is wet dries up.
Things as they ur, ur hail and no hail in duality,
United an divided in dissent an harmony.
*
The wan is made up uf a' things,
An a' things issue fae the wan.
It takes this form or that, as fire,
Spiced with incense, takes its names
Accordin to the scents uf each perfume.
And if a' things tae smoke wur turned,
The nostrils u souls sniffin in
The underworld would still discern
It fae the fumes
: The carcass
Should be dumped as animal shit.
Mortals immortal, immortals mortal;
Each wan lives the other's death, deid in their life.

C'z, tae a soul, death is fluidity,
As death tae flux is tae become firm form.
But fluid force comes from firm form,
And from the fluid, soul is born.
*
This world, which is the same fur a',
Nae single god or man has made;
But it wis then, and shall forever be
As noo, the fire of eternity.
Ignitin here, there burnin oot
,
Fire lives the death uf air, and air
The death u fire. Fire changes first
Tae flux - the sea, half uf it form,
Half
storm, flux lives the death u form,
Form that u flux. Liquid fluidity,
The sea dissolves, measures as much
Again as once, before it wis the earth.
A' things, like goods for gold or gold
For goods, are an exchange for fire,
And fire fur a' things.
Want and surplus,
Fire judges and condemns all in its progress.
*
VI
The wakin have wan world they share;
The sleepin turn aside, each into their
Ain world in the night. Dead and alive,
Then, fur thur sel's, they spark a light.
The sleepin man, whose vision is
Extinguished, fae the dead ignites
As he thit wakes lights up fae those
Asleep.
Just as in slumber a'
We sense is sleep, a' that we sense
When we're awake is death. But those asleep
Are also workers in the world's events.
It is the same thing in us, this that's quick or deid.
Awakened or asleep, the old or young;
The first shift an become the last.
The last shift an become the first, in turn.
*
Thales predicts - as seasons bring a' things,
Each thirty years a generation - an eclipse.
The constellation u the Bear
Delimits dawn an dusk, an, there,
Facin the Bear, shining an bright,
Ye see the boundary u Zeus?
Though wi nae sun it wid be night -
Though a' the other stars try as they might -
The sun'll never dauner oot u bounds,
For if he did he wid be found
Oot by the virgin hounds u Justice,
The Erinyes. It is law.
How can ye hide fae that which never sets?

*
It is law, also, tae obey the laws u one.
C'z a' our human laws a' come
Fae this wan law uf the divine,
Prevailin as it will, a' things
Sufficin fur, wi much tae spare.

The people's law must be defended, though,
Like city wa's.
We must haud fast,
Speakers u wisdom, tae these things we share,
As cities haud fast tae thur law, and wi mair care.
As gods an men honour all those who're slain
In battle, greater deaths win greater gain.
So we must follow whit we share.
Yet many live, although ma Word is shared,
As if thur wisdom wus just their's and,
Fae the common, universal, constant
Touch u wisdom, they stay distant.
*
The lord who rules the oracle
At Delphi shows his meanin by a sign,
No declarin or disguisin:

There await men when they die things
That they don't desire or dream of.
Newborn, we a' wish tae live an meet our dooms -
Or rather rest - lea'ing ur ain newborn
Behind tae meet thur dooms in turn.
The Sibyl wi her raving lips,
Though, utters her words stripped uf
A' gaudy decorative noise,
Nae mirth or perfume; wi her voice,
She reaches - a' due tae the god within -
She reaches through a thoosan years...
Time is a wean, playin draughts,
The power ae a king in a wean's grasp.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cor--that was enough poetry to stun a brace of oxen.

We want novel excerpts, out here in bloggerland!

JeffV

9:41 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Can do, Jeff. I'll have a wee forage around for a handy, bite-sized chunk and post it up at some point.

6:21 pm  

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