Monday, October 18, 2010

song of the harper

Today was pretty normal, so I don't have anything particularly interesting to share, except for a conversation I had in my linguistics class today.
We were discussing folk lore and tall tales and things of that ilk, and somehow Anansi stories got brought up, then that got connected to B'rer Rabbit, and before long we were talking about animal stories, and how in the European/Western tradition, we don't really have any that don't have a few human characters too. The only exception we found was Aesop's Fables. Apparently, even these aren't actually European, due to some weird pseudo-linguistic maneuvering:
Aesop -> Aethop -> Ethop -> Ethiop -> Ethiopia
Which is apparently where the stories come from in the first place. Then the conversation got really interesting, when research was mentioned that basically said that all Native American folk lore (the animal stories at least) came from Africa via contact with slaves.
That didn't make sense to me at all. Like, at all. How could an entire tradition of stories and legends across two continents be manufactured/borrowed in just a few decades between two populations that didn't even have regular contact in all areas? Take California, for example. I know the Chumash have/had animal legends, and there certainly wasn't widespread slavery in California, especially of the kind that would have allowed direct transmission of folk lore straight from Ethiopia to the native population of the area. Anyway, I never really understood the point he was trying to get at. Not everything originated in Africa, unless one takes a really wide view, in which case everything did originate in Africa, and I mean everything. Those are really the only two general options that I can see. I'm going to do a little looking into the idea, though, just because I found it really interesting.
I also got coffee today, from the only halfway decent coffee shop on campus, which is really not that decent at all. Plus who names a coffee shop after a leafy green?
my 'coffee american small with milk'. mmm.
And if this blog post weren't boring enough, I'm going to share a really interesting Ancient Egyptian poem I read in class. It's actually probably one of the best things I've read this school year, because I love the point of view that it takes, one that's pretty contrary to the popular thoughts in Egypt around the time it was written, thoughts that generally lauded the afterlife and all it promised.

The Harper's Song:

One generation passes away and the next remains,
Ever since the time of those of old.
The gods who existed before me rest in their tombs,
And the blessed nobles also are buried in their tombs.
But as for those builders of tombs,
Their places are no more.
What has become of them?

I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef,
Whose maxims are repeated intact as proverbs.
But what of their places?
Their walls are in ruins, 
And their places are no more,
As if they had never existed.

There is no one who returns from beyond
That he may tell of their state,
That he may tell of their lot,
That he may set our hearts at ease
Until we make our journey
To the place where they have gone.

So rejoice your heart!
Absence of care is good for you;
Follow your heart as long as you live.
Put myrrh on your head,
Dress yourself in fine linen,
Anoint yourself with exquisite oils
Which are only for the gods.

Let your pleasures increase,
And let not your heart grow weary.
Follow your heart and your happiness,
Conduct your affairs on earth as your heart dictates,
For that day of mourning will surely come to you.
The Weary-Hearted does not hear their lamentations,
And their weeping does not rescue a man's heart from the grave.

Enjoy pleasant times,
And do not worry thereof.
Behold, it is not given to any man to take his belongings with him,
Behold, there is no one departed who will return again.

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha Cilantro Coffee Shop... xD its catchy and most of all hilarious!

    The poem is beautiful. =)