Europa

Jun 22, 2016 |
Mansfield, Charlie (2006) Europa : le vers anglais à l’aube du troisième millénaire avec les traductions parallèles en français, Paris, Éditions Thélès. ISBN 2847767606.

Mansfield, Charlie (2006) Europa : le vers anglais à l’aube du troisième millénaire avec les traductions parallèles en français, Paris, Éditions Thélès.
ISBN 2847767606.

City
So this is city, is it?
Dug earth, its water fired to air.
Rust rocks smoothed to steel,
Shouldering elm,
And sand for eyes.
        Mansfield 2006 ‘City’ Europa

After long travels, the final arrival in the city is always worth celebrating in writing.  The Anglo-Saxon poem, ‘The Ruin’ in the Exeter Book here in Devon does just that; the writer unfamiliar with the great building works of the Romans arrives in one of their British cities 500 years after they have left.  Ruin expresses this understanding of the deserted urban space.  In ‘City’ from my collection Europa I try to convey the wonder of a traveller who has never seen a European city and its buildings.  The travel writer makes sense of the scene using only the elements of nature, bricks are not in the writer’s word hoard, so they appear as clay dug out of the ground, dried and baked.

I collected these poems to celebrate Britain becoming European, tomorrow we decide if we are going to remain part of that creative and intellectual project.  In keeping with this blog, here is the French translation from Europa of those opening lines:

La grande ville
C’est la ville, n’est-ce pas ?
La terre creusée, son eau tirée à l’air.
Les rocs de rouille lissés à l’acier,
L’orme endossant,
Et pour les yeux, on a le sable.
        Mansfield 2006 ‘City’ Europa

wall-stone

Detail from The Exeter Book (c.950) Codex Exoniensis, Exeter, Cathedral Library, MS 3501.

“The Anglo-Saxon written language around 950 still had two old runic letters, the wynn, in both capital and in lower-case forms Ƿ ƿ and the thorn, þ.  Once the reader begins to isolate the two runes from the cursive letters of the Latin alphabet it can be seen that the scribe, more familiar with copying Latin letters, has not joined-up the runic characters.  They stand apart like islands in a river of uncial script.  The runes resist the modernising, but probably older, Latin letter-forms around them maintaining an antique, mysterious property rich with alternative systems.  This is a metaphor for my quest in [my] place writing, to find places that have a patina of alternative systems that have enabled them to resist the eroding flow of modernisation.” (Mansfield 2016)

References
Mansfield, C. (2006) Europa : le vers anglais à l’aube du troisième millénaire avec les traductions parallèles en français, Paris, Éditions Thélès. ISBN 2847767606. http://www.theles.fr/livre/charlie-mansfield_europa

Mansfield, C. (2016) ‘The Loire Project: Research Design for Place-Writing’ in Zoe Roberts (ed) (2016) River Tourism: The Pedagogy and Practice of Place Writing, Plymouth, TKT. pp.36-52. https://goo.gl/jmozDz

 

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