Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Before thy char--

"'For God's sake don't start that damned gramophone again!' In the blessed silence, after preliminary wheezings and guitar noises an astonishing voice burst out:
'Less than the dust. . .
Before thy char. . .'
And then, stopping after a murmur of voices, began:
'Pale hands I loved'
The general sprang from his chair and rushed to the hall. . . He came back crestfallenly . . . 'Dancing!' The melody had indeed, after a buzz, changed to a languorous and interrupted variation of a waltz. 'Dancing in the dark!' the general said with enhanced disgust. . . . 'And the Germans may be here at any moment. . . .'" (474-475)

After the commotion of the bombing, the first sounds to be heard are a few lines from separate songs. The first two lines of lyrics seem to reference a poem by Laurence Hope, "Less than the Dust", published in the book The Garden of Karma. Here is the full poem:

Less than the dust, beneath thy Chariot wheel,
Less than the rust, that never stained thy Sword,
Less than the trust thou hast in me, Oh, Lord,
Even less than these!

Less than the weed, that grows beside thy door,
Less than the speed, of hours, spent far from thee,
Less than the need thou hast in life of me.
Even less am I.

Since I, Oh, Lord, am nothing unto thee,
See here thy Sword, I make it keen and bright,
Love's last reward, Death, comes to me to-night,
Farewell, Zahir-u-din.

The other, from the same book and poet, was a popular Edwardian love song entitled "Kashmiri Song".

Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar,
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell?
Whom do you lead on Rapture's roadway, far,
Before you agonise them in farewell?

Oh, pale dispensers of my Joys and Pains,
Holding the doors of Heaven and of Hell,
How the hot blood rushed wildly through the veins
Beneath your touch, until you waved farewell.

Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float
On those cool waters where we used to dwell,
I would have rather felt you round my throat,
Crushing out life, than waving me farewell!

Two heart-wrenching songs of unrequited love.

The first is the lamentation of a woman who is worthless to the man she loves, an upstanding soldier of the nobility without even rust on his sword. He does not trust her, does not value her, does not need her; she is nothing to him, and the thought of it drives her to suicide.

The second is told from a man's point of view, or at least we must assume so since it would be odd for a woman to moon over a man's "pale" "pink-tipped" hands. This is the story of a man abandoned by a woman, who wonders as to her whereabouts, about who she is now leading on to disappointment in the same way she did to himself previously. This woman is capable of giving the man both pain and pleasure, but the pain of being abandoned by her is too much to bear. He would rather she'd killed him outright rather than torture him the way she has.

Sound familiar?

Sources: Representative Poetry Online
The Poetry Archive

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