A recent example. English learner: "Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. I don't quite understand. Lore? Are they very strange or are there many volumes?"
Me: "Well, lore are like old tales and stories or myths, and there are many volumes of them."
EL: "OK. So people might say 'many a volume' in everyday speech?"
Me: "Not really. It's kind of an archaic structure. They might understand, though.
"How would you translate 'Nevermore'?"
EL: "Hmm. I guess it could be nikdyvíc."
Me: "That seems like a good translation. It certainly covers the literal meaning, so if it exists in Czech that's probably correct."
EL: "But people don't really say that."
Me: "Well, we don't much in English either. Except for this poem. "
My friends tell me that poetry can be a good way to learn new words in context. It also makes them easier to remember. That's probably true. I can't help but wonder, however, when they are going to use some of these words. For example, at the butcher's upon seeing a mystery sausage, head cheese, or strange aspic, while it could happen, it's not my first response to inquire: "Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore." I can almost imagine the person behind the counter's expression. (Joe asks, "You want 'japeena' what?!?") Certainly a lot of useful words here:
Excuse me doctor, would you perchance have a chalice of nepenthe that I might quaff to gain a respite from those nasty seraphim foot-falls? They're close to driving me out of Aidenn. The pharmacist hath quoth a price, and it shall evermore be quelled, methinks.Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerSwung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor."Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent theeRespite — respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!''Quoth the Raven "Nevermore."
Or the following strange description when the raven enters:
There's not a simple explanation of why the raven's answer has no relevance—presumably it was chosen to rhyme with Lenore. What else would, after all? Or that it is just slightly ridiculous to imagine that anyone would have imagined that no one had ever seen a bird indoors?Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,Though its answer little meaning — little relevancy bore;For we cannot help agreeing that no living human beingEver yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door —Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,With such name as "Nevermore."
Maybe I would do well to heed the answer of the stones of the Coliseum in another one of Poe's poems, The Coliseum:
"We are not impotent — we pallid stones."Not all our power is gone — not all our fame —"Not all the magic of our high renown —"Not all the wonder that encircles us —"Not all the mysteries that in us lie —"Not all the memories that hang upon"And cling around about us as a garment,"Clothing us in a robe of more than glory."
Read the poem at Michigan's American Verse Project.
Tags: Czech, language, poetry