Yesterday’s post reminded me of a glosa – posted below – but then led me on in leaps and bounds to thinking about vocabulary. Specifically, about the word ‘bough’: when, and how, did I learn it?
It’s not exactly the sort of word that crops up in childhood conversation, so I’m pretty sure I must have read it. Which could either have been in a story or in a poem. Or, I suppose, at Christmas, when we “deck[ed] the halls with boughs of holly”. Perhaps that’s the most likely, as would explain how I learned to pronounce it, too.
The word ‘bough’ probably crops up in plenty of older stories and poems, but how much new writing contains such words?
Since so many of the traditional stories are now only known through films, or through simplified or modernised re-tellings, does that mean the older words are being lost? And if so, what are they being replaced by? I don’t think even 600 new pokémon names are a fair exchange for the loss of a word that’s come to us from Old English.
It’s not as if I can do much to help continue the word’s existence, though. Even if I were living in an English-speaking country, it’s not one I would use very often. And I am reluctant to use it in most poetry as it seems too ‘poetic’. In general, I think my poems should be written in the words I would use in my own speech and writing.
Still, perhaps by putting the word ‘bough’ into this blog post several times, and by posting this glosa with its cabeza taken from Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat, I am helping the word live on a little longer.
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
I had two loaves till you said it was fitting
to swap one for a hyacinth; that’s how,
now the lily’s dead, you’ll find me sitting
here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough.
A single loaf ain’t much, it’s poor indeed,
but I’ll admit that, here and now,
more than a second loaf, I need
a flask of wine, a book of verse – and thou.
Cheese perhaps, and, though I’d do without
the mayo, butter, salt and watercress,
I’d rather like you to be here, flat out
beside me singing in the Wilderness.
In fact I’d ditch this (now stale) loaf of bread
if you’d just bring some wine; I’d show you how
– you, me, some booze – we need no feather bed
and wilderness is Paradise enow.