Friday, November 11, 2011

The Icelandic language

On my walk down to the center today I was listening to a mediocre audiobook about the Geography of Happiness where the author visits Iceland, which apparently rates high on the happiness scale. He proposed a connection between Icelanders love for their language and their unusual level of contentedness in a cold, quite dark land. It seems Icelandic is the true language of the Vikings.

To make his point the author quoted this excellent poem below.  I thought you might enjoy it. I did.

The Icelandic Language

 In this language, no industrial revolution;
 no pasteurized milk; no oxygen, no telephone;
 only sheep, fish, horses, water falling.
 The middle class can hardly speak it.

 In this language, no flush toilet; you stumble
 through dark and rain with a handful of rags.
 The door groans; the old smell comes
 up from under the earth to meet you.

 But this language believes in ghosts;
 chairs rock by themselves under the lamp; horses
 neigh inside an empty gully, nothing
 at the bottom but moonlight and black rocks.

 The woman with marble hands whispers
 this language to you in your sleep; faces
 come to the window and sing rhymes; old ladies
 wind long hair, hum, tat, fold jam inside pancakes.

 In this language, you can't chit-chat
 holding a highball in your hand, can't
 even be polite. Once the sentence starts its course,
 all your grief and failure come clear at last.

 Old inflections move from case to case,
 gender to gender, softening consonants, darkening
 vowels, till they sound like the sea moving
 icebergs back and forth in its mouth.

-- Bill Holm

1 comment:

Mamun said...

What a thoughtful posts. It was enough to get me to browse through your earlier posts. I'm really glad. You've created a great spot to visit and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day.