Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Needle Boats of Memory

Me, drunkenly embracing the statue of James Joyce, in Trieste. About four weeks ago.

I'm off on my travels again on Sunday. This time I'm going to Elba, the largest of the islands that comprise the Tuscan Archipelago. I'll also be visiting Capraia, in the same island chain, said to be an intriguingly deserted isle - until recently it was a prison island, stuffed to the gunnels with Mafiosi doing stir.

Anyway, these Italian travels have got me thinking about my last visit to Italy: a month ago, when the Beloved Fiancee and I checked out Trieste, on the Adriatic.

While I was there I read Jan Morris's book on the place - 'Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere'. It's a bittersweet book, beautifully written of course, but full of Morris's melancholy pensees on the passing of time and beauty.

It also includes this James Joyce poem, which I had not hitherto encountered. Joyce wrote the poem in Trieste, after a day by the sea watching the boy racers in their boats. On the face of it, it's not a really great poem... yet somehow it keeps ringing in my head.. there's something about it which won't let go... like mental itchycoos.

It is, perhaps, proof that the greatness of a lot of poetry lies in its subsconscious musicality, rather than any surface cleverness...

But I'll shut up now. Ciao!

Here's the poem (to get the full effect, try saying it out loud. While drunk)...

Watching the Needle Boats at San Sabba

by James Joyce

I heard their young hearts crying
Loveward above the glancing oar
And heard the prairie grasses sighing:
No more, return no more!

O hearts, O sighing grasses,
Vainly your loveblown bannerets mourn!
No more will the wild wind that passes
Return, no more return.