26 June 2008

Tarantella, again

I've been musing over Ray Girvan's comments on Tarantella.

Regarding the “coincidence or synergy” question, the answer is that it was actually a bit of both.

In a conversation at home, the word “tintinnabulum” came up ... the sounds of the word (those two “t” with an “n” between them) called up “tarantella” from memory ... from there the conversation moved to onomatopoeia, rhythm, assonance and alliteration, and other such attributes of words ... through all of which the rhythms and internal rhymes of Tarantella kept pulling at my mind.

Most of the poem wouldn't come back, but enough of it was echoing around in my head when I next dropped in on JS Books to find Belloc waiting for me there. That, of course, made it absolutely essential for me to dig out the whole thing – which, for some inexplicable reason, I hadn't read since my late teens. Such a passage of time had given the poem a time capsule quality, turning it into a an vivid archaeological artefact from the cretaceous equivalence layer of my life. The teens are a peculiar period in a life – the best of times, the worst of times, frequently both at once.

That chronology, discovering such an emotionally charged virus (because that is what words are, to mind) at a moment of maximum flux and then leaving it there, probably accounts for the pull which it exerted when reawakened by the chance sounding of a tintinnabulum. Or perhaps not, depending on how fanciful you happen to be feeling as you read this.

However that may be, the timing almost certainly explains my strongly definite understanding of Tarantella in a very particular way. Having read Ray's comments, I am intellectually convinced by his interpretation; and, having looked around at other people's, I see that consensus is broadly behind him. I, however, cannot help seeing it differently.

In my late teens, when I was reading Tarantella, I knew nothing of the Pyrenees and less still of middle age. I was, however, very familiar with the uplands and mountains of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Syria. I was also very familiar with the glorious gain and tragic, suicidal loss (about once a month or so) of love everlasting. I didn't actually know anyone called Miranda, at that time, but no matter – I knew starry nights on Mount Olympus with Mary Ann, Saskia, Helen, Videa, or an exhilarating night of alcohol and fatigue toxins at an all night village dance somewhere between Gungören and Sugözü with Eileen, Irini, Astrid, or Allessandra. And I knew only too well the bitter sweet sense of remembering them, a few days later, when the fickle flow of hormones had changed direction and moved on.

So now, when I draw Tarantella from its time bubble and read it again, that is what it evokes: a sexual encounter, yes, but not a dark or threatening picture, as I now agree with Ray was probably intended – rather, a wistfully sad but fond remembrance of different times now gone.

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