Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Clearly, we need more weekly words. And here they are!

bulbul (noun):

A songbird often mentioned in Persian poetry, regarded as being a nightingale. [Origin: Persian]

jugjug (noun):
Conventional representation of nightingale's song in Elizabethan poetry.

Appears a number of times in T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land", in the context of one of the poem's central metaphors -

Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
'Jug Jug' to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time .....
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd.
Tereu ...

According to legend, Philomela, a princess of Athens, was raped by her brother-in-law Tereus. He cut out her tongue to silence her; the gods transformed her into a nightingale, so that she could sing beautifully for ever.

In Ovid's "Metamorphoses", Philomela's defiant speech is rendered as:

"Now that I have no shame, I will proclaim it.
Given the chance, I will go where the people are,
Tell everybody; if you shut me here,
I will move the very woods and rocks to pity.
The air of Heaven will hear, and any god,
If there is any god in Heaven, will hear me."

This legend is the etymological basis for the final (and most beautiful) word of the week.

philomelian: (adjective)
like, or pertaining to, a nightingale

Here is a philomelian musical link, featuring Vera Lynn -

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