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When the Swan sings..

Discussion in 'Cheeniya's Senile Ramblings' started by Cheeniya, Sep 28, 2013.

  1. Oriana

    Oriana New IL'ite

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    Dear Cheeniya,


    Your articles on death though have an unsettling effect on me I must admit that you don't deal with death as grisly immediacy but an ineluctable smackdown which is periodically brought to the fore to reflect on our mortal bearing and time-lapsed accrual of any misplaced pain, suffering, indignation, grievance that can to be jettisoned as we march towards crossing the vales of consciousness to darkly woods of nihility. I'm reminded of Dylan Thoma's poem which I read several years back and flicked with no sensory perception but the essence of that verse plucked me later




    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.


    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.


    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light..


    Dylan Thomas, 1914 - 1953


    That battle-cry of "Do not go gentle into that good night" was an inconceivable howl till I realized it is not a war to win but a war to protract so that when I surrender I've no regrets of unclaimed second chances. When I capitulate I would not have lead an unexplained life no matter how strayed, wayward and at times battered it was with conflicts & dissonance around my convictions and social conventions. Even if I'm as scantily armed with mail and an axe to thwart that enemy I'd still fight just because I'm not done yet with MYSELF.



    So my swan song may not be operatic melodious or restful but a viking eldritch.
     
  2. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Oriana
    Very disturbing indeed! That someone who wrote so much about death should die so young! Some people have the knack of saying ominous things. I must again refer to the long life of my dear mum. She hated younger people talking of death always. She would say that talking about death was no way to circumvent dying. She held the view that the 'little gods' would be constantly traversing the sky and giving their concurrence to whatever that was being talked about by the mortals. She would say that she could live till 96 because she never discussed death. 'Living should not talk about dying and the dying should not be lamenting about quitting life', she would say.

    I have always wondered about the state of mind of those who were in the threshold of death. I am fascinated by the dying words of some celebrities. 'I should never have switched from Scotch to Martini' were the last words of Humphrey Bogart! 'Am I dying or is it my birthday?' asked Lady Nancy Astor when she saw a crowd around her bed during her brief spell of consciousness. Words like these have the power to lift the veil of mystery surrounding death.

    Incidentally, I never expected such a serious take on this subject from you.
    Sri
     
  3. Oriana

    Oriana New IL'ite

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    Cheeniya, incidentally my serious posts consume the time and conception of my 20 funny posts. Espouse sombre demeanor, sunken eyes and then with wobbling fingers t--a--p to the dictation of comme il faut sentinel occasionally admonishing: "watch out you are lapsing into flippancy". So the exceptionable times that I pen fictitious stern posts they turn out to be academy award-winning performances of Peter O'Toole. I'm just sensitive about others being sensitive on serious topics.
     
  4. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Do you know something Oriana? It is far easier to be flippant about serious things than to be serious about flippant things. In fact all my life I have tried to be serious about flippant matters but people just laugh me off!
    Sri
     
  5. Oriana

    Oriana New IL'ite

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    Hear, hear!

    No one realizes my generous tip that a perfect mix of 'date' and 'tamarind' is 2:3 and not 1:2 in chutney, and not take seriously how much difference it makes to street papri chaat. The flippancy with which I'm dismissed as someone who loathes entering kitchen and doling out recipes from strictest halal vaunts.
     
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  6. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sri,

    Don't know how I missed this thread. Or may be I know. You have rambled countlessly many times. Some of your ramblings may not have crossed over to this part of the country. Which raises an unavoidable question in my mind. Am I the only Kolkata chap who has read you? I have often mentioned you to my acquaintances, but I doubt that they followed my recommendation.

    Swan song. Like you, I love the expression. I never thought about its origin, but having read you now, I have begun to think. I always thought that Anna Pavlova was somehow connected with Swan Song. So I googled up and found a good deal about swans and songs.

    It appears that swan song goes as far back as Greek Mythology. But English literature has made repeated use of the expression. I found this quote from Tennyson:

    Notice the use of "she" in the poem. I understand it is this poem that led to the creation of the ballet The Dying Swan for Anna Pavlova in 1905. I admit again, I would never have looked up these details had it not been for your post. You can watch the grace of Pavlova here.

    Note, however, that Coleridge made fun of the expression:

    Interesting that the same idea produces such contradictory emotions in creative minds. I am still wondering in fact why the fact that his daughter's friend's father's year of birth coincided with his own, reminded the great Cheeniya of "swan song" on being told that the gentleman was gone. Not that I don't understand the significance. Cheeniya is probably rehearsing for his own swan song with a gusto comparable with Anna Pavlova's ballet rehearsals. He needs to rein in his thoughts though. He does indeed have miles to go on terra firma itself. Besides he does not need to come up with a swan song, given the lavish feast he has already served in his fascinating blog. Indeed, was the ballet "The Dying Swan" Anna Pavlova's swan song? I am not sure of the answer. She performed The Dying Swan in 1905, but died in 1931. However,

    Anna went on dancing for many years after the first Dying Swan performance, but it appears that she did consider The Dying Swan as her swan song. If I am right, swan songs may not wait till the end. They could well have been sung in the middle of one's career. It is not for the artist to decide what her/his swan song will be or when it will be sung for that matter.

    Of course, there are examples from the world of artistic performance which suggest that the swan song is the one that comes at the very end. Chaplin's Calvero in the Limelight, who sustains a heart attack during his last performance, dies with a smiling statement addressed to his audience

    Here is that immortal scene. It was Calvero's last performance, pretty much Chaplin's too. He failed to produce anything that matched his genius after Limelight. Chaplin was a super-romantic of course. So is Cheeniya, whether he admits it or not. But whatever he may be, his best work doesn't have to coincide with the shedding of his mortal skin. And I have little doubt that his glory will outlast him, thereby endowing him with an immortality of the sort he describes.

    But mortality will stand in the way of his immortality for many years yet. His IL fans will ensure this.

    Incidentally, Anna Pavlova died of double pneumonia in 1931. I contacted the same ailment around the year 1946. I was a child and I survived on account of the recent arrival of penicillin in India.

    I am not sure of course if it was necessary to let me continue.

    oj









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    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
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  7. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    My dear OJ

    My rambling does not create the kind of effect that the Panchjanya of Lord Krishna had on the warring cousins! Mine are usually low key and target just a radius of a few kilometres. Bengalis are highly discerning readers and their barest minimum has to be Tagore or Madhusudan Dutt! I am more than satisfied if you are the only one from Bengal that patronises my ramblings. For me, you represent the quintessential literati of Bengal and I do not look beyond you for my readership in Bengal!

    Swan song has always been a favourite subject of mine. It is fascinating how the swans get to know that their time is up and break into the lilting melody of death. Humans are not endowed with such a graceful power unfortunately. As a result, as they inch closer to their death, they break into endless lamentations which are far from being musical. What makes swans sing melodiously in their final moments is a question that has always engaged my mind. It is possible that a human being burdened with all the follies and sins of his entire life wallow in self pity in their final moments and find all the music and such ennobling thoughts deserting them completely.

    Coleridge’s humour can be most often ill-timed like mine! This was a good joke seen in isolation but linking it to the Swan song makes it utterly cruel. Anna Pavlova’s The Dying Swan is said to be the very essence of ballet dancing and there is not a single ballet artist who has not practised it during their learning process. The graceful melody of a dying swan has been captured beautifully by Anna Pavlova in her ballet.

    Chaplin’s death in Lime Light is represented by a ballet in the foreground, a brilliant idea that only Chaplin could conceive. Ballet has become so traditionally representative of the Swan Song and we must give the credit for it to Pavlova. In the middle of the last violin concerto, Chaplin kisses his violin and calls it a darling followed by tears of joy. In what other way a musical genius can be portrayed more effectively?

    Thank you for visiting this ramble of mine OJ.

    Sri
     
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  8. LakshmiKMBhat

    LakshmiKMBhat Finest Post Winner

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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. For me death is very much a part of life. We fear to talk about death but talking about death helps is many ways. Some time ago I had read a book called In the midst of life by Jennifer Worth. It is about living and dying. And about being immortal, as long as we remember a person, they will always be alive for us, even if they are not with us. My grandfather passed away in 1980, but he is alive for me. Regards, Lakshmi Bhat
     
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  9. Cheeniya

    Cheeniya Super Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Lakshmi
    Thank you for your nice FB. Socrates maintains that fear of death is unnatural because it is grounded in the egoistic notion that one knows what he really does not know. He says' " To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise, when one is not; for it is to think that one knows what one does not know. No man ever knows whether death may not even turn out to be the greatest of blessings for a human being and yet people fear it as if they know for certain that is the greatest of evils!"
    In his book 'Inventing the American Way of Death', James Farrel categorically states that keeping death out of mind cuts people off from an important fact of their physical, mental and spiritual existence. It is my view that an in-depth understanding of death helps us to face it squarely.
    Sri
     

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