March 11, 2012

Some Informal Notes on "Kovenaunty"

by H. Dumpty, PhD.

I have been asked by the blog host to say a few words about the poem Kovenaunty, that appeared recently on this site. May I first say that I join K. Leslie Steiner in sharing with her what an odd feeling it is to be a fictive character offering an analysis of a literary work. That being said, I shall bear up and continue.

The poem in question is clearly a variant of one upon which I had offered commentary in an address to A. Liddell, collected in the works of Dodgson. I need say nothing here about the vocabulary found in the earlier variant, and I refer those interested to that earlier commentary.

Brittig is a time of day at which tea is taken, a particularly British, and one might say, brutish, custom, as the tea is rarely consulted about where it is being taken, and under what circumstances. To gyre, as in the earlier poem, is to spin about, and in this case is related to wimpling, a combination of whimpering and tippling, in a particularly wimpy sort of alcoholic consumption, no doubt involving brandy surreptitiously added to the aforementioned tea. The nave as locus for this bibliousness may explain its clandestine nature. Piscophobes are fearful of looking at things, particularly things they don't like looking at because they are afraid of them. Pre-Lates are people who generally arrive before they would be late, and are hence punctual. That they are misbehaving is an indication that they may be, in fact, late.

The Kovenaunt itself is a species of Vaunting Juggernaut. It moves deliberately and slowly, and is very hard to stop, as its various parts work together conventionally and conveniently towards its own ends. Exactly which clause it is that forms the catch, whether the 22nd or some other number in a series of catches, is not entirely clear from the text. The speaker, assumed to be the parent of the adventuresome "son" who assails the Kovenaunt, is not identified. Neither is the "son." Neither are you, for that matter.

The Gafcon bird is a large flightless species of dodo, noted for its loud trumpeting call, which in spite of its intensity betrays a forlorn quality. Why it should be shunned is unknown, as its own habit of shunning makes it rather inaccessible much of the time, except when invading the nests of other birds. The Bristol-patch appears to be a spot or area in which Bristols are found. Bristols are a small large-leafed shrub producing brightly colored berries bitter to the taste. The bark and leaves are used to make Bristol board, in Bristol fashion.

The corporal word appears to be a printed text; indeed it should be noted that this poem seems to recount a kind of logomachia, a dispute over words, as we shall see in the next stanza most explicitly. The "son" appears to be reflecting on the text in hand, in his mishmatched thunk, a kind of carefully contrived (mixed, meshed and matched) cogitation that ends with a thumping, of bibles or other textbooks, as a kind of "Eureka!" or "Q.E.D." The Pry-Mate tree seems an odd and irrelevant detail. This is a tree, the wood of which is used in certain shires of England for the manufacture of bundling-boards to keep married couples from marital relations during forbidden seasons, such as Great Lent, or Very Good Advent. Its appearance in the poem is likely circumstantial.

Uff is a kind of bemusement and ennui. The text examined by the "son" in the previous stanza seems to have lulled him into a torpor of sorts. Meanwhile, the brass-thighed Kovenaunt makes its appearance. Treeling is a kind of long scroll fed through a typewriter, in this case, a generic underwood. This is, by the way, the most Scripturally informed stanza in the poem: the thighs of brass no doubt an indirect (and poetically modified) allusion to the vision in Daniel 2, and the ass a clear reference to Balaam's articulate donkey. The Kovenaunt, it seems, is capable of semi-articulate speech in the same manner. One suspects an early iteration of Siri or some other voice synthesis for rendering printed text in an approximation of human speech. "Mumbled from its ass" is about right.

The "son" then attacks the Kovenaunt with his text, literally throwing the book at it, or furiously composing a blog post at a keyboard, with its click and clack. (Some have suggested an allusion to the Car Guys, but that seems very unlikely in this context, and I think the suggestion idiotic. Automotivists are always trying to read things into perfectly clear Pedestrian texts. Really, it annoys the yolk out of me. But I digress...)

That the "son" is described as vortuous, which is a kind of tortuous spinning, no doubt explains the "parent's" desire to embrace him. That the day is described as dorous, that is, received as a great gift, is clear from the expression of relief in the final line.

As with all texts, of course, I abide by my position that things mean precisely what I take them to mean, and neither more nor less. So this is not only my considered opinion on this poem, but my inconsiderate opinion as well. You may take it, or, on the other hand, leave it.

No comments: