Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Perdita's Fragment

One of the stranger things in the Trovato family archive is a manuscript written (we think) by my late great-aunt Perdita.

She is a bit of a skeleton in the family closet, having been regarded as bonkers from a fairly early age.

This early example of stream-of-consciousness is undated, and unsigned. However, on the verso is written Perdita E Trovata, over and over again.

Jus’ wee! Let any prole, er, faff lank on Solway.
Let prance Tacky Tan Allah Tour happily....
Masseur, let Wally, Mort, Eamonn loot Cons telly.
Porter! Less holly ‘n’ wired lamb!  A long collie. 
Dom, land-weed! Tom, boat! Whack him a consul.  Hey 
Renoir! lap posy leap a lamb air did alley
Laugh, lurk hip lazy tanatamount curd hazy lay

and here the fragment ends, as the lines have filled the page. The lack of final punctuation may suggest that it was unfinished.

Many's the evening we have discussed this oddity; and the following suggestions have been made which throw light on some of the individual items.  But the meaning (if any) of the whole remains obscure (to say the least).

Jus' wee - Uncle Frank thinks this may be a reference to Perdita's renowned incontinence: perhaps it was willful, not involuntary as she always maintained.

prole - the use of this derogatory word for the working classes (from proletarian) confirms the dreadful snobbery for which the family was renowned (in those days only, of course!)

Solway - There is no record of Perdita having visited the Solway Firth.

Tacky Tan was the nickname of Perdita's brother's horse; he was in a mounted regiment, and did a tour of duty in the middle east, which he always referred to as the Allah Tour.

Masseur, Porter - Perdita had a habit of addressing the domestic staff by inappropriate titles.

Wally, Mort, Eamonn, Con, Dom and Tom - we can find nobody in Perdita's circle of family or friends corresponding to any of these names.  Various hypotheses have been advanced: secret lovers, private nicknames, or a rich fantasy life.  The debate continues.

After this, the fragment seems to descend even further into gibberish: many ideas have been discussed about various terms, but nothing convincing has emerged.

And then, one day, I heard Donald Swann singing it, at the drop of a hat...


Bruvver Eccles said...

Johns West! Le and Poole, Erth, Falmer Lane on Colwall.
Le Penzance Tackley Tan Allan Town Chappel...
Chassen, le Walsall, Morden, Edmonton Looe Connel Selly.
Port! Hessle Holland ‘n’ Hundred Lane! A Long Colwall.
Docks, Llandudno! Town, Bat! Hackney Hill a Coulsdon. Hey
Greenock! Lane Post Lea a Lane Blair Midi Allens
Aughton, Lanark Hill Lane Tattenham Church Hazel Lane

Is this "the slow train" then?

Ben Trovato said...

Nice try - but no... (though I lover the The Slow Train; it is one of the most atmospheric of all their songs!)

Mulier Fortis said...

I found it earlier, having wasted far too much time during break to figure it out... Very unkind, Ben! It is, of course, "Je suis le Ténébreux" which translates as (according to Flanders and Swann) as, well... apparently translation would spoil it...

Dilly said...

"Je suis tenebreux..."
by Gerard de Nerval, a chap that I only know from his mention by TS Eliot in "The Wasteland". Used to take a pet lobster for walks.

Performed by Flanders and Swann in "A Drop of a Hat".

Dilly said...

Sorry - El Desdichado is the title, from Les Chimères.

"Je suis le ténébreux, - le veuf, - l'inconsolé,
Le prince d'Aquitaine à la tour abolie
Ma seule étoile est morte, - et mon luth constellé
Porte le soleil noir de la Mélancolie.

Dans la nuit du tombeau, toi qui m'as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d'Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le pampre à la rose s'allie."

Eccles - Je suis une personne sauvee - mais toi non plus...

Londiniensis said...

Je suis le Ténébreux, - le Veuf, - l'Inconsolé,
Le Prince d'Aquitaine à la Tour abolie :
Ma seule Étoile est morte, - et mon luth constellé
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mélancolie.

Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m'as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d'Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
(Et la treille où le Pampre à la Rose s'allie.)

Wonderful stuff ...

Ben Trovato said...

You can all clearly see why, when I heard Swann singing this, I was reminded of Perdita's fragment.

I have to say that El Desdichado is barely more comprehensible than poor great-aunt Perdita's ramblings; though very evocative, I grant...

Ttony said...

It reawoke my long dormant bad memory of "what poetry are you doing?" as opposed to "what poetry are you reading?" or "what poetry do you like?"

Bruvver Eccles said...

Rotters, all of you. I deliberately didn't give the game away.

How about: "Halo-wetter, John tea halo-wetter, shut a plume array!"?

Something to do with someone called John spilling tea on a picture of a saint and then destroying some feathers. Definitely an unsaved person.