Monday, July 06, 2015

`Only What Truly Matters'

Lovely word, clepsydra. From the Greek; literally, “water thief” (think: kleptomania). The word designates a water clock, an ancient and elegant device to measure time. Variations were devised independently in Babylon, Egypt, India, China, Greece and elsewhere. Sir Thomas Browne refers to them in Pseudodoxia Epidemica:It is not to be denied that before the dayes of Jerom there were Horologies, and several accounts of time; for they measured the hours not only by drops of water in glasses called Clepsydræ, but also by sand in glasses called Clepsammia.” In the first poem in Doctor Honoris Causa (Anvil, 1993) Marius Kociejowski turns “The Water Clock” into an emblem of the poet himself and, by way of imaginative logic, the human imagination: 

“I will construct for you
Out of the words I think
Will work best this clock

“Whose running depends upon
A steady flow we shall call
The imagination at work.

In a note to the poem, Kociejowski cites a passage in Carlo M. Cipolla’s Clocks and Culture (1967) describing the gift of a water clock from Haroun al Rashid to Charlemagne in 807 A.D. Cipolla, in turn, quotes a mention in Eginhard’s Annales of “the astonishment and the admiration that the Arabian clock aroused in the Frankish court.” Kociejowski’s thirteen three-line stanzas are stacked narrowly and remind me of a country saying: “That girl’s skinny as six o’clock.” Both time and water are said to flow: 

“Only what truly matters
Will be given clearance”

1 comment:

Subbuteo said...

I like the "Skinny as six o' clock" saying. Of course, something that distinguishes humans from most other animals is that we all teeter upright like six o' clock - just vertical streaks really.