Category Archives: Français

Dienstag Dictung XVIII

Harmonie du soir

Voici venir le temps où vibrant sur sa tige
Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir ;
Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir ;
Valse melancolique et langoureux vertige!

Chaque fleur s’évapore ainsi qu’un encensoir ;
Le violon frémit come un coeur qu’on afflige ;
Valse melancolique et langoureux vertige!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir.

Le violon frémit come un coeur qu’on afflige,
Un coeur tendre, qui hait le néant vaste et noir!
Le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir ;
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige.

Un coeur tendre qui hait le néant vaste et noir,
Du passé lumineux recueille tout vestige!
Le soleil s’est noyé dans son sang qui se fige…
Ton souvenir en moi luit comme un ostensoir!

— Charles Baudelaire

Translation here.
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Jesus Loves Zombies

It’s Palm Sunday. I invite you to leave the world of adorable toddlers fanning the air with plastic fronds with loud, monotone, repetitious, and let’s not forget adorable “Hosannas” for just a moment. Rather imagine the haggard and horrific palms of the Undead reaching in ravenous desire toward you, the glazed vacancy of their eyes belying the ravenous lust of their pitiless actions!

 Let me explain.

I’m sure that all my avid readers are fluent in several languages or, if not, are currently in the process of becoming more polyglotal. Currently I am working on French and German and have taken to the age-old tradition of reading the Bible in a foreign language as a learning tool. I’m going through the New Testament book of Mark in each language with the vocabulary of a five year old, using inference and guessing to come up with the rest. Reading through the eyes of a child also opens one up to a different and fresh perspective on something that can easily become perfunctory.

The most striking aspect of this reading has been the French and German words for what we call “the crowd”. This mass of people become the colorful words “la foule” and “die Menschenmenge”. For me “la foule” conjures images of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a riotous hive of “fools” (and yes, that musical number from the Disney Movie of the same name). “Menschenmenge” might possibly be translated as “flock of men” because I’ve seen “menge” used in a different context with animals.

Because these words are more colorful than the passive “crowd” that my Sunday School brain glosses over, their actions are highlighted. And what actions! As soon as JC returns from his grim triumph in the desert and earns the name “Josh, Professional Demon Slayer”, he is beset by what seems a disease: “Menschenmengitis” or “the Common Foule”. They’re everywhere! They come from every village and town and city and corner of the region! They surround him, coughing and pleading and grabbing his robes and screaming! They keep him from sleeping and eating and fill up the place he’s staying with their sheer numbers! They impede his walking in the street like Kafka’s “Letter From the Emperor”! They crowd him into a boat because of their crowding on the shore! They keep him out of cities and seek him in the deserted wilderness when he’s trying to have a nap!

What does this all sound like? ZOMBIES! Yes! If you aren’t convinced try this last example: Jesus is cornered in a house by the crush of “eine grosse Menschenmenge”. Suddenly he hears the sound of thudding fists striking the roof above him. The ceiling begins to rain bits of plaster. A hole forms and is gouged bigger and bigger by desperate human fingers. Just when it couldn’t get any worse a body falls out of the opening and lands semi-lifeless at Jesus’ feet! Crazy!

What’s even more crazy is Jesus’ attitude toward these Undead. He loves them. He weeps for them and feels compassion for them and gets royally, mother-hen-ly pissed at anyone who would lead them astray. He goes and dies for them, even when they turn into a deadly mob that truly seek his blood. He comes back for them after his “ressuscitation” and offers them peace.

Sometimes Christianity can feel like a bunch of toddlers in their parents clothes, pretending their made-up rules give salvation. Perhaps it should be a little more like a pack of hungry Zombies, thirsty for healing, for forgiveness, for life.

Just Rolls Off Your Tongue

This morning Jessica and I enjoyed what’s no doubt to become a Roy family ritual. Before the sun has yet risen, we gather around the warm glow of the computer and log into our customized Google home page. Oh, there’s the news… And the weather, (rain again!)… and BAM! there’s four language widgets powered by Transparent Lanugage (c)! It blows our socks off! Four?!?! What sort of nerd are you!

Some background: I love languages. Love the new ones, the ancient ones, the linguistic trail that links the new ones to the old ones, phonetics, phonology, accents, idioms, literature, culture, food, history… (set loose the dogs of words!). Coming from an English speaking family, it seems to be a testament to our eternal nerdiness that my brother, Nathan, and I sought enjoyment in the study of ancient Greek. I didn’t get too far, but that was perhaps the start of a path of learning that took Nathan through Aztec, Egyptian, and Quenya to the Arabic that the Air Force pays him for. I have been working on French since Junior High, with a working knowledge of the phrase “May I kiss you?” in 7 languages. (Always be prepared!) I can’t recall how my love of Scottish Gaelic began, though it was undoubtedly fostered by my favorite movie Braveheart and the tantalizing possibility of being related to the famed Rob Roy. Lastly I’m into my second semester of German at American River College, a wonderful language that I’ll put to good use in graduate school some day.

So what are these widgets? Well, it’s a Word of the Day system, usually with a little example sentence, spoken by a native speaker. My German professor told us about it and suggested it for the excellent pronunciation. So there’s the first one: German. It’s a pleasant late-twenties man who enjoys potato salad and opening things.

French, either because of my French-speaking Grandpa, Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast, or both, has always been close to my heart. This widget is a slightly mumbling, alto woman, her sentence about the color white simply a graceful arch of gooey bechamel sauce.

Is the next one Gaelic? Alas no. Gaidhlig is an endangered language. Up to one generation ago, it was illegal to teach in public schools. I’ll have to work on that later.

The next widget is Russian. Say what, now? Yes, as you saw in my last post, I enjoy Russian music and I had a fun conversation with a native of Russia from church. Jessica maintains that she is mortally afraid of Russia and vows we shall never go there. Maybe just to the “Little Russia” sector of Sacramento? This widget sounds like a tiny but husky child with a warm hat on. Charming.

The last is truly the one we wake up for. All the rest give us something we may use some day. They are friends who are there to teach us something. Not so the Latin widget! I cannot begin to convey the utter contempt with which this man speaks the lingua franca of the Roman empire. He’s old and angry, and hates every word, but hates them all equally. No matter what the sentence, it turns into a polemic of despair in the mouth of this erudite Dark Lord! And the v’s! Those wonderful v’s I came to love so ardently in choir: “et vivam venturi saeculi, amen”. What has he done with them! Now they’re frickin’ w’s! Wiwam wenturi? And he says it all with his disparaging face. It’s like a villain saying a nursery rhyme or a tongue twister. Makes you want to laugh, but you know you won’t last long if you do.

So why listen to Mr. Latin? He puts us in our place for the whole day. With tragedy and comedy so intimately linked in his voice, we are ready to face whatever the day has for us.

Au revoir!
Auf Wiedersehen!
Mar sin leibh!
Good day!