Love Is A Hurting Thing...

O Muses, the daughters divine of Zeus, the immaculate Nine,[876]
Who gaze from your mansions serene on intellects subtle and keen,
When down to the tournament lists, in bright-polished wit they descend,
With wrestling and turnings and twists in the battle of words to contend,
O, come and behold what the two antagonist poets can do,
Whose mouths are the swiftest to teach grand language and filings of speech:
For now of their wits is the sternest encounter commencing in earnest.[882]

We also yearning from these to be learning [893]
Some stately measure, some majestic grand
Movement telling of conflicts nigh.
Now for battle arrayed they stand,
Tongues embittered, and anger high.
Each has got a venturesome will,
Each an eager and nimble mind;
One will wield, with artistic skill,
Clear-cut phrases, and wit refined;
Then the other, with words defiant,
Stern and strong, like an angry giant
Laying on with uprooted trees,
Soon will scatter a world of these
Superscholastic subtleties.[906]

--Aristophanes -The Frogs (405 B.C.)

If you have not heard about "The Mongoose," don't feel too badly. I found out about the "sparring" between Misters Naipaul and Walcott only recently. Under a rock is where I live because had I not visited Nicholas Laughlin's Antilles, I would not have heard about it. Interesting stuff, this is.

Have a listen if you have not yet heard "The Mongoose." I will wait.

My sensibilities must be calloused because I found nothing especially shocking about the poem and I will defend it as very clever. It moved me in parts and often I sensed genuine sympathy with the plight of the object of his rebuke. And especially after reading about some of the things that Mister Naipaul's biographer, Patrick French, had revealed about his subject's character...Tonnere!!...I was even more dumfounded at how anyone would even raise an eyebrow over "The Mongoose." That biography was essentially a thorough cavity search by pen and Mister Naipaul actually approved its publication?? and asked for no changes in the typescript! Oh, when will I ever have the guts be so bold? I think, despite myself, I really do admire the man's cojones in that confession.

There is an interesting discussion after the article. "The distraction of Walcott vs Naipaul" on the event, and more importantly, about the two men, as writers, personalities and products of their cultures (ethnic or national).

Some were very quick to assess the "quality" of Mister Walcott's "The Mongoose." Don't you think that Mister Walcott knew exactly what he was writing and how and why? Isn't Mister Walcott allowed to respond in any manner that he chooses? In the unlikely scenario of Mister Walcott agreeing that it was not his best work, I am sure that his explanation would be that you don't use the good four-ply, quilted, lavender-scented toilet paper to wipe up the lizard caca when gazette paper will do the trick. And if this is what Mister Walcott did then Nicholas Laughlin's suggestion is not at all far-fetched:

"I even found myself suggesting that Walcott had deliberately written a bad piece of verse, as a way of heightening the insult to Naipaul. Far-fetched?"

And those who are baying for Popean satire are typecasting Mister Walcott. Can a writer not select the tool which he finds most useful for the task at hand? Why do we always have to lean on the legacy of some ancient European or even more dessicated Greco-Roman crust to give validity to the way in which we proceed.

Well, for those who hang upon the classical references, let's say that he is employing old comedy in the manner of Aristophanes jabbing at Euripides. Another possibility is that he wanted to take off the gloves, undress the spurs, make his disdain visible to the widest audience, though judging from my own cluelessness, I am not sure how widely the news of this sparring has spread among us common folk.

Another possibility, as Mr. Laughlin suggested, is that this is how two Caribbean "man rat" in the tradition of picong will give vent to and settle their dispute. Using the imagery of the gayelle, I'd say that Mr. Walcott has struck the first punishing blow. Whether low or high bois, some of us will be singing kalinda all the way just for the sheer joy of it. You provoked it boyo, now you will stand and deliver.

It will take some time before Sir Arjuna finds the Shami tree, and even longer before he retrieves his Gandeeva bow, so I'm not holding my breath for a response. I do not find regrettable anything that Mr. Walcott said, just as I do not find Mr. V.S Naipaul so sacrosanct that he should expect to be handled more delicately than he has handled others. Mr. Naipaul should expect to get as good as he gives. I applaud the sparring.

Finally, as regards another suggestion that Walcott may be approaching second childhood, I think even Mr. Naipaul would have to concede (even if only to himself) that it is better to have experienced two childhoods in a lifetime than none at all.


"Fire brigade water de road, today is we day oh,
Fire brigade water de road, si mweh moh, mweh moh!!"

"...I look to the hills
the hills are wonderful
the rivers run to the sea
the Caroni is full of its Gangetic mud
Far off the mongoose raves
And time draws close with its
slow judging waves."
--The Mongoose by Derek Walcott

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!