The Elegy and the Elegiac in the Poetry of Patrick Fernando SignUp
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The Elegy and the Elegiac
in the Poetry of Patrick Fernando
by Prof. R. K. Bhushan
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Patrick Fernando is considered to be the major force and, of course, the most significant voice in Sri Lankan poetry. It may seem incompatible with his profession as a tax man and a revenue specialist all his life; it is also astonishing. However, genius works and expresses itself in mysterious ways as it did in J. P. Fernando and as it does in countless others here and there. Son of the sea, groomed well in western classical lore and literature, keenly and resourcefully interested in teasing social and theological questions, Fernando frequently wrote on them for reputed journals. He had an eye and mind’s eyes and spirit wide-open and receptive to the luxuriant growth of nature in her full bloom and beauty and an enthusiastic and vibrant participator in its dramatic performance, Fernando’s poetry is a living and enduring response to this all. He had an envious command not only over Sinhalese and English but also over Greek and Latin and he was beloved to them. His passion for birds and his piercing insight into the working of death is invariably reflected in his poetry, though the Christian themes are also richly handled. “ A keen gardener, he loved large trees, foliage plants, anthuriums and orchids. He spent most of his weekends supervising his coconut plantation at Mangala Eliya. His other interests included fish-rearing, bird watching, reading and listening to Western classical music.”

Fernando’s “meticulous, mannered poetry” was well-inspired and shaped by his western classical learning and literature. These roots have a natural inborn concern for discipline and precision of technique of the classical tradition which he practiced scrupulously. Even in the thick of hostilities of the chauvinist cultural insurgents, Fernando faced and worked victoriously for his roots in the “unhelpful isolation”. Perhaps none or nothing can destroy the well-nourished, deep and wide-spread roots though the assaults hurt and bruise.

The dark, gloomy and tragic tone and temper find their overwhelming expression in the poetry of Fernando. It reminds us of J.M.Synge’s “Riders to the Sea”, the greatest tragedy written during the 20th century wherein the playwright has portrayed the high colors of the gloom, the mourning and the tragic. The dominance of the elegiac which counts for its lyrical beauty and excellence of theme and style form the true force and forte of Fernando’s poetry. So is its attraction and appeal above and beyond the sensitive. This taxman is taxing his readers with such profundity and immensity; its greater excellence is experienced in its mental and aesthetic satisfaction. His poems are long enough to cover the subject and short enough to reveal it in all its tenderness and grace. We can’t venture out into the poetic landscape and horizons of Fernando without being fairly acquainted with the Bible, the Greek and the Roman mythology. What adds to his inimitable strength is his stupendous ability to use felicitous phrases, compounds (complex and simple) and condensations. The beauty that emerges out of the elegiac in his poetry is simply stunning.

An elegy is a poem of serious reflection, a meditation, a lament, a mourning over somebody’s death. Of course, it has an intensity of a moving, heart-rending and poignant lyric, both at the subjective and the objective level of spontaneous response. In Greek and Roman poetry, it is a poem composed in elegiac couplets. Catallus and Propertius were the major practitioners of this type of poetry. The main feature of elegy is that it expresses formal grief with utmost dignity and decorum in conventional language. Originally, it meant any type of serious personal reflections. Such a lament may be written not only on death but also on any solemn theme or event. In modern literature, elegy is used in wider perspectives in unconventional language but the dignity and decorum are not sacrificed. Roger Fowler says, “ ‘Elegy’ illustrates a different type of genre-term: ultimately classical in origin, transplanted into modern European terminology only as a word, without the classical formal basis, unrestricted as to structure ( except for the minimal requirement that it be a verse composition), overlapping with a number of similarly inexplicit terms ( complaint, dirge, lament, monody, threnody), yet conventionally tied to a limited range of subject-matters and styles (death and plaintive musing), and readily comprehensible to educated readers.”

During the Renaissance in England, elegy meant to be a poem mourning the death of some particular individual or friend. Edmund Spenser’s “Daphnaida” and “Astrophel- A Pastoral Elegy upon the death of the most noble and valorous Knight, Sir Philip Sydney” are the earliest examples with us. Even John Donne has used the elegy in the same sense- “A Funeral Elegy” and other such collection of twenty ‘Elegies’. Milton bewails the death of King Edward, his learned friend who was drowned in the Irish Seas in 1637 in his “Lycidas”. This is a Monody. Gray’s famous “Elegy Written in the Country Churchyard”, Shelley’s “Adonais” written on Keats’ death, Tennyson’s “In Memorium” and Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis” are the most well-known examples of the elegiac in poetry and they count for among the finest treasures of English poetry.

With all these wide and comprehensive explanations in mind, we study the poetry of Fernando and find that his poems are deftly and gracefully

and artistically embrace all these meanings of theme, subject-matter and style. All these lyrics, elegiac and elegies, written in three different phases of his 51 years of richly fruitful life, reserve for Fernando the most coveted position in Sri-Lankan English poetry and also an honorable place among the notables in English poetry. Joseph Patrick Fernando has further added to the glow and glory of this genre in poetry with his –  “Adam and Eve”, “The Fisherman Mourned by His Wife”, “For Paul Claudel”, “A Symphony in Flowers”, “The Lament of Paris”, “Oedipus Solitary”, “Aeneas and Dido”, “The Decline of Aspasia”, “Elegy for December”, “Meditation over five Graves”, “A Fallen Tree”, “Life and Death of a Hawk”, “Obsequies of the Late Antonio Pompirelli”, “Oedipus: The Last Days”, “One Flock, One Shepherd”, “A Coat of Many Colors”, “Pictures for a Chapel of the Passion” and “Elegy for My Son”.

We may add to the agony caused by gloom, sorrow and mourning to the poet and his poetry by prolonging the list; and it may cure the agony experienced during our journey through those dark and dreadful regions. But let the pain and agony persist to make life more beautiful in its meaning! Fernando’s grief is intense and his mourning profound whether he is grieving over the sorrow, agony and death of mythological or Biblical events and characters or the passing away of animate or inanimate objects, human or natural, from everyday life. Fernando’s personal grief becomes universal and the universal grief sublimates into a passion for personal grief. Thus in handling the elegiac and the elegy, Fernando ranks among the best in poetry anywhere. Reading Fernando becomes a lasting cathartic experience. Today when life is faced with the severe moral, spiritual and religious crisis of faith in the splendor of life and soul, tragedy seems not only out of context but also meaningless and the absurd in us fails to show its beauty. However, there is no dearth of the sensitive even today. Fernando’s artistry awakens even the insensitive.

A Fallen Tree” is a very tragic sight; destiny works mutely; nature watches silently and helplessly. How long the giant tree “that over-lorded all” suffered silently and seriously from the fatal disease “ beyond all lumber lore and reason”, only the poor fellows around, for sure, witnessed in silence with an overpowering sense of gloom and grief and surrender- “all the rest stand muted at the giant’s fall.” But the aftermath was more tragic in its endurance when the wood –

“Shrouds the corpse, for mosses spread and lichens climb
Over the trunk and round each bruised limb
Seeking to avert the eye from what they hide.”

The poet’s lament, a dirge, gains greater poignancy that pierces through our heart and veins when we reach the end. This is a superbly artistic blend of the reality and philosophy, physics and metaphysics. It is an enduring revelation of the animate in the inanimate and the inanimate in the animate. It is an astonishing contrast in its application to human life but the classical touch given to the theme and the sight in this eight-line dirge in the execution of technique and style benumb us for a while till we wake up to the ugly in beautiful, horrible in the pleasant- all on the cozy bed of Mother Earth in the warm and affectionate lap of Nature to the laugh and delight of Destiny. Man away and in isolation from such a delectable experience experiences only the dark misery! A very accurate choice of words and phrases; no superfluity of expression; each word flows with meaning and music and shapes the total picture.

For Paul Claudel”, a six-line elegiac, is a lyric of deep personal grief that maintains perfect calm and poise. It has dignity and decorum of its own. Fallen from the inaccessible heights, Paul Claudel merited no comparison to the things that fall or have thorns- roses or kings. So he was a hawk on steady wings-

“Flying on and on and on.”

This immortal hawk was born out of the morning air; but it fell “never, anywhere.” The fall is neither disgraceful nor depressing. Such a glorification of a human being and vesting it with sublimity and eternity is a mockery of the indifferent and callous destiny. Fernando here transcends his personal sorrow and grief into a momentous delight and deconstructs the human and the superhuman in the face of the divine.

Adam and Eve” is a lament, a longing and a painful expression of the grief of the eternal loss of eternal brilliance and beauty. Here we meet the great grand parents of mankind then and the great grand children now- lost in the reminiscences of the beauty and bliss of Paradise. There is no help but endurance and delectable comfort in that. Here is the first landing from the fair and happy home to the mansion in search of which they remain travelers. Adam suddenly wakes to see Eve-

“the brilliance
Of mountain blooms suddenly come across
On pale infertile desert ground…….”
“There was no call upon his mind” “to awake the brutes of blood” provoked by “ her rare momentous grace”-
“ To take her in their hot embrace,
Ravish her in the foul flesh mud.”

Adam was too overwhelmed with ecstasy at the sight to cry her praises in public. Instead he is left to lose himself and live in the sorrow and grief at the loss of “the original trance of beauty first beheld”. Gone is the magnificence. They look at each other like the strangely moved and hurt ageing man “pale in the westering light” and feel and wait “in unison death’s serpentine advance” with a sense of calm surrender. The poet describes this unfathomable agony of the soul-

“And with infinite gentleness a rich complexity
Bloomed on their souls, of love and pain and new insight,
As the last efflorescence is the loveliest on a tree,
Or as the final movement of a dying fire’s dance.”

Fernando is a wonderful phrase-maker which shows his superb command over the language used perfectly in the right context. The impact of the discipline of the classical learning is visible in the thematic and stylistic devices used by him.

Oedipus Solitary” is a fine meditative poem wherein the philosopher-king of Thebes looks down the memory lane with wide-spread anguish, stricken with grief and guilt. Fernando has depicted the situation in high excellence of compounds and condensations, metaphors and rich images. The life of this hero-king has been the most intensely and passionately dramatic and tragic, a drama of dramas, the story of the greatest sin-physical and metaphysical- ever committed and the severest and the most rigorous self-afflicted punishment. Fernando has picked the situation amidst “the laughter of children mocks the evening’s reticence” when Oedipus laments with courageous eyes the sight of his shadowed youth that “lies strangely still, persistent in that posture.” Oedipus is now upon the distant ridges of his mind and the mad Bacchanalia haunts him with the -

“Lipstick spread across the prosperous grin of America,
Or bodies pirouetting at night in halls of Vienna.”
All is chilled and frozen into tormenting death and tortuous beyond. Oedipus bemuses-
“I do not mourn a loss, I do not weep repentance;
I only feel my fruitlessness that I who reached the Arctic
Of all experience of the spirit in the flesh
Have left no trail, inspired no hope, not even fear,
Thrust beyond the world of things
That matter here.”

It further enhances Oedipus’ agony when he contemplates to lament-

“Youth’s exquisite bowl lies shattered on the topmost shelf,
Scattered into splinters of pointed pain.”
What grandeur Fernando had lavishly bestowed upon this excruciating pain! Oedipus longs to sleep the dreamless sleep of the smashed and splintered age-
“till the youthful hand of God, wearying of time,
Flings away his toy-world of marble-play,
Spin, spin you universe, spin out your life.”

Similarly, “Oedipus: the Last Days” is a grievous statement of wounds from the very birth through the total gone, not healed by the self-afflicted blindness by piercing his eyes with the brooch of his mother-wife and aching to consciousness the sin and guilt committed under the direction of the predominant blind destiny. His is the tragedy of tragedies, the whole world knows. Fernando has shown rare artistry in capturing and depicting the tragedy in two dozen lines divided into eight stanzas of three lines each with the rhyme scheme-aba, cdc, efe, ghg…….Who fails to visualize the entire tragedy which lamentably wronged the life of Oedipus , superbly created and crafted human being by the hands of destiny itself. Even in the last days, Oedipus is grappling in a futile manner with the unanswered question eternally haunting man-

“With eyes healed to a thick protective dark, pain gone,
Burdens of family and state over, and every ambition fled,
There remains only a concern with right and wrong.”

His “Impetuous innocence twisted into public wrong” with two daughters leading him to the city gates to suffer the last but not final banishment – “he will pass on.” Fernando has enacted the elegiac to reveal all before, within and beyond the “protective dark.”

Aeneas and Dido” is an eloquent expression of a passionate romance languishing in longing and experiencing its waste in grief, a lament and pain. The poem reminds us of Marlowe’s play “Queen Dido of Carthage”. Dido, Elissa, was the Queen of Carthage. She passionately loved Aeneas whom Fernando introduces us as-

“Created in the image of God,
Though sprung from the womb of Eve,
He could impersonate the Lord
And win applause for Dido’s grief.”

Aeneas deserted her and after his departure, she killed herself. Later, when Aeneas found her in Hades and recognized her, she would not speak to him out of feminine grace and vanity. He observes the grieving and lamenting lovely shade of Dido and tries to persuade and convince her-

“To leave you in that cold grey dawn,
My love, I swear, was not my will;
Yet Heaven pushed me like a pawn
In strange furtherance of its will.”
But Dido’s face and heart were bathed in grief and sorrow like-
“………………….some rare flower
Caught in a soft infecting wind
Dispetals, fell- she had no power
For speech and fled unanswering.”

However, grieving over her hard eternal pride, Aeneas responds to the decrees of God, sails to a better land and-

“He takes a royal daughter’s hand,
Enthroned throughout our centuries.”

This is how Fernando captures the most tender and painful moments from the life of these majestic and monarchical figures.

The Decline of Aspasia” is one of the most graceful elegies ever written, a superb example of highly intellectualized poetry, about one of the greatest wonder-women in the entire history of mankind. Aspasia stands like a colossus among the women who moved, influenced, shook, taught, trained and ruled men. This poem of Fernando gives a very challenging time to the reader, howsoever scholarly; lifting the layers of meaning explores new meanings and no number of readings makes it a satisfying experience. Direct and startling opening captivate our attention with the immense profundity of language, diction, style, syntax and thought. Rare use of the marks of punctuation in the sentences and continuing diction pose formidable difficulties to the reader to arrive at the intended or implied meaning immediately and even quite after.

“In Western boudoirs the sky applies her lipstick and her rouge,
Waits for the dark-dressed, low-voiced night;
And in the city sleeping mirrors stir to life and hold
Images of women pricking hair with pins of gold,
And men wriggling into collars, creeping into dusted hats.”

What a splendid image of the boudoirs! Then follows the scene of dance hall which floods with music and lights-highly pictorial and sensuous- to stun us with the plight of Aspasia. She is one-

“Whom time has put on a clearance sale,
An ageing shop-soiled female:
Much sought, much loved Aspasia.”
That was and this is Aspasia-
“Now she scans the tracks beaten on her empty palm,
Tracing a descent from Venus’ Mount down to where it ends
In a Babel of prophetic lines
Whose meaning is now lost,
And in the mirror she estimates the ravages of time,
Then broods like a wood in twilight
Deeply hushed,
The owl iterates his philosophy pacing the roof
And far away she hears the mumble of a toothless sea.”

Years will pass and roll on and on; the moods of the months will work their way into the sill. The beloved skin has shriveled and cracked like paint on the age-old painting in the galleries of Rome. Such is the dismal and disgusting end to the rich and glamorous and glorious past is unbelievable. But time and destiny, in their own inscrutable way, humble all pomp and pride and power leaving man to trace the meaning of life in that was and this is!

Which scholar of literature doesn’t know the story of the love of Helen of Troy and Prince Paris which resulted in the burning of the topless towers of Ilium? Fernando has portrayed the grief of Prince Paris in this sixteen-line elegiac, “The Lament of Paris”-

“When the Greek spear nestles its hot and burning head
against my breast,
And drives the blood to bloom into a red button-hole upon
my dress,
I will ride to Death’s night club, I will not come home.”

Before his eternal departure, Paris contemplates and laments his grief at the thought of Helen after him. Fernando has revealed the mind of Paris in a poignant present situation and his story in future.

A Symphony in Flowers” is a highly tragic lament at the loss of innocence and entrancing beauty amidst the parade of butterflies amidst the chorus of bees when she was sifting the delights of heaven. Later, he saw the same bliss grieving “burdened with the fruition of the flesh” and waiting-

“For the paramour the evening would usher,
To drain her lovely florescence.”

That was many years ago and today, he is strewing the same flowers upon her when she is to descend into the soil to the accompaniment of a sacred tune. It is a poem of the rich splendors of beauty and bloom, dreams and desires, flowering and deflowering- all bathed lavishly in freshness and fragrances that enhance the insatiety in youth, youthfulness and yearning- achieving and reaching consummation till this lovely florescence merged with the sacred melody when she was shut dull to all beauty and bloom so that the ecstatic and embracing earth may burst into a fit of joy. What a living and lovely and lasting contrast of ecstasy and elegy ere losing hushed and haunting reminiscences dipped in the honeyed present. Highly sensual images, compounds and enchanting pictures lead us into a gallery with heard and unheard melodies. A charming magic of the lavish love and lore!

Elegy for December” is conspicuous for the conscious use of the condensed and compact phrase and metaphors to build the atmosphere of sorrow, gloom and elegy and contemplate on the agony of love. All is cold and dead around the poet; love alone is alive. He says-

“You alone, my heart, preserve one single fire,
Deep here, wherein you tenderly enfold
The girl of my desire.
Flame fed upon her lips and gentle caresses,
Light lit by the luster in her eyes,
She whom you adore above all gods and goddesses
Beloved unto eternity.”

Even the volcanic passion for the girl of his desire is a dirge over December though the rest is elegy. Bitter cold is contrasted with the fiery warmth. The poet has no mind to drown his passion/ fire in the bitter wine in the fashion of the Greeks; it is not the Grecian fire which rises higher and gains sublimity and transcendence as the pining grows stronger and yearning deeper.

Folly and Wisdom” is another regret, another grief concealed in folly and wisdom, though the honey-voiced girl and the gentle boy couldn’t understand whether they were foolish or wise in keeping the feeling and passion of their love in cold store or burning furnace.

“Exalted eagles drop to earth to chide the sparrow bird.”

These lovers have no bitterness or anger and too gentle to realize that they have erred. This short lyric is unique in the treatment of the elegiac.

The Fisherman Mourned By His Wife” is a mournful poem on the death of a husband. The wife remembers how their marriage was arranged and how the fisherman trembled to enjoy the bliss of married life. She recollects-

“My eyes were open in the dark unlike in love,
Trembling, lest in fear, you’ll let me go a maid,
Trembling, on the other hand, for my virginity.”

Thereafter, he was always in haste to run to her but it was not to be for long. He was in haste to run away from her. So he did leaving with her his token of love. The poor wife couldn’t even console herself-

“Men come and go, some say they understand,
……………………………………………………
You had grown so familiar as my hand,
That I cannot with simple grief
Assuage dismemberment.”

Meditation over Five Graves” is an innovation in the genre of Elegy; it is deep resounding in the mournful notes; no other poet, for sure, has such an artistry in handling the elegy on such a scale- five sections, each for one occupant/s of the grave. This makes a profound variety of grief and mourning in meditation over the death of love and physical passion-

“Here sleep a lovely woman and her lover side by side;
Each loved and well-fulfilled the physical intent
………………………………………………………
If you wait till the resurrection you might see
How lovely the tenants of this grave both used to be.”
In the second grave, we meet love within the bonds of formal marital love-
“Here lie a happy man and wife- they enjoyed envy and esteem…”

and ruined by enemies of love. The third grave weeps over and mourns the death of love in virginity-

“Soft buried here beneath three sorrowing marble angels lie
Three sisters-virgins all- laid out immaculate in lace.”

This is “the vacant marriage bed” and the angels over them are their enlightened spirits. The fourth grave grieves over the wasting influence of misplaced love-

“Unrequited love is here- a man of loyalty and grief,
Whose solace lay in seeking neither revenge nor relief.
It is the story of a man who “nailed his heart on a silly girl.”
“But yet they say great Solomon forgot his wisdom for a slave,
And lovely Venus lay entranced in the arms of a crippled knave.”

The fifth grave is that of a bright man whose head still resounds with his immortal words on love-

“So bright in his unfathomed mind to render him profound.”

Now his soul well realizes his “primal innocence” and there is understanding full of painful regret-

“………………. That love in the abstract sense
Brings little to a man by way of human tenderness,
It yearns to walk on earth again and fill the emptiness.”

It is a mourning over the un-fructified love lost in abstract philosophy which never burst into tenderness and fruition. Such a yearning heart yearns for resurrection to fill emptiness. Unfulfilled love, unrequited love makes life empty and meaningless and even unlived defeating the very divine purpose of creation. The poem is remarkable for condensation of deep thought, immensely packed phrases, profound words resonate to recite and sing the tragedy of love. It is wonderfully reflective and thought-provoking and it closes on a note of the blossoms of tribute-

“Slowly, the purring processional hearse conveys each day,
As straw by straw the bird of death building up her nest,
Another one who loved, to this community of clay,
Where tired limbs might enjoy their pre-natal rest.”
We salute Fernando for such brilliance and his unmatched poetic powers!

Chorus on a Marriage” is sad, sorrowful and mournful. It is the story of a sovereign who was a stern disciplinarian and a no non-sense ruler but who secretly sang “the praise of flesh and blood.” The poet goes straightforward to tell us-

Swiftly their love sickened, and patiently,
Without a murmur, in a year or two,
Departed. The grave was dug in memory…”

The only epitaph was “the world’s wild guess”- the wise, the pious and the cynics, all had something to say. When his coronation took place amidst the dizzy dances and celebrations, the attendance of all virtues, the presence of princes and potentates, none had any forecast to make his reign would be so short-lived.

“But Time the Baptist, anointer of kings,
The same as dared destroy Love’s gentle breath,
As spared us for recital of these things,
Misled this strong young autocrat to death.
How grieved the kingdom at this second blow!”

The footlights on the stage dim to the dimmest for the close of the scene and the song as-

“Death hurries in the half-lit dressing room,
Times shuffles in the wings,
God climbs into his old machine,
Half-hidden in the gloom.”

Fernando is an inimitable and immortal singer of such choruses; still inspiring love for life and love with the sole stress on the beauty of life. Hence ennobling and elevating!

Funeral Arrangements” makes an interesting study in this regard. The poet wants to adore, decorate and embellish her dead body with dew-drenched lilies, mountain red roses, a painted blush on her cheeks so that she leaves us as bride-

“…………………………………….concealing
From us our own stark fear of death.”
“And let the old with feigned conviction sigh
God takes them young whom God loves best.”

All this before a child can begin is curious questioning. Fernando feels tragedy upon tragedy when the priest asks for tithes when burial is a fundamental right. The emotion are charged till the poet leads us to challenge the religious rite.

Life and Death of a Hawk” portrays another tragic incident concerning the life and death of a hawk-“monarch of the air” who “ruled the high blue kingdom.” The hawk was hawkish in his majestic lofty flights round the sun and his playfulness. The poet is not only wonder-struck but also highly suggestive when he says-

“The height he maintained with secret entrance
And exit, kept his color, size and form
Vague, as befits kings.”

But this hawk met a very tragic doom in a mysterious manner-

Logic snaps; this monarch of the air
Descending on a kitchen-yard for a chicken,
Was shot, and blundered like a drunkard up a stair.”

And for three days, the copse kept hanging in a veil of flies. Destiny works its way like this even with the kings and it remains shrouded in eternal mystery leaving us to our wonderment.

A Coat of Many Colors” is a poem of

“ love’s difficult harmony-
Played at last to perfection.”

It is a poignant and hear-rending lyric of atrocity in love committed by the narrator’s father-in-law, “the old fox” and who “could not offend me further.” He labored hard for seven long years to have her as his wife but was deceived by “the old fox.” who commanded another seven years’ of labor and the narrator’s love became more passionate than ever. Their love story can be read in the book of their lives. However, the next page of the book assigns him two wives, and two more women. Thus the story went till the narrator and the writer of this book met beyond the grave. When he questioned the biographer about himself, hevanished into the dark air saying “that the task of true and keen observer/ Consumed all his life.” Amidst all this, he “wove the coat of many colors.” It is an elegy on the death of love and life.

Elegy for My Son” resounds with a deep note of pain and agony causing lifelessness at the colossal loss of the poet’s admiration, beauty, pride and love by “some strange excess of love” of earth, wind and sunshine and they work as usual and-

“Calm as the conspirators after the deed
Driving me to almost believe nothing
Has happened. I am the tree that’s gone,
That tree and I being one.”

In fact, it is not his son, “the young tree” but “I am the tree that’s gone.” The poet feels that-

“There must be some terrible power
In the earth and wind and sunshine
How else could the young tree,
A favorite of these three
Sicken in a single day and die?

Fernando felt totally broken when his youngest son died in 1980 and he could not endure the strain and shock for long and he died in Jan. 1982. He would stand in the empty places brandishing his thoughts wildly and bursting into sigh and song at the memory of this wild incident “as if nothing has occurred.” How haunting, tormenting and tragic that we have to create the illusion of disbelief to solace ourselves in a highly sensitizing situation! Why should Destiny put us through such killing trials? There is no answer; we are left to reconcile even by welcoming death which comes slowly and painfully in such a situation. This elegy is a subtle literary and subtle masterpiece.

Finally, we may conclude that grief, gloom and grimness, mourning and reflection are all-pervasive in the poetic landscape of Fernandes; he avoids cautiously and artistically the blame-game for this sorry mess most of the time, though it becomes irresistible also. The study poses serious difficulties to the serious reader on account of the fair and abundant acquaintance of the poet with the Western classical languages and literature which has influenced richly his literary devices and which is conspicuous more than the thought-content and also determines the expression of the same. The sorry and the tragic mess is neither disgusting nor depressing; with the basic dignity and decorum in his poems, they become an ennobling and elevating experience in tone and temper. Their bewitching grace inspires lasting reverence for life and its Creator and its Mover. His observing eye moves among the birds, objects of nature and human beings and he depicts their physiology and psychology as they build and determine their relations with life in the totality of its working under the convolvulus supervision of the Dark and the Divine; his artistry is subtle, envious and inimitable. This is the world which inhabits the queens, kings, clerics and soldiers, ordinary mortals and objects, animate and abstract, and are seen grieving and mourning and meditating over the losses- ethereal or temporal!

May 17, 2009

More by : Prof. R. K. Bhushan

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