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My Wandering Quest to Discover the Nature of "the Word" as a Literary Phenomenon

We have considered earlier what wandering had to do with beginnings but now is the time to consider what it has to do with endings and ends. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but in the cases of Sterne, Rousseau and Goethe their final works betray a rhapsodic and loosely connected character. I recall the final line of Faust II declaring that all temporal things at last become symbols of the eternal. With all this in mind I venture to offer in this final section what might strike some as a potpourri or salad of various topics. They are: a comparison of "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas and "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" by Robert Browning, an analysis of "Altarwise by Owl-Light" by Dylan Thomas, an interpretation of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett and a study of the Grotesque in the works of Rabelais.

Quite apart from the observation that potpourris and salads are healthy and taste good, I claim that the topics listed above are connected and may be perceived as parts of an overall unity, the unity of life's experience or to be precise, my life's experience, with all the vagaries and labyrinthine turnings that go with it.

Though all wandering may be the worst of sinning I have tried to keep to the well trodden path of academic procedures expected of those who write long articles, dissertations, in fact in all scholarly publications. In this field of activity the main steps are: state your subject of inquiry, review the findings made by scholarship pertaining to this subject, ascertain what relevant questions and issues remain unanswered, endeavour to fill the gaps one has discovered using a methodical system equal to the perceived tasks ahead and soldier on as best one can.

The sequence of events that has led to this publication was not so orderly as its formal presentation and organization suggest. I remind my readers of statement made in the introduction in which I pointed to the actual chain of circumstances that made me aware of the function of verbal clues in Browning's poems and the coherence underlying even the

more difficult poems written by Dylan Thomas, and this awareness prepared the way to my later espousal of a logocentric approach to textual criticism based on the thoroughly tested foundation laid by Ferdinand de Saussure and Jurij Tynjanov. The seeds that in time brought forth my fascination with wandering must have been sown during my studies at University College London, where I studied German and French. I had the good fortune to have the guidance of two celebrated scholars, Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson and Professor Leonard Forster. The name of Elizabeth Wilkinson recalls one of the world's leading experts in the field of Goethe studies. It was above all Professor Elizabeth Wilkinson who inculcated in my mind a deep reverence for Goethe's literary works. In the first trimester my fellow students and I were introduced to one of the greatest poetic achievements in the German language, Goethe's "Wandrers Nachtlied," which in its final shape incorporated two short poems that the author composed in 1776 and 1780 respectively. A long time elapsed before I again took a close interest in this work. After the passage of 24 years I had the occasion to study Goethe's lyrical poetry under the guidance and tutelage of the noted scholar, poet and translator, Christopher Middleton at the University of Texas at Austin. I wrote a term paper on "Wandrers Sturmlied" and the motif of wandering in Goethe's poetry. Thus it was that I had to grapple with the "Wanderer" phenomenon in Goethe's literary works and later with the same motif in Romantic poetry. I soon found that this field of study presented an immense challenge. How could "wandering" be defined in terms of crisply circumscribed subject matter? The word evoked many apparently contradictory associations with wandering minstrels and pilgrims on the one hand and on the other with wandering outcasts such as Ahasuerus, the Wandering Jew, and Cain. Apart from items of subject matter it also suggested modes of organizing and moulding subject matter. Lord Byron touched on this duality in lines in Don Juan cited above. Don Juan is himself a wandering sinner and as Byron's allusions to Adam as portrayed by Milton in Paradise Lost indicate he searches in vain for a lost paradise.

In spite of such difficulties the word "wanderer" together with all forms derived from the verbs wandern and to wander called for attention on account of its dominant position as a title or theme in the poetry and perhaps less obviously in the prose works written by Goethe and the Romantics. Furthermore, modern scholars and literary critics such as Geoffrey Hartman and Harold Bloom give great prominence to the word "wanderer" in their essays and articles, referring the word to the phenomenon of the emergence of the modern self-

conscious poet in the Romantic period. I found myself ill-equipped to manage the task of integrating textual criticism of the primary sources with the findings of literary criticism. The diffuse and in some ways intractable nature of "all wandering" as a field of investigation led me into great difficulty when I chose "the Wanderer in the poetry of Goethe and the Romantics" as the subject of my proposed doctoral dissertation. One of the members of my dissertation committee dismissed the term as a mere "conceit" or artificial prop for poetic expression but well I knew what anguish and agonizing had attended Goethe's wrestling with the nexus of thoughts and emotions bound up with the word "Wanderer" in his "Speech on Shakespeare Day," "Wandrers Sturmlied" and Die Leiden des jungen Werthers ("The Sorrows of Young Werther"). I recalled the bitterness and acrimony occasioned by the differing understanding of "the Wanderer" as the word referring to the modern poet that alienated Goethe from the Romantics. If in the course of time "the Wanderer" came to assume the role of a conventional tag in the minds of certain scholars and critics there is still no reason to try to retroactively impose a modern mindset on the poets of an earlier age, wishing to mutilate their poetic feet in an attempt to make them fit into the glass slipper cobbled by a modern fashion in the contentious area of literary criticism. The influential school of "objective" criticism marks a reaction against Romantic poetry which makes it difficult for adherents of that school to empathize with the Romantics and exercise a little historical imagination in the process, if only to better understand the nature of Romantic poetry. Many modern scholars seem to know better than the poets who wrote the works they study to their material and financial benefit. I have found that particular popular and much quoted verses earn these scholars benign neglect at best. A member of my committee objected to my opinion that the daffodils in "I wandered lonely as a cloud" tapped folkloric associations of this flower with Easter citing the term Osterglocken ("Easter bells") as a common term for daffodils in the German-speaking world. This connection was "trivial" to the mind of the learned gentleman in question. Housman a mere poet wrote his poem "The Lent Lily" with the religious significance of daffodils in mind and Frederick Pottle a noted scholar made much of the comparatively tenuous association between daffodils and the figure of Narcissus in Greek mythology.

To cut a long story short, I did not complete my dissertation. No doubt this was in part due to my own deficiencies at the time, in part to the wall of prejudice intimated above and not least to the need to move on a make money. However, .I doggedly pursued my personal researches into "Wandering," convinced of the essential correctness of my basic thesis, and

eventually found in the theories of the Russian Formalists combined with Dante's mode of interpreting literary references to journeys a resolution of the problems that had hampered my work on the subject of the Wanderer as a key word and leitmotif in the poetry of Goethe and the Romantics. My two years in Austin were far from a waste of time. I remember with great respect the late Professor Ralph Read in the Department of German, who brilliantly conducted tutorials though he was blind. A similar respect I feel for the late Dr. Frantisek Galan, whose lectures on literary theory furthered my grounding in a logocentric approach to the study of literary texts. He died of leukemia a couple of years after being denied tenure at UT Austin, unjustly in his opinion, and not only in his. I recall with gratitude the help I received from Professor Jerome Bump (English) which led to the publication of my article "The Pied Piper of Hamelin in European Literature" in Wascana Review University of Regina in Canada. I recall the open mike poetry readings at the Cactus Caf in which I participated and the good friends I got to know there. As this book attests I did soldier on in pursuit of my explorations into the realm of wandering. I found it necessary to formulate more clearly what I now term a systematic logocentric approach to the reading of literary texts. I found the basis for which I found nowhere more clearly presented than in J. Tynjanov's essay: "The Meaning of the Word in Verse." It enabled me to articulate and crystallize ideas that I had earlier been unable to formulate when grappling with the nature of poetic "wandering." Thus I was able to rework my thesis and present the residue of my efforts to a wide public thanks to the opportunities offered by the Internet and modern techniques in publication by electronically aided means. The essays that follow mark certain stages in the evolution of my discoveries in the realm of literature. The first study, a comparison of "Fern Hill" with "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" recalls the time way back in 1977 when I began to take a close interest in the figure of the Pied Piper. This interest was bound up with an equally strong attraction to the poetry of Dylan Thomas. Eventually - on the fiftieth anniversary of Dylan Thomas's death - my discovery of the logocentric method of interpreting poetry allowed me a fighting chance of contending with the bewildering complexities of "Altarwise by Owl-Light," a poem which shows what happens when words run riot without a coherent narrative or message to help the reader's mind to link one word to one meaning in the usual way, and yet even in the apparent verbal jumble that follows, coherence emerges. The essays on critical approaches

to the Grotesque in the writings of Rabelais and on Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot originated as term papers that I wrote during my studies at the University of Texas at Austin. In the final case we have a narrative which so enchants and engages us that the import of the word "waiting" in the play's very title is usually overlooked. An application of the logocentric approach to literature may still bring such hidden meanings to light.