Scholarship makes strange bedfellows. One would hardly have expected Professor Trask, the noted editor and translator, fresh...

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THE UNWRITTEN SONG

Scholarship makes strange bedfellows. One would hardly have expected Professor Trask, the noted editor and translator, fresh from his alliance with Casanova, to hit the anthropological backwaters and present an anthology devoted to the poetry of primitive and traditional peoples. This is the first of a two-volume enterprise and offers a unique collection of ""unwritten songs"" from the Eskimos of the Far North to the unlettered tribes of Africa, Indonesia, Melanesia, and Australia. The verbal art of folk cultures is almost always meant to be sung; thus it's a risky business printing these specimens at all. Surprisingly, though, they wear well enough on the page and the best of them have a lyric immediacy or incantatory quality reminiscent at times of the classic Chinese poets or of the invocation odes of the American Indian. The ""Song Cycle of the Moon-Bone,"" a panoramic hymn to the night, even suggests something of Whitmanesque enumerations. The themes are the elemental ones of survival, death, love, magic and ritual. But often in a few lines one comes across much subtlety, truth, and lively poignancy. A departmental must.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 1966

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1966