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LOVE SONGS OF THE NEW KINGDOM by John L. Foster

LOVE SONGS OF THE NEW KINGDOM

By

Pub Date: July 1st, 1974
Publisher: Scribners

Foster translated these lyrics from the secular hieratic script of the New Kingdom of ancient imperial Egypt (c. 1000 B.C.); they were originally composed to be sung at banquets, accompanied by flutes and harps, and now represent the only surviving verses of what must have been an extensive art-song tradition. These are outstanding examples of the genre that includes the epithalamium -- the Song of Solomon, and the courtly medieval French air de cour or English ayre -- delicate, overrefined, the apotheosis of gentle elegance. The speakers are rather like frivolous love-struck adolescents with their recherche sentiments and precious manners. The poems are marked by veiled passion and a graceful turn of emotion. They are also touched by an urbane irony; a girl guesses at her lover's pretext for leaving: ""Or is it a matter of dress makes you restless? (would you feel naked above me?)/ I'm a woman of means -- I'll lend you bedclothes!"" Where the texts are fragmentary or ""all but inscrutable,"" Foster has reconstructed the poetry along ""modernist"" (Pound, Williams, Cummings) lines, The results are nothing short of eternal and beautiful. The simplicity of expression combined with the perennial fascination of a subject that sells books as dismal as Rod McKuen's gives this fine collection an added commercial dimension -- for easily infatuated readers.