Monday, January 07, 2008

Wodwo Wodehouse do?

In 1967, Ted Hughes's third book, "Wodwo"—raw, spooky, elemental - sent me scurrying to find out the meaning of this strange Middle English word. The figure of "wodwo," which Hughes elsewhere characterized as a sort of "half-man, half-animal spirit of the forests," seemed to have loomed up out of the unconscious of English poetry. The book's epigraph came from a ferocious passage in "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," and soon I was parsing the somewhat resistant Middle English text and bounding through J. R. R. Tolkien's faithful translation. I was transfixed. I had stumbled upon the underground alliterative tradition of English poetry.
—Edward Hirsch on a new "Gawain" translation, International Herald Tribune

[T]he name Wodehouse...has a secondary, comic derivation, 'out of one's mind, insane, lunatic'. This sense appears punningly in A Midsummer Night's Dream and is echoed in the Old English term woodwose (or wude-wusa), for which the Oxford English Dictionary gives 'a wild man of the woods, a satyr, a faun'.
—Robert McCrum, Wodehouse

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

View My Stats