Saturday, 1 May 2010

Gerontius

Listening to the Elgar suite. It's growing on me, though its irredemiably religious, and a little groany-stately to boot. But it sent me back to Newman's original poem, and got me thinking about the name. He's called Gerontius because he's very old, at the extreme edge of his long life (though oddly 'old' doesn't appear in the poem, in relation to the protagonist's age, at any point). So, yes, presumably it's hard-g long-e Geerontius, since the Greek geeras, means 'old age', from geerasko, 'to grow old, to become old and infirm'. But I'd say Newman, whose Greek was good enough, might also be glancing at geeruo, 'to call, cry, to sing' ... de profundis clamavi and all that; or to quote the poem:
And hark! I hear a singing; yet in sooth
I cannot of that music rightly say
Whether I hear or touch or taste the tones.
Oh what a heart-subduing melody!
Or to quote G.'s own soul himself:
There will I sing my sad perpetual strain,
Until the morn.
Strange that 'old man' and 'singing' should be the same word, more or less. Or perhaps not.