Thursday, 20 October 2011
A River, In Other Words
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
If you click on this little link, it will take you through to a map of America. On it every place name that refers to a watercourse is marked (apart from river and creek because they're too common). However, the bayous are marked in green, the rios are marked in white, the brooks in pale blue, and so on and so forth. It's therefore a map of regional dialects and old languages.
It's rather wonderful, and I didn't even know that a kill was a kind of stream (it's evidence of Dutch settlers).
Also, if you click on the image, it ought to enlarge.
This, incidentally, is what T.S. Eliot had to say about rivers:
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget.
This song has always interested me. The central idea of it is that a river is something that you can skate off on, like a road. This works if you're Canadian, but to an Englishman it's like saying 'I wish I had a fish to do my gardening for me.' Some thoughts, like some wines, don't travel. The same thing goes for rain and shade in the Bible.