Saturday, August 21, 2010

Where The Tollund Man Meets the Vitruvian Man




The Tollund Man by Seamus Heaney and Vitruvian Man by John Glenday are two memorable poems.

In The Tollund Man, by Seamus Heaney, a poetic commentary develops on the fate of a man whose mummified remains, dating from the Early Iron Age (400 BC), were found in a peat bog near Tollund, Denmark. 

The remains of the Tollund Man are housed today in Silkeborg Museum and a possible explanation of the Tollund Man’s death- ritual sacrifice? - is provided on this web site.
The circumstances of the death, and the findings associated with it are fascinating.

The poem The Tollund Man attempts to decipher the essence of the hanged man and of the possible events surrounding his death:

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
 A poetic forensic analysis, if you will, attuned to the dark movements of gods and goddesses lurking in the depths of the bog:

Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint's kept body


The depth of the bog, a realm of menacing but germinating forces, is possibly a proxy for a lyrical identity – one of peat moss, marshes and stubborn childhood memories steeped in enchantment and the vivid recollection of people and places.

The poem Vitruvian Man from the volume Grain by John Glenday, attempts to measure up “the circumference of the soul” using a Da Vinci compass (provided by the  famous drawing).

Thus, within the span of the poem we find a possible sizing of a poet’s ethos. 

A caveat, though. Leonardo’s commentaries included with the drawing are written in mirror writing

Such may be the case with the metaphors encasing John Glenday’s poetry – as words glide on shimmering coats of meaning towards a surprising and climactic finale.

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