Between Languages: The Uncooperative Text in Early Welsh and Old English Nature Poetry

By Sarah Lynn Higley | Go to book overview

5
The Vanishing Point: Deixis and Conjunction

For religious man, every existential decision to situate himself in space in fact constitutes a religious decision.

-- Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane

gwelais wedy cad kolut ar drein ("I saw after battle bowels on thorns.")

-- Cynddelw, Lament for Owain Gwynedd

In the last chapter I suggested that hypotaxis confers a hierarchy of relationships on the grammatical statement in much the same way that a point of view affects the description of imagery. The analogy can be extended to the visual properties of perspective in painting. A painter gives the illusion that a scene is being viewed from a specific point in space by foreshortening objects: the lines of the receding buildings come together on the horizon at the "vanishing point," and it is when this principle was rediscovered in medieval painting that we have a movement away from Carolingian linearity, the beginnings of the Renaissance, and the increasing dominance of the picture. The Old English and Early Welsh gnomes juxtapose images that in everyday experience would not be juxtaposed, and in this sense they have neither a point of view nor a deictic center; both have vanished (or resisted development) along with a hierarchic system of grammatical relationships. This mode would significantly affect how we view their sense of connections.

-119-

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