?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Best. Post. Ever.
tree_face
steepholm
Hyperbole is the strangest thing. (Not just a strange thing - the strangest.) In most situations, the law of diminishing returns applies: the more exaggerated the claim, the less purchase it will have on reality. Hyperbole is like trying to sew on a button while holding the needle in the jaws of a JCB. It's clumsy at best; at worst, ridiculous.

Sometimes, though, hyperbole really works. I was thinking about this while listening to The Tannahill Weavers' "Capernaum". As a city, Edinburgh's really not that grim (if it had been about Aberdeen I could have understood it), but this song works precisely because its lyrics, which come from a 1920s poem by Lewis Spence, are so emphatically hyperbolic.

"Capernaum"

St Matthew, xi, 23

If aa the bluid shed at thy Tron
Embro', Embro'
If aa the bluid shed at thy Tron
Were sped intae a river
It would ca' the mills o' Bonnington
Embro', Embro'
It would ca' the mills o' Bonnington
For ever and for ever

If aa the tears that thou hast grat
Embro', Embro'
If aa the tears that thou hast grat
Were shed intae the sea
Whaur wad ye find an Ararat
Embro', Embro'
Whaur wad ye find an Ararat
Frae that fell flude tae flee?

If aa the psalms sung in thy kirks
Embro', Embro'
If aa the psalms sung in thy kirks
Were gaithered in a wind
Twad shaw the taps o' Roslin's birks
Embro', Embro'
Twad shaw the taps o' Roslin's birks
Till time was oot o' mind.

If aa the broken herts o' thee
Embro', Embro'
If aa the broken herts o' thee
Were heapit in a howe
There wid be neither land nor sea
Embro', Embro'
There wid be neither land nor sea
But yon reid brae and thou.

Love the poem, love the song. But why does hyperbole intensify here, when it so often dilutes?
Tags: