May 28, 2007

woo 'em with Wadsworth

Brilliant or bonkers?
Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," was written 152 years ago, but Michael Maglaras thinks the story can be as appealing to modern-day audiences as "Superman" or "Star Wars."

Like Clark Kent and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Indian hero Hiawatha has human traits and super powers, while battling evil and doing right. Maglaras, the owner of a record company, is now producing a six-CD audio recording of the poem that he plans to complete in late summer.

It's fitting that the CDs are being recorded in a studio here in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's hometown in the year of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Maglaras hopes the project will stimulate interest in both Longfellow and the art of storytelling.
I doubt it. Although recent versions of Beowulf have helped spur a renaissance* of interest in ancient epics, "The Song of Hiawatha" doesn't qualify. At minimum, it would have to be adapted out of Longfellow's trochaic tetrameter before I, or anyone else, would want to listen to it through six (six!) CDs, no matter how vivid Maglaras makes the voices. (To hear a sample of Maglaras's talent, click here.)

Read the opening stanzas aloud to yourself, quietly if in a room where others might listen in and think you mad:
On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.

From his footprints flowed a river,
Leaped into the light of morning,
O'er the precipice plunging downward
Gleamed like Ishkoodah, the comet.
And the Spirit, stooping earthward,
With his finger on the meadow
Traced a winding pathway for it,
Saying to it, "Run in this way!"
After reading Hiawatha
Through all twenty-two long chapters,
Twenty-two all in this meter,
You'll be ready for the nut hatch.

*Terrible anti-pun.

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