Monday, January 17, 2011

many a

I've been googling "many a." I was wondering if this expression is common....and it appears it is. There's a saying, "Many a little makes a miracle." There is a novel titled "After Many a Summer." The musical Oklahoma! has a song titled "Many a New Day." I'm still not confident of my use of "a" and "the." Though several years ago I found this "many a" in a poem, I've never used this expression.

The Flemish-Netherlands Foundation every year publishes a book called The Low Countries: Arts and Society in Flanders and the Netherlands. It is written in English. And--I've forgotten which issue it was-- one day I found the 19th century Flemish poet Guido Gezelle's this poem in it. It begins with "I have many many an hour with you." The original goes like this:

Dien avond en die rooze

'k Heb menig menig uur bij u
gesleten en genoten,
en nooit en heeft een uur met u
me een enklen stond verdroten.
'k Heb menig menig blom voor u
gelezen en geschonken,
en, lijk een bie, met u, met u,
er honing uit gedronken;
maar nooit een uur zoo lief met u,
zoo lang zij duren koste,
maar nooit een uur zoo droef om u,
wanneer ik scheiden moste,
als de uur wanneer ik dicht bij u,
dien avond, neêrgezeten,
u spreken hoorde en sprak tot u
wat onze zielen weten.
Noch nooit een blom zoo schoon, van u
gezocht, geplukt, gelezen,
als die dien avond blonk op u,
en mocht de mijne wezen!
Ofschoon, zoo wel voor mij als u,
- wie zal dit kwaad genezen? -
een uur bij mij, een uur bij u
niet lang een uur mag wezen;
ofschoon voor mij, ofschoon voor u,
zoo lief en uitgelezen,
die rooze, al was 't een roos van u,
niet lang een roos mocht wezen,
toch lang bewaart, dit zeg ik u,
't en ware ik 't al verloze
mijn hert drie dierbre beelden: u,
dien avond - en - die rooze!

Many of you probably don't read Dutch. Neither do I. In that book it was translated into English by Paul Claes and Chritine d'Haen. But I don't have the book anymore. I've found an English version on the web, but I don't think this is what I saw that time. If my memory is correct, it was slightly different.

The Night And The Rose

I have many an hour with you
worn out and enjoyed
and never has an hour with you
bored me for a moment.
I have many a flower for you
read and given,
and, like a bee, with you, with you,
drank honey from it;
but never an hour as sweet with you,
as long as it could last,
but never an hour as sad for you,
when I had to leave you,
as the hour when I close to you,
that night, sitting down,
heard you talking and said to you
that which our souls know.
Never a flower as beautiful from you
sought, picked, read,
like that night that shimmered on you,
and I could call my own.
And just as well, as well for me as you,
-who will cure this evil?-
an hour with me, an hour with you,
wasn't allowed to be an hour for long;
And just as well for me, and just as well for you,
so endearing and exalted,
the rose, even if it was a rose from you,
wasn't allowed to be a rose for long,
yet long preserved, this I say to you,
even if I'd lose it all,
my heart three treasured images: you,
the night and the rose.

I heard Gezelle often experimented with the language. So at that time I thought this "many a" was part of his experiment. But this may be not the case....

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