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December 10, 2008

TT: Else what's a metaphor?

I see that Patrick Appel, Andrew Sullivan's stand-in, has nominated me for a poseur award for having written the following paragraph in yesterday's posting about The Letter:

I know how it feels to see the design for the dust jacket of a book that I've written, but that's different: the cover is not the book. An opera, on the other hand, truly exists only in performance, and must be created anew each time it is produced: the score is not the show. As I saw how Hildegard had transformed my libretto into a three-dimensional object, a Biblical phrase popped into my mind: Thus the word was made as flesh.

Not having read "The Daily Dish" for a number of years, I didn't know that Sullivan had acquired a "trusty colleague" (his phrase). Alas, the colleague in question wasn't very trustworthy on this occasion, or very knowledgeable.

Needless to say, only a poseur of the highest possible voltage would have compared himself to the incarnate Christ--and I didn't. "Thus the word was made as flesh" is not a literal quotation from John 1:14. It is, rather, a metrical paraphrase of the Latin translation of the first six words of that familiar verse, and it comes from one of the many English-language versions of "Verbum caro factum est," Hans Leo Hassler's popular sixteenth-century Christmas motet:

I sang that lovely motet in high school long, long ago, which explains why the anonymous translator's euphonious rendering of the Biblical phrase that is its title happened to come to mind as a metaphorical description of what it feels like to have your words turned into a set design.

Most literate people, of course, know a metaphor when they see one, but you can't please everyone....

UPDATE: Thank you, Megan, Isaac and Alex.

The ongoing controversy over this posting and its predecessor, by the way, has octupled the number of midweek hits normally received by "About Last Night." Repeat after me: there is no bad publicity!

Posted December 10, 2008 5:42 PM

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