"dust-up"

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mesterhm

Member
Hungarian
I am translating poems by Seamus Heaney. In "The Riddle" (from the volume "The Haw Lantern"), where the act of sieving through a riddle also poses riddles in the other sense, he writes, "Clods and buds in a little dust-up". I know that dust-up means a quarrel but here it must be something physical. "Clods and buds" belong to nature, so I wonder if a dust-up, especially a little dust-up can be a quick shower on the road?
Here are the first four lines, and thanks for any suggestions.

"You never saw it used but still can hear
The sift and fall of stuff hopped on the mesh

Clods and buds in a little dust-up,
The dribbled pile accruing under it."
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    The image it conveys to me, Mester, is fairly literal: when you sieve stuff (especially stuff like clods and buds) the action of sieving produces a small amount of dust which rises from the mesh.

    (Mind you, I'm crap at interpreting poetry.)
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    In the riddle itself, the clods and buds that do not pass through the mesh are rattling about against one another ... a kind of dust-up.
    That and ewie's pile of dust.
     
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    mesterhm

    Member
    Hungarian
    Yes, thank you both, but do you (or we) usually sift "clods and buds"? Can these refer to grains? Maybe this is the part I should have asked about.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, I should've said it's a kind of 'dust-up' and it produces little clouds of dust (which is probably how the term dust-up got its name):)
     

    gumboots

    Senior Member
    English-Ireland
    Yes I unfortunatly miss-read/quick read the opening post. Appologies for redundancy
     

    mesterhm

    Member
    Hungarian
    But as far as I know, which may not be far enough, clod is a piece of soil, and bud is a part of a plant. Do they get sieved? Or do they refer to grains (let me repeat this)?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Yes, thank you both, but do you (or we) usually sift "clods and buds"? Can these refer to grains? Maybe this is the part I should have asked about.
    We riddle soil to remove lumpy bits.
    The lumpy bits may well include clods (lumps of soil, perhaps with plant roots) and buds. Clods and buds sound well together.
    Most grains that I can think of would pass rapidly through the mesh of the riddle.

    Just in case there is ambiguity - HERE is a riddle.

    HERE is a chap using a riddle.

    HERE are clods in a riddle, and possibly buds but I don't see any.
     
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    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I think there may be a bit of poetic licence going on there, Mester.
    One sieves clods of earth to get rid of stones, to produce fine soil.
    One sieves buds (or seed heads of plants) (presumably) to get the seeds out without having to pick them out by hand.
    I suppose it's pretty unlikely that you'd do both at the same time.
    = Poetic licence.

    (Mind you, I'm crap at interpreting poetry, he repeated:D)
     

    mesterhm

    Member
    Hungarian
    Thank you all, but especially Panjandrum, and especially for your iambic first sentence. Now I understand. I have never seen soil riddled. Then maybe the "dribbled pile" accruing in line 4 is a quasi-neutral image, whereas I thought it was something disgusting. But maybe it refers to the way it almost flows down, as sand in an hour-glass.

    Yes, Ewie, and thanks, but with Heaney, there is always a very literal sense first, and then comes poetic licence. The same goes for translation. First one has to understand everything, asking questions like a child, and then it can be played with later.

    May I share with you my symbolic reading of lines 3-4? In a quarrel (dust-up) there are bigger, louder things said, and they will not go through this figurative riddle, whereas there are smoother things going through, which can be just as harmful. But this must transpire from the physical level, the act of sieving.

    This forum is really reassuring even in the way one finds one's own questions. Thank you all once again.

    Just in case there is ambiguity - HERE is a riddle.
    Great, thank you.
     
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