Ciclatoun.

Before I settled on the Beckett quote for yesterday’s post, I was trying out other possibilities, including this passage from Pound’s Pisan Cantos (the very long Canto LXXX — it’s on page 510 in my old New Directions hardcover):

    Nancy where art thou?
Whither go all the vair and the cisclatons
and the wave pattern runs in the stone
on the high parapet (Excideuil)
Mt Segur and the city of Dioce
Que tous les mois avons nouvelle lune
What the deuce has Herbiet (Christian)
    done with his painting?
Fritz still roaring at treize rue Gay de Lussac
with his stone head still on the balcony?
Orage, Fordie, Crevel too quickly taken

I’ve read it who knows how many times, but never focused on the odd word “cisclatons” before (there are so many oddities and mysteries in the Cantos!); this time I did, and googling produced only this Occitan word, which seemed unlikely as an immediate source. After further wrangling, I discovered that the OED has it s.v. ciclatoun (the entry hasn’t been updated since 1889):

Etymology: < Old French ciclaton, -un, chiclaton, ciglaton, siglaton, segleton , senglaton , singlaton ; also in Spanish ciclaton , Provençal sisclato (Diez), also Middle High German ciclât , ziklât , siglât , and siklatîn . The source of the names found in most European languages in the Middle Ages, appears to have been Arabic (originally Persian) siqilāṭūn , also siqilāṭ , siqalāṭ , saqalāṭ , (according to Mr. J. Platts) < siqillāṭ , siqallāṭ , for saqirlāṭ , saqarlāṭ , Arabicized form of Persian sakarlāt , the same word which has given scarlet n. and adj. The primary meaning was ‘scarlet cloth’, later ‘fine painted or figured cloth’, ‘cloth of gold’.
Diez took ciclaton as a derivative of Latin cyclas -adem, < Greek κυκλάς, -άδα, ‘a state robe of women with a border running round it’. Dozy, Suppl. Arab. Lex., appears to derive the Arabic < cyclas. Du Cange also identified cyclas and ciclatun, and it is possible that the two words were, from their similarity, confused in Europe in the Middle Ages. Compare cyclatum in Du Cange.

Obsolete.

a. A precious material much esteemed in the Middle Ages; in the first quot. perhaps ‘scarlet cloth’; in others it is cloth of gold or other rich material. Perhaps sometimes, a robe or mantle of this stuff (cf. Godefroy).

a1225 Juliana 8 Al þe tur wes bitild wið purpre, wið pal, & wið ciclatun.
a1240 Ureisun of ure Lefdi 193 Al þin hird is i-schrud mid hwite ciclatune.
[1295 Inv. St. Paul’s Cathedral in Monasticon Angl. III. 316 (Du Cange) Capa Johannis Maunself de panno aureo qui vocatur ciclaton.]
c1325 Coer de L. 2308 Of silk, cendale, and syclatoun, Was the emperour’s pavyloun.
c1386 G. Chaucer Sir Thopas 23 His Robe was of Syklatoun That coste many a Jane.
c1400 St. Alexius (Laud 622) 397 Ciclatounes þat weren of prijs, Pelured wiþ Ermyne & wiþ grijs, Alte she cast away.

b. The word became obsolete apparently by 1400: the following are notices or conjectures of later writers.

a1599 E. Spenser View State Ireland 49 in J. Ware Two Hist. Ireland (1633) Chaucer..describeth Sir Thopas apparell..as hee went to fight..in his robe of Shecklaton, which is that kind of guilded leather with which they use to imbroyder their Irish Iackets.
1849–53 D. Rock Church of our Fathers II. 279 Ciclatoun and baudekin and every other sort of cloth of gold.
1870 D. Rock Textile Fabrics (S. Kensington Mus.) Introd. p. xxxix Thin glossy silken stuff..here called first by its Persian name which came with it, ciclatoun, that is, bright and shining.

It’s amusing and instructive to see those “conjectures of later writers,” trying to make sense of a long-forgotten word, and I like such mysteriously resonant bits of vocabulary as much as Ez did. And it turns out to be a doublet of scarlet!

Comments

  1. And yes, it should be rue Gay-Lussac. Pound was not big on fact-checking and proofreading.

  2. Or chemistry.

  3. That too.

  4. Stu Clayton says:

    The verbal effusions of Pound in the Cantos are the equivalent, for a literary-minded crowd, of a Trump rally speech for a literal-minded crowd. On and on flow the words, triggering vague associations as they go with no need to understand much. The same analogy can be seen in “mystical” writers such as Böhme and Herr Bombast, or Husserl and Heidegger.

    It’s Muzak for the mind. You put the needle of your attention in the groove, sit back and relax.

  5. PlasticPaddy says:

    @Stu
    The most relevant philosopher here would be Nietzsche. I do not see a great similarity between certainly the tenor of Nietzsche or Pound’s writing and muzak, so the wording is unfortunate (and unusually so for you😊). Do you mean more something like “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”?

  6. Stu Clayton says:

    I don’t mean sound and fury. Instead, I mean exactly what I wrote. There is not a word of criticism there. It’s a comment, not a rebuke.

    Where does Nietzsche come into this ? He’s not easy listening.

    My reputation for fortunately phrased flapdoodle is unscathed.

  7. PlasticPaddy says:

    From what I remember of both, I had the impression of a bombastic and highly rhythmic yet irregular prosody with recurring hobby horses and logical jumps in the content. Muzak to me is string orchestra jazz, more Precht than Brecht (unfair to Precht but I like the figure☺).

  8. Stu Clayton says:

    Recurring hobby horses are called “motifs” in musicology. Logical jumps in the content are “key changes”.

    Precht’s prose is as relaxing as one could want, if one wanted. I have read enough not to.

  9. Recurring hobby horses are called “motifs” in musicology.

    Ostinato motifs?

  10. The verbal effusions of Pound in the Cantos are the equivalent, for a literary-minded crowd, of a Trump rally speech for a literal-minded crowd. On and on flow the words, triggering vague associations as they go with no need to understand much. The same analogy can be seen in “mystical” writers such as Böhme and Herr Bombast, or Husserl and Heidegger.

    It’s Muzak for the mind. You put the needle of your attention in the groove, sit back and relax.

    That’s bullshit, but I realize it’s coming from a Luhmann fan and take it for what it’s worth. I gather you don’t actually like poetry.

  11. I also don’t believe you’ve spent much time with the Cantos; why would you if you feel that way about them?

  12. Stu Clayton says:

    Ah, but I have ! The last major thing I read on him was The Pound Era, as urged on me by Jim.

    Nothing wrong with easy listening. I deliberately wrote Muzak, in order to see whether the reflex of insulted genre superiority is still widespread. I could have written “Baroque chamber music” to equal purpose, although opposite effect.

    As you yourself wrote: “there are so many oddities and mysteries” in the Cantos. Is this not true of Trump’s rally speeches ? Why let a formal analogy rile you ? It is only an analogia entis. “We are a speck of dust in infinite space” – ja und? (as Fichte remarked)

  13. I repeat, I don’t believe you actually like poetry.

  14. Stu Clayton says:

    Dream Song 1

    Huffy Henry hid the day,
    unappeasable Henry sulked.
    I see his point,—a trying to put things over.
    It was the thought that they thought
    they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
    But he should have come out and talked.

    All the world like a woolen lover
    once did seem on Henry’s side.
    Then came a departure.
    Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
    I don’t see how Henry, pried
    open for all the world to see, survived.

    What he has now to say is a long
    wonder the world can bear & be.
    Once in a sycamore I was glad
    all at the top, and I sang.
    Hard on the land wears the strong sea
    and empty grows every bed.

  15. Stu Clayton says:

    You’re right that poetry is not in my steady diet. Nor is haggis, although I love it when it crosses my plate.

  16. Well, OK, anybody who likes Berryman can’t be all bad.

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hurrah! A pretext!

    Dream Song 67

    I don’t operate often. When I do,
    persons take note.
    Nurses look amazed. They pale.
    The patient is brought back to life, or so.
    The reason I don’t do this more (I quote)
    is: I have a living to fail —

    because of my wife & son — to keep from earning.
    — Mr Bones, I sees that.
    They for these operations thanks you, what?
    not pays you. — Right.
    You have seldom been so understanding.
    Now there is further a difficulty with the light:

    I am obliged to perform in complete darkness
    operations of great delicacy
    on my self.
    — Mr Bones, you terrifies me.
    No wonder they didn’t pay you. Will you die?
    — My
    friend, I succeeded. Later.

  18. Stu Clayton says:

    <* shivers in appreciation, says naught *>

  19. Dream Song 67

    Thanks very much for that. I too shivers in appreciation.

  20. David Marjanović says:

    Is this not true of Trump’s rally speeches ?

    National Emergency in B♭ Major.

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