Saturday, November 5, 2011

Perhaps we should resurrect this particular use of poetry:

The "nith-song" or "drum-song" is the Eskimo's way of replacing a law court by a public poetry contest. . . .

The background of the nith-song (from the Norwegian nith, meaning "contention"), observed as early as 1746, has been described as follows: "When a Greenlander considers himself injured in any way by another person, he composes about him a satirical song, which he rehearses with the help of his intimates. He then challenges the offending one to a duel of song. One after another the two disputants sing at each other their wisdom, wit, and satire, supported by their partisans, until at last one is at his wit's end, when the audience, who are the jury, make known their decision. The matter is now settled for good, and the contestants must be friends again and not recall the matter which was in dispute."

[from A. Grove Day, The Sky Clears: Poetry of the American Indians (1951)]

1 comment:

Carol Willette Bachofner said...

Might be a way better thing than the bitterness of contemporary fighting. I like the part about them having to be friends again after the songs are done.