What do submarines have to do with anything?
March 20, 2017 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Minor spoilers for Howl's Moving Castle (the book). A character in Howl's Moving Castle describes a poem as being about submarines. What are they talking about?

I just got to a point where two schoolboys are explaining "Song" by John Donne.
Neil said, “It’s a poem,” in the way most people would say, “It’s a dead rat.”
“It’s the one Miss Angorian set for last week’s homework,” said the other boy. “I remember ‘wind’ and ‘finned’. It’s about submarines.”
Where did submarines come from? Is that a confused interpretation of something the teacher might have said in class or are they just making it up?
posted by henuani to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I figured his mind went: find --> finned --> submarines (and that he would have preferred that it be about submarines).
posted by Kriesa at 11:29 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I've not read the book, but isn't it a joke about the fact that "find" and "wind" (in the "gust of" sense that Donne seems to have intended) don't rhyme in 20th century English? So you either have to say "fined what wined" or "finned what winned" in order to make the rhyme work. And there is a bit about mermaids too, so once you add in "finned" submarines seem relevant if you're not really paying attention.
posted by howfar at 12:05 PM on March 20

There are also mermaids singing in the poem, so.
posted by praemunire at 1:09 PM on March 20

John Donne was a pretty religious poet, so my first thought is the kid misheard/misunderstood the word transubstantiation. But Song isn't religious, so idk.
posted by phunniemee at 1:20 PM on March 20

The blog author thinks the line about Mandrake root -- "Get with child a mandrake root" -- alludes to the Mandrake root featured in Leah's and Rachel's story in Genesis, but if so, I'd imagine it's only indirectly through the medieval tradition that Mandrakes grow only where a man's semen spills upon the ground.
posted by jamjam at 2:33 PM on March 20

I remember seeing that in the book, and not getting it, but they didn't quote the whole poem at the same time that the kid referred to submarines, so I didn't go back and check once I had the poem in front of me, just resigned myself to having missed a joke. But now that you mention it, it's very non-obvious.
posted by aimedwander at 2:41 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

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