The other day, I got to thinking about a previous interest in my early youth in learning to speak Esperanto. I couldn’t stick with it. It’s a constructed language, invented out of Russian, Polish, German, French, and English by a Polish ophthalmologist named Zamenhof in the late 19th century. It was supposed to be a universal second language for international communication. In that sense it was supposed to be the new language of diplomacy, a distinction held for a long time by French, although some would say that English has replaced French as the lingua franca. Don’t ask me why.
Diplomacy is a big thing today, given the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine and other forms of aggression around the world. The art of diplomacy used to include rare skills like respect, restraint, civility and the like, which are in short supply all over the planet.
Esperanto is said to be relatively easy to learn and there’s even a free Google translator available.
I need to give a shout-out to somebody who has given a very even-handed description of the benefits and limitations of Esperanto, Jakub Marian. Although Jakub notes that Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed language, it’s still spoken by too few people to be recommended as a practical means of communication. Jakub also doubts that it could be the new lingua franca, although there are many who would disagree. Interlingua might be a candidate for that. There’s a Wikipedia article about it, but I can’t read it because it’s in Interlingua.
Moving right along, I might be embarking on one of my famous tangents here, but I noticed from a web search that of my favorite undergraduate college professors, Dr. Jenny Lind Porter-Scott (who died in 2020), was honored in October of 2021 with a poetry reading of her work in Texas.
The Texas Poets’ Corner sponsored A Virtual Evening with Jenny Lind Porter where she was honored by the appearance of Professor Cyrus Cassells, 2021 Poet Laureate of Texas.
Dr. Porter was a benefactor and patron of the Texas Poets’ Corner. In May of 2021, West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) announced a $2.8 million gift from her estate. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Texas, appointed in 1964 by then Governor John Connally. In 1979, she became the only woman to receive the Distinguished Diploma of Honor from Pepperdine University. She’s also in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
She also taught English Literature at an HBCU, Huston-Tillotson University, where I learned a lot from her back in the mid-1970s. She’s a fit person to remember and honor during Women’s History Month.
Why is this relevant to Esperanto? Esperanto translates into “one who hopes.” It suggests hope for a better world, which we all should do if we want the human race to survive. Dr. Porter embodied that.
There has been talk of nuclear weapons and World War III lately, connected with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A couple of Dr. Porter’s poems in her book, The Lantern of Diogenes and Other Poems, published in 1954, probably speak to this menace, albeit in classical language that might sound a little formal nowadays.
I have an old copy of this volume. A Texas bookseller sold it to me with a handwritten message, which I have kept:
Thanks for your purchase! It’s rare to find a book of this age that when you open the pages it creaks like it is unread. I guess someone liked the way it looked on their bookshelf! Haha. Enjoy the book and Happy New Year.
The two poems in the volume which probably are relevant to the present-day crisis in Ukraine are “Atomic Age 1953″ and ‘Atomic Age 2000.”
The first one sounds like it was written during the early 1950s when there was a lot of anxiety about atomic bombs.
The second one was puzzling to me until I looked at a timeline of the Nuclear Age. It sounds just as full of fear as the first, although it’s set much later in time, in the year 2000, about the time when the dismantling of Russian nuclear weapons was happening. But as time passes, uncertainty grows about the threat of nuclear war.
D-ro Porter skribis ambaŭ pecojn kaj ŝajnas, ke ŝi havis vizion de ĝena estonteco. Ni ne povas lasi ĉi tiun libron sidi nelegita sur la breto. Ni bezonas diplomation, ĉu ĝi estas en la formo de nova lingua franca aŭ simple simpla angla. English translation of Esperanto below:
Dr. Porter wrote both pieces and it seems like she had a vision of a troubling future. We can’t let this book sit unread on the shelf. We need diplomacy, whether it’s in the form of Esperanto, another new lingua franca, or just plain English.
Featured Image picture credit: Pixabaydotcom