By which we mean not “the mysterious poetry inherent in random events,” but rather “for no real reason, today, here’s some poetry.” The Madness of Sweeney is a landmark work of medieval Irish literature, one that has stood the test of time and inspired writers ranging from T.S. Eliot to Neil Gaiman.
Also, it is totally emo. Observe!
God has given me life;
without music, without rest,
without woman’s company,
he gave me life,
and so you find me here
living disgraced in Ros Bearaigh;
the life God gave
seems somehow dislocated.
You do not wish to know me.
Later, it starts to get into goth territory,
Madness shrieks beneath my feet
as I search for watercress.
Madness lurks among the reeds
leaping at me when I stoop
about a hill-pool.
Madness has a white and haggard face.
and then sometimes it’s just weird:
O great God above
my weakness is also great
and black are the sorrows of Sweeny
whose scrotum hangs slack.
The excerpts above are from a modern translation by Trevor Joyce, which you can read for free on his website; if you prefer a somewhat more “translator-y” translation, J. G. O’Keefe’s 1910 version is available here.
Never let it be said that we don’t sometimes class it up around this joint.
Can somebody trustworthy please explain to me what precisely “emo” means as a cultural term, independent from music?
I mean, I think I know, and I could look it up in any number of places I’d never cite on a paper, but I’d like to hear somebody say so with a sense of authority.
The impression I have is that it now pertains to a depressed and melodramatic disposition. Sullen, pessimistic, and, I think rather importantly, wallowing (due to a masochistic tendency). The “emo kids” I know of all share the same trait of rejecting others with the excuse that others would reject them if they didn’t strike first– a cycle of repetition, chicken-or-the-egg situation. And the ones I know blow things out of proportion. You got a splinter? OH MY EFFING GOD, LET ME GET THE SHOTGUN!
Granted, I think most “emo” people have serious psychological issues that need to be worked out with some therapy and meds, but it can get tiresome when absolutely NOTHING will cheer them up because no matter what, they always, always turn whatever I say into something negative. I could say, “Wow, it’s a nice day,” and they’ll say, “UV rays give you cancer.” I could say, “This salad is tasty,” and they’d say, “Some kid in Africa is starving right now.” I really can’t win.
But to gain the status of “emo” instead of just depressed/depressing, there is also a certain wardrobe, hair, and makeup style. Lots of black eyeliner and mascara, no matter what gender; hair that hides the face (sometimes with a lot of gel in it and spikes); skin-tight jeans with a style circa 1985 or thereabouts; sometimes ties and/or wrist sweatbands; and Converse or similar shoes. Not quite goth, but definitely inspired by it.
Mad TV did a nice job satirizing it here: