05 February 2012

a tidbit of the language Orghast

In August 1971, an experimental theatre group performed a spectacle at the ruins of the palace of Darius in Persepolis. Parts of the event were performed in Latin, Greek and Avestan, and part was done in a language called Orghast which was created by poet Ted Hughes. Here is a specimen:

I was in darkness

brought into light

I was broken in pieces

light healed me

Bits of information about the language and its development are scattered throughout the book Orghast at Persepolis by A.C.H. Smith (Methuen Publishing, 1972 and Viking Press, 1973). Used copies of this book are readily available from abebooks.com

It’s quite interesting to read about how the language evolved, how words that Hughes pulled out of thin air* turned out to have similarities to words in ancient languages, and how Orghast served as a lingua franca for the multinational theatre company on a few occasions – there was one situation in which a member of the group sent them a telegram written in Orghast.

If you are interested in artlangs, I recommend the book. There are lots of thought-inspiring quotations from Hughes about the relationships between the human body, poetry, and human languages.

  *Perhaps “pulled out of thin air” is a poor choice of words. Hughes said he created each word through a long meditative process.

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