Poetry and the Mumps.

One need not be a chamber to haunted,
One need not be a house
The brain has corridors surpassing material place

Far safer of a midnight meeting external ghost
Than an interior confronting it whiter host

Far safer through an Abbey gallop
the stones achase
than moonless, one’s own self encounter
in lonesome place

Ourself behind ourself concealed
should startle most
Assassin hid in our apartment
be horror’s least

The prudent carries a revolver
he bolts the door
O’erlooking a superior spectre
more near

That’s a poem by Emily Dickinson. There are several versions of it, but this is the one that I learned. There are some dashes and punctuation missing. I can’t remember where they go. I just remember the words.
I’ll never forget the day I memorized it. July 26, 1997. It was my 40th birthday, and I had the mumps.

During the 2 weeks that I had the mumps I memorized a lot of poetry. I don’t know why. Maybe because I thought that I was going to die, and looked to poetry for answers and solace. IDK. I also read the Bible a lot. Mostly Proverbs, Psalms and the New Testament.

I not sure exactly how many poems I memorized, but it must have been around 3o. I still remember them. That Emily Dickinson poem about ghosts is the one that had the most effect on me.

It’s true you know. We are much more haunted by ourselves and what’s in our brain than we are by any spectre on the outside.

Another poem I memorized is O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman. It’s about Abraham Lincoln and his death.

I also memorized The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. It’s the poem that’s on the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
with conquering limbs astride from land to land
Here at our seawashed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
is the imprisoned lightening, and her name
Mother of exiles. From her beacon hand
Glows world wide welcome. Her mild eyes command
the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your stories pomp,” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I’m pretty sure that she’s talking about the Colossus of Rhodes in the first line. The Colossus of Rhodes is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was destroyed by an earthquake. If I remember correctly, Ptolemy III offered to pay for the reconstruction of it, but the Rhodians declined because they were afraid that they had offended Helios.

The New Colossus is similar – albeit on the other end of the spectrum- to, Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley. He was the husband of Mary Shelley, the girl who wrote Frankenstein.
Anyway, I don’t have that one memorized. I just know it’s about a big statue, similar to the Colossus of Rhodes, that has fallen. He speaks of how great he was and how people feared him. Only now, he has fallen and is broken into pieces. I guess it’s a message to great leaders who brag about how fabulous they are.

If you’re ever watching Jeopardy, and a question comes up about a poet who drowned, the answer is Percy Bysshe Shelley (Bysshe is pronounced like fish, only with a b instead of an f).
Just like if a question about a diarist from the 1600s comes up, the answer is Samuel Pepys (pronounced Peeps, not Peppis).

Hmmm…Originally this wasn’t supposed to be a blog post. It was supposed to be me just practicing my typing skills (Until a year ago I was Mr. Hunt and Peck. Then I bought a typing program and spent countless dyslexic hours with Mavis Beacon in an attempt to become Mr. Touchtype). Anyway, it turned into this rambling reflective mess.


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