The mystery of poetry

When I was young, I would listen to the adults who occupied important positions in my enterprise, then I would try to decipher what they said. I was a very polite young lad and would never have dreamed of questioning their enthusiasm for Iwanderedlonelyasacloud, and I could just stomach themoonlikeaghostlygalleon. Later of course, as I was passing through the phase of a boy’s development usually called the early priapic, I had a brief period of infatuation with vaguely naughty stuff:

The boy stood on the burning deck,
His pockets full of barley,
A mouse ran up his trouser leg
and ate away his —-lie.

When I became more mature, I eschewed such childish frivolities. I was entering the late priapic and preferred things like:

Do you remember an inn, Miranda?
Do you remember an inn,
And the tedding and the spreading
Of the straw for bedding
And the fleas that tease, etc.
(I was really getting into the problems of Miranda’s lover, and his totally understandable preoccupation with getting into Miranda. . . )

I was in short getting to understand the mystery of poetry.
But wait! There was more!

Secretly, I was convinced that my adults were all psychotic, engaged in a huge conspiracy to have me swallow the outlandish proposition that ahostofgoldendaffodils made some kind of attractive image that would make me misty-eyed. Then one day, not that long ago, (passing through the delayed priapic), I came across two lines of poetry written some two thousand years ago.
These were part of the epitaph written by Marcus Valerius Martialis (aka ‘Martial’ ) for a six year old girl:

O Earth, Lie light upon these bones,
That were so light on thee!

Suddenly I was misty eyed!
I jumped to my feet and punched the air. I yelled, “That was beautiful!”
Then, when I had settled down, I said more quietly, “You bastards! Why didn’t you tell me?”

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2 responses to “The mystery of poetry”

  1. elainecanham says :

    Those lines by Martial are beautiful, aren’t they? Thank you for introducing him to me.

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