(Editor's Note: This is the second segment to the unpublished post(s) of February 2009. Reading this portion now, with six and one-half years having come and gone since it was written, it seems sort of mystifying to me, even a bit silly. I wish I could recall the reasons why I tied it in with the first piece about the decline of journalism. I know that at the time I thought there was more truth to be found -- quite literally -- in a piece of poetry than in a newspaper or in a television newscast or in a political blog. I believe such is even more the case today. Beyond that, since these words and thoughts were written less than a month after I had begun "San Francisco," it seems obvious in reading this piece that among the things I was doing was adding another element in my attempt to introduce myself to anyone who might pass by here and pause to read here. Perhaps, most symbolically unique is the fact that it was on July 11 when I "re-discovered" this forgotten post, with its words about Emily Dickinson and her poem about death, and with its mention about the deaths of George Gordon / Lord Byron and Percy Shelley .... and, July 11 was the same day I published my post about dying, death, divine comedies and my burial. Finally, once again the music was part of the original, unpublished 2009 post, but an illustration had not yet been selected to accompany it back then.)
Discovering Emily & rescuing Percy's heart
I have no idea how many people browse the "sea of blogs," either idly or in a pattern searching for common interests, but it really is a fascinating pastime. My brief periods of exploration the past few days have centered on poetry.
A few sites I have visited are primarily dedicated to one or more well-known poets. The other day, for example, I found one where Emily Dickinson was featured. There was a photograph of Ms. Dickinson. Although one of my college majors was English, I recall rarely ever seeing an actual photo of her before. I wonder why ....
The carriage held but just ourselves
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.
Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.
My own studies of verse have revolved mostly around the British poets of the 17th/18th/19th centuries. Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Milton, Pope, Donne and their brethren, to name a few. English major snobbery, I suppose.
The only recent American poet I ever took a close look at was James Dickey, and only then because I consider his novel, "Deliverance," to be a classic -- a heroic tale told in contemporary style and language. Besides that, it is about canoeing and the "zen of archery," and there you are talking my language. So, if I like his novel, it could be I would like his poetry, too. Right? Yes, right. I do like it.
Speaking of novels and British poets, may I recommend another of my favorite works of fiction, "The Missolonghi Manuscript," by Frederic Prokosch. George Gordon / Lord Byron spent the last few months of his life in Missolonghi in Greece, where he died at the age of thirty-six in 1824. This novel is presented as if it were the memoirs of the dying man, written as he reviews his entire life. Byron, in addition to being a poet of the first order, literally was the No. 1 "rock star" of his time among all circles of social celebrities in Britain and on the Continent.
Prokosch, incidentally, was a Wisconsin native who spent most of his adult life in Europe and was sort of a man of mystery. He is a character worth researching in his own right and a writer worth reading.
Among the ingredients of the novel are accounts of the death by drowning of Percy Bysshe Shelley and his funeral pyre ceremony, at which Shelley's heart was snatched from the flames by Edward Trelawny as a macabre memento. Trelawny gave Shelley's heart to Leigh Hunt, who later gave it to the widow, Mary Shelley. The heart was entombed sixty-seven years later in the coffin with Shelley's son, Percy Florence Shelley, upon his death.
It strikes me as a book with something for everyone who has a taste for the truly literary, and it might lead you deeper into the lives and works of Percy and Mary Shelley and George Gordon / Lord Byron, if you have not discovered them before now.