The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

From Song of Myself

Never underestimate the ability of otherwise smart and sensible people to do things that are at times rather stupid and embarrassing. This time it wasn't me who did the stupid and embarrassing, but it very well could've been.

The time was my sophomore year at Goucher College in Baltimore. I was taking a Modern Poetry class and it was the beginning of the semester. There was one student in the class, an entertaining and energetic thespian, who was stocky with short brown hair. He was one of those guys you always saw outside in the summer on the grass, tossing the frisbee around or kicking the hacky sack or just doing something that was active and social.

In this poetry class, he was pretty talkative and had a habit of saying idiosyncratic things. But one of the stupidest things he said was when we were reading through some Walt Whitman. In that class most of our reading was from an anthology, the North Anthology of Modern Poetry, to be exact. It included poems and selections from various authors arranged chronologically. At the beginning were some of the earlier nineteenth century poets who have come to be considered sort of proto-modern, like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Lewis Carroll. With Whitman, it included some of his most notable short poems as well as his "Song of Myself." Now, of course, the anthology couldn't include the whole "Song of Myself" since it's a rather long poem, spanning some 60 pages in most editions. So, the editors had picked out some choice selections. To indicate that it was a selection and not the whole poem, the section was labeled "from 'Song of Myself.'" Nothing unusual here; this is standard practice in anthologizing.

So, the professor asked us what we thought about the meaning of the poem, what the author was trying to say and what the title indicates about the meaning and significance of the poem. And this fellows pipes up and starts talking about the significance of it being called "from Song of Myself," saying something like, "The fact that it's called from Song of Myself indicates that one's whole life is like a song to oneself, and that this poem is just a small piece of this much bigger song that he really can't articulate in words."

At this point, the professor had to cut in and somewhat sheepishly point at, "No, its called 'from Song of Myself' because it's a selection from the poem 'Song of Myself'" Our professor was a very nice woman, so I imagine she was trying to be careful not to embarrass him. To all appearances, he seemed completely unembarrassed, and proceeded to make an another comment. In fact, the whole semester, he seemed quite unashamed to speak out, indifferent to whether they were stupid or irrelevant. Though he may not have added too much to the depth of the class, he certainly made it interesting.

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