23 June 2012

I Confuse the Two

Which, for this reason alone, is ridiculous:

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Alfred Lord Tennyson





















The fact that I put Tennyson's picture up on my wall of greats and purposely left Emerson off has no bearing on my ability to differentiate them. Not to mention the fact that one writes about mythological plants and legendary kings while the other eloquates on the American intelligence—and I infinitely prefer the former to the latter, especially after nodding off four times in the first four pages alone of "The American Scholar." (I know my high school teachers meant well.) But perhaps it is the similarity in their names (the vowel placement in their first and middle names only add to the confusion of their last names) that does the trick to me.

(Laugh only quietly from here on out.) 

I went to the library on the bold assumption that I would introduce myself to Mr. Keats. But poetry books were shelved happenstancely with various literary criticisms and how-to books, so it took me several minute to find the copy I was looking for.

By chance I glanced across an Emerson collection as my finger spanned the shelves for the Keats title. And the thought instantly came to my mind: the "Lotos Leaves" poem, the "Light Brigade," and the King Arthur cycles. Yes. I could do with some more of that kind of poetry. Had been meaning to delve into it for some time now. 

So I drew the hardback out of the shelf and hefted it in my hand. I hadn't expected poems about island weeds and British scandal to weigh so much; but that flattered my intelligence, I guess. I must have excellent taste if my interests naturally draw me to the weightier matters of literature.

So with my two titles in my hand, I checked out and marched back to my car, fully intent on spending the coming afternoons enveloped in Tennyson's mythological poesie and thinking how unfortunate it was that Emerson's dry dullness, his essayical verboseness, rendered him so much less appealing to the literary mind of young people these days. The man must be brilliant; but, come to think of it, I hadn't seen any of his work in the library at all.

(I mean it.)

I was pulling out of the parking lot before I looked at the title for the fifth time and my mistake dawned on me. Only my car saw me blush though. I think I smiled. It was Tennyson's work I hadn't spotted in the library—and what did that say about my taste? (Probably nothing, I comforted myself, since romance novels make up 60% of the collection at the library, paranormal and YA 30%, and movies the other 9% with biographies and study guides smattered here and there like a pinch of dust.)

I wasn't about to go back at this point. It had been hard enough to find Keats. My face was still red (it's always a hot summer day in a black car). And, the collection was Emerson's poetry and translations. Essays not mentioned. I suppose I could dabble in that. I would be a good loser. See if my mind comprehended Ralph Waldo's rhyme any better than his prose.

It's funny the unexpected turns life takes. Three days ago I was expecting to be enthralled in Arthurian legend. This morning, however, I shopped on Amazon for Persian poetry, Persian myth, and Iranian history. And bought books. Emerson did it to me. I only glanced at his Persian translations in the very back of the collection, and my own Persian blood started bubbling awake. While the books are on their way I'm going to devour the back pages of this book:


I looked up a collection of Tennyson too and added it to my shopping cart. But budget ruled; and the inspiration of Emerson prevailed...for now.

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