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In the title Ode on a Grecian Urn the word on may indicate location as well as subject. Depicted on the artifact that this song seems to be about is the performance of a song, which is sounded to the spirit by unheard pipes that are directed to “play on.” Are the two songs distinguishable? For that matter, a pipe is also a wine-cask, thus urn-like; vessel and instrument were brought together by Master Ford: “I think I shall drink in pipe-wine first with him [viz. Falstaff]: I’ll make him dance.” Compare the ambiguity in a title like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The White Knight alone could disentangle such threads.

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He’ll hear no tone
      Of the maiden he loves so well!
No telephone
      Communicates with his cell!

This post rests nowhere. Its only excuse is its theme.

The first extended simile in Paradise Lost compares Satan to

                                          that Sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ Ocean stream:
Him haply slumb’ring on the Norway foam
The Pilot of some small night-founder’d Skiff,
Deeming some Island, oft, as Seamen tell,
With fixed Anchor in his scaly rind
Moors by his side under the Lee, while Night
Invests the Sea, and wished Morn delays:
So stretcht out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay
Chain’d on the burning Lake….

As first the passage deserves special attention. “Of Man’s First Disobedience,” the poem begins, and it aims to establish itself as first—before what Homer tells, before every classical myth. When we reach Leviathan there has already been speech (In the beginning was the Word), but action is now heralded by the incidental tale of the Pilot’s error; the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor commence with a like story. What does it signify here? It is obliquely cautionary: a reader seduced by the fallen angel will but repeat the experience of Eve; no stability is in Satan, the leviathan that the Lord will punish.[1]

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The most frivolous compositions may have deep roots. In a letter (circa 1897) to his stepmother Lucy Housman, A. E. Housman muses,

Perhaps I myself may write a Hymn-book for use in the Salvation Army:

There is Hallelujah Hannah
    Walking backwards down the lane,
And I hear the loud Hosanna
    Of regenerated Jane;
And Lieutenant Isabella
    In the centre of them comes,
Dealing blows with her umbrella
    On the trumpets and the drums.

Or again:

“Hallelujah!” was the only observation
That escaped Lieutenant-Colonel Mary Jane,
When she tumbled off the platform in the station,
And was cut in little pieces by the train.
    Mary Jane, the train is through yer:
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
We will gather up the fragments that remain.

It seems to come quite easy.

The last line of the second hymn will be recognized as quoting John 6.12, where the (first) miracle of the loaves and fishes is treated. After the feast, Jesus “said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Similar language is found in the other gospels. But there is a far more ancient source for the two hymns together, namely the Bacchae of Euripides. In what follows I will give references (not exhaustive) by line numbers of that play.

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This is poem no. XXXII of A Shropshire Lad.

     From far, from eve and morning
        And yon twelve-winded sky,
     The stuff of life to knit me
        Blew hither: here am I.

     Now—for a breath I tarry
        Nor yet disperse apart—
     Take my hand quick and tell me,
        What have you in your heart.

     Speak now, and I will answer;
        How shall I help you, say;
     Ere to the wind’s twelve quarters
        I take my endless way.

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Whoso
Rousseau
Highly rates,

Savage
Cabbage
Freely grates.

Poem or fragment, the following lines of Keats cannot be too much admired.

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d — see here it is
I hold it towards you —

 
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In Mackail’s Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology is the following one, of Demodocus.

Πάντες μὲν Κίλικες κακοὶ ἀνέρες· ἐν δὲ Κίλιξιν
     εἶς ἀγαθὸς Κίνυρης, καὶ Κινύρης δὲ Κίλιξ.

All the Cilicians are bad men; but among the Cilicians
     there’s one good one, Cinyras; but Cinyras too is a Cilician.

(My translation.) Mackail thinks it is imitated from similar epigrams of Phocylides, among which is this, which begins with attribution to the author.

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Finally, in this last part, the lame Meter.

It was on the 4th of Messidor in the year VII that the standard meter, and with it the standard kilogram, were presented to the legislature. —What, Messidor? VII? Yes, the Republic had been inaugurated on September 22, 1792, and on that day (it was eventually decided) began Year I. Years of the Republic had twelve months of 30 days each, plus some festival days; and the months, each beginning around the 20th of an English month, were Vendémiaire (Vintage-y), Brumaire (Misty), Frimaire (Frosty), Nivôse (Snowy), Pluviôse (Rainy), Ventôse (Windy), Germinal (Bud-y), Floréal (Flowery), Prairial (Meadowy), Messidor (Harvest-giver), Thermidor (Heat-giver), Fructidor (Fruit-giver). These names, bestowed by Fabre d’Églantine, whose head was cut off for his pains, were probably thought more dignified and poetical than those contrived by Sir Gregory Gander for the English calendar:

Snowy, Flowy, Blowy,
Showery, Flowery, Bowery,
Hoppy, Croppy, Droppy,
Breezy, Sneezy, Freezy.

But they were hardly more exact. Besides, Sir Gregory kept his head. —Messidor began on June 20th, so the big day must have been June 23, 1799.

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As far as I know, this literary sub-genre, or sub-literary genre, is new.

A thrifty young thinker named Blaise
Took pains to preserve his pensées,
     But ere the fond hoarder
     Could set them in order,
He’d thoughtlessly spent all his days!

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In “The Two-handed Engine and the Fatal Bellman: ‘Lycidas’ and ‘Macbeth’” (Notes and Queries, April 1979, 126–128), June Winter showed that “Milton in his passage about the corrupt clergy (Lycidas, 108–31) is invoking imagery used by Shakespeare in passages of Act II in Macbeth, a play about corruption in the state of Scotland.”  Before learning of her work, I had collected evidence that the poem was connected to Act III of Macbeth, and in such a way as to suggest the association of Milton, or the singer of Lycidas, with Macbeth, and Edward King, or Lycidas, with legitimate royalty and Banquo in particular.

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