Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I had the unexpected pleasure of waking up the boy to tell him that school's been canceled. While our forecast does call for sleet snow rain freezing rain sleet rain sleet freezing rain, there's nothing precipitating at the moment, and canceling school before a storm begins is not the Maine Way. Perhaps the headmaster is in some kind of Florida mood. Anyway, it looks as if I won't be driving to Bangor to fetch my repaired violin and thus won't be going to band practice tonight, which is just as well, given the frog-like state of my singing voice.

As I was drinking my coffee this morning, I glanced at another literary blog, which among other topics mentioned Keats's poem "La Belle Dame sans Merci." Immediately I was seized with a longing to read it, and you can find it here and read it too, if you are so inclined.

The first thing I noticed were the echoes of Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"--voice, character, mood. I have no idea if this was purposeful or accidental, and it doesn't matter anyhow. But I felt the ripples between the two poems.

The second thing I noticed was the gloomy teenage-boy narrator, palely loitering around the school lockers while the belle dame made another conquest in her elfin grot . . . "oh, she treats me mean, she treats me cruel."

Please don't bustle over to tell me that the poem is much greater and more subtle than my callow response might indicate. I know, I know, and truly I love it and believe it in it in ways that transcend that schoolboy reenactment. On the other hand, our adolescent selves never die. The hurt and glory and self-pity of those days thrum beneath our aging carapaces. We are damaged goods, and Keats makes sure I don't forget the old familiar clumsiness and pain, even as he urges me, and himself, beyond them.
I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

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