Monday, November 16, 2009

haste thee, nymph

On Saturday I found a collection of old brown paper chapbooks, stained and falling apart at the spine, the ex-property of a girl named Dorothy Snudden, probably dead by now, because the date pencilled inside one of the covers under her name is 6/12/17. Dead Dorothy Snudden.

One of the booklets is Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, one is Henry Longfellow's Evangeline, one is Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso, one is Oliver Goldsmith and The Traveller, and one is Tennyson's Morte d'Arthur and The Lady of Shalott.

Right near "And a thousand thousand slimy things / Lived on and so did I," in the Ancient Mariner the owner has written Alma Duncan but there doesn't seem to be any connection between them besides the placement. I mean, it doesn't look as if she thought Alma Duncan was a slimy thing. She was only looking for a place to write the name. At the back of the book she's pencilled her own name five times with different emphases and decorated it with shapes that might be clouds or jellyfish or only curly doodles, although one of the curly doodles might be turning into the name Lily, emerging from a sort of umbrella or curved awning, and another one perhaps Eileen.

Next to "Like one, that on a lonesome road …" and "… behind him tread" she has drawn ticks and added, very wonderful.

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head ;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

Evangeline is unmarked and the Goldsmith is unmarked. Then you open L'Allegro, expecting it to be unmarked too, but here, only here, the margins are tangly with her pencil lines … sketched butterflies and flowers …

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