Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Have Been Faithful to Thee...er, uh, Adele

My Moleskine notebook is often a promising last resource when searching, as today, for the equivalent of lecture notes for a class scant hours away.

This is week ten of a fifteen-week semester, at which point I have come to believe that I have already lectured, assigned, conversed, and otherwise consulted away the material I always consider around week one or two to be so abundant.

First things first: there was absolutely no help for a lecture topic in the Moleskine.

Second things second: an intriguing and vital topic came to mind, thus relieving the pressure and in a circuitous but familiar way, preparing the way for the subconscious to begin filling in the interstices as I write this.

Third things all present and accounted for. What I did find in the notebook was the hastily scrawled name, Adele Helen Flotinowicz, which gave me a momentary pang of wondering which student she was and how I had come to lose track of her. Was she a name scribbled down in order to answer a query from that most magisterial of Deans, Susan Kamei?

But stay you, gentle reader. Adele Helen Flotinowicz was no student of mine, she was a tangential relic from yesterday's blog about names. She was the much beloved of a minor Victorian poet, Ernest Dowsen, composer of the quivvery and orotund Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae. Adele Helen was as splendid a reason as Dowsen had for drinking himself to death with absinthe. No other reasons would sound so good for the ages. She, Adele, gave him early encouragement, but then settled for a tailor who occasionally waited tables at her father's restaurant.

Last night, ah, yesternight, betwixt her lips and mine
There fell thy shadow, Cynara! thy breath was shed
Upon my soul between the kisses and the wine;
And I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, I was desolate and bowed my head:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion...

Dowsen transformed Adele Helen Flotinowicz into a queen, having recalled his Latin lessons in Catullis: "The days when Cynara was queen are lost to me." Alas, it was not bad enough that Adele Helen went for the tailor, she also was victim of tuberculosis and the resulting ebbing away of her vitality. Ever the opportunist, Dowsen got the lines:

I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing to put thy pale lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion;
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.

So there we have it, the lost lilies, Adele's funeral lilies.

If you were to Google Cynara, you'd get the notion that one of the things that was in a name is thistle, which is to say artichoke.

I have been faithful to thee, Artichoke!

Nope. Doesn't get it.

What it comes down to is the individual taking whatever the individual gets in life. I noticed earlier today an infant porcupine being reclassified as a hedgehog, which in no way undercuts the inherent adorableness of the young animal in question, it merely asks us to transcend any negativity we might have about names and classifications.

Come to think of it, I, and a beloved dog once had an issue with a porcupine which meant finding a vet in Farmington, New Mexico, to remove from the nose of a blue-tick hound a number of porcupine quills. Does this make Smiler's porcupine, er, hedgehog any the less wonderful? Not a chance. That is one splendid porcupine, er hedgehog, er whatever.

But you see how even the genus species of the animal causes the language to go judgmental with that one whatever?

Eventually we will find out what Smiler has named her new friend and from that name be able to deduce things.

Oh, and by the way, the name of the dog who had to go to the vet in Farmington? Smith, Jedediah Strong Smith.

I for some time have been urging upon students the notion that the mere naming of a character brings that character to life. Now this observation extends to judgment. This certainly extends to animals. Only the other day I was speaking happily about a group of squirrels squatting in a tree adjacent to my study. "Them's nothing but rodents," one listener observed. And I immediately knew what he thought about squirrels and what I thought about him.


Smiler said...

If naming the little munchkin's what'll get me off the hook for my transgression, then I shall find a proper first name and surname no later than today.

I guess getting a name wrong could have grave consequences in some instances. What comes to mind is someone calling one mobster by one name, say Bentivegna, when in fact that person belongs to the the rival clan, the Scaglia family. That could get very ugly indeed. I shudder to think of it.

geopelia said...

Isn't the title from Horace, not Catullus?