Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fragments of Poetry

As a child, I used to know quite a lot of poetry by heart. There's no better way to learn the beauty of language.

I can still remember fragments of some of these poems. And in certain cases, more than just fragments. For instance, I still know most of Jabberwocky and all of Tennyson's The Eagle from back then.

But one of these poems has always bothered me over the years. All I could remember was that it was about a man who was standing "amidst a bed of wild geranium" for some reason. The poem had a uniform rhyme, words ending in "-ium", like "geranium", and one other word that inexplicably stuck in my mind: "cranium". But that's all my memory could tell me. That, and how much I had loved that poem.

Until now: enter Google. It turns out the poem is called "Uriconium" and was written by James Reeves. (Uriconium, incidentally, was a large ancient Roman City near what is now Wroxeter in Shropshire, England.)

The poem is of the kind that's usually classified as "nonsense verse", but it the classification and not the poem that's nonsense.

This cannot be nonsense; this is sheer class:

There was a man of Uriconium
Who played a primitive harmonium,
Inventing, to relieve his tedium,
Melodies high, low, and medium,
And standing on his Roman cranium
Amidst a bed of wild geranium,
Better known as pelargonium,
Since with odium his harmonium
Was received in Uriconium.

- James Reeves

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