July 21: Light verse in a kilt
Consider the 1908 house.
It is filled, overwhelmingly, with reality: everything you see is actually there in the house, everything you hear (the neighbor's dog, your older sister trying, once again, the difficult part of the Mendelssohn on the piano) is locally generated. If only there were a screen you could roll in front of the window where you could watch photo-plays -- or, better yet, a competition between two offices, to see which was the better at performing choreographed musical numbers!
But there is no screen. There's just the room, filled with antimacassars, and the window, where it's raining.
It is in such a climate as this that the weird fondness of the Harvard Classics for Robert Burns becomes understandable. This feels like the 20th time I've had to cut my way through the jungles of "twa'" and "dinna," only to find, at the end, that my labors have brought forth light verse.
Who read this stuff? Scots fetishists, of course, and I get that; but I think Burns -- along with the other light-versifiers of the now-bygone print-intensive days, the FPAs, the Nashes -- are part of the bygone world of verbal entertainment, where words were the only means of escaping the antimacassars. But now, and this is probably true of poetry more generally, the broad effects are now done more effectively elsewhere, and its subtle effects -- well, there's not much of an audience for subtle effects.
Link here, BTW.