How is that I don't see myself in Epictetus, or Emerson, but this crappy poem, "The Scholar," by Robert Southey (the guy who Byron abused, here) gives me chills? Here's half of it:
My thoughts are with the Dead; with themIt's not Southey's intention (I don't think so, anyway), but the effect is that of someone who's turned their back on life in order to hang out with the Dead, who don't talk back; I know he says he "finds Instruction," but if you only seek the company of the dead, what good is it? And then it's so badly expressed -- "Through all Futurity" can only be read with that kind of simpering, po-em voice that makes you want to smash something with a baseball, (or, as the case may be, cricket) bat. Elsewhere in the poem, the word "weal" is also used.
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears,
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.
My hopes are with the Dead; anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.
And then I see myself in it. What the difference between me and "The Scholar," after all? Aren't I wrapping myself up in personnels like old plaids (to use a far superior poem)? When you stare into the crappy poet, the crappy poet stares back at you. It's like being out at a bar, feeling yourself to be charming and well-lit, quite the center of things, and then you go into the bathroom and you look in the mirror under the interrogation-quality fluorescent light and you go, My God, I look like shit.
Don't you hit the wall in a marathon about two thirds of the way through? I think that's what's happening to me. This reading, and ol' Zeke yesterday, is my Heartbreak Hill.