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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Number 113: Browning, Starbuck and Bierce

Pippa's Song (from Pippa Passes)

The year 's at the spring,
And day 's at the morn;
Morning 's at seven;
The hill-side 's dew-pearl'd;
The lark 's on the wing;
The snail 's on the thorn;
God 's in His heaven—
All 's right with the world!

--Robert Browning

Pigfoot (with Aces Under) Passes

The heat’s on the hooker.
Drop’s on the lam.
Cops got Booker.
Who give a damn?

The Kid’s been had
But not me yet.
Dad’s in his pad.
No sweat.

-- George Starbuck

With a Book

Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning—
Sense lacking.
Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning,
Save blacking.

-- Ambrose Bierce

Hap Notes: Well, it's Saturday and back in my childhood that meant we could watch cartoons in the morning! Frankly, outside of the hour before and after school, that's the only time cartoons were on television then. Now, of course, they are on 24/7 which delights me at 3 in the a.m. but gives one pause as to who else (aside from goofs like me) is watching them. Anyway, here is the poetry equivalent of Saturday morning cartoons.

First we have the song Pippa sings in Browning's long poem about a young innocent girl and her meanderings during one day, "Pippa Passes". It's a play in verse and "Pippa's Song" is one of the most quoted passages of Browning's work. I'd be amazed if you've never heard that last verse. Let's call this the "Disney" cartoon even though Pippa's song in the poem gets more and more ironic as her day passes. (The painting is from a children's book of Pippa by Frank Adams)

Then we have our poet of yesterday, George Starbuck, in one of his "translations from the English." He takes Pippa's song, hips it up as street lingo and gives us "Pigfoot." We'll use a couple more of his "translations" later this year- they are astute and amusing. This is the Warner Brothers cartoon where the Disney cartoon is imitated and given a hip twist and a bit of ridicule.

Finally we have that curmudgeon of a journalist/writer Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913?) who gives us a pun as he takes a swipe at Browning's intensity and length. We'll call this the Tex Avery cartoon although it might be more of a Rocky and Bullwinkle moment (remember their "poetry corner"?) Bierce is not known for poetry (even though he wrote two volumes of it) but I have a soft spot for him because of his immensely clever Devils Dictionary, his extraordinary short stories and he and I share the same birthday. The question mark at his death date is just to indicate that he moved to Mexico and disappeared. It's a fascinating story I'll let you discover on your own.

Here's Bullwinkle reading Wordsworth:

Happy Saturday!

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