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May 18th, 2004

Yesterday's Forgotten English

'cause I was at home and the calendar is at work...

afflatus
A term which, among the ancients, denoted the supposed inspiration of particular persons such as poets. In a figurative sense, inspiration, enthusiasm.
--T. Ellwood Zell's Popular Encyclopedia of Knowledge and Language, 1871


To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme
In the preface to his masterpiece, Paradise Lost (1667), John Milton indicated his preference for blank verse, referring to "the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming ... Rhyme being no necessary adjunct or true ornament of poem or good verse, in longer works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age to set off wretched matter and lame metre." But John Dryden felt otherwise, writing the preface to his rhyme-verse play The Rival Ladies (1664): "Imagination in a poet is a faculty so wild and lawless that, like a high-ranging spaniel, it must have clogs tied to it, lest it outrun the judgment. The great easiness of blank verse renders the poet too luxuriant." Robert Frost concurred with Dryden, stating in a 1962 interview, "I'd as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down."

Y'know, I think there may be something to that -- which is one reason I don't care for most contemporary poetry that I've read.

-The Gneech

The Creepy Pathos of the Cicada

Cicadas: Nature's Candy :PThe 17-year cicadas are out and about; they're sorta like fat, black grasshoppers about an inch long, with red bulbous eyes. Despite the hysteria of local news agencies and some squeamish types, they don't generally come out in huge swarms. In fact, unless you're looking for them, a lot of times you won't see them at all. The main way you can tell they're out is an ever-present low-pitched whistle/whine that sounds uncannily like a phaser from the original Star Trek series.

If you do find actual cicadas, generally what you'll find is corpses. Apparently, sitting in the ground is the main thing that keeps them alive for 17 years. Once they're out of the ground, they find it much easier to die than to do anything else. Their body structure isn't really strong enough to support its own weight -- and neither is the structure that holds their wings on their body. So the cicadas climb up out of the ground, onto the nearest structure (be it tree, mailbox, or random wall), spread their wings to take off -- and then plummet to the ground where they go squish.

Or at least, the ones that haven't been eaten by the time they take off plummet to the ground and go squish.

There are several clusters of cicada bodies around the building here at work; and while it's kinda creepy to see cast-off shells and several fat black red-eyed grasshoppers clinging to the walls, it's also strangely sad to have to watch where you walk to avoid stomping on the pathetic remains of these one-hit wonders of nature -- the whole time still watching where you're going so you can duck when one of them randomly comes buzzing towards you at roughly 2 m.p.h. ... then smacks into a tree or just gives up and collapses to the ground.

It's hard to imagine that this bizarre species manages to survive long enough to reproduce; I can only guess that the survivors must produce a ton of offspring to make up from the DOA nature of their emergence.

Life is mysterious. :)

-The Gneech

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