Thursday, January 04, 2007


At the TLS, David Malouf on Patrick White and Christopher Benfey on Longfellow's neglect.

Benfey quotes a poem I had never heard of until very recently when I came across a quotation in Marina Warner's latest book and tracked it down on the internet, a rather delightful poem called Hiawatha's Photographing written by Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson (this will be self-evident, but it's a satire on portrait photography written in the Hiawatha meter) that opens with these stanzas:

FROM his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod--
Crouched beneath its dusky cover--
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence--
Said, "Be motionless, I beg you!"
Mystic, awful was the process.

And so forth....

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