Ridership versus authorship

There seem to be word police inside my head sometimes, with a latent Mr Angry lurking to listen to them too!  This morning on Radio Four the head honcho of some coach company was spouting on about the launch of the Greyhound bus brand here in the UK.  I know what he intended to say.  I know what he meant. I listened to the Stephen Fry program on Radio Four which explained that saying "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo" makes perfect sense, though somewhat puzzling and missing a possible conjunctive.

Yet it annoyed me intensely that he had used this word.

But anyone using authorship (v.) does not bother me at all and, more worryingly, I am prepared to accept the collective of a readership (n.) without the slightest qualm.... 

The Mr Angry seems to have gone away now, and I remember my earlier mention of the poetry book group, which turned out to only have TWO of us and the librarian.  I cannot remember if I was brave enough to read it out, probably not because it is so well known as an example of type. In any case I had read no Gerald Manley-Hopkins (more's the pity; my library was woefully inadequate in the poetry department and could supply me none of his work, not even anthologised).

Now the Mr Angry is coming back! Can you guess why?  Yes, it is that use of "anthologised"!

Funny business this language stuff!

To His Coy Mistress  
by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart;
For, Lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
   But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
   Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapt power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

For goodness knows what reason I had the idea Marvell was an American poet!

But I did know he was metaphysical, as we clearly see in this oft-quoted example. There's a link to a John Cooper Clark work here, sort of; see if you like it.

His Coy Mistress to Mr. Marvell
Since you have world enough and time
Sir, to admonish me in rhyme,
Pray Mr Marvell, can it be
You think to have persuaded me?
Then let me say: you want the art
To woo, much less to win my heart.
The verse was splendid, all admit,
And, sir, you have a pretty wit.
All that indeed your poem lacked
Was logic, modesty, and tact,
Slight faults and ones to which I own,
Your sex is generally prone;
But though you lose your labour, I
Shall not refuse you a reply:

First, for the language you employ:
A term I deprecate is "coy";
The ill-bred miss, the bird-brained Jill,
May simper and be coy at will;
A lady, sir, as you will find,
Keeps counsel, or she speaks her mind,
Means what she says and scorns to fence
And palter with feigned innocence.

The ambiguous "mistress" next you set
Beside this graceless epithet.
"Coy mistress", sir? Who gave you leave
To wear my heart upon your sleeve?
Or to imply, as sure you do,
I had no other choice than you
And must remain upon the shelf
Unless I should bestir myself?
Shall I be moved to love you, pray,
By hints that I must soon decay?
No woman's won by being told
How quickly she is growing old;
Nor will such ploys, when all is said,
Serve to stampede us into bed.

When from pure blackmail, next you move
To bribe or lure me into love,
No less inept, my rhyming friend,
Snared by the means, you miss your end.
"Times winged chariot", and the rest
As poetry may pass the test;
Readers will quote those lines, I trust,
Till you and I and they are dust;
But I, your destined prey, must look
Less at the bait than at the hook,
Nor, when I do, can fail to see
Just what it is you offer me:
Love on the run, a rough embrace
Snatched in the fury of the chase,
The grave before us and the wheels
Of Time's grim chariot at our heels,
While we, like "am'rous birds of prey",
Tear at each other by the way.

To say the least, the scene you paint
Is, what you call my honour, quaint!
And on this point what prompted you
So crudely, and in public too,
To canvass and , indeed, make free
With my entire anatomy?
Poets have licence, I confess,
To speak of ladies in undress;
Thighs, hearts, brows, breasts are well enough,
In verses this is common stuff;
But -- well I ask: to draw attention
To worms in -- what I blush to mention,
And prate of dust upon it too!
Sir, was this any way to woo?

Now therefore, while male self-regard
Sits on your cheek, my hopeful bard,
May I suggest, before we part,
The best way to a woman's heart
Is to be modest, candid, true;
Tell her you love and show you do;
Neither cajole nor condescend
And base the lover on the friend;
Don't bustle her or fuss or snatch:
A suitor looking at his watch
Is not a posture that persuades
Willing, much less reluctant maids.

Remember that she will be stirred
More by the spirit than the word;
For truth and tenderness do more
Than coruscating metaphor.
Had you addressed me in such terms
And prattled less of graves and worms,
I might, who knows, have warmed to you;
But, as things stand, must bid adieu
(Though I am grateful for the rhyme)
And wish you better luck next time.

       -- A. D. Hope

An effective rejoinder to a great poem requires a poet, ideally one who appreciates and respects the poet under attack. How surprising that an Australian poet was "up for it"!  And Mr Hope is a new discovery to me also, along with the "Wondering Minstrels" poem by email service, which could inspire future blogs whereby I tag them also; watch this space!

P.S. Oh dear!  Listening to the radio again after I posted and up popps a portmanteau! There is a media debate concerning chuggers and possible legislation.  Yet again, how strange that this term, newly minted, does not bother me in the least.  I shall have to think on this and make a spiritual psting, perhaps, someday.  Something to do with caritas and Greek no doubt.


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  3. invisible under IE 8.0.6001.18702 as used at Uncles on and Acer running XP Pro SP3... Hey ho looks like blog author should fix this! (that's me!)

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  4. Hi - this is the blog author; posting from Firefox 3.5.2 on a Fujitsu Amilo netbook running XP Pro and as a sighted user I cannot see the second poem!

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