Spooneristic Misreading

After my trip to the U.N.C. library, I’ve been leafing through Toto Notus in Orbe, Perspektiven der Martial-Interpretation (ed. Farouk Grewing, Palingenesis LXV, Stuttgart, 1998). One sentence in T. J. Leary’s paper on the Xenia and Apophoreta caused a double-take. On page 46, he has just listed several filthy jokes in the two Saturnalian books, and goes on to explain that the two are not so different from the rest of Martial as one might expect: “They bear many of Martial’s most appealing hallmarks, for instance . . . .” Given the context, I at first misread this as “appalling heelmarks”.

My subconscious may have been influenced by Hank Thompson’s punning lyric:

Every man must leave his footprint
on the shifting sands of time,
but I’ll just leave the mark of a heel.
She was mine for ten long years:
that’s about ten thousand beers.

The story gets grimmer from there. Thompson seems to have been influenced by Emerson Longfellow:

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

I’ve always liked the anonymous parody:

Lives of great men all remind us,
As we o’er their pages turn,
That we too may leave behind us
Letters that we ought to burn.

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3 Responses to Spooneristic Misreading

  1. Marcello says:

    I should correct you: the series title is “Palingenesia”.

  2. Thanks. I’m much more familiar with the parody, which also seems a much better poem all around — not that “better than Longfellow” is all that high a standard.

  3. I think it’s Longfellow’s Psalm of Life, not Emerson.

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