Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Misquoting from memory

I’m glad that I reread Yeats’s “Easter, 1916” before spoofing one of its lines in a post yesterday. Writing from memory, I had “The stone’s in the midst of it all.” That’s how I’ve had the line in my head since I was an undergrad. But no. Yeats’s poem reads, “The stone’s in the midst of all.” There is no it, not in the variorum text of Yeats’s poems, not elsewhere. I must have turned the last five words of the line into a pair of anapests: x x / x x /, in the MIDST of it ALL. Yeats’s anapest and iamb make a more oracular sound: x x / x /, in the MIDST of ALL.

The curious thing, as I’ve discovered, is that I’m not alone in my mistake. Here’s a lit-crit it from 1953. Here’s one from 2000. And here’s Harper’s in 2008, adding an it not to a quotation but to the poem itself.

Now I’m wondering what else I’ve misquoted from memory. July is the cruellest month.

[A Yeats typescript. From the Huntington Digital Library.]

comments: 4

misterbagman said...

Every month is the cruellest month, if one be but willing to embrace the suffering of the season.

Or something like that. Sometimes my cynicism fancies itself a poet.

Michael Leddy said...

Go for it!

misterbagman said...

I'm not so sure I should. In these dark days I give my cynicism perhaps too much air time. Which is why I enjoy turning to your blog, Michael - it reminds me that there is art and beauty in the quotidian. Thank you.

Michael Leddy said...

I meant to go for the poet part, but I wasn’t being clear. I too don’t want to succumb to cynicism.