Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sic Transit Trivium

Five years ago today I was in New York taping Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and I got to thinking about the way trivia changes as we age. If you don't know what I mean, try watching a re-run of You Bet Your Life. Groucho asked some trivia questions that seemed really obscure but must have been gimmes in the 50's. For example, they might chat with a professional hobo about the best places to get a free meal and the folksy gent might woo the audience with his home-spun humor and earthy appearance. Then Groucho would say it's time to play you bet your life. "What father of modern critisism studied at Coll├Ęge Royal, Lyon from 1832-36?" And without pausing our hobo responds, "Baudelaire!". Ding, ding, ding. That's right. Such is the nature of what every school boy knows. On this day that holds no small significance to me, enjoy this annotated version of Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, by Emily Dickinson (1852).

Sic transit gloria mundi
"How doth the busy bee"
Dum vivamus vivamus
I stay mine enemy!--

Oh veni vidi vici!
Oh caput cap-a-pie!
And oh "memento mori"
When I am far from thee

Hurrah for Peter Parley
Hurrah for Daniel Boone
Three cheers sir, for the gentleman
Who first observed the moon--

Peter put up the sunshine!
Pattie arrange the stars
Tell Luna, tea is waiting
And call your brother Mars--

Put down the apple Adam
And come away with me
So shal't thou have a pippin
From off my Father's tree!

I climb the "Hill of Science"
I "view the Landscape o'er"
Such transcendental prospect
I ne'er beheld before!--

Unto the Legislature
My country bids me go,
I'll take my india rubbers
In case the wind should blow.

During my education
It was announced to me
That gravitation stumbling
Fell from an apple tree--

The Earth upon its axis
Was once supposed to turn
By way of a gymnastic
In honor to the sun--

It was the brave Columbus
A sailing o'er the tide
Who notified the nations
Of where I would reside

Mortality is fatal
Gentility is fine
Rascality, heroic
Insolvency, sublime

Our Fathers being weary
Laid down on Bunker Hill
And though full many a morn'g
Yet they are sleeping still

The trumpet sir, shall wake them
In streams I see them rise
Each with a solemn musket
A marching to the skies!

A coward will remain, Sir,
Until the fight is done;
But an immortal hero
Will take his hat and run.

Good bye Sir, I am going
My country calleth me
Allow me Sir, at parting
To wipe my weeping e'e

In token of our friendship
Accept this "Bonnie Doon"
And when the hand that pluck'd it
Hath passed beyond the moon

The memory of my ashes
Will consolation be
Then farewell Tuscarora
And farewell Sir, to thee.

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