Sidi J. Mahtrow


A Poet's Commentary on John Updike's Writing


Style has its rules, but notions change the mood.

We speak or write in prose or poetry,
Are eloquent or vulgar as we mean:
In verses or in song conveying best
The soft emotions gliding gently by.

Or images presenting of sad passions.
Taste has no rules, in vain the critics may
Endeavour to obtain them, keep in view:
The changing taste will baffle this attempt.

Of books there is no end; of readers,

Many admire the worst.
Let them indulge and wallow
In filth as nameless animals are apt;
Or Asses like on thistles feed and thrive.

Reading is metal food, the milk of souls,

Without this food we are like passive grubs
In mental sleep involv'd. The mind delights
To taste and sip of many sweets, or honey,
Gathered on all the flowers it can meet.

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, The World of Instability. A Poem, pp 183, J. Dobson, Chesnut Street. Philadelphia,1836.

Rafinesque seldom corrected his writings so that either his or his publisher's errors are to be found. The poem has been gently corrected by Sidi J. Mahtrow. The poem of 5400 lines has been republished by the University of Florida Press, as Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints,1956.

Constantine Rafinesque wrote on many subjects and is now recognized as perhaps America's earliest and premier botanist. His thoughts on evolution predated Darwin. The exception to Darwin's work is Rafinesque seeing the world and its inhabitants as constantly changing. He did not see change as leading to adaptation or perfection, thus he did not see change as an evolutionary process.

Rafinesque saw that in an imperfect world there is room for the likes of John Updike.

Submitted: Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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