Strange Yearnings


I am occasionally seized by ideas for projects and experiments that drive me mad until I can enact them. Some of these ideas are food related, such as the chimera that haunts my fever dreams to this day, Orange Pie. Others are sartorial, like my desire to put together a Doctor Who outfit, complete with 20-foot-long multi-colored scarf (this idea actually came to fruition, leading to an entire year of High School in which I wore said scarf every day. So when I counsel people to walk around in a flight helmet, know that I am not entirely kidding).

Today I woke up with urges mental and musical. First, I would like to memorize the entire Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's quite long, but people memorized the Aeneid to recite, why shouldn't I be able to memorize the Rime? This desire isn't really new, though; I've wanted to memorize the Rime since I encountered it in its full in college, and before that when I knew it from the flavor text of various Magic: The Gathering cards.

What's new is the musical aspect. Like most of the poems of Emily Dickinson, the Rime is written in Common Meter. As you know, Bob, poems written in Common Meter can be sung to a wide variety of songs, most prominently Yellow Rose of Texas. But there are some other interesting options, too, at very divergent speeds: (Hey!) You Got To Hide Your Love Away (By the Beatles) (Very slow), House of the Rising Sun (Also very slow), Beverly Hillbillies Theme (Very fast), Amazing Grace (Very slow), Auld Lang Syne (Pretty Slow), etc.

But the siren's song for me is the one that strikes me as absolutely thematically perfect: The Theme Song to Gilligan's Island. So now I feel compelled to, first, memorize the Rime, and second, learn to play the Gilligan's Island theme on the banjo. Then I can serenade people with my tale of woe, or sin, punishment and redemption on the high seas, of albatrosses and dead winds and desparation and zombie sailors, all while evoking the primal cultural images of Bob Denver, Mary Ann, and toasters made out of coconuts. It's all very Joseph Campbell Power of Myth.

So if all goes to plan, I should at some point in the near future have a very esoteric party trick.


Did your exposure to said Rime involve Douglas Adams, by any chance? I was recently compelled to look up the poem upon my umpteenth time finishing Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and wondering what the hell that was all about. Now, of course, I remember that my laptop crashed in the middle of my reading it, I never got around to finishing, and I'm still pretty shaky on what the hell that was all about.

As for the singing of it to tunes, if I should happen to see you in person before I forget about this, I may be compelled to kill you. I was doing all right as long as I was only thinking of the only two songs in your main list that I know (You've Got to Hide Your Love Away and The House of the Rising Sun). Then, though I should have known better, I went and opened the page with the poem on it and started thinking of the Gilligan's Island theme. Now there are two problems. One is that I laughed so hard through the first two verses that I almost stopped breathing and don't dare keep reading. The other is that I have the Gilligan's Island theme in my head, and as I may have mentioned, introducing simple, catchy, repetitive tunes or jingles into my head which are likely to get stuck there is my citable offense to end all citable offenses.

Zachary Sharpe, for putting the Gilligan's Island theme in my head and giving me, via the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a reason for it to get thoroughly stuck there, violation of the Feeble Protestations of 2005 and 2006 and the Infectious Music Control Act of 1990. First offense but one is more than enough.

The only other thing I can really say is that (Feeble Protestation notwithstanding) you have to do this, because no one else in the universe is likely to.

After posting this I went for a long walk on which I could not get the stupid House of the Rising Sun out of my head. What's really unfortunate is that I know quite a few of the stanzas of Rime, but have managed to avoid learning any of the lyrics to House. Before now, I would occasionally get House stuck in my head and be forced to hum it, but it was limited in its capacity to stay stuck there because I had no lyrics to go with it.

But now I've got the Rime lyrics to put in. So I was walking down the street today, softly mumbling to myself

"BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum, BUM, ba-da-dum BA-da-Dum-dum...
There is ... An an...cient mariiiiiiineeeeer.
Now where.... fore stopst... thou me?'"

But singing the entire Rime to the tune of House would be a truly epic undertaking, since the tune moves through the lyrics so ponderously. I figure that just the singing parts without the guitar noodling takes about 30 seconds per 4 line stanza. At just under 160 stanzas, that means singing the entire Rime would require a little less than an hour and twenty minutes. Assuming no guitar noodling.

Having said that, I'm a little surprised we haven't seen an enterprising prog rock band take up the challenge of a House cover with Rime's lyrics. Where's Emerson, Lake, and Palmer when you need them? Whither Rush?

And actually, I really did first come to Rime from Magic cards. You may not be familiar with them, but it was a somewhat complex collectible card game. Some of the cards had little flavor text at the bottom in italics; the text didn't affect how the card was played, but was supposed to get you into it a bit. In the early editions they aspired to somewhat higher culture than there target demographic probably possessed, and they would throw in relevant quotes from famous poems and novels. They really liked the Rime, what with all the mythic creatures and such. One of the zombie cards had a stanza from the Rime that I still remember to this day:

"They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise."

Oh! And my collegiate exposure to Rime came from being forced to read the whole thing for English 45B (Survey of Crappy English Literature). Although it was one of the few bright points in that class, smothered as it was by Mary Rowlandson's Captivity Narrative and Pamela.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on February 25, 2006 12:14 PM.

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