At breakfast this morning, my brother-in-law, who is visiting us, asked, apropos of nothing: "Longfellow's 'Evangeline.' That's in iambic pentameter, right?"
No, I replied pedantically, it's dactylic hexameter, and I proceeded to chant:
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
(Old Henry W. was no Virgil, partly because English isn't Latin. He had to throw in a few trochees to keep things moving along.)
Don't ask me how I remember that. I haven't read "Evangeline" since eighth-grade English class. (You can imagine the snickers at "harpers hoar.") How is it I can remember something [mumbles a number] years ago, but can't remember what I had for dinner last night?
Anyway, that got me thinking (always a perilous thing to provoke) about stuff one remembers and stuff one doesn't. Like song lyrics, for example. Lately, I've got "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy stuck in my head. But when I try to supply the lyrics, I can't remember them. Like the ending, just before Ethel or Angela or Tyne or Bernadette or Patti belts out "Everything coming up roses for me and for you!" There are three lines that go:
Honey, everything's coming up [something and something else]!
Everything's coming up [more stuff and still more stuff]!
Everything's gonna be [these things and other things]!
But I can never remember what's coming up. So I substitute my own words:
Honey, everything's coming up hopscotch and sauerkraut!
Everything's coming up bluebells and cantaloupe!
Everthing's gonna be Dagwood and Mickey Mouse!
But that can't be right, so I Googled it, and learned that it's "roses and daffodils," "sunshine and Santa Claus," and "bright lights and lollipops." With all due respect to Stephen Sondheim, I think I like my version better.
Anyway, I guess the point of this is what Milton's Satan said:
The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.
Well, yeah. But it can also make a mess of things.