The Ecphorizer

Notes of a Magaziner IX
Paul W. Healy

Issue #23 (July 1983)



Fifty years ago, when I was learning to drive, I did so in a Dodge Brothers sedan known affectionately as "Bauxite." It was the 1922 model; the doors and lower part of the body were made of aluminum, and the top parts of wood. Like most better-class [quoteright'/>vehicles of its day, it still had small vases for rosebuds mounted on the rear door posts and pull-down blinds on the rear doors and rear window. The generator and starter were a single unit, and it had a gear shift that has always seemed to me more sensible than any found in a modern car: when you wanted to go forward you pushed the lever forward and when you wanted to go backwards you pulled it back. Its four huge cylinders enabled it to reach a speed of 45 miles per hour - if you were going downhill and the wind was behind you.

Therefore I particularly enjoy the January 1904 issue of Frank LESLIE'S Popular MONTHLY (sic), headed "Automobile Number." The last 16 pages are devoted to "Pleasure Automobiles: A List of Those on the American Market." In three sections, it mentions 63 gasoline carriages, 4 steam carriages (using gasoline as fuel), and 21 electric carriages. A majority of the electrics looked like "horseless carriages" - they were built like buggies and were steered with a lever, not a wheel. The descriptions of the gasoline and steam models never mention their maximum speed, but those for the electrics do so frequently. The speed demon of the electrics was the Woods 1904 Victoria, described as follows:

"Two 2-1/2 hp electric motors mounted on the rear axle; 40-cell battery divided in body; 4 speeds; maximum, 18 miles an hour; wheelbase 70 inches; standard tread; weight, 2700 pounds; seats 2 persons; price $1,900. Broughams, coupes, landaus and landaulettes, from $2,100 to $3,500."

Just ahead of the automobile section was an article titled "The Correspondence School of Poetry," by Jim K. Hanna. Education was different in those days; Hanna begins by expressing regret that "so much time is spent by pupils of the public schools in learning arithmetic and so little learning the rudiments of poetry." (In today's public schools they learn neither). Regretting the decay of poetical art, he offers a sure-fire method for everyman to be his own poet. One starts with a verse written by any reputable poet -- the example chosen is from Wordsworth:

"'A slumber did my spirit seal;
    I had no human fears;
She seem'd a thing that could not feel
    The touch of earthly years.
No motion has she now, no force;
    She neither hears nor sees
Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course
    With rocks, and stones, and trees!'

"If we analyze this we find that the meter runs regularly in this manner:

Te tum, te tum, te tum, te tum,
Te tum, te tum, te tum,
Te tum, te tum, te tum, te tum,
Te tum, te tum, te tum,...

"And that the rhymes are:
.......................................seal
.......................................fears
.......................................feel
.......................................years
.......................................force
.......................................sees
.......................................course
.......................................trees."

One then picks any appropriate subject - preferably a modern one - and fills in the lines, using the rhyming words and suggested rhythm. I can attest that the method works. Here are three examples, using topical subjects:

The Creationists

Evangelists, with ardent zeal
Will still their children's fears,
With theories which, they truly feel,
Have been ignored for years.
They therefore will resort to force
To stop whoever sees
That humans took another course,
And came down from the trees!

The Summit Williamsburg

The leaders all agreed to seal
And still the nation's fears;
Their sentiments, they truly feel
Will last for many years -
And that without employing force.
In spite of that, one sees
That they may have missed, of course,
The forest for the trees.

The Democrats - 1984

Pandora's Box they now unseal,
And prey on voters' fears.
The candidates now surely feel
Their best in many years.
And thus each one now hopes to force
The vision that he sees
on others, who may stay the course,
When he takes to the trees!

Yes, I know: the Wordsworth stanza is poetry and the last three are mere doggerel. I therefore invite you, dear reader, to choose another poet, another verse, and do better. 

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Paul Healy




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