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Chapter & Verse

Correspondence on not-so-famous lost words

July-August 2019

Richard Kennelly seeks a poem he saw in the late ’70s, perhaps in The Atlantic Monthly, in which an older man muses about a youth who has a motorcycle; that causes him to recall his own past and the wild rush of riding horses. Kennelly remembers the phrases “The neighbor’s boy” (or “son”), “A bum in boots they call him,” and “The smell of horse sweat.”

Mark Saltveit submits two palindromes—Aspice nam raro mittit timor arma, nec ipsa / Si se mente reget, non tegeret Nemesis—that begin an elegiac Latin poem consisting of 58 palindromes attacking Duke Karl of Sudermannland (a.k.a. Charles IX of Sweden). Saltveit writes that the poem “is (impossibly) ascribed to Johannes a Lasco and likely Polish,” and hopes someone can identify the true author, or original source. (His friend William Berg translates those opening lines as: “Consider: for fear doesn’t send arms to everyone, nor does / Nemesis herself cover a man, if he rules himself with his mind.”)

“and drinking claret” (May-June). Sandra Opdycke was the first reader to recognize these slightly misremembered lines from the first book of Stephen Vincent Benét’s epic poem, John Brown’s Body. They appear in the section that introduces Sally Dupré, and describe her father: “And he died as he lived, with an air, on credit, / In his host’s best shirt and a Richmond garret, / Talking to shadows and drinking claret.”

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