Posted by Bob on January 08, 2007
In Reply to: I met a man upon the stair posted by Smokey Stover on January 08, 2007
: : : : I would like to know what this means I heard it the other day,,,,I met a man upon the stair who was'nt there,he was'nt there again today, I wish I wish he'd stay away.thankyou I hope you can help..
: : : It's a misquote of the first stanza of a poem by Willian Hughes Mearns:
: : : The Little Man Who Wasn't There
: : : Last night I saw upon the stair
: : : A little man who wasn't there
: : : He wasn't there again today
: : : Oh, how I wish he'd go away...
: : : It goes on for a bit more, but this stanza is what people remember. And/or misquote.
: : I'm sorry. You asked for what it means. Hmmm. Well, it means nothing. It's a bit of novelty verse, a little nonsense. It's a little like Gelette Burgess' famous...
: : I never saw a purple cow,
: : I hope I never see one.
: : But I can tell you anyhow,
: : I'd rather see than be one.
: : This charming little bit of nonsense became so popular that, some years later, Mr. Burgess wrote:
: : Ah yes, I wrote the Purple Cow,
: : I'm sorry now I wrote it.
: : but I can tell you anyhow,
: : I'll kill you if you quote it.
: Gelett Burgess' poem about the Purple cow is a parody of a famous poem by Emily Dickinson, known to millions.
: I never saw a moor,
: I never saw the sea;
: Yet know I how the heather looks,
: And what a wave must be.
: I never spoke with God,
: Nor visited in heaven;
: Yet certain am I of the spot
: As if the chart were given.
: There's an alternate version, with the lines "And what a billow be" and "As if the checks were given." I prefer the version above.
: When I was in the fourth grade we were assigned to draw, with crayon, a picture representing our impression of the meaning of the poem. We were also told that it was by Sara Teasdale. Well, veracity was not of great moment in the grade school that I attended.
Back during the last ice age, when I taught high school English, I was one day teaching an Emily Dickinson poem to a class that included one young man nicknamed Spider. Spider was a 6'7" basketball player who arranged his spindly body into a desk in the front row. I had just read the opening line, "within my garden rides a bird" to which Spider added, without missing a beat, "doo dah, doo dah." It cracked everybody up, including me. 40 years later, I vividly remember the twinkle in his eye.