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August 29th, 2008

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11:54 am - Lorem Ipsum
A poem

Lorem Ipsum

Equals overlooked
As books reprinted, though they are not read

Galley proofs from my publisher
Typeset, demonstrating pagination;
Where they trust my meaning at some future time will be
Conventional blocks of dummy text are placed

Look more closely, author
Inspect that dummy text

Lorem Ipsum dolor sit amet
consectetur adipisci elit

That's not real Latin, though it sounds like it

sed do erismod tempore
incididunt et labore

At a pinch it could be said to rhyme

et dolore magna

What does that mean?
Is it about suffering?
Like someone talking in another room
About something rather ominous,
Or a Harry Potter spell
Which is unsuitable for children?

Printers and web designers use the Lorem text
To indicate where words will be, that are not yet
'Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet'
They used to dole it out by inches,
Now they measure pixels with it.

It's a corruption of a text by Cicero
De Finibus Bonorum
Et Malorum

The end of good and evil
Beginning at the verse in which he says
"There is surely no-one
Who loves pain of itself
And seeks to suffer"

I'm not so sure as Cicero
That men will always turn away from pain
Perhaps it was so in ancient Rome
But I doubt it

At the factory
Of William Caxton,
Or of Gutenberg in Mainz
In the fifteenth century
A printer's devil jumbled thick inked blocks
Of copper, cast from sand
Scrambled the Latin text of Cicero
Into a square of gibberish
To demonstrate his workmanship
Or fill some empty space
Where words were going to be, but were not yet

Westminster light long glossing the fresh oak
The mediaeval smell of waxy smoke
The huge printing engines
Made from wine presses
Elephantine screws with hand-cut splintering thread
Groaning as they squeeze the type onto the bed
The incunabulum of all the words to come
Bursting unquenchable, uncountable paper
"You're nothing but a pack of cards"
Or a fall of leaves
Onto my lap

There's always space for what seems meaningful
But does not embarrass with excess of meaning
That primal scrambled text was copied
For five hundred years
Lorem ipsum dolor
"Who loves pain of itself"
Like a mutation copied into DNA
Which out-survives its true progenitor
Corruption which enhances fitness
Still recognised by those who deal
In Linux, Java and HTML
And have forgotten Cicero
Who thought that no man ever wanted pain.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)

There is so very much to absorb and apprciate in this wonderful poem. It has left me with a wonderful sense of "ah-ha!" at finally learning where that mysterious Lorem Ipsum text comes from. I've recently seen "Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press," so the images you evoke of wine presses and the groaning of the mechanism that squeezes type onto the bed are still vividly with me.

But the deeper text--which will take me some time to absorb--is absolutely enthralling. Doling out and dolor, the "elephantine screws" and the DNA, ink and incunabulum, the idea that no text, however meaningless, is really without meaning--even the excess of meaning that can be so embarrassing; and the notion that all text is, or can be, oracle: "You're nothing but a pack of cards / Or a fall of leaves."

And I haven't even figured out the pain part! (Though...nice little joke at the end about the pain of Linux, Java, and HTML...)

I will spend more time with this because I'm finding it stunning and fascinating.
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks emeraldsedai. That's a lovely reading of the poem. I was thinking of Stephen Fry's documentary when I wrote that section. Also I am fascinated at the moment by the middle ages.

ETA - I didn't express it well enough. What you've said is exactly what I was trying for.

Edited at 2008-08-29 09:46 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Really? Cool! It's not often that a reader gets to find that out.

I was going to wonder, too, whether there is ever really a moment when one isn't fascinated by the middle ages.
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:August 30th, 2008 07:37 am (UTC)
Thank you
[User Picture]
Date:August 29th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)
Oh! That's wonderful! I love the imagery and the tying together of ancient and modern, and the rhythm and beauty of the words (English and pseudo-Latin).

Have you considered publishing a book of poetry?
[User Picture]
Date:August 30th, 2008 07:34 am (UTC)
Thank you. I wouldn't know how to start getting poetry published on my own account, or whether anyone would be interested. I was wondering whether I should send poems to little magazines or something.
[User Picture]
Date:August 30th, 2008 09:42 am (UTC)
You could ask sheenaghpugh for advice. :-)

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