MarginaliaSometimes the notes are ferocious,skirmishes against the authorraging along the borders of every pagein tiny black script.If I could just get my hands on you,Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,they seem to say,I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -Nonsense. Please! HA!! -that kind of thing.I remember once looking up from my reading,my thumb as a bookmark,trying to imagine what the person must look likewho wrote Don't be a ninnyalongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.Students are more modestneeding to leave only their splayed footprintsalong the shore of the page.One scrawls Metaphor next to a stanza of Eliot's.Another notes the presence of Ironyfifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,Hands cupped around their mouths.Absolutely, they shoutto Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.Yes. Bull's-eye. My man!Check marks, asterisks and exclamation pointsrain down along the sidelines.And if you have managed to graduate from collegewithout ever having written Man vs. Naturein a margin, perhaps nowis the time to take one step forward.We have all seized the white perimeter as our ownand reached for a pen if only to showwe did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;we pressed a thought into the wayside,planted an impression along the verge.Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoriajotted along the borders of the Gospelsbrief asides about the pains of copying,a bird singing near their window,or the sunlight that illuminated their page-anonymous men catching a ride into the futureon a vessel more lasting than themselves.And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,they say, until you have read himenwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.Yet the one I think of most often,the one that dangles from me like a locket,was written in the copy of Catcher in the RyeI borrowed from the local libraryone slow, hot summer.I was just beginning high school then,reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,and I cannot tell youhow vastly my loneliness was deepened,how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,when I found on one pageA few greasy looking smearsand next to them, written in soft pencil-by a beautiful girl, I could tell,whom I would never meet-Pardon the egg salad stains, but I am in love.
Billy Collins
Through Rohan over fen and field where the long grass growsThe West Wind goes walking and about the walls it goes.What news from the West, oh wandering wind, do you bring to me tonight?Have you seen Boromir the Tall by moon or by starlight?‘I saw him ride over seven streams, over waters wide and grey;I saw him walk in empty lands, until he passed awayInto the shadows of the North. I saw him then no more.The North Wind may have heard the horn of the son of Denethor.’Oh, Boromir! From the high walls westward I looked afar.But you came not from the empty lands where no men are.From the mouth of the sea the South Wind flies,From the sand hills and the stones;The wailing of the gulls it bears and at the gate it moansWhat news from the South, oh sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?Where now is Boromir the Fair? He tarries and I grieve.‘Ask me not where he doth dwell--so many bones there lieOn the white shores and on the black shores under the stormy sky;So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing sea.Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!’Oh Boromir! Beyond the gate the Seaward road runs South,But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey seas mouth.From the Gate of Kings the North Wind rides,And past the roaring fallsAnd loud and cold about the Tower its loud horn calls.What news from the North, oh mighty wind, do you bring to me today?What news of Boromir the Bold? For he is long away.‘Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he foughtHis cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;And Rauros, Golden Rauros Falls, bore him upon its breast.’Oh Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gazeTo Rauros, Golden Rauros Falls until the end of days.
J.R.R. Tolkien