JF Ptak Science Books Post 2640
No, not my last words, and not the last words of a dying person that hangs like concrete in a cloud-like word-balloon above the speaker's head, and not an obituary, but the last words of a great (or any) book. Not the last line, mind you, but the last word, or two.The plural is mainly added to accommodate the one entry in particular (the last page of Lewis Carroll's Euclid and his Modern Rivals, a find made by Jeff Donlan out at high altitude in Salida, Colorado)--in this wonderful book, the last page is occupied by the very lonely but definitive "The End", and it would be a little uneven to display he page with the two words in a post about single words. In any event, I'm going to try two examples out today and then add some others over time, and see if there is enough material of last words to use as the available tools for a poem about last words.
[By the way I did a post related to this, in a way: "An Alphabet of Opening Lines of Charles Dickens' Works", here: http://longstreet.typepad.com/thesciencebookstore/2015/10/an-alphabet-of-the-opening-lines-of-charles-dickens-works.html]
Lewis Carroll, Euclid and his Modern Rivals:
Neither Jeff or I could tell what the little figure/anagram is before "the", but under magnification it looks to me a little like a running figure.
I might have to manipulate the findings a little with a few rules, like eliminating FINIS or THE END as necessarily last words, and ignoring errata pages, and perhaps indexes--I guess that would mean staying with the last word of the text of a book. For example, Isaac Newton's Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica... (1687):
[Image source: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822005223383;view=2up;seq=510]
Here we have the last "words" being "Q.E.I." as in
QEI: quod erat inveniendum (latin), which was to be found (or what had to be discovered);
QEF: quod erat faciendum (latin), which was to be done;
QED: quod erat demonstrandum (latin), which was to be demonstrated.
which of course is something that can really be worked with, and something of high potential poetical application (HPPA). Perhaps it will wind up being the last three words (used together as a word unit), as there would be more of a possibility of cadence and proto-beauty.
Here are a few examples, heavy on the books near me:
- William H. Gaddis, The Recognitions (1955): "...with high regard, though seldom played".
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: "...parting from her".
- Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (1926: "Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851): "...only found another orphan."
- Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener (1853): "Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!"
- Not that there is a beginning or end to this one, but-- James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939): "...a lone a last a loved a long the"
- Popular Mechanics, volume 50, July-December 1928: "...simplicity of the walls". [Unexpected!]
- William Cobbett's Political Register, February, 1831,: "...up in his house".
- Institution of Civil Engineers, Proceedings, volume 4, 1845, "American Excavations": "...portable five feet staff".
- George Orwell, 1984 (1949): "...He loved Big Brother".
- A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner (1928): "...a little boy and his Bear will always be playing".
No doubt it will take dozens of these Last Words to have enough material for something that looks like a poem--we'll see what happens. Stay tuned.