Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy birthday, Henrik

Norwegian poet-dramatist Henrik Ibsen ("Hedda Gabler," "A Doll's House") would have been 180 years old today.

Which reminds me....

Some years ago, one of my fellow copy editors was handling a column about the arrival of two tigers at the local zoo. He told me he was thinking of putting the phrase "Tiger! Tiger!" (or maybe it was "Tiger, Tiger") in the headline, an allusion to the famous poem "The Tyger." ("Tyger! Tyger! burning bright / In the forests of the night ...")

He told me he was thinking about alluding to the Ibsen poem because --

Wait, I said, you mean William Blake, don't you?

No! Henrik Ibsen!

The look he gave me implied that I was so dumb it was amazing I'd ever learned to stand on two feet.

I again hinted (gently, I thought) that William Blake had actually written the poem. (Seemed odd to me, an English major, that a Norwegian poet-playwright would have written one of the enduring works of British literature.)

No, he said, it says "Ibsen" in Bartlett's. He then got up to walk to a reference-book table in the center of the room so he could look it up again.

No, I said, politely but firmly (I think), it doesn't matter. (And besides, I was busy with other stuff.)

And I was. But something kept nagging at me. Finally, after 10 or 15 minutes, I couldn't take it anymore, and I walked over and went to the Bartlett's myself. And there I found the quote from the poem.

Under the citation was this word:


I never did talk to the guy about it. For one thing, we were busy. And it seemed best to take the high road.

And for all I know, old Henrik always wished he HAD written "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright...."

1 comment:

Julie Hyzy said...

Good story, Mark. "The Tyger" is one of my favorites. Thanks for the laugh.