A Hymn to Roget
Upon opening the page of this would-be Thesaurus, I nearly
blow up: I am ready to burst with an eruption beyond measure,
an explosion without perimeter, a fit, a flare-up, a gust, a veritable
outbreak, 2. see ERUPTION --
This is a Thesaurus? A long, sparse laundry list of anemic words defined
or referent to other (absent) words on some no doubt equally albino page?
I can see Roget spinning in his grave!
Ah, the genius of that fine French mind, who conceived of a universe
without words to define it, who began with the essence that lies behind
every gesture of a hand or a nebula -- EXISTANCE and NONEXISTANCE,
the original dichotomies of Genesis, dividing the light from the dark,
the earth from the sky, the dry land from the sea --
So, as every poet's mind soars free as a falcon loosed at last
from the shackles of mere definition, Roget allows you to skim lightly
over the hills and fields below, when you want nothing more than to fly
from shape to shape or light to shadow, and feel, as you follow a fine,
lifting breeze, the sense of a texture that holds gently within it a feeling,
a meaning beating softly beneath its dusty, velvet breast --
But this! This outrageous impostor, this travesty, this outlandish
mere outline: dead words, neatly pinned and etherized,
displayed upon these immense white pages like so many insects
robbed of the quintessence of butterfly --
And were there not dictionaries before Roget? Were there not books
of synonyms and antonyms, were there not lists upon lists of words
holding hands, playing ring-around-rosy, that made you go
round and around, and never could be found that word hiding
on the tip of your tongue?
I see the long shadow of Roget, tremulous with frustration,
to witness his great work undone, that exquisite architecture of
thought dismembered, and its stones re-assembled, like the Great Wall
of China robbed to build pigsties -- and worse, his own name
boldly affixed to the front!
Oh, no! Let Roget be Roget, indeed, and life, divinely divided
into wondrous and leaping polarities with enormous, expanding
gulfs between that allows the fair spark of the spirit to fly,
leaping from sheer idea to sheer essence, without ever
touching ground on a mere denotation!
Give me the vastness, the void, the free air of heaven humming blue
with the ozone of recombinations, as everything whirling in flux,
with words flying out-words-ward away from all defined sense --
give me the sheer connotation connoting whatever the heart feels
before it must be, at last, driven through with the stake of a
thick, final word,
and I will praise Roget all the day long.
© 1987, Carin Perron