June 14, 2009

Michael Drout proves “redrawn” version of “But Not the Hippopotamus” is fraudulent

Faithful readers will recall that I previously reported that Boynton expert Michael Drout, English Chair at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, proved that Hippos Go Berserk was a fraudulent work.

Prof. Drout has been at work again with his expert eye and criticism.  This time, he has proved that the “redrawn” edition of But Not the Hippopotamus is fraudulent.


From the master himself:

I recently purchased a copy of But Not the Hippopotamus at the Blue Bunny bookstore in Dedham, Mass. In this copy I found the following opening lines:

A Hog and Frog
cavort in a bog.
But not the Hippopotamus.

Something did not seem right, so I consulted my personal copy of But Not the Hippopotamus. Sure enough, the opening lines are:

A Hog and a Frog
do a dance in a bog.
But not the Hippopotamus.

This variation, “cavort” for “do a dance” is an editorial hyper-correction, probably based on an attempt to force Boynton the Great's artistically flawless meter into a straightjacket of perfect regularity.

Note that in the original version, “do a dance” is a straightforward anapest. I scan the lines as:

a HOG and a FROG (iamb plus anapest)
do a DANCE in a BOG (two anapests)

Pseudo-Boynton forces both lines to be iambs followed by anapests, but examination of the rest of the poem shows that Boynton only once uses the 2 / 3 pattern in the line:

a HARE and a BEAR (iamb anapest)
have BEEN to a FAIR (iamb anapest)

In the other two stanzas we see:

are TRYing on HATS


toGETHer have JUICE

These two parallels, “are TRYing” and “toGETHer” are amphibrachs, also three-syllable feet. So there is no need to assume that the iamb in the fourth stanza needs to be followed slavishly by forcing a two-syllable foot (“cavort”) into the first stanza.

From this analysis of the forgery, we can conclude that Pseudo-Boynton is a highly trained scholar, but one for whom Boynton’s brilliant verse is not a native idiom. We can also note that as well as lacking Boynton the Great’s attention to detail (in that Pseudo-Boynton forgets to deal with the six distressed hippos who have never left in his/her version of Hippos Go Berserk), Pseudo-Boynton has a predilection for hippos. Scholars should thus re-examine the Boynton corpus to determine which other texts may have been interfered with by Pseudo-Boynton, looking for editorial hypercorrection, subtle contradictions, and hippos.

And the “Cavort” Recension of But Not the Hippopotamus must be athetized from the corpus.

Be sure to bring this vital issue to the attention of your school and public children’s libraries and librarians.


J. K. Gayle said...

I'd love to hear your World Culture Blogger Lingamish (a text expert and hippo [expert] himself) comment on this issue.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

Word of the day:


Theophrastus said...

"Athetize" returns 2,010 hits from Google, which I regard as an auspicious sign.

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

It's also in the OED, my first stop for them there fancy-talkin' words:

trans. To set aside (a passage) as spurious. Hence athetizer.
1886 JEVONS in Jrnl. Hellenic Stud. VII. 306 The solution is to athetize B 35-41 [of the Iliad]. 1888 LEAF Iliad II. 435 The opening passage (1-30) contains an unusual number of lines which have been suspected on undeniably valid grounds since the time of Aristarchos, who athetized no less than fourteen. 1889 Athenæum 26 Oct. 553/1 Dr. Leaf..controverts with success the athetizers and abjudicators of Homeric verses. 1962 WACE & STUBBINGS Compan. to Homer 223 He used the obelus as Zenodotus had done, and he added other signs, especially the κεραύνιον..to mark groups of athetized lines.

It's from the Greek ἀθετεῖν, "reject as spurious." Way cool!