Because I could not … change the tense


My first semester of graduate school courses has been full of highs and lows. The lows relate to the workload being overwhelming, though now that I know what to expect, subsequent semesters (if I make it that far) should be more manageable.

The highs are plenty. I have never worked on a group assignment before and doing so (for an editing-related podcast) has so far been a thrill. The thrill should continue when we finally start recording our material. We will use Camtasia Relay  – a software that I have never used – to record our podcast. I will be one of two presenters in this podcast.

To practice, I thought I would add a podcast to this blog post. However, something went really wrong. I saved this folly for the blooper reel. That link is not worth clicking (I need to buy a microphone because the internal microphone on my laptop is broken).

The point of the podcast was to describe another high of this semester: looking at the subtle verb tense shifts in “I Have Dreamed,” from the musical The King and I. That assignment was something I delayed but it became very engrossing. It was a pleasure researching this assignment because I got the opportunity to listen to dozens of other versions of the song. While most of the cover versions used the same lyrics, I felt a dramatic change in tone when I listened to the Jazz singer’s Jimmy Scott’s version.

Hearing the shift gave me goosebumps. It was haunting and I read Scott’s Wikipedia page. He suffered from Kallmann syndrome – a genetic disorder that “results in the failure to commence or the non-completion of puberty”  that left him with an androgynous, haunting voice. Listening to Scott voice, and reading about his personal history, made his version of the song even more heartbreaking.

I wanted to see if I could find something else as shaking. I looked for cover songs on YouTube, but nothing gave me the same sense of melancholy that Jimmy Scott’s rendition of “I Have Dreamed.” But I found the mood somewhere else – in the Emily Dickinson poem “Because I Could Not Wait for Death.”

No one on the Internet was sacrilegious I was though to change the verb tense in a classic poem, but I did anyway. While I did not achieve the same effect as Jimmy Scott, changing the tense from the past and conditional tense to present tense, it makes it sound like I am riding in a cab with Death. I guess, in a way, we all are from the moment we’re born. In any case, here are the two version of the poem:

Because I Could Not Stop For DeathBy Emily DickinsonBecause I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,

And I had put away

My labor, and my leisure too,

For his civility.

We passed the school where children played,

Their lessons scarcely done;

We passed the fields of gazing grain,

We passed the setting sun.

We paused before a house that seemed

A swelling of the ground;

The roof was scarcely visible.

The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries but each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmised the horses’ heads

Were toward eternity.

 

Because I Do Not Stop For DeathBastardized by Navid IqbalBecause I do not stop for Death,

He kindly stops for me;

The carriage holds but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drive, he knows no haste,

And I put away

My labor, and my leisure too,

For his civility.

We pass the school where children play,

Their lessons scarcely done;

We pass the fields of gazing grain,

We pass the setting sun.

We pause before a house that seems

A swelling of the ground;

The roof is scarcely visible.

The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries but each

Feels shorter than the day

I first surmise the horses’ heads

Are toward eternity.

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