Nice Try, But You’re No Wordsworth

Raise your hand if you made some unfortunate choices in your high school dating career. Welcome to the club! I had a boyfriend from a neighboring high school, and I thought it was “cool” to have a jock from that high school by my side. Like a bazillion teenage girls before me, I was so happy to have the boyfriend that I didn’t give enough attention to his numerous crappy qualities (that’s a whole separate blog post and I’m not a brave enough writer yet to reveal just how idiotic I was in the mid-80’s).

The Boyfriend had nice parents but a limited background academically. In fact, I often joke–except it’s completely true–that if I hadn’t helped him with his homework when he was a senior he wouldn’t have graduated from high school. Ours was a rather stormy relationship, but he was capable of extremely charming gestures. His biggest flaw that far outweighed his charm was that he had a hard time telling the truth. What I mean is that he never told the truth, and I knew it.

Probaby his most valiant attempt at charm intended to woo me back after a break up was the poem he wrote for me. He handed me this poem written out on notebook paper in his own handwriting. It was a lovely poem in iambic quadrameter with rhyming couplets and words like “apparition.” I had “eyes as stars of Twilight fair; Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair.” For goodness’ sake, I was a “phantom of delight.” This was GOOD STUFF!

I knew, I knew he didn’t write it, but this was pre-Google and I didn’t know anyone who could identify the poem for me. We broke up before the end of senior year.

Fast forward to 1987. I was newly married and a junior studying English at the University of Arkansas. I was sitting in Dr. Sidney Burris’ Survey of British Literature II. We were reading Wordsworth from the Oxford Anthology of British Literature, Volume II. As I flipped through the pages to get to “Tintern Abbey” I landed on a page with a Wordsworth poem entitled “She Was a Phantom of Delight.” My jaw dropped. The high school boyfriend tried to pass off WORDSWORTH as his own! I knew he hadn’t written it, but he was idiotic enough to use Wordsworth? I wanted to jump up in class and tell Dr. Burris. I couldn’t tell my new husband about an old boyfriend’s trick. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter to announce it to. I’ve just had to carry around this ridiculous story until I had a blog to put it on.

I still love opening my tattered Oxford Anthology, now more than two decades old, and I can’t help but turn every now and then to page 182 to “She Was a Phantom of Delight.”

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~ by Angie Albright on June 26, 2011.

2 Responses to “Nice Try, But You’re No Wordsworth”

  1. At least he used on of the greats. I had a boyfriend that tried to write his own. Dear Lord it was awful. There was a line about wanting to fly away with me that was so full of cheese it literally made me cringe.

  2. I LOVE this post. My similar experience was at the Washington state Academic Decathlon competition (yup, I’m a giant nerd – I think the Arkansas equivalent is Quiz Bowl).

    A boy from a competing school dropped on bended knee, grabbed my hand and quoted Andrew Marvel’s To His Coy Mistress:

    “Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, lady, were no crime.”

    Hey – I gave him credit – that’s quite a move in a public mall as an interruption to a gaggle of girls. Honestly, it was pretty impressive, and we’d all be pleased if a man were bold enough to try something semi-intelligent these days, wouldn’t we? 🙂

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