I often wonder what I might have accomplished—as poet, as scholar, as writer in general—if my attention were more disciplined. As it is, the string of things I've published over the years seem to me to represent a trail of half-accomplishments, of projects half-done and half-thought-through.
I taught Milton this semester—indeed, since we haven't had finals yet, I suppose I'm still technically teaching Milton, or at least at the moment avoiding grading a stack of Milton papers. As an adjunct to re-reading Paradise Lost for the umpteenth time, I read a couple of translations of the Aeneid I'd been meaning to get to. (And thus the Susanna Braund podcasts I mentioned in the last post...) Along the way, and because of a stray FB comment by my friend Alex Davis, I decided I needed to read Lucan.
So I hauled out the only translation of Lucan's Civil War I own and set to work. The poem is fascinating, entirely different from the classical epics I know (Virgil, Homer, Apollonius). It's clearly one of the great missing elements in my background knowledge of Milton, certainly. And now I have in hand Braund's own Oxford World's Classics translation of the poem, and have begun reading it again.
But the death of Christopher Middleton (1926-2015) the other day has sent me back to his work, which I've been reading, off and on, in no systematic fashion, for some twenty years. I have a stack of Middleton books I haven't read; I'm looking at them now.
What should I be doing? I should be grading essays, of course, and making up final exams. Or I should be reading or re-reading the books that I've assigned on my syllabi for the coming spring semester. Or I should be working on the conference papers I've committed to delivering in a couple months' time. Or even working on my own poems, or thinking about the vast, rangy book on Ruskin and modernism that I hope to write before I go gaga. Instead, I continue to litter my mind with distantly related facts and impressions, continue to scatter a few words on pages that I'll probably never go back to re-read.