A few days ago I wrote an entry on the Kaluli of New Guinea, ending it by saying I had ordered a copy of the Smithsonian’s Bosavi set of CDs. Well, today it came; ordinarily I would mention that fact, if at all, as an addendum to the previous entry, but in the course of listening to the first CD (of guitar-band music) I realized I was going to have to give it its own post, because one of the songs (#10; there’s a RealAudio clip at the Bosavi link) is about the first Bosavi dictionary! How could I not blog a song whose lyrics are:

long ago, in the past
Bosavi had no dictionary
having just made it Steve and Bambi have brought it here
for that reason
all of us are happy with Steve and Bambi

I’ll bet Liddell and Scott never had a guitar-band song written in their honor!

However (I learn through the miracle of Google), it turns out they did have a Thomas Hardy poem written in their honor. It’s doggerel (“I’ve often, I own,/ Belched many a moan/ At undertaking it,/ And dreamt of forsaking it”), but it is by Hardy. I’m afraid to find out what may have been written for Noah Webster.


  1. I’m afraid to find out what may have been written for Noah Webster.
    I couldn’t resist. I tried to Google it. “+poem +’in honor of Noah Webster'” only turns up one hit, and that’s a reference to Noah Webster’s birthday (the mention of “poem” on the page is unrelated). Changing that to “to honor Noah Webster” produces no results. There were 2 pages of “about Noah Webster” results, but they didn’t contain a poem about him. So if there’s an ode to Noah out there, nobody has found it worth posting online. Which is fairly strong proof that no such poem exists, given all the junk that is online.

  2. I love a challenge…even if I fail to reach the peak…
    From “Questions about Angels: Poems” by Billy Collins:
    Somewhere in the rolling hills and farm country
    that lie beyond speech
    Noah Webster and his assistants are moving
    across the landscape tracking down a new word.
    OK…the whole poem is not specifically about Webster.
    And also this: “The Letter X” by Tony Smith concerns Noah Webster and how he might have handled “X”
    You can find it at
    Finally, I would like to find the results of this request:
    Posted by Zach on December 01, 1999 at 19:08:24:
    In Reply to: Help!Need info for Noah Webster posted by Amy on November 24, 1999 at 10:41:26:
    I need info for this bio poem I’m doing. DFo you know of any quotes he did? I need it ASAP!!!
    Sorry, but thanks.

  3. Inspired by Chuck, I had to try again. So I did. And I found this:
    I thought I had tried “+’Noah Webster’ +poem” before, but I guess I missed this result the first time. It’s only incidentally about Webster, a lot less so than the one by Tony Smith, but at least now I can say I found something. As for my aesthetic judgment, finding this poem tends to reinforce my feelings from my failed search of a few hours ago…

  4. Yikes. I won’t bother giving a direct link to what SC turned up, but here’s the bit about Noah at the end:
    “The Eternal as the Origin of Words – the Logos
    Somehow tragically lassoed and waylaid
    and reduced to the flesh of obscure places
    “Lost in a world of name-calling and retribution
    Reduced forever more to a Date With Noah Webster
    “Words forever lost on eulogizing one another.”
    Well googled, both of you! (I wonder if Zach did any better than the date guy?)

  5. Well there’s an Ode to Liddell and Scott by no less than Thomas Hardy.
    ‘My heart most failed,
    Indeed, quite quailed,’
    Said Scott to Liddell,
    ‘Long ere the middle!…
    ‘Twas one wet dawn
    When, slippers on,
    And a cold in the head anew,
    Gazing at Delta
    I turned and felt a
    Wish for bed anew.
    And to let supersedings
    Of Passow’s readings
    In dialects go.
    “That German has read
    More than we!” I said;
    etc. etc.
    (And I have to wonder about Hardy’s accent: rhyming ‘on’ and ‘dawn’?)

  6. On and dawn (aw-wun and daw-wun) are perfect rhymes for me, but then I’m not English.

  7. Perfect rhymes for me, too (American midwest), though they’re single syllables. Also spawn, gone, and flan.

  8. Here’s a whole chapbook of poetry about Noah Webster and his 1828 dictionary. It’s not exactly “in honor” of the lexicographer, but nevertheless, it does exist…

  9. The LH gaggle rises splendidly to the challege.

  10. Let’s not forget the Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When she wrote “my lexicon was my only companion,” it was Noah Webster’s dictionary to which she referred (I don’t have the specific edition of the American Dictionary handy, but I believe it was either the 1840-something). And many of her poems take up readings of entries from his dictionary.
    Oh, and thanks, gabriella, for mentioning (glost).

  11. Good point, Nathan, and Dickinson is one of my favorites, so I’ll have to look for those poems.

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