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Word of the Day: Alderbest

Not that I often have these words, but I really like this one. It’s an antique word, obviously from the old Germanic/Anglo-Saxon from before the invasion.

Alderbest: Best of all; a touchstone

And oh how we need touchstones. Say what you will, I simply cannot believe, and have not observed, that twentieth or even 19th century poetry has the wings to reach the sublimity of Isaiah, of the ancient Greeks, of Shakespeare, of Donne.

Granted, the Greek comparison is unjust because nobody but Shakespeare has ever approached their flights. And Shakespeare was Shakespeare (and his guild) so it’s not fair to compare with him either. But we need wings. We fly like chickens.

Consider this from Lear when he sees his daughter Cordelia:

And my poor fool is hang’d; no, no, no life?
Why should a Dog, a Horse, a Rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? thou’lt come no more,
never, never, never, never, never.
Pray you undo this Button. Thank you Sir,
Do you see this? Look on her? Look, her lips!
Look there, look there.

The modern writer wouldn’t dare such a passage because the modern reader, that great abstraction before whom the publishing companies bow, would need every detail explained. But if you explain it, you defeat it. It’s in the gaps that the imagination does its work, that we enter the experience, that we almost begin to feel his grief.

Five nevers, followed by “pray you undo this button.” The head is jolted, the heart is left behind.

This is a touchstone, an alderbest, a word of inspiration, a passage that, once written, made the world a more beautiful place – a lilac of the autumn.

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