“A Fig for Thee, Oh! Death” and A Fig for Thee, Oh! Grief

Last week, I took an exam that covered interesting aspects of creation as depicted by Native Americans; epistolary literature written by various individuals from Columbus to Samuel Sewall; captivity narratives; and metaphysical poetry. My mind is still muddled from grasping the concept of how metaphysical condensation and metonymic displacement work to diminish a culture. The realization that John Smith is a brilliant propagandist was enlightening for me. Better than that though, was finding a new hero in Roger Williams. Williams advocated separation of church and state, putting power in the hands of the people and…wait for it…wait for it…the tolerance of different religions. That is awesome. Thirty years and thirty pounds ago, I would have donned a revealing skirt, grabbed a pair of pom-poms and yelled, “Go Roger, go Roger.” Now, I will just smile knowing that one man had enough courage to promote the fall of Puritanism. Good thing that whole way of thinking collapsed because I would not have been a very good Puritan. I would have hanged for speaking my mind.

Back to the gist of this post—the metaphysical poet, Edward Taylor. He wrote the poem, “A Fig for Thee, Oh! Death.” The idea that he was addressing death caught my attention when I first read it. Learning that “a fig for thee” is equivalent to the modern day sentiment of “fuck you” is a catalyst to my education. Taylor is saying what I have been thinking for the last three years of my life. “A Fig for Thee” Death. Indeed.

Something else I have learned about American Literature is that slang existed long before it became popular and William Byrd ate boiled milk for breakfast every day. While reading “The Secret Diary,” which by the way is not a secret anymore, I learned that Byrd “[brought his] wife into temper again and rogered her by way of reconciliation.” Imagine my surprise at learning that rogered is equivalent to “having intercourse with.” To say that I was entertained does little to capture my amusement at this little tidbit. My mind immediately envisioned someone in full “pilgrim” dress (including that ghastly hat) elbowing his friend and saying, “How ‘bout it, buddy, did ya’ roger ya’self some of dat?” Yes, my mind goes there. I believe the modern-day expression is, “How ‘bout it, buddy, did ya’ tap some of dat?” I wonder if they sat around a card table while a woman (fully covered, of course) paraded by and said, “I’d like to fig me some of dat.” American Literature is proving to be quite entertaining when I allow myself to let my mind go where it will go.

I have often wanted to say, “A Fig for Thee” Grief. Although I believe that death does not exist, not really, in a sense of finality, that knowledge does little to comfort me. Knowing that we are souls with a body does little to cease grief. Understanding that he is now home and not experiencing pain does not ease the torture of being alone. Knowing that we come here to experience lessons that books cannot teach us does little to stifle the tears. I know that those who have not experienced the loss of a spouse cannot understand, but that does little to lessen my growing frustration. I know he is somewhere out there. I just want to find him. Until then, I just continue trudging along on this frustrating road.

©2012 Relinda R.


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