Post Edited (03-22-04 19:25)
An initial thought is that the protagonist has some relation to Prometheus, but this does not carry through the whole poem.
The shape shifting and prophesying tends toward Taliessin and the celtic myths.
A mixture of classical and celtic myth implies that the poem is not before 19th century?
Try this. Take a line from the poem, and enter it into Google/Advanced Search/Exact Phrase. If it's on the web, that should find it. An alternate form of search is to use some of the odd words. Not many poems should contain 'plashing,' 'illusionist,' and 'kelp-strewn.'
This strikes me as a fairly dumb assignment- at least the first part- I can see value in discussing the poem and its meaning, but there are better ways to teach people how to search.
If your spelling is correct, then the author is probably British. Americans spell the last word with a C -prophecy.
Linda noted that the "mixture of classical and celtic myth implies that the poem is not before 19th century" and Pam noted that the assignment is very dumb -- and I agree with both.
So, I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm going to say that the author is your professor, and the assignment is basically a trick.
Here's what I would do, if (like you) I really had to.
1. ASSUME that this writing is either contemporary (within the last ten years) or a contemporary translation of some classic. The prof mentioned etymology, so comb this passage for words that are too modern to be classical. The phrase "on schedule" stikes me as NOT CLASSICAL AT ALL.
2. Look at the weird words ("beetling" for example) and see if you can find them in the Oxford English Dictionary in your school library. If they are there, the OED will tell you when they were first used in print. (As they say on "Blue's Clues": A CLUE!!!)
3. If you have friends who play role-playing games ("Dungeons and Dragons" and such), ASK THEM. Just a hunch.
4. Forget the line breaks. What if this is a passage from prose? Could it be from ... oh, I don't know. The novelization of X-men?
... anyway, I think your best bet is to use the WORDS to prove what it's NOT, and show your results to the prof. Next best thing to knowing what it is.
AND WHEN YOU FIND OUT, PLEASE COME BACK HERE AND TELL!!!!
PROPHECY vs PROPHESY
Pam, this is not a question of American vs British spelling.
PROPHECY (pro-fe-SEE) is a noun, like PREDICTION.
PROPHESY (pro-fe-SIGH) is a verb, like PREDICT.
(The only way I can remember which is which is by remembering that the one spelled with a "C" ends with a "see.")
So anyway, the barbaric voices at the end of this poem (or whatever it is) are telling him (whoever he is) to predict the future.
If we look at homework assignments we find that Hugh answered this yesterday. Apparently it was quoted in a discussion of Wordsworth (but isn't by him)
Well, Hugh has solved the mystery, and the version posted by him confirms that 'scared' in the 1st verse should be 'sacred', and 'quilts' in the 2nd verse should be 'guilts' (q and g are far apart on a keyboard, so did Victoria's professor give her a handwritten text?)
If you go by spelling, presumably Kunitz is American, as 'practice' in the 3rd verse is the way Americans spell the verb, but fewer English people distinguish practise/practice these days, when spell-checkers keep misleading them.
Not a bad poem. The fluid rhythm and lack of rhyme suggests to me the last half of the 20th century.
Proteus in Greek mythology was the sea-god Poseidon's son, and the herdsman of Poseidon's seals, which explains the 'humping and snorting ... flock'. As for the dreaded boatmen, if you've been downwind of and close to a seal colony, you'd realize that they must have wanted that prophecy pretty badly to approach so close. They couldn't hold their noses while rowing.
Well done, Hugh! Well done, forum!
You must be in the same class as my brother, Matt!!!! He e-mailed me the poem. I passed in on to my college student son to get some ideas from him. He also has my American Lit books. This is supposed to be American lit from the 1690's to 1860's. I thought at first it was a shipwreck but then decided maybe Hell or purgatory. My son thinks it could be from transcendentalists? His girlfriend also took a crack at it. I also think it might be a not so famous poet but included in some literature books. Maybe some one from the general area (If you are in Maine!) Or some one who may have at one time visited the area.
Hugh, would you respond to me on who the poet was on this poem.
Proteus, by Stanley Kunitz.
I.m a student in an English department and I need a help to find a description for somes poem and I hope You can help my.. and I will be very thankfull for You.
You're going to need to be more specific- what poem, what's your question, etc.