I just got perhaps the strangest spam message I have ever received (well, at least the strangest since the IRS phishing message that prompted me to click a link to tehran.ir). It is strange because it has an element that I have never before seen in the strange messages that often pop up in my inbox (or more commonly, in the university mail service’s spam filter): poetry.

The subject of the message:

one not necessarily very beautiful and she a weeping woman   old.

And the message:

lost in a cleft! `tis but a stride
sweet moans, sweeter smiles, and the woman stopped, as her babe she tossed,

The first line of the poem is from Bret Harte’s poem “Crotalus” (3rd stanza):

Lost in a cleft!    ’Tis but a stride
To reach it, thrust its roots aside,
And lift it on thy stick astride!

The second line is a melding of two works, first a line of “A Cradle Song” (4th stanza) from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience:

Sweet moans, dovelike sighs,
Chase not slumber from thy eyes,
Sweet moans, sweeter smiles,
All the dovelike moans beguiles.

And a line from another poem by Bret Harte, “What the Chimney Sang” (1st stanza):

Over the chimney the night-wind sang
And chanted a melody no one knew;
And the Woman stopped, as her babe she tossed,
And thought of the one she had long since lost,
And said, as her teardrops back she forced,
“I hate the wind in the chimney.”

In spite of (or perhaps because of) its strangeness, I sort of like it – although its incompleteness is unsatisfying (what happens to the babe? where does the woman toss it? who is thinking of the children?!). It almost makes me want to create a spambot which would take little bits of poetic content from the Web and throw it together into this sort of cyber-found poem, waiting for a literary-minded reader to take it and wonder at its meaning.

Perhaps this is an activity that I could consider doing for my writing elective. Hmmm.

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