Lines 115-120: The wall of sound, crickets
Oh how astutely my interlocutor observed the ceaseless, sonorous mating calls of those vile beasts! Often, upon crossing that faithful wooden bridge to nowhere – just south of the hiking trail we used to frequent behind Wordsmith – he would point out some trivial (and frequently, I must admit, impossibly boring) fact regarding this aphid or that anthropoid, which I would counter with the most ecstatically vivid anecdotes of our King’s bucolic springtime exploits in our now shared heliotrope kingdom come, Zembla.
Our poet seems to have crossed out, in his draft, 5 lines initially meant to clearly replace the (clearly superior) verses found in the Fair Copy as a direct thematic continuation of the preceding couplets:
A spiral of tints from cadmium red
‘Not ellipses, but helices!’ he said;
Mr. O. Zero, that elephantine scholar
(Who knew unadulterated dolor)
120 Pointing to that iridescent opal.
Why Shade chose to keep these uncharacteristically illegibly written verses I cannot fathom, considering their complete irrelevance to our beautiful Zemblan reveries that he so passionately, so intently conveyed in those other drafts which a certain Anti-Karlist prophetess prevented from being expressed in the Fair Copy.
After spending dozens of hours searching through each and every entry beginning with “O” in the New Wye directory that I happened to have brought with me to my present dwellings, I was finally able to uncover the identity of Mr. O. Zero, who turned out to be an female elderly pediatrician residing just north of the Wordsmith libraries. I have not been able to deduce why Shade would mention Mr. Zero, let alone dedicate a whole stanza to her chromatopsic preferences. Aside from certain simplistic stylistic tricks that betray the subtle beauty of the rest of his verse, such as the rather unamusing doubling of the form of the capital “o” and zero, there does not seem to be any stylistic nor contentual significance to this draft whatsoever.
If it were up to me, I would have obviously nudged Shade away from wasting his time (or espace de papier) on this rather kitsch description of celestial bodies. Alas, my position as annotator binds me to faithfully reproducing all aspects, both disappointing and charming, of his magnum opus into this edition.