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  • Columns | "A Balloon In Cactus"

    To Tweet or Not to Tweet:
    That is the Question

    by Maggie Van Ostrand
    Maggie Van Ostrand

    Nobody sits down to compose a letter these days. Instead, they talk, text, or Tweet, so we've prepared a time-saver for those hipsters, geeks, and Twitteristas who haven't the time to reduce the classics to Twitter's required 140 characters, counting spaces. We've prefaced them with the originals, in the event you may want to save them in your ditty bag.

    We begin with Hamlet's iconic soliloquy, followed by our own Tweetment.

    THE REAL THING:

    Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
    of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
    borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
    abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
    it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
    not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
    gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
    that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
    now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
    Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
    her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
    come; make her laugh at that.


    THE TWEET:

    Knew Yo, Ho: miss your funny standup
    Lokt lips plenty & frolikt then
    Now stinky dead dude disgusting me
    This skull, so what? Tmw we all die LOL

    And what about Lincoln's Gettysburg Address? If he could have, would he have Tweeted it?

    THE REAL THING

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

    But in a larger sense we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.

    It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


    THE TWEET:

    United States formed 87 yrs back
    Decided all men same
    Big fight anyway
    Lots dead both sides, not for nothing
    freedom rocks
    of, by, for, everyone

    And what would the world be reading today had Elizabeth Barrett's famed love sonnet been Tweeted to Robert Browning?

    THE REAL THING:

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
    I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
    My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
    For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
    I love thee to the level of everyday's
    Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
    I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
    I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
    I love thee with a passion put to use
    In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
    I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
    With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
    Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
    I shall but love thee better after death.

    The sonnet has 613 characters, including spaces. Tweeting Mr. Browning would have meant Barrett's cutting her work down to this:

    THE TWEET:

    Lve u? Lts see
    deep wide high
    soul far out
    candles righteous dudes
    humble dudes
    passion faith
    saints r out
    laffs cries
    lifelong emotions
    better dead

    There's no doubt that texting and Twittering save time and energy, but they sure suck the life out of literature.


    © Maggie Van Ostrand,
    August 19, 2012 column
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