Trackback Pseudopod is – probably – the least well-known of all the Romantic poets, even though to his contemporaries, his Ode to a Stickleback was one of the best known poems of the time, even outselling – for a time - Lord Byron’s epic ‘Ere Mate, I’ve Shagged Your Sister.
However, Pseudopod’s fame was short-lived. Even though he did have the essential wild-eyed sister that was de-rigour for a Romantic poet, Pseudopod had also spent nearly an hour in a Lake District thicket with Dorothy Wordsworth and shared a pipe or two with Coleridge; despite all this he felt he was never really accepted into the Romantic’s inner circle.
Scholars have often wondered why Pseudopod felt he was never really accepted by the rest of the Romantics. Some put it down to Pseudopod suggesting that Keats had more than an aesthetic interest in nightingales and kept a chicken in his rooms at Wentworth Place for ‘inspirational’ purposes.
Later, Pseudopod was also accused by Shelly of trying to get Mary ‘to have a feel of a real monster’ on that infamous night in the Villa Diodati in Geneva. Percy Shelley’s later claim that Mary based the monster on Pseudopod was believed to be what caused the rift between Pseudopod and the other Romantics and mainly responsible for Pseudopod kicking Robert Southey in the couplets when they met on Westminster Bridge early one morning.
Pseudopod’s masterpiece, Ode to a Stickleback, however, did go a long way towards re-establishing his credibility with the other Romantic poets, with Wordsworth admitting later that it was ‘better than a field full of daffodils’ and an early draft of the first stanza caused his sister Dorothy to write to Pseudopod, offering to meet him around the back of Tintern Abbey, where Pseudopod could prove to her that ‘it really is measureless to man’.
Pseudopod had managed to collect fifteen words for his poem by late 1810, but he did not have any idea what kind of order he wanted to put those words in, so he thought a trip to Venice would give him a chance to collect more words, perhaps even enough for one complete stanza. Pseudopod was far too optimistic though, his Italian trip, even though it lasted three months, ending in a wild altercation with a gang of gondoliers which resulted in Pseudopod fleeing the city, he returned home with only one additional definite article and a tentative conjunction for his poem.
For five more years Pseudopod wandered around the Lake district until he felt he had enough words for five or –possibly – six stanzas of his poem, but still he had trouble thinking up a rhyme for the word ‘punt’ that would convey the wistful romantic image of young lovers alone on the river as the young poet poled his lover along to see the finest stickleback she was ever to see.
Tragically, it was while Pseudopod himself was poling Dorothy Wordsworth in her punt that he lost his footing and fell into the river. Despite Dorothy’s heroic efforts to get Pseudopod out of his wet clothes and her frantic pulling of him onto the riverbank, Pseudopod caught pneumonia.
Pseudopod died a few weeks later with his masterwork unfinished. However, a tentative draft of his ode found amongst his papers by Coleridge when he was frantically searching for something to use to light his pipe on the day of Pseudopod’s funeral.
The remaining Romantic poets had a whip-round, which Dorothy Wordsworth said later was the best night of her life, and raised enough to have Pseudopod’s ode published posthumously, thus assuring his place in the literary cannon.