Douglas Adams’ Lost Poem About A Candle Found In A Cubboard
In this week’s edition of “Not Quite Sci-Fi News,” we have the recent discovery of a pair of poems found inside of a high school cupboard, written by the late Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams and comedian/TV star Griff Rhys Jones. Had these merely been simple and unoriginal dedications of love or odes to a tree, I doubt we would be hearing about them. But then I doubt either one of these gifted men would have written something so trite.
The poems were found by archivist Stacey Harmer in a collection of poetry-filled books in a pile of documents at Brentwood School in Essex. Oddly enough, all of these writings, dated between 1950-1983, were collected by the literary society known as the Candlesticks, a society that held its potential members to a particular kind of initiation.
“At Candlesticks, which admitted only a select few,” Harmer explained, “they would get together and read plays. In order to join you had to write a poem on the theme of a candle, and read it aloud, and if they liked it you were allowed in.” And you can bet Adams’ poem was particularly “wick”-ed. Candle jokes?
Called “A Dissertation on the task of writing a poem on a candle and an account of some of the difficulties thereto pertaining,” his entry to the club starts off “For nights I sat musing / And musing…and musing / Whilst burning the midnight oil; / My scratchings seemed futile / Mu muse seemed quite mute, while / My work proved to be barren toil,” and goes on for a full two pages. A task isn’t worth doing if you can’t do it to your own specifically witty specifications. Near the end, the poem’s very existence is at stake:
That which had ignited my literary passion, / Was about to ignite what my passion had fashion’d, / And — oh! — all was lost in a great conflagration / And I just sat there and said ‘Hell and damnation.’
That same inventive mind went on to craft what I consider history’s greatest example of comedic science fiction, the Hitchhiker series, as well as the Dirk Gently series and the classic faux dictionary The Meaning of Liff. Take a few minutes to hear some of his wisdom in the half-lecture below.
Meanwhile, Jones’ poem wasn’t quite as massive, though it still manages to achieve a sardonic bite. Called “The Candle (A Lament),” his poem is about the loss of candle light and the emergence of “cold electric light.” Whatever gets him through the door, right?
Sci-fi fans may know Jones from his work writing and acting in the goofy 1985 comedy Morons From Outer Space — the trailer for which is below — or perhaps from his many years partnered up with Mel Smith.