Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in;
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in:
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me,
Say I'm growing old, but add,
Jenny kissed me.
James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784 – 1859)
On Thursday afternoon, I happened to catch a few minutes of an interview with Edward Hirsch, a poet and the editor of new poetry collection, Poet's Choice, on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. A listener called in to ask if Hirsch could identify a poem he remembered from his youth. He didn't remember the name or the author, but he remembered the first two lines and the last. Hirsch couldn't identify it, but named a couple of poets who wrote about women named Jenny, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and James Wright, neither of whom wrote the poem the listener was looking for. Later (when I was no longer listening) another listener called in to identify and recite the poem. For my own part, I just Googled the phrase the phrase "Jenny kissed me poem" and found it in approximately 0.04 seconds. Why the first listener didn't do the same thing, I don't know, but that's neither here nor there.
It's not hard to understand why the first listener found it so memorable. Don't we all have memories like this one, of events that are utterly trivial but still resonate with you for years and years to come? It reminded me of a poem I posted here last June, Robert Penn Warren's "True Love," and of Mr. Bernstein's famous speech in Citizen Kane, responding to Jerry Thompson's doubt that Kane might have been thinking of a girl he met long ago when he said, "Rosebud":
Well, you are pretty young, Mr., Mr. Thompson. A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in eighteen ninety-six, I was crossing over to Jersey on a ferry and as we pulled out there was another ferry pulling in and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on, she was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.
Too true, too true.