Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Iota Subscript by Robert Frost (and John the Baptist)

 Iota Subscript 
by Robert Frost

Seek not in me the big I capital,
Not yet the little dotted in me seek.
If I have in me any I at all,
'Tis the iota subscript of the Greek.
So small am I as an attention beggar.
The letter you will find me subscript to
Is neither alpha, eta, nor omega,
But upsilon which is the Greek for you.
Two critical points can be made. First, the Greek iota does not subscript under the upsilon, only under alpha (α), eta (η) or omega (ω) (the long vowels). Of course I'm sure Frost knew this; otherwise he would not have mentioned these three. Second, the Greek for "you" begins with upsilon and is written μείς. As you can see (hopefully the fonts render properly for you), the Greek letter upsilon (υ) looks similar to the English letter "u". This too I doubt was lost on Frost (as I'm sure the preceding rhyme is not lost on you).

Were I to write this witty poem , I would change but one thing (one iota of it if you will). The last line would read "You" rather than "you" to make the poem addressed to God. 

As John the Baptist said when questioned about Jesus' growing influence, "He must increase, but I must decrease."John 3:30 Or, He must capitalize and I must subscript.

1 comment:

  1. I was just reading this poem in his collected poems edited by Edward Connery Lathem. I googled the title hoping I could get more info on the poem and came across your insightful comments. Thanks your your insight and I agree with your last statement. This is also helpful to me since I recently converted to Greek Orthodoxy. This is truly a beautiful and humble poem.