Genius, by Mark Twain

by Mark Twain

Genius, like gold and precious stones,
is chiefly prized because of its rarity.

Geniuses are people who dash off weird, wild,
incomprehensible poems with astonishing facility,
and get booming drunk and sleep in the gutter.

Genius elevates its possessor to ineffable spheres
far above the vulgar world and fills his soul
with regal contempt for the gross and sordid things of earth.

It is probably on account of this
that people who have genius
do not pay their board, as a general thing.

Geniuses are very singular.

If you see a young man who has frowsy hair
and distraught look, and affects eccentricity in dress,
you may set him down for a genius.

If he sings about the degeneracy of a world
which courts vulgar opulence
and neglects brains,
he is undoubtedly a genius.

If he is too proud to accept assistance,
and spurns it with a lordly air
at the very same time
that he knows he can’t make a living to save his life,
he is most certainly a genius.

If he hangs on and sticks to poetry,
notwithstanding sawing wood comes handier to him,
he is a true genius.

If he throws away every opportunity in life
and crushes the affection and the patience of his friends
and then protests in sickly rhymes of his hard lot,
and finally persists,
in spite of the sound advice of persons who have got sense
but not any genius,
persists in going up some infamous back alley
dying in rags and dirt,
he is beyond all question a genius.

But above all things,
to deftly throw the incoherent ravings of insanity into verse
and then rush off and get booming drunk,
is the surest of all the different signs
of genius.

~ by lolarusa on November 15, 2010.

4 Responses to “Genius, by Mark Twain”

  1. ahaha!
    I love the genius that is Mark Twain
    and based on his definition
    geniuses are all around!

  2. Kinda sad how much I resemble that remark, except for the “genius” part.

  3. My teacher has us use the SAS For Some Candy (Subject, Author, Speaker, Form, Symbolism, Connections) method of analyzing poetry. Here are my ideas, feel free to comment and build on them.

    -Geniuses (obviously)
    -What one must do to be claimed a genius

    -Mark Twain
    -Twain loved satire and it is definitely a recurring element throughout his work.
    -He especially loved to satirize society’s opinions and why they are that way.

    Speaker (remember, the speaker does not need to be the author):
    -This seems to be someone who views himself as having TRUE genius but, because he does not do these things, no one acknowledges it.

    -Bitter mood
    -The first three stanzas (and the fifth one) begin with the word “Genius” (or “Geniuses”)
    -After that, all but the last stanza begin with “If”
    -Satirizes society for choosing to idolize stupid people

    -After a brief read-through I didn’t see any, but that does not mean it is not there, post if you find some!

    -Geniuses are not the only people we choose to idolize seemingly for stupid reasons, look at TV, I mean, really people, Snookie???

    Hope this helps someone! Feel free to contact me if you need help with anything

  4. I believe that Twain may have been talking about himself in this poem. He was making a jab at the people who called him a genius when he did not consider himself to be one. Evidence that the poem was about Twain can be seen in line 13 where it says a genius could be “a young man who has frowsy hair”, a quality which Twain had. Also, in line 16 when it says that a genius “sings about the degeneracy of a world”. Mark Twain spent his entire life ridiculing and satirizing countries, people, organizations (basically the world).

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