Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Subject Headings vs. Google

In my attempts to locate literature referencing the LCSH used to catalog poetry, I have run into a dead end. What I am realizing is that most poetry has been published in a rebound format which is usually selected and compiled by an editor. As this is the case, it likely does not make sense to have subject headings on a compilation as there would be far too many to list. However, what most anthologies contain is an index. For example, the index of my Norton Anthology contains several types of references. First, there is the actual poem titles and the authors. Also included are the first lines of each poem and the key words from the extra sections that were written by the editors with regards to the styles and composition of poetry.

My question is this: what is the best way to locate a specific poem? Let us say, for instance, that you are trying to find a poem that you remember hearing in your childhood, but all that you can remember is that it had something to do with walking through fields of daffodils. Could you use LCSH? Probably not. Could you use a (gasp) keyword search? I tried this, using simply keywords "daffodil" and "poem." The Library of Congress catalog search yielded some definitely unrelated records. The catalog of the Hennepin County Library gave nothing. What about Google? In a search for "daffodil poem," the first record that comes up is "William Wordsworth's 'Daffodils,'" (www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/WordsworthDaffodils.htm) and the second is a Wikipedia link to "I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Wandered_Lonely_as_a_Cloud) Since I am more familiar with Wikipedia, I clicked on that link. Sure enough, there in a box on the right hand side is the poem I remember.

What does this mean? Obviously, the purpose of LCSH are not to be a random memory poem locating devices. My real question is: how would I have found this poem without the use of Google or the internet? Is there an indexing or catalogin resource available that existed before the ease of keyword searching? Hopefully by my next entry I will have found an answer to that question or at least some clue to point me in the right direction. For now, here is the poem, complete with LCSH subtitles:

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud (Loneliness, Social isolation, Clouds)
That floats on high o'er vales and hills, (Landscape, Nature)
When all at once I saw a crowd (Visual perception)
A host, of golden daffodils; (Daffodils, Narcissus)
Beside the lake, beneath the trees, (Lakes, Shade trees)
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. (Dance, Atmospheric circulation)

Continuous as the stars that shine (Stars)
And twinkle on the milky way, (Galaxies)
They stretched in never-ending line (Infinite)
Along the margin of a bay: (Shorelines)
Ten thousand saw I at a glance, (Visual perception)
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. (Dance)

The waves beside them danced; but they (Dance, Water waves)
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee; (Water waves, Happiness)
A poet could not but be gay, (Poets, Happiness)
In such a jocund company; (Happiness)
I gazed - and gazed - but little thought (Visual perception)
What wealth the show to me had brought: (Well-being, Performance art)

For oft, when on my couch I lie (Relaxation)
In vacant of in pensive mood, (Anxiety)
They flash upon that inward eye (Flashbulb memory)
Which is the bliss of solitude; (Solitude, Privacy, Loneliness)
And then my heart with pleasure fills, (Happiness)
And dances with the daffodils. (Dance, Daffodils)

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